Massachusetts Pirates Blowout Steelhawks in Final Regular Season Game, Playoff Bound

Yesterday I attended the final Massachusetts Pirates game of the regular season.   I won the tickets in a Mark Fidrych Foundation raffle at the 2018 Make Your Mark Kickoff Event.  (NOTE: the Make Your Mark softball tournament will be held on August 18th at Casey & Memorial Field in Northborough).  I went to the game with my dad, my longtime friend Paul Alfonso, and his dad Tony.

The Pirates play in the National Arena League (NAL), one of many Arena Football leagues across the country.  The season takes place between April and August, ending right around the start of the NFL season.  I’ve been to one Pirates game earlier this year when they played the Maine Mammoths back in May, so I knew that although Arena Football has many differences from NFL football, it was still very exciting.

Arena football is an 8 on 8 game.  There are no designated running backs, but offensive linemen will sometimes run the ball.  Typically, the starting offense is made up of a QB, three wide receivers, and four offensive linemen.  The defense typically has three defensive linemen, two linebackers, and three defensive backs on the field.  The Pirates fans are often called the 9th man, because like the Seahawks in the NFL, they are the league’s loudest fans.  The game is played on a 50-yard field rather than a 100-yard field and is often played in hockey stadiums.  Players will often be pushed into the boards which is considered out of bounds, but sometimes wide receivers dive over the boards to make catches and if they do, it’s considered a completion.  The downsized field makes for much higher scoring.  Although the uprights are narrower, kickers can often make it through the uprights on a kickoff from the opposite end zone, scoring what is often called a “deuce”, worth two points.  The smaller field also makes it so nobody ever punts.  On fourth down, teams will either go for it or go for a field goal.

The 10-5 Pirates were scheduled to play the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, the worst team by win-loss record in the NAL.  They had not won a game all season long, and they were 0-14 going into this game, their final game of the regular season.  The game was held at the DCU Center in Worcester, the home of the Massachusetts Pirates.  The stadium also currently hosts the Worcester Railers, the ECHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, and was formerly home to the Worcester Sharks (now the San Jose Barracuda), the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate.

We all made score predictions on our way to the game:

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We arrived at the game, bought some pizza, popcorn, and soft drinks, and took our seats.  Before the game, the Pirates welcomed members of the Special Olympics of Massachusetts team, who were attending the game.

The game began and the Pirates got off to a fast start after the Steelhawks won the toss and deferred.  Pirates QB Sean Brackett was out with a sprained ankle but QB Darron Thomas was doing a good job filling in.  He completed a deep pass to WR Lavon Pearson to get the Pirates close to the end zone.  A Pirates o-lineman ran in the TD to put the Pirates up 7-0.  Steelhawks kicker Spencer Hotaling was off to a rough start.  He attempted a “deuce” on the opening kickoff and missed.  He also missed in a Steelhawks FG attempt, but the Pirates defense had shut down Lehigh Valley quickly in their first drive, making for a difficult kick.  Despite a nice catch by WR Charles McClain, the Steelhawks were shut down again in their next drive, and Spencer Hotaling’s field goal attempt was blocked.

The Pirates scored another TD on a huge catch by WR Mardy Gilyard.  He was being covered very closely by the defense, yet he still scored.  Although Pirates K Ali Mourtada missed the extra point, he scored a “deuce” on the kickoff, making it 15-0 Massachusetts.

To start the 2nd quarter, Lavon Pearson made a catch that set the Pirates up to score another touchdown.

The Pirates scored another one soon after on a one-handed catch by Lavon Pearson.  The Steelhawks did not make much progress offensively in the 2nd quarter, and they were so far behind that they had to start going for it every time on 4th down.  With little time left in the half, the Pirates had one more scoring opportunity.  Darron Thomas had one long pass that was deflected into the stands but completed a long pass on the next down to make it 1st and goal for the Pirates.  The Pirates tried to eat some clock before scoring in order to make sure the Steelhawks did not get another chance before the half.  But they lost the ball in a fumble, losing the opportunity to score.  However, they were up 29-0 at halftime.  The Steelhawks nearly scored on a nice pass just before the half but failed.

