No power outage
Can you name the batter who leads the Yankees in home runs this year? It’s not A-Rod, it’s not Teixeira and it’s not Robinson Cano, Russell Martin or Posada. Believe it or not, it’s former Tiger Curtis Granderson. Granderson ripped another two home runs in a 4-1 Yankees win in Texas Friday night. It looks like the Yankees lineup is a perfect fit for Granderson, who now has 10 homers through 30 games of 2011. Also, dating back to August 14, 2010, the only player who has hit more home runs than Granderson is Jose Bautista (who’s on his own planet right now) with 27. Granderson has 24 since last Aug. 14.

Ton of strikeouts and a big ol’ L
Phillies starter Cliff Lee struck out 16 against the Braves, but was tagged the loss after his offense managed just two hits off of Derek Lowe and the Braves bullpen in a 5-0 loss. According to B&R’s Play Index, there have been 287 games since 1919 where the starter struck out 12+ batters and took the loss. Lee’s performance Friday night was the first one of 2011. It happened five times last year: Josh Johnson (12k), Jhoulys Chacin (12k), Jon Lester (13k), Adam Wainwright (12k) and Jared Weaver (12k).

The most strikeouts for a starter who took the loss over the years at least since 1919? Randy Johnson (1997), Nolan Ryan (1974) and Steve Carlton (1969) all struck out 19 batters in a game where they were the losing pitcher. Ryan’s performance was an 11-inning pitched 1-0 complete game loss. Talk about a wasted effort.

Red Sox pitching routed again
Just when you thought the Red Sox were starting to turn it around, they drop three straight including a 9-2 beat down at home to the Twins. And I just wrote about the anemic Twins offense yesterday only to see them break out for nine runs in Fenway. This time the culprit was Tim Wakefield, who allowed eight runs (six earned) in just 4.1 innings of work. Besides Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, the Sox rotation has been a disappointment. This loss leaves Wakefield with a 5.73 ERA while John Lackey currently sits with a 7.16 ERA after his latest implosion. Meanwhile Dice K and Clay Buchholz are hovering in the mid-4 ERA. The Sox dropped to 14-18 and in last place of the AL East. That is not a misprint. Despite all the offensive improvement and signings in the offseason, Boston needs to find more consistency from its rotation if they are to compete for a pennant this summer.

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Last week I made my way to sunny Florida for my fourth annual spring training trip. I first went down back in 2008 as my employer (at the time) sent me down, and I’ve been instantly hooked since. I mean, who doesn’t want to get out of the cold up north and see some early baseball with the sunshine? Unlike last year, there was no rain and thus no rainouts as I enjoyed nothing but perfect blue skies weather.

The first game I attended was March 18th’s tilt between the Tigers and Red Sox at the Sox home park in Fort Myers. This was the last year at their current facility as they are building a new complex next to my family’s condo in Fort Myers, which works out perfectly for me in the future.

 

Fort Myers

 

 

City of Palms Park

Besides a fire breaking out in the right field concessions (seriously), that was really all the fire power the Sox could get going even with all the big guns in the lineup. Dustin Pedroia homered in the first inning, but that was about it for Boston (we missed it too because we were moving slow after the major St. Patty’s Day hangover that morning). The Tigers rolled to an 8-3 victory behind some fireworks as Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn and Andy Dirks all went yard for Detroit. Nothing else real notable from this game other than the fact that I found it unbelievable that pitcher Brandon Duckworth was still making a go at pitching in the Majors when he came on the mound for the Sox in the ninth. He didn’t fare too well either, giving up two runs and a home run. My guess is you won’t be seeing him pitch in Fenway anytime soon.

 

 

See, there really was a fire in right field.

 

On the following day, my friends and I followed the Red Sox up I-75 through construction to see them take on my hometown Pirates in Bradenton at McKechnie Field.

 

McKechnie Field

 

 

Bradenton

Since 1887, baby!

The Red Sox struggled for the second day in a row as the Pirates put up a five-spot in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to two RBIs each from Lyle Overbay and pitcher Kevin Correia, who was named the Pirates Opening Day starter this week. And just as the Sox were drawing close, John Bowker ripped a two-run homer in the seventh to give the Pirates the lead and eventually the win 7-5. Josh Beckett, who looks to rebound from last year’s troubles, was hit around by the Buccos allowing five runs in 4.2 innings though four of those runs were unearned as the Red Sox played sloppy defense with two errors.

 

The losing did not stop there for the Red Sox even though my short trip did. Boston has not won a game all of this week since I returned home from Florida, a streak that is at 10 games and dropped them to 12-19 this spring. I know it’s only spring training, but is it a sign of things to come from a team that is being picked as the favorite to win the World Series this year? We will find out soon enough.

At the end of the trip, it was another successful voyage to spring training. I miss it already. It did two things for me. It held me over to see some live baseball until Opening Day later this week, and it made me start planning my fifth trip down there for next March already.

Next up in my 2010 picture series was my highly anticipated first trip ever to Boston and Fenway Park to see the Red Sox face the Angels on August 18, 2010.

Fenway Park. Nuff said.

After spending most of the day walking the Freedom Trail, my friend and I made our way to Fenway a couple of hours before game time so we didn’t rush our first experience there. This was one of the most iconic ballparks in all of baseball and one that I’ve seen on TV a million times, so I cannot tell you my excitement to finally walk into that ballpark as the green monster came into view. Basically the experience was everything I thought it would be. And of course, the game would be a hit fest that included 12 runs, 22 hits, four hits and oh yeah, a Red Sox victory. Click here to read a detailed account of the game and the trip.

