In 1967 the Boston Red Sox lived the ‘Impossible Dream’, going from last to first in one season. 40 years later, the Sox made a Possible Dream come true; fielding a solid team and winning the World Series. With many New England sports teams looking good this season, can they all make their "Possible Dreams" come true?


Monday, August 13, 2007

Sparky Lyle vs Hideki Okajima

Ok, so Hideki Okajima hasn't been having the best week ever. He's still put up some solid numbers this season. He'll be going up against '67 rookie hurler Sparky Lyle.

Sparky Lyle made his Major League Debut on July 4th, 1967. Lyle came out of nowhere and solidified the Sox bullpen, pitching them out of many tight situations. After the Impossible Dream year, Lyle's dominance led him to the top of the Sox bullpen. After being traded to New York in 1972, Sparky would build his reputation as one of the best relievers of the 70's. That year, he saved an AL record 35 games. Sparky would be selected to the All-Star team 3 times and lead his teams to the World Series twice as well. In 1977 he won the American League Cy Young award, but was "replaced" when new Yankees reliever Goose Gossage outshined him.

Hideki Okajima is also in his rookie year with the Sox, but he has a bit more professional baseball experience. Okajima is a 12 year veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball (the Japanese Major League level), having been selected to 3 all-star games and being a part of 3 Japan Series winning teams (2 with the Yomiuri Giants, one with the Nippon Ham Fighters). At age 31, free agent Okajima signed a $2.5 million deal with the Sox, eyed as being a probable 7th inning option.

Both Okajima and Lyle spent their first years with the Sox in many set-up and spot-closing roles. Lyle also had sporadic long relief outings. Okajima has quite a few innings on Lyle, who joined the team about three months into the season.

In 27 appearances, Sparky threw 43 1/3 innings, posted a 2.28 era, with 5 saves and 42 strikeouts, with a solid 1.085 WHIP.

In a projected 68 appearances, Okajima should throw around 72 innings, with a 1.26 era, with 5 saves and 60 strikeouts, and a .825 WHIP.

Outside the stat lines: on four different occasions in '67, Lyle would toss over 3 innings on the way to a Sox win, two of those in extra innings. Okajima has only thrown more that 2 innings 3 times this season. Okajima, on the other hand, went 19 appearances (20 ip) between giving up his first and second earned runs. Lyle was a bit more liberal giving up runs.

Both players had some of their best stuff against the toughest competition. Okajima and Lyle each excelled against solid Detroit teams, and kept their division rival Yankees in check.

Though Lyle has the better strikeouts per nine (Sparky has an impressize 8.73 k/9, to Hideki's 7.39 k/9), Okajima leads Lyle in the rest of the stat categories. I don't want to belittle what Sparky Lyle did for the '67 Sox, but Okajima's early season dominance was an integral part of the '07 team's stellar April/June run. Without that run, the Sox would not have had their large lead to work with (which is even more important in light of the Sox's recent lean streak).

edge: Okajima

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