During the half, I enjoyed a mini football game between the Worcester Police Department and the Worcester Fire Department.  More fans were rooting for the fire department but it ended in 14-14 tie.  Here is some video I took of this mini-game:

The Pirates scored another pair of touchdowns in the third quarter.  They scored one on a fumble by Steelhawks QB Patrick Ryan that was recovered for a TD by RJ Roberts, and the other on a deep pass to Lavon Pearson.  Ali Mourtada scored a deuce after that one to make it 44-0 Pirates.  Mardy Gilyard scored another TD just minutes into the 4th.  Here is Gilyard’s TD:

The Steelhawks scored their only TD of the game by recovering their own fumble. The ball was nearly recovered by two Pirates players but found its way into the end zone, where Jason Johnson recovered it for the TD.  The Pirates scored 2 more touchdowns before the end of the game.  Lavon Pearson scored on a long ball to make it 58-7 Pirates, and another Pirates TD was scored when Spencer Hotaling missed a long field goal that Pirates DB John Hardy-Tulieau returned for the touchdown.  Mourtada made one more deuce to make the final score Pirates, 67, Steelhawks, 7.  My dad came the closest to predicting the score but we all overestimated the Steelhawks offense.

During the game, I noticed a man with a laptop sitting near us.  I gave him my business card and it turns out that he was writing a recap on the game for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  His name was Bill Gilman.

The Pirates, who finished the season 11-5, will play at home in the NAL semifinals next week.  They will host either the #3 seed, the Carolina Cobras, or the #4 seed, the Columbus Lions.  It all depends on whether the Jacksonville Sharks beat the Maine Mammoths tonight.  If the Sharks win, the Pirates are the #2 seed and play Carolina.  Otherwise, the Pirates are the #1 seed and host Columbus.  The Steelhawks missed the playoffs after a 0-15 finish.

After the game, they allowed fans to walk onto the field for an autograph and photo session.  Paul and I took plenty of pictures on the field, some of them with Pirates players.  I gave the players and a couple fans my business card as well.  Paul got his Pirates football signed by all the players we took photos with.

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Me and Paul in the end zone
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With OL Cornelius Lewis
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With WR Mardy Gilyard
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With OL Bill Vavau
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With DL Kaelin Burnett
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With DB Cheatham Norrils
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With OL Thomas Claiborne

I even met Special Olympic powerlifter Joe Morrill, Team Massachusetts’ only powerlifter at the USA Games, on the field.  He had his USA Games medals with him.  He won two golds (combo and deadlift) and two silvers (bench press and squat).  He had roomed with Tyler Lagasse in Marlborough before.  Speaking of Tyler, I am meeting with him and his family at APEX tomorrow to celebrate his silver medal win at the USA Games, where I will go live on Facebook with Tyler and compete with him in simulation golf, go-kart races, Olympic bubble hockey, candlepin bowling, and other games.

I had a great time at the Pirates’ final game of the season.  Arena football is fast-paced and very exciting.  The rule differences from the NFL give football fans a nice indoor viewing experience during the NFL offseason.  I’d like to thank Ann Fidrych, Jessica Fidrych, and the Mark Fidrych Foundation for making this amazing experience possible.

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Day 5 in Seattle: Final Round/Week Recap for 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

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Scott Rohrer (right) with the other top 5 golfers: Brock Aoki (far left), Peter Condon (left), Thomas Cleek (middle), and Tyler Lagasse (far right)

For the 3rd and final round on the 4th of July, Scott Rohrer started the day with a solid lead.  His playing partners for the day, Peter Condon of Washington was 7 strokes back and Thomas Cleek of Missouri was 8 strokes back.  Tyler Lagasse was also 8 strokes back and started on hole 2, just 1 hole in front of Scott in the shotgun start.

All the golfers were strong off the tee from the beginning and early on it was Scott’s strength as it had been for most of the 3-day tournament.

The greens seemed to be playing even tougher on this final day as it had been mostly dry and sunny on day 2 and it was a very clear and sunny day right from the start of the day 3.  It showed, as Scott and his partners struggled with putting on the 1st green and it continued for Scott for the first 8 holes.  It showed in his scores as he started double bogey, bogey, bogey on the first 3 holes and was 5 over as he waited to tee off on the Par 3 9th hole with Tyler putting for birdie on the green of the same hole.

Tyler came out on fire, playing aggressive and with confidence and was even par through his first 7 holes with a birdie on 4 to offset his bogey on 2, his first hole of the day.  Since the tee box was moved closer on the 8th hole to make it a par 3 hole for the tournament, holes 7, 8, and 9 were all par 3’s so Scott’s group had caught up to Tyler’s and Scott was waiting for them on the 9th tee box as Tyler sunk his birdie, making him one under.

