By the way, the World Baseball Classic has begun. I don't much care for the concept, particularly since its largely a money grab by Selig and Co., but Scot Shields is on the team, and it's hard to not like a team with Scot.
Joe Saunders had his first spring start a couple games ago and it looked pretty promising. Saunders is a pitcher I see as being due for regression, and various projection methods seem to agree. His freshman year in the majors showed a huge delta between his starts when he had his normal rest versus extra rest, likely a result of a much-increased innings count from his years in the minors. What concerns me is that his ERA had such a distinct improvement in 2008 over 2007 when a couple defense-independent statistics actually regressed a little. Saunders has sacrificed some of his outs on the ground for homers and strikeouts, but his K/9 is still pretty mediocre. His BABIP against last season was also a little low. He'll probably end up somewhere between 2007 and 2008 this season, with a tRA perhaps a smidge better than league average and an ERA around 4.00, depending on how bad the Angels are defensively this year.
The issue of defense has become the newest "underrated" aspect of baseball. I don't know enough to make any sort of accurate statement on the matter, but I will note that defensive metrics, even the shiny new ones, are still crap compared to offensive/pitching stats generated from things like PITCHf/x. A large majority of hits are singles which no defense will prevent...quick groundballs up the middle and bloops or liners over the infielders. Although a small percentage, homers are also defense-independent. Thus, I'm having a hard time seeing how defense can be as important as offense, where a +15 fielder who's a -10 batter is still a valuable starter versus a +15 hitter and a -10 defender, particularly with such suspect statistics. But again, I'm not an expert on this.
The Halos beat the Mariners 4-3 yesterday behind starter Shane Loux. Loux is probably a little hard on himself considering what month it is. They play the Giants today at 12:05 Pacific.
The final weekend of the regular season is upon us. First, a couple notes:
- The Huskies will finish above .500 in Hockey East play for the first time since the '97-'98 season.
- The Huskies will finish above .500 in overall record since '01-'02.
- The Huskies will finish with at least 22 wins for the first time since '81-'82, and that's the only time they've ever finished with more than 21.
- NU has clinched home-ice in the opening round of the playoffs for the first time '97-'98.
- Brad Thiessen has already broken the Northeastern shutout record with 9, is still a junior, and has set the NU single-season record for wins with 22.
The Huskies control their destiny. Two wins and they get sole possession of the Hockey East crown for the first time in history. A win and a tie and they'll probably end up sharing the title with BU unless Providence can pull at least a point out of their series with the Rat Dogs.
The Huskies will be seeded either #1 or #2 for the HEA tournament and will be facing Maine as the #1 seed or Massachusetts as the #2 seed.