And Now, A Word From Nervous Nellie

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Hard to argue with results. The Red Sox are an AL-best 13-7. They’re 8-1 in their last nine. They’re destroying opposing pitchers to the tune of a league-best .799 OPS. Kevin Youkilis leads the AL in batting, Manny Ramirez leads in home runs, RBI, slugging and OPS, Daisuke Matsuzaka leads in wins, and Jonathan Papelbon leads in saves.

What’s more, the Sox are winning ballgames they could easily have lost. They’re the team that never says die. Down 4-1 to the Indians in the seventh? No problem. Down 3-2 in the eighth just the game before? No big deal. Right?

Sorry to be the wet blanket, but I feel a tad uneasy about all this come-from-behind success. It reminds me too much of another seemingly invincible ballclub who was fun to watch and seemed to never say die. Until they did. That would be the 2006 Red Sox, who put up some pretty impressive Fangraphs charts themselves as they won 12 straight games in late June. Of course, we all know what happened once that streak came to an end. The Sox muddled around as a .500 team in July before falling off a cliff in August.

In retrospect, we know the 2006 team was just a little short of what was needed to really sustain a run to the playoffs. The closer a final score is the more luck played into which team won. The Red Sox are now 4-0 in one-run games, but just 4-3 in games decided by five runs or more. The 2006 Sox were 29-20 in one-run games, but just 24-25 in blowouts. Not surprisingly, they scored fewer runs than they allowed.

I’m not saying the Sox are going to have another hellish season like 2006 — easily the worst I’ve endured since 1997 — and I’d certainly rather be winning these games than losing them. But, contrary to what may be popular belief, this trend is not a good one. No team can rely on the late-game rally and survive. We need to start seeing these big innings earlier in the game if the Sox are to keep up their April success.

43 comments… add one
  • No. There’s no way you can make me feel nervous or bad about all this winning. I don’t care how many charts you throw at me. I’ll start looking at problems if they arise and if we start playing .500 ball.
    This post should be about the Yankees who are actually losing, not theoretically.

    Pat (SF) April 21, 2008, 2:41 am
  • 2006 set the foundation for success. The Red Sox acquired Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell and saw the rises of Jonathan Papelbon and Kevin Youkilis.
    2006 was also an absolute mess. Remember J.T. Snow? Willie Harris? Wily Mo Pena? Josh Bard passed a few balls, so the Sox get rid of him (along with Cla Meredith) and he goes on to hit .338 for the Padres while Dougie … continues hitting like Dougie.
    As far as roster-move disasters, I don’t think this year is anything to worry about. The Sox have all of last year’s starters, and Sean Casey is sitting on the bench. Sean Freaking Casey! This team has depth for days. Papi’s heating up; the rest of the offense is already hot. Once the starting pitching comes around, this club will be solid.
    Let me put it this way: I’d be more worried if the Sox weren’t coming back from behind at all. Winning doesn’t generally upset me.

    Kazz April 21, 2008, 3:10 am
  • I wish I had written this. I feel the same way as Paul, almost identically.

    SF April 21, 2008, 6:11 am
  • I’m surprised to see that no one has mentioned the staggering amount of injuries that happened to the 2006 Sox late in the season that heavily contributed to the “fall of the cliff.” Varitek, Paps, Manny, Ortiz etc. You can’t lose your top player all at once and continue a torrid winning streak.