At this point in the round, Scott knew he was not playing his best and seeing Tyler’s birdie probably got his competitive juices flowing, especially after he had just bogeyed hole 8.

Scott then hit his tee shot on the 9th green landing his ball about 5 feet away from the hole.  Scott let himself know and everybody in the crowd know that he was still fighting for gold as he fist pumped and yelled “boom” as he did on all of his big successful putts in this tournament.

That was the start of a tournament clinching stretch of holes from 9 through 16.  On the 10th hole, Scott pitched in for eagle from deep rough over the high mound of the back of the green.  Scott was so far away from the hole that we could only capture the ball popping up in the air and rolling into the hole as you heard Scott and then the crowd, roar.

At that point it was clear it was going to be Scott’s day to win Gold for the 3rd straight Special Olympics USA Games.  After the very exciting and momentum changing 9th and 10th holes, Scott had only 2 bogeys for the rest of the day.  He finished the last 4 holes with birdies on 15 and 16.  As he approached his putt on 18, he walked with confidence knowing he had the lead on his two playing partners for the day and that his par putt on 18 was likely for the win.

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I watched Scott beam with pride as he spoke to Jen Lada of ESPN first.  He wanted to give me the first interview but I was happy to wait, watch, and learn as Jen with her producer Josh Vorensky and the ESPN camera crew conducted their interview for the station’s Special Olympic coverage.  Jen pointed Scott in my direction after her interview was finished and he was happy to speak to me.

Tyler Lagasse had won silver for the 3rd straight Special Olympic USA games, 6 strokes behind his friend and first round partner Scott Rohrer.  Scott’s finish was too strong for Tyler to catch up.  Tyler was still all smiles because he loves the game and he gave it his best effort to go for Gold.  I met with him after his round was over.

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I had an unbelievable week with Scott and Tyler.  Without them and the Doug Flutie Jr Foundation for Autism who sponsored all 3 of us, none of the experiences I had would have been possible.

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I started my journey in Seattle with a tour of Eagle’s Talon where Tyler and Scott would battle it out with the other Olympians for 3 straight days.  My tour included the Hole 3 green known for its beautiful view of Mount Rainier.  It was too overcast to see the mountain that first day but over the next several days while following the games, the sky cleared up and Mount Rainier slowly came into view.

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Me at Hole 3 of Eagles Talon during my Day 1 tour.  It was overcast, so I could not see Mount Rainier.

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Me at Eagles Talon on my final day in Seattle with Mount Rainier behind to my right

My week kind of went the same way as I came into the week unclear on what I would do and how it would come together.

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But in the end, each day I grew as a reporter and as a person looking up to Tyler and Scott as I learned of their stories and how they have achieved so much by working so hard.  Over the week I had time with Deborah Horne of KIRO 7 news who put my dad and I on the air.  I got to cheer the athletes at Husky Stadium for an unbelievable Opening Ceremony.  That same day, I had the chance to visit the Space Needle in Seattle Center.  On my last day I met and interviewed with Podcaster Colin Weston of ModGolf.  I also even learned a few tips directly from Jen Lada of ESPN.

But this trip was about all the inspirational athletes I saw at the Opening Ceremonies and especially about Tyler and Scott because they were why I was in Seattle.  To me it was fitting that on the last day as Scott and I reached the 3rd hole for the last time that Mount Rainier was visible for the first time all week.  These golfers had reached yet another summit and I got to share the experience with them.  They have inspired me and many others to keep pushing to be the best you can be.

Behind the scenes, this trip was not easy for me and at times I got very frustrated when things did not go as I expected.  However, just like for Tyler and Scott on the golf course, I was able to find focus on camera.  Now I know I have to keep working to improve my skills to be the best me I can be.  With this life changing opportunity to be a Flutie Fellow covering such an exciting national event and travel to Seattle for the first time, I am one step closer to reaching my goal to become a Professional Sports Broadcaster.

Below are the final results of the Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament:

Note: Divisions M01-M03 are High Performance (Blue Tees), the rest of the golfers (M04-M07) teed off from the White Tees.

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This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation Blog 

Day 4 in Seattle: Round 2 Recap from the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

If there was only one thing I could say to describe the current state of the USA Games Level V Golf Tournament, it would be that this is still anybody’s game.  The Flutie Foundation sponsored golfers, Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer, came to Seattle as the heavy favorites to win gold and silver medals, and Scott is currently leading the tournament by seven strokes.  But Peter Condon of Washington, Brock Aoki of Utah, and Thomas Cleek of Missouri among other golfers have challenged Tyler and Scott through 2 days on a course with greens playing very fast causing many 3-putts and few 4-putts.

