During the pre-game show Eric Byrnes, Kevin Kennedy, and Eric Karros all pile on to the "rust and too much rest excuse". Gee, how predictable was that? At least Kennedy noted that it was difficult to tell given that Josh Beckett was so overpowering.
Nice stat on Willy Taveras bunting only 17 of 176 times towards the first base line in his career. I've written about Taveras' bunting ability this season on several occasions and have certainly noticed that he has a decided preference for using the third base line. He needs to work on bunting down the first base line as well in order to bring the first baseman in and take advantage of lesser fielders like Kevin Youkilis and obviously David Ortizin game 3 when needed.
I thought the second inning discussion of Ubaldo Jimenez using his curveball at altitude versus 20 feet above sea level at Boston was interesting. I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago and showed that Coors Field was at the bottom in movement on fastballs and third from the bottom in curves. For fastballs I found that at Coors they drop more--roughly two inches - presumably because the backspin on the fastball doesn't counteract gravity as well in air that is less dense. They also don't tail as much by about 2.3 inches. Curveballs seem to have roughly the same movement vertically but break 1.6 inches less horizontally than curves thrown on the road. In order to make this calculation I compared pitchers who threw fastballs and curves both at Coors Field and on the road and so Jimenez was included in the analysis. For Jimenez I had 103 pitches at Coors Field with an average pFX (the hypotenuse of the triangle defined by the vertical and horizontal movement and thus incorporating movement in both vectors) of 9.92 inches and 61 pitches on the road with a pFX of 8.05 inches. So perhaps this is just small sample size or measurement problems or park differences in the road parks but I didn't see any negative difference at Coors for Jimenez.
Early on Jimenez was being aggressive in the strike zone as you can do when you have his stuff. I loved the microphone on Bob Apodaca as he reiterated that Jimenez needed to stay aggressive. That's a great use of that technology.
The strikeouts of Ryan Spilborghs in the fifth inning and seventh innings and Willy Taveras in the ninth were all on pitches that were clearly inside. The first was almost three inches inside, the second about two and half, and the third an inch. That said, that pitch was being called a strike pretty consistently by Laz Diaz and in fact there were 15 called strikes that were technically balls on that side of the plate. There's no excuse for the Rockies hitters in not recognizing how the zone was being called and adjusting. Elevne of the fifteen called strikes were on Rockies hitters.
By the end of the third inning "Jimenez looked like he started to overthrow and his release point became inconsistent". And "Jimenez seemed to lose his mechanics after 60 or 70 pitches and was fortunate to get out with only two runs". I jotted both notes down during the third and fourth inning unaware that Will Carroll had posted something similar on BP Unfiltered. This morning I went back and checked and the result is the following plot of his release point in innings one through three and four and five (The perspective is from the catcher with a negative horizontal component indicating a release towards third base. These are also reflected of the ball at 50 feet from the plate and are therefore not "true" release points).
As you can see it is more varied (red) in the fourth and fifth and the standard deviation in both the horizontal and vertical components is about three quarters of an inch higher.
Another great quote. Joe Buck on Garrett Atkins while talking with Clint Hurdle: "Atkins looks like he can cover a ton of ground over at third base". Looks can be deceiving and neither the fans (-20 in Tango's fan scouting report) or the numbers (-17 in BP's FRAR) back up that assessment. The single by Manny Ramirez in the fifth inning past a diving Atkins was more typical of what you see when you watch him over and over. The fact is that he is not a good third baseman.
Matt Holliday makes the single biggest boneheaded baserunning play I've seen this season. End of story. Yes, Jonathan Papelbon had not picked off anyone in his big league career but you get the feeling that he could have stepped off the rubber, dropped the ball, fetched it, and tossed it underhand to Youkilis and Holliday still would have been out.