    Michael April 21, 2008, 7:49 am
  • Yeah, I feel like 2006 was due more to injuries than an an overall lack of production. When Varitek went down the pitching staff collapsed, and that was also during the Josh-Beckett-Transitional-Period-Between-Asskickings year. Overall our pitching staff–despite its shortcomings–is a lot stronger than it was back then, especially with Varitek looking good right now.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 8:03 am
  • Also Kazz, not to nitpick but Wily Mo had a great 2006. In 276 AB he averages .301, had an OPS of .838, hit 11 HR and drove in 42.
    Everything else you’ve said mirrors exactly how I feel though. Sean Casey is our backup? Jed Lowrie too? Ortiz has an average as bad as most NL pitchers and we’re still 13-7, best in the AL?
    The pitching does worry me a bit. Daisuke looks to have improved and Beckett will undoubtedly return to form, but Lester is still struggling and Buchholz is a giant question mark, despite having the greatest curveball I’ve ever seen.
    In any case, we’ve got baseball for breakfast in less than 3 hours! What a great day.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 8:16 am
  • nobody’s arguing that you’d rather have a 13-7 record than say, 10-10 folks…but i have to agree with sf and paul…we’ve seen enough baseball, to realize just how long the season is, and early season success is no guarantee for what might come later…baseball’s marked by bouts of inconsistency, a game of streaks, good and bad, by both individual players as well as teams…this sox team is definitely better than ’06, but so was last year’s team who got off to the fast start, but then let the yankees, after their woeful start, nearly catch them at the end…they then came back from the brink against cleveland only to win the whole thing…it’s the length of the season that gives fans alternately feelings of hope and anxiety…when you’re winning you’re anxious about when the bubble will burst, hoping that it isn’t at the “wrong” time, especially against your rival…if you’re losing, you remain hopeful that players will start performing up to par, get a fortunate bounce or call, and turn things around…i understand how paul and sf feel having experienced both emotions myself multiple times during the course of many seasons…while i’m not a big believer in luck, it does seem a little bit wierd that the thought did enter my mind as i watched the red sox come back yesterday…then i get up this morning to paul’s post…wierd, in a wwwoooooo kind of way…but, like i said, i’m not a big believer in luck…the sox are a very good team with an awesome closer…i expect them to win their share of 1-run games and come-from-behinds…darnit

    dc April 21, 2008, 8:19 am
  • The first 2 paragraphs are all you need to remember right now. These wins are coming after the epic trip-round-the-world, with a slumping Papi, Schill out, injured WS MVP, and only 1 month into the season. Enjoy them!
    “I freaking love winning, man! It’s like waaay better than losing!”

    DUFF - SF April 21, 2008, 8:37 am
  • Yeah, Duff. If someone told me that Lowell was on the DL, Ortiz was hitting .160, that Beckett had an ERA of 5.12, and that our bullpen has a combined ERA of 5.11, and yet we were STILL the best team in the AL? I’d call them crazy. I mean jesus christ, our team ERA ranks 27th in all of baseball! And yet we’re still winning!
    Sure we’ve squeeked out a few 1-run games, but our overall team performance as a whole should improve.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 8:51 am
  • “…epic trip-round-the-world, with a slumping Papi, Schill out, injured WS MVP…”
    “…our overall team performance as a whole should improve….”
    not supposed to use the “epic trip” as an excuse i thought, but ok…the schedule maker was not kind to either the sox or yanks it would seem…aside from that, you guys didn’t listen to a thing i said above! ;) it’s a season of streaks, and injuries typically play a role…you guys are riding the success of manny, dice-k, papelbon, and youk right now [see paul’s post]…i’d add others like casey, varitek, drew, and probably some i’m leaving out…not to say someone won’t have a career year, good or bad, but these things tend to even out over the course of the season…unless he’s downplaying his knee issues, papi will hit again and lowell will return, while guys like varitek, drew, and casey [now batting .349] may cool off a bit…like i said, nobody argued that it’s not better to be 13-7 than 10-10…it seems like you’re arguing that a team with no injuries and every player performing at his peak is a better team…uh, i have no comeback for that one…

    dc April 21, 2008, 9:15 am
  • We know that it’s a season of streaks dc, we’re agreeing with you. Our points (Duff’s and mine) are that we’re getting production from different places than usual. Instead of Ortiz and Manny carrying the team alone, it’s Drew and Youk and Pedroia. Instead of Beckett pitching well it’s Daisuke.
    You keep saying that we’re not listening to you, but we’re arguing the same point!