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Peter Condon is currently in 2nd (+22) after shooting an 82 (+11) in both rounds.  Tyler Lagasse is tied for 3rd with Thomas Cleek, and Brock Aoki is in 5th after starting Round 2 as the leader.  However, Cleek, Lagasse, and Aoki are all within two strokes of 2nd place.

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Scott Rohrer (middle) with his Round 2 tee-off group, including Thomas Cleek (left) and Chris Lussier (right)

Unlike Day 1, Tyler and Scott were not paired up.  Tyler was paired with Tony Marino, and they started on Hole 3.  Scott started on Hole 2 with Chris Lussier and Thomas Cleek.

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Despite facing more putting challenges than yesterday, Tyler Lagasse did well again today, shooting an 86.  “There were some putts that just didn’t break the way I wanted them to and other times it was just a case of the yips” (Tyler Lagasse).  He had some very strong moments, like his birdie on the par 5 hole 11, and an excellent par save on Hole 18, which he said was his best hole.

On hole 18, his drive did not reach the fairway but he made 2 great shots to reach the green in 3 shots despite the long yardage he had to make up on the long and difficult 566 yard par 5 hole.

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Tyler’s 2nd shot on 18 after failing to reach the fairway with his tee shot

Tyler did have some very nice drives and had little difficulty sticking the green when he needed to.  He pulled out the driver more often, trying to play more aggressively than yesterday.   I asked him why he used his driver more and he said, “I just had to be aggressive, I was getting a little bit emotional, I just wanted to push myself to be the best I can possibly be.”

Scott Rohrer played even better than he did in round 1, shooting a 76 (+5) to take the tournament lead.  In response to my question about how he thinks he did today vs. yesterday, he said, “I played a lot better than yesterday, I’ve improved somehow over the past day.”  He was very consistent, making par on each of the first three holes.  Like Tyler, he birdied the 11th.  However, he has no doubt in his mind that his best hole was hole 1, which due to the shotgun start on hole 2, he actually ended his round on hole 1.  He had a huge drive on the 386 yard par 4 that nearly landed the green in one.  He says it was his longest drive in the two tournaments he has played at Willows Run.

For some video footage from the day, including my stand-up live from Willows Run and my interviews with Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer, see below:

Although Scott Rohrer has a 7-stroke lead, we have learned from this week to expect the unexpected and that the leaderboard can shuffle around very quickly.  Someone who is in 4th or 5th right now could be the leader in their division by the end of the final round on the 4th of July.  Who will take home the gold?  Will Scott hold on to the lead for his third straight gold medal at the USA Games, or will Tyler or someone else catch him?

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This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation blog.

 

 

 

Day 3 in Seattle: Round 1 Recap from 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

Immediately following round 1, I reported via Facebook Live.  See video below.

Also, after the round, Flutie sponsored golfer and 2nd after round 1 golfer, Tyler Lagasse, had his article featured on ESPN.

Late last night (July 2nd) I created a more detailed round 1 recap as a video report that focuses on Flutie Foundation-supported Tyler Lagasse of Special Olympics Massachusetts and Scott Rohrer of Special Olympics South Carolina.

The voiceover text and video are below.

It was cold and damp as the golfers waited in their carts to begin.  The carts were used to speed up pace of play.  Tyler won the toss to tee off first.

Both Tyler and Scott bogied on the first hole as their nerves seemed still high for the start of the tournament.  They both bounced back in Hole 2, with Tyler just missing a birdie and Scott making one from a couple feet away.

One of Scott’s most challenging holes was the Par 4 3rd hole.  He took a penalty stroke for hitting out of bounds but recovered with a solid 2-putt to finish the hole.

Both parred the 4th hole with each of them coming within a foot of a birdie on 10 foot or more putts.

On hole 5, Tyler just missed par but still gained a stroke on Scott, who just missed his bogey putt.

On the 7th hole par 3, Scott came within inches of a birdie off a putt of over 20 feet and then Tyler’s par putt almost rimmed out but went in.

Hole 8 was shortened to Par 3 and they both parred, but it was their partner, Travis Curtis from Maine that dazzled on the Par 3 9th with a near hole in one.