Rolling right along in my 2010 picture series is my trip to Progressive Field in Cleveland in June 2010 to see the Indians host the Red Sox.

Indians-Red Sox - June 9, 2010

I have been to Progressive Jacobs Field many times before, and I always end up enjoying it. The ballpark usually gets forgotten in the talk of top ballparks out there, but compared to everything else in that city, that is one place I want to visit as much as I can.

And on that night, June 9, 2010, the game showcased how a bad team could smack around a good team. Justin Masterson fired a two-hitter against his former team and the Tribe put up an eight spot in the 8th inning, which included a grand slam by Travis Hafner. The Indians cruised to an 11-0 drubbing of Boston. The game even featured a Boof Bonser sighting! You can read more about my account of that game here.

As the holiday season approaches (yes, Christmas is only one week away!), here are some offseason links on signings, trades and reactions from around the web…

MLB.com handed out their first GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) awards during a one-hour show on MLB Network Friday night. The full list of winners can be found here.

Tom Boorstein of SNY.tv looks at life without Cliff Lee and what the Yankees can do from here.

The baseball world lost a legend earlier this week when news of Bob Feller‘s passing broke around the country. He was 92 years young. Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated remembers the Hall of Fame pitcher with a superb column on Feller’s career, and more importantly, his life.

Padres have been very active this month, especially this week when they finally acquired Jason Bartlett from the Rays. Today, they followed it up by signing infielder Orlando Hudson to a two-year deal. Dave Cameron discusses O-Dog’s underrated value over at FanGraphs.

Pat Lackey of WHYGAVS writes a detailed, passionate post on watching the broadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series on MLB Network. I missed the original airing last Wednesday, but have it DVR’d and plan to watch it as soon as I find the time.

Thought the Red Sox were done adding players this offseason? Think again. The Sox continue their own Christmas shopping with the addition of closer Bobby Jenks.

Warning, warning! Shameless plug approaching. Checkout these baseball blogs featured Friday morning on MLB Trade Rumors. Third one down should be rather familiar.

“I can’t play anymore. I can’t hit the ball when I need to. I can’t steal second when I need to. I can’t go from first to third when I need to. I can’t score from second when I need to. I have to quit.”  -Mickey Mantle

What’s more potentially scary?

The Red Sox projected 2011 lineup?

CF Jason Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
LF Carl Crawford
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
RF J.D. Drew
C   Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Marco Scutaro

Or the Phillies 2011 rotation?

RH Roy Halladay
LH Cliff Lee
RH Roy Oswalt
LH Cole Hamels
5th spot: Insert any name here because it doesn’t matter

I was just about to work on a post on the biggest move this offseason being that of the White Sox signing slugger Adam Dunn when the Red Sox go out and acquire Adrian Gonzalez in a trade with San Diego.

The whole Gonzalez trade rumors have been discussed for a couple of years now at every trade deadline, but a move was never made until now. The Padres surprising success this year had something to do with them holding onto him throughout the season. But now he is a Red Sox, and we finally get to see what he can do is a ballpark outside of Petco.

Details on the trade are not official yet, but obviously the Red Sox will have an immediate return with a A+ power bat to plug into the lineup next to Big Papi and Kevin Youkilis. I just can’t wait to see what Gonzo can do going from an extreme pitcher’s park to a hitting haven like Fenway Park. Let’s break down Gonzalez’s career in San Diego…

In his five years with the Padres, Gonzalez hit a total of 161 home runs, an average of 32 bombs per year. This was coming out of a park that is considered one of the worst hitter’s park for homers in the league. Out of the 168 home runs in his career, 64 percent of those have come on the road. Plus, his average is 40 points higher away from Petco.

According to park factors.com, Petco Park is a -74 rating (76R, 72 HR), meaning that in the years 2007-2009 Petco produced 76 runs for every 100 runs scored in an average MLB park and 72 home runs for every 100 home runs. Petco’s ranking is dead last among all ballparks. On the flip side, Fenway plays close to neutral with a +101 rating (111R, 90HR).

Not only is the ballpark change going to be a huge factor, but Gonzalez rarely had any protection whatsoever in his seasons with the Padres. Add that up with him being in his prime (29 years old next year), and we could see a ridiculous 2011 season for Gonzalez in Fenway.

Berkman and Dunn signings
In other news, Dunn signed a four-year deal with the White Sox worth $56MM. This deal isn’t much of a surprise considering it’s no secret that the Sox have wanted Dunn for a while now. They went as far last year to acquire Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks in hopes that they could flip him to the Nationals for Dunn. There were plenty of rumors in July at the trade deadline of the White Sox front office being furious with the Nats for apparently backing off of a deal for Jackson after telling them they would deal Dunn for Jackson. Maybe if the White Sox acquire Dunn, their second half of the season would have been different, but anyway they have him on their roster now for four years. Speaking of park factors, Dunn moves into an absolute launching pad at Chicago’s US Cellular Field (+118 rating, 109R, 126HR) so expect to see his home run totals climb at a high rate.

Last up for today is the news that the Cardinals signed Lance Berkman to a one-year deal for $8 million. I’m not sure how much the 37-year-old slugger has left as he’s coming off his worst ML season (.248/.368/.413). He still gets on base a ton, but his power looks to be in serious decline. The weird thing about this pickup is there’s talk that the Cards will put Berkman in the outfield. Who would allow Berkman to touch the outfield? He hasn’t played it since 2007, and while I don’t live by some of the advanced defensive sabermetric statistics, his numbers in the outfield were pretty horrid.