This week in my column I provide an updated version of the Balls In Play Chart software that includes 2007 data as well as a couple of new features showing batting average on balls in play and a grid view. In total the application contains data from 2003 through 2007 for both hitters and pitchers. You'll need the .NET Framework 2.0 runtime in order to run the software. Any suggestions for improvements would be welcome of course. The column also includes a discussion of home plate umpiring in the postseason and how it compares to the regular season using PITCHf/x data and a pretty graphic on the actual size of the strike zone.
Well, Game One was less than exciting as the Sox jumped all over the Rockies and Jeff Francis. To me, Francis looked like he did back in 2005 when he allowed a .376/.414/.518 line in the first inning. He seemed to have solved that problem somewhat in 2006 and his numbers weren't as bad in 2007 but last night he wasn't able to locate the fastball which forced him to throw more fastballs down in the count which of course led to hard hit balls all over the place. More than most pitchers the first inning is the key to his success.
Predictably the story lines out of much of the mainstream media are about the layoff and rustiness as well as the difference between the two leagues in terms of quality. I doubt that either played much of a role in last night's outcome as Josh Beckett was simply overpowering for much of the evening and Rockies pitchers couldn't find the strike zone. There's also lots of talk about Terry Francona's decision to leave Beckett in the game in the sixth and seventh innings although the game was sewed up. Although statheads like to talk about bringing back pitchers on short rest in situations like these I don't think you do that with Beckett. Rather, he should have been removed from the game because of the small but real risk of injury on a line drive, covering first, fielding a bunt or squibber on the wet surface, or even hurting his pitching arm. There's simply no defensible reason for leaving him in the game under those circumstances.
I like the matchup tonight for the Rockies with Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound. He can get by at times with less than great command because of the movement on his pitches and if he has both working, the Sox could be in for a long evening. Curt Schilling has to be the finer of the two and so could be hit around some.
Incidentally, both Eric Karros and Ken Rosenthal were less than stellar as Karros talked about the Rockies only taking batting practice for eight days and not mentioning the intrasquad games they played while Rosenthal had the Rockies playing the Cubs in the NLDS rather than the Phillies. Hopefully, they'll be a little better prepared tonight.