On hole 11, both Tyler and Scott had chances for eagles with very long drives and solid shots with Scott landing on the green in 2 and Tyler on the back fringe.  Tyler’s eagle shot got him within 10 feet but on his birdie attempt he rolled past the hole by a few inches.  Scott’s birdie attempt reached the lip of the hole.  A good hole for both golfers and the start of a strong back 9 stretch for Scott as he played 1 over for the final 8 holes.

Hole 12 was a very strange hole as Travis Curtis called for a rules official as his ball appeared to land in a divot-like hole on the green.  Then there was a loud plane soaring over us as well.  Tyler 4 putted the hole for a double bogey but then picked up his play and went 2 over on the last 6 holes.

On 13, all three golfers hit strong off the tee and landed within feet of each other.  On Tyler’s second shot he landed at the very back of the green.  Tyler’s putting came back strong when he hit a 50 foot putt within inches of the hole almost making a birdie and tapped in for par as did Scott.

On 14, Scott made a very exciting 20 foot putt for birdie, pumping his fist as the ball dropped in the hole.  Tyler had a 3 foot birdie putt lip out of the hole after a tremendous tee shot but had to settle for a par tap in.

On 15 and 16, the tee shots of Tyler and Scott landed really close like they had on 13.  Their scores were close too, as Scott had par and a bogey and Tyler was close to matching it, just missing a par putt on 16 to go bogey and par.

Hole 17 is Eagle’s Talon signature hole.  It’s a par 3 over a lot of water and the tee was moved up.  The green has 3 levels making putting difficult.  Travis Curtis had his birdie putt just missed from 10 feet go in and out of the hole.  Scott and Tyler each had very long putts for birdie and left themselves about 3 feet on either side of the hole.  All 3 golfers got par.

The long par 5 18th hole was an adventure for all 3 golfers starting with Tyler’s tee shot got a lucky bounce off the cart path to avoid landing in a hazard area.  Travis Curtis ended up with a 9 after getting in trouble with the water.  In the end, both Tyler and Scott had 1 foot putts to end the round with a par but Scott’s putt just lipped out.  Still, both golfers finished strong and within 2 strokes of each other.  They hope to carry their momentum into tomorrow.

After the first round, Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer are 2nd and 3rd on the Special Olympics USA Level V Golfer leaderboard.  I had the chance to talk to both Tyler and Scott moments after they signed their scorecard.  Even though my cameraman (my dad Ken) had his first technical difficulty with one of my interviews, the audio came through for you to enjoy.  I also had the chance to quickly speak to the Round 1 Leader, Brock Aoki.

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This post can also be seen on the Flutie Foundation blog.

 

Day 1 in Seattle: Touring Willows Run Golf Course

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I landed this afternoon in Seattle and after settling into the hotel, I decided to check out the Willows Run Eagles Talon golf course ahead of the level 5 Special Olympics USA golf tournament.  When I arrived, I received a warm welcome from the staff.  They gave my father the keys to a golf cart so we could tour the 6,800 yard 18-hole golf course that the Level 5 golfers will be competing on from July 2nd through July 4th.  We made several stops along the course to take pictures and make a video (see below):

This post is also featured on the Flutie Foundation blog

 

Baseball Bits #8: What The Unusual Amount of No-Hitters Means for Jordan’s Furniture Customers

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As they do every year, Jordan’s Furniture, a major sponsor of the Red Sox, is having a big baseball sale.  This year, they offered to make any furniture bought between March 28 and today (May 20) free if a Red Sox pitcher or pitchers throw a no-hitter (games shorter than nine innings do not count) between July 17 and the end of the regular season.  Should you buy furniture? Will the Red Sox pitch a no-hitter after July 16?

 

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For those of you who are undecided on whether to give in and buy some new furniture, I have done some research about no-hitters based on the fact that there have already been 3 no-hitters in 2018.  Based on the data, I calculated the chance of a Red Sox no-hitter during the time that the Jordan’s Furniture sale counts towards (July 17-end of the regular season). You can also come to your own conclusions, as I have provided my official data below.  I looked at every regular season no-hitter since 1990 (according to ESPN) and tallied up all the no-hitters each year. I split it into no-hitters before July 17 and after July 16, and I also looked at how many were thrown by Red Sox pitchers.  

