A New Era?

Since the Modern Era of Red Sox baseball began in 2003, the Sox have been characterized by their deep, patient, incredibly potent lineups (as well as consistently excellent starting pitching). Consistently flirting with 900 and even 1,000 runs each year, the Sox have been among the most feared lineups in the league for the past six seasons.

It’s not a coincidence, I think, that while the Sox have always had strong lineups, they seemed to enter another level with the arrival of David Ortiz in 2003. Since he took over full-time designated hitter duties midseason, he and Manny Ramirez provided arguably the most lethally balanced 3-4 combination since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

What’s remarkable, then, is that the Red Sox — though on pace to score fewer runs than in any of the six seasons except for the abomination that was 2006 — have maintained a deep, formidable set of bats despite trading Ramirez in July and losing Ortiz for the better part of the season to injuries or injury-fueled ineffectiveness.

Were we to play the "If you’d told me" game, I think we unanimously would have picked the Sox to be sitting out October if we had learned Ortiz and Ramirez both would finish the season with fewer than 110 games played.

Anecdotally, of course, we know their value to the Sox over the majority of this decade. Statistically, here’s some food for thought, a list of the Top 5 members of the Red Sox in runs produced each year. Runs produced is the number of runs scored or driven in, subtracting home runs to avoid doubling up. I also calculated the percentage of the team’s runs involving the hitter in question.

2003 — 961 runs

  1. Nomar Garciaparra, 197, 20.5%
  2. Manny Ramirez, 184, 19.1%
  3. Todd Walker, 164, 17.1%
  4. Johnny Damon, 158, 16.4%
  5. Kevin Millar, 154, 16.0%

2004 — 949 runs

  1. Johnny Damon, 197, 20.8%
  2. Manny Ramirez, 195, 20.6%
  3. David Ortiz, 192, 20.2%
  4. Mark Bellhorn, 158, 16.6%
  5. Kevin Millar, 130, 13.7%

2005 — 910 runs

  1. David Ortiz, 220, 24.2%
  2. Manny Ramirez, 211, 23.2%
  3. Johnny Damon, 182, 20.0%
  4. Edgar Renteria, 162, 17.8%
  5. Bill Mueller, 121, 13.3%

2006 — 820 runs

  1. David Ortiz, 198, 24.1%
  2. Kevin Youkilis, 159, 19.4%
  3. Manny Ramirez, 146, 17.8%
  4. Mike Lowell, 139, 17.0%
  5. Mark Loretta, 129, 15.7%

2007 — 867 runs

  1. David Ortiz, 198, 22.8%
  2. Mike Lowell, 178, 20.5%
  3. Manny Ramirez, 152, 17.5%
  4. Kevin Youkilis, 152, 17.5%
  5. Coco Crisp, 139, 16.0%

The value of Ortiz especially to this lineup is very clear. From 2003-07, only Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols produced more runs than Ortiz. From 2005-07, Ortiz is second to only A-Rod, playing a direct role in nearly a quarter of all the runs scored by the Red Sox in that span. Ramirez from 2003-07 was fifth in baseball, and he consistently factored into nearly a fifth of all the Sox’ runs in any given season.

2003-2007 — 4,507 runs

  1. David Ortiz, 957, 21.2%
  2. Manny Ramirez, 888, 19.7%
  3. Jason Varitek, 560, 12.4%
  4. Johnny Damon, 537, 11.9%
  5. Trot Nixon, 402, 8.9%

With Ortiz gone — or at least not himself — for nearly all of 2008, and Ramirez gone by August, how did the Sox replace their production? Why, with a Laser Show, of course.

2008 — 785 runs (on pace for 848)

  1. Dustin Pedroia, 174, 22.2%
  2. Kevin Youkilis, 162, 20.6%
  3. David Ortiz, 124, 15.8%
  4. J.D. Drew, 123, 15.7%
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury, 122, 15.5%

Pedroia is on pace for 186 runs produced this season, which would be the most of any Sox second baseman not named Bobby Doerr. This is only one niche stat, but the emergence of Pedroia as the player most likely to be part of any Red Sox scoring — with a runs-per-game average of nearly five, the Sox are statistically certain of Pedroia being involved in at least one run-scoring play every single game — has largely mitigated the potentially disastrous consequences of losing both Ortiz and Ramirez for significant stretches this season.

Just another reason why he might be hoisting some hardware come December.

8 comments… add one
  • Also, it seems pretty likely that I’ll have to update my Top Red Sox Seasons list after this one’s over. Pedroia is on pace to finish among the top 10 all-time in extra-base hits and total bases by a second baseman in a season, never mind challenging Doerr for a slew of team records for single-season performance by a second-sacker.
    For those of you who have forgotten, Doerr’s 1944 stands at #36.

    Paul SF September 15, 2008, 1:21 am
  • It’s simple amazing what Pedroia is doing. I think what makes it most incredible if the fact that nobody saw it coming. Every day he shocks me more and more.
    Can you imagine our lineup when Ortiz is healthy and hitting well? Scary stuff. And with Coco looking like Johnny Damon circa 2004 I’m feeling very good about our postseason chances.

    Atheose September 15, 2008, 8:25 am
  • earlier in the season i would have picked youk as the al mvp…as we near the end of the season, i’ve changed my ‘vote’ to pedroia…didn’t need your post to make up my mind on that one paul, i’ve seen the guy do too many amazing things this year…one other comment re. the post though, i find it interesting that the sox are on a pace to score fewer runs this season than any of the past 6 [other than ’06], 3 things come to mind: pitching, defense, and timing of those runs…i noticed the other day that arod was closing in on 100 rbi [got it yesterday], as is giambi, and both have over 30 hr….heck of a lot of good it’s done us…

    dc September 15, 2008, 10:05 am
  • one thing I hope doesn’t get lost when people look back on this season is what Drew did when Ortiz was out – this team was getting written off and he stepped in and more than bridged the gap. With him being hurt the latter part of the season that might be forgotten. Remember the abuse Theo got for that signing?

    ponch - sf September 15, 2008, 11:44 am
  • good point ponch…the sox played much better team baseball this year, despite stats like runs scored…some guys had off years, or injuries, but other guys picked up the slack…that, and many of their personnel decisions have paid off well: bay, lowrie, masterson…i still think that if they have a flaw it might be the bullpen, but masterson has plugged a big hole very nicely…

    dc September 15, 2008, 11:55 am
  • “…played much better team baseball this year…”
    …than the yankees did, for example…

    dc September 15, 2008, 11:56 am
  • The Red Sox have been good for the past decade. If we are to believe that the thing is to make the playoffs, than the Red Sox turned the page way before now. They have been consistently competitive and are extremely well run. No secret or statistical analysis really needed.

    DR September 15, 2008, 3:29 pm
  • Who said the Sox turned the page now? They turned the page in 2003, as the first sentence implies. So I’m not sure what you’re getting at, other than wanting to be contrarian. With their top two hitters out for much of the season, the Sox should have been noncompetitive, but they aren’t, so maybe a little analysis is required to prove why. That has nothing to do with “turning the page” or being “good for the past decade.”
    Also, I doubt you’ll find many Sox fans who would consider the 2001-02 ballcubs “good” by any but the barest of standards.

    Paul SF September 15, 2008, 4:06 pm

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