The Research

I have provided 5 PDFs with my research:

 

No-Hitters By Year After 7/16: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – After

No-Hitters By Year Before 7/17: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Before

All No-Hitters By Year: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – All

Summary Pivot Table: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Summary Pivot

List of All No-Hitters From ESPN (Cut out data from before 1990 and during the postseason) with data I added for this article: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Master Data (Note: The “Count of No-Hitters” column was just used to help set up the pivot table)

 

The “Baseball Bits”

  • Since 1990, the average number of no-hitters per year is 2.79
    • There is an average of 1.03/year after July 16
    • There is an average of 1.76/year before July 17
    • Based on this data, not only are we ahead of the average pace for no-hitters before July 17, we are ahead of the average pace for no-hitters all season
    • However, in the last 10 years:
      • The average number of no-hitters/year is 3.6 (2.2 before July 17, 1.4 after July 16)
      • In the last 10 years, we are only a little ahead of average pace for # of no-hitters before July 17, and we are not quite at the average pace of no-hitters/year
  • Since 1990, there have been 5 other years when there have been 3 or more no-hitters before July 17 – in those years, the average number of no-hitters after July 16 is 2.2
    • We have not had 3 no-hitters by May 8th since 1969
    • Since 1990, there has only been one time (2010) where we have even had 3 no-hitters by June 1st
      • There were 5 no-hitters that year (1 was after July 16th)
  • The Red Sox have thrown 4 no-hitters since 1990
    • It has not happened since 2008
    • 3 were before 7/17 (thrown by Jon Lester (2008), Derek Lowe (2002), and Hideo Nomo (2001))
    • Only 1 was after 7/16, thrown by Clay Buchholz in 2007
  • Just a cool anomaly about this year’s no-hitters: They have all taken place in different countries (Paxton in Canada, Manaea in USA, Buehler/Garcia/Cingrani/Liberatore combined in Mexico)

 

The Verdict

Based on my research, my previous baseball knowledge, and WHIP of MLB starters in recent years, I have concluded that there is 60.5% (about 3 in 5 chance) of a no-hitter somewhere in the MLB after July 16.  The average of 2.2 no-hitters after July 16 when there has been 3+ before July 17 (data based on no-hitters since 1990) has had a big influence on these odds. But I couldn’t say there was a 100% chance of a no-hitter because I cannot tell the future.  You have to factor in the fact that although there has been an increase in recent years, no-hitters are still very rare and unpredictable. You really cannot be more than 75% confident that one will occur during that time. I have calculated the chances of a no-hitter by the Red Sox as a 2.82% chance.  This was influenced by the MLB odds because I divided those odds amongst all 30 MLB teams based on recent WHIP of starters and what I already knew before my research.

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If the Red Sox throw a no-hitter, it will likely be from one of two pitchers.  Chris Sale’s WHIP is extremely low, and if he gets into a good rhythm and limits his pitch count, he could toss a no-hitter.  However, you have to factor in late-season fatigue that is common for Sale as well as the fact that he often throws too many pitches to go deep into a game, even in the case of a no-hitter.  They will probably not keep him in for more than about 150 pitches even if he has a no-hitter, at least with Alex Cora managing. He could start off a combined no-no if he has thrown too many pitches by the 7th or 8th despite a dominant game.  He would need backup from an inconsistent bullpen for that though.

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I think it is more likely that Rick Porcello throws a no-hitter.  His WHIP has been very low this season as it was in 2016, his Cy Young winning year.  Porcello is more of a ground-ball pitcher and is usually pretty consistent throughout the season.  These traits help increase his odds of a no-hitter, especially if he continues to dominate this season (he is 6-1 with a 3.39 ERA).

However, since it is extremely difficult to predict a no-hitter for any team, I would not recommend going all out buying furniture.  If you need furniture, go right ahead, but I wouldn’t spend much more than you normally would because I still think there is less than a 3% chance that the Red Sox pitch a no-hitter.

 

Sources

“MLB No-Hitters.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, http://www.espn.com/mlb/history/nohitters.

Ranking The Teams 18-13: My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Welcome to Part 3 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Last time, I covered the teams that will struggle, but haven’t quite hit rock bottom.  I talked about what they did in the off-season, what the case for them this season is, and what their strong point is.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the mediocre teams, but rather than talking about their bright spots, today I will be discussing what direction these teams are headed in.  Some of these teams don’t know which way to go, rebuild mode or contention mode.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and where they’re headed.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Tuesday, March 27: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*I will also have my latest Baseball Bits coming sometime next week.

 

18. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-Season Review

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After a rebuild, the Braves are getting ready for contention, but their off-season was relatively quiet.  They did just add OF Peter Bourjos to help fill in until Ronald Acuna is MLB ready.  Acuna looks like he is pretty darn close after a strong Spring Training.  They could’ve also added someone at third, but decided not to due to the lack of options.  They weren’t able to get their hands on Moose, so they were not in the market for a 3B after that.  They could be an interesting destination at the deadline for Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, or even Adrian Beltre.  They already have made one trade this off-season, acquiring Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Adrian Gonzalez from the Dodgers for Matt Kemp.  Only McCarthy is still in Atlanta, and he will help lead a young rotation alongside Julio Teheran.

The Case for the Braves

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The future is bright for Atlanta baseball.  But the Braves will take another year or two to become an elite playoff contender.  Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies will need more time to develop among others.  This young team is led by star 1B Freddie Freeman, who I am expecting another strong season out of.  They already do have some other veterans who will help make this team better, but younger players on the verge of a breakout make up most of their core.  That will help them in coming years, but they won’t be absolutely amazing in 2018.

Where They’re Headed

The Braves won’t be contending in 2018, but expect a playoff run in the next three years for Atlanta.  As soon as their young talent breaks through, they will add the finishing touches they need and run for the playoffs.  Personally, I see Ronald Acuna as a potential All-Star, so as soon as he comes up, you can expect big things from the Braves.

Best Case Scenario: Acuna, Swanson, and Albies all break out to help lead the team, the rotation filled with a mix of young talent and experience thrives, and the Braves contend for the playoffs right away.

Worst Case Scenario: Acuna turns out to be a bust, as well as some of their other young players.  McCarthy, Teheran, and Freeman also begin to decline, and the Braves finish with just over 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 78-84, 3rd in NL East

17. Image result for reds logo red Cincinnati Reds

Off-Season Review

The Reds stayed put for the most part this off-season, as they have a pretty good roster as is.  They have a strong lineup that is better than you might think, and their young rotation is bound to improve in coming years.  The Reds didn’t even need to resign SS Zack Cozart.  Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez, and top prospect Nick Senzel will keep the left side of the infield covered.  Scooter Gennett can be trusted as a full-time second baseman after his strong 2017 season, and Joey Votto should have another top-notch season.  The Reds are all set.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran starter, but they don’t want to rush contention when their younger players aren’t at that level yet.

The Case for the Reds

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After a rough patch over the last few seasons, the Reds will begin heading uphill again.  After their rebuild, their future is bright, and they will begin to improve in 2018.  Their young rotation should begin to improve.  It will be led by Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, and Anthony DeSclafani while Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, and Robert Stephenson will also contribute.  They can improve further when Hunter Greene is ready.  The lineup is all set, and if Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Jose Peraza live up to their expectations and Votto, Adam Duvall, and Billy Hamilton keep up the good work, the Reds could have one of the strongest lineups in the league soon enough.

Where They’re Headed

The Reds are going nowhere but up.  They hit rock bottom over the last couple years, and they are looking good post-rebuild, so now there’s no other direction they could go in.  Expect big things in the coming years, but in the meantime, they will be about as good as the Braves are right now.

Best Case Scenario: Votto dominates in 2018, leading a surprisingly strong lineup, the rotation improves fast (and Raisel Iglesias becomes an elite closer) as the Reds finish above .500 and get ready for contention.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries and their young talent is rushed to the majors and struggles.  The lineup also cannot quite live up to its expectations as Cincinnati lingers just above 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 79-83, 4th in NL Central

 

16. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

Off-Season Review

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As they have been since Jerry Dipoto took over as GM, the Mariners were very active again this off-season.  They acquired Marlins 2B Dee Gordon, who will move to center field so Robinson Cano and Gordon can both start.  The Mariners needed a veteran influence in the outfield, and brought back Ichiro to do the same.  They also signed SP Mike Leake to add to a strong rotation that includes Felix Hernandez and James Paxton.  They aren’t clear contenders yet though; they still need to give their younger outfielders more time to develop as well as their pitching staff and a couple other younger players on the team.

The Case for the Mariners

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The Mariners aren’t quite playoff material yet, but they have a shot.  In the meantime, they will have a decent season as their younger players develop.  They need the younger players to step up their game and help carry the load.  Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia, and Ryon Healy are good, but they haven’t reached their full potential.  The Mariners need to keep their team young if they want to avoid a full rebuild, but if they also want to contend in that process, they’ll need reliable young players.

Where They’re Headed

The hope is that the Mariners can contend, but it all depends on the performance of Seattle’s prospects and the general performance of the Mariners.  If Seattle struggles, or their younger players cannot emerge as stars, the Mariners may need to take the rebuild route.

Best Case Scenario: The Mariners’ younger players break out and help lead the team to the playoffs along with the veteran leaders.

Worst Case Scenario: The Mariners struggle, as their older players decline (including King Felix) and their younger players cannot emerge as leaders.  Seattle is forced to rebuild.

Projected Finish: 83-79, 3rd in AL West

 

15. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-Season Review

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The Giants had a terrible season in 2017, but they made up for it with a strong off-season.  They acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen and 3B Evan Longoria to boost the lineup.  They signed Austin Jackson to upgrade the outfield too.  However, they failed to add too many good starters, which will hold them back despite a great lineup.  They did add Derek Holland on a minor league deal though, so he could crack the rotation, especially with Madison Bumgarner injured again.

The Case for the Giants

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The Giants will improve in 2018, but in a difficult NL West, it will be tough to be much more than decent.  They are lacking rotation depth after the retirement of Matt Cain and the departure of Matt Moore so they will have to find younger pitching talent.  That means it will take time for contention.  Their lineup is looking better, but they do not have the same talent of some contenders.  They have a nice core four in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen, but beyond that, they are no more than decent.

Where They’re Headed

The Giants are headed in an upward direction.  Expect vast improvement from their 64-98 season in 2017, worst in the National League.  Then they can work towards contention once they find the young pitching talent they need behind their core three of their rotation.  They have a nice lineup now that they added Cutch and Longo, but their rotation still has holes, and the lineup could still use work.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns in the rotation are successful early, the lineup returns to dominance after their recent upgrades, and the Giants surprise many by making the playoffs in another successful even year.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation implodes after lacking depth, the lineup also struggles to perform any better than decent, and the Giants cannot get above .500.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 4th in NL West

 

14. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-Season Review

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The Mets restored their strong, playoff level roster from a couple years back after a rough 2017.  They brought OF Jay Bruce back, signed 3B Todd Frazier to take over third in case David Wright cannot rebound from his injury.  1B Adrian Gonzalez was also added to improve the lineup.  Lastly, they boosted the rotation depth by adding Jason Vargas to aid an injury prone rotation.  Vargas was with the Mets for a year about 10 years ago.  The Mets are in much better shape after a strong off-season.

The Case for the Mets

The Mets face tough competition and may not be able to make the playoffs this year.  But they are back in contention with Bruce back and Frazier on board.  They have set themselves up for long-term success, as David Wright is unlikely to rebound, and it will be tough to depend on Michael Conforto with his health in question.  Maybe they can contend for the NL East if the Nationals fail to add back Bryce Harper for 2019.  But this year, they will have to compete for a wild-card spot.

Where They’re Headed

The Mets should be able to make the playoffs in the coming years if they cannot make the playoffs in 2018.  They have a nice roster full of young talent and veterans who are still elite and can lead this team down the stretch.  Will they be able to make the playoffs this year, or will the competition be too much for them?

Best Case Scenario: Frazier, Bruce, and Yoenis Cespedes help lead the Mets back to the playoffs along with a strong rotation that stays healthy.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries, the lineup is no better than average, and the Mets fail to get above .500.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 2nd in NL East

 

13. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

Off-Season Review

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The Diamondbacks needed a new closer with Fernando Rodney gone.  They did add Brad Boxberger, but is he capable of the closing job?  They also added Japanese reliever, Yoshihisa Hirano.  They also upgraded their outfield by acquiring Steven Souza Jr. in a 3-way trade and signing Jarrod Dyson.  Other than that, their roster is in good shape for contention in 2018.  But in a tough division, will they make it?

The Case for the Diamondbacks

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The Diamondbacks finally cracked the playoffs in 2017, but can they repeat in a very tough division?  They have a strong lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta.  I also think Jake Lamb could break out.  They also have maintained a strong pitching staff, led by starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.  With an underrated roster, they should at least be able to keep up with their division.

Where They’re Headed

The D-Backs are right on the verge of contention.  They have a good future full of playoff runs ahead of them.  However, I do not think they will make it this year.  The Brewers, Rockies, and Cardinals will beat them out in the wild-card race.

Best Case Scenario: Arizona’s young roster thrives, leading the Diamondbacks back to the playoffs with a 2nd place finish in the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles to live up to its expectations after off-season upgrades, the rotation begins to decline due to lack of young talent, and the Diamondbacks end up finishing around .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in NL West

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 4 along with my latest Baseball Bits coming soon.