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 9:20 am
  • All one needs to do is look at the chart at the top of this post to realize why the way in which the sox have been winning games over the last week is not sustainable. Teams lose upwards of 90% (and higher) of the time when down late in games. This isnt to say that the sox cant change the way they win as the season goes on but they aren’t gonna be the best team in baseball with a 5.50 ERA for very long. Just like the yankees arent gonna compete if 3/5ths of their rotation is really bad all year. (and if LaTroy Hawkins continues to be on the team)

    sam-yf April 21, 2008, 9:59 am
  • I agree with Sam 100 percent.
    I’m not complaining about winning, and as I said in the original post, I don’t think this team has the flaws the 2006 team had (Sean Casey and Jed Lowrie would defintiely be starting on a bunch of other rosters right now, Mark Loretta is now Dustin Pedroia, Varitek is healthier, Trot Nixon/Wily Mo Pena is now J.D. Drew, the shell of Coco Crisp is now a healthier Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury, the overrated Alex Gonzalez is now Julio Lugo, who believe it or not does hit better and fields nearly as well).
    Look, I’d much rather be winning than losing these games. I’m not unhappy about things right now. But not having these types of games at all is the only way the Sox are going to maintain their gaudy winning percentage.

    Paul SF April 21, 2008, 10:08 am
  • Also, the Sox are now 8-0 (8-0!) in games decided by two runs or less. That’s an awful lot of luck you have to hope doesn’t turn around later in the season.
    Incidentally, I too believe that with Ortiz and Beckett returning to form, we’ll see a lot of this work itself out. But I wanted to pop a little of the Conventional Wisdom that rallying late is the sign of a true winner. More often, it’s the sign of a team whose luck just hasn’t evened out yet.

    Paul SF April 21, 2008, 10:14 am
  • I hate to nit-pick, but, I don’t think the “collapse” of the 2006 team had anything to do with whether they were flawed or not, actually we’ll never know if they were truly flawed because the collapse happened because half the line-up went down in the middle of august, including Manny and Ortiz(remember the heart scare), losing those two and varitek doesn’t translate into a flawed team. When asked, even Francona and Theo admit that the injuries buried the 2006 team. Maybe if they had been healthy and made the playoffs your theory would hold up, but that never happened.

    Anonymous April 21, 2008, 10:59 am
  • Buchholz retires the side allowing a double in between 0-0 Sox coming up.

    TJ April 21, 2008, 11:14 am
  • No sox gamer?

    z118 April 21, 2008, 11:14 am
  • First, game thread, please.
    Second, one of the reasons this team isn’t scoring runs early is because Papi isn’t hitting. Yet.
    Third, I think this team is too good to keep putting itself in the position of having to make late comebacks to win. Eventually the ship will right itself.
    The ’06 team was maddeningly inconsistent and recovering from the hangover that was an entirely new infield (Lowell, Gonzalez, Loretta, Youkilis), rid of Damon, welcoming a Beckett that needed to adjust to the AL, and then came the aformentioned injuries.
    That said, yeah, the LOBs thus far are driving me nuts, as are the early squanders, the pen must improve in quality and consistency and Dice-K, Buccholz and Lester must me more consistent. But these are things that can iron out over the long haul, too.

    I'm Bill McNeal April 21, 2008, 11:18 am
  • The only thing that really scares me right now is the starting pitching (and how their troubles could eventually eat into the bullpen’s effectiveness)–Beckett will be fine, but everyone else has issues to work through. At least Wakefield ate the big majority of the innings yesterday.
    Mostly, I’m just partying, though. It’s been AWESOME.

    Devine April 21, 2008, 11:20 am
  • Awesome lineup today.
    Would this qualify as the B-Team?

    I'm Bill McNeal April 21, 2008, 11:25 am
  • Buchholz is getting ahead of batters. Great to see.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:26 am
  • BAH, 0-2 fastball hit into left field by Murphy.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:27 am
  • Bombastic Hank is at it again.
    In his own unique way says he wants Joba in the rotation.
    I love Hank.

    I'm Bill McNeal April 21, 2008, 11:29 am
  • What’d he say, Bill? If I were him I’d want Joba in the rotation too!

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:30 am
  • By the way Bill, this is practically last year’s Pawtucket team. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youk, Lowrie, Cash, Thurston and Buchholz.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:32 am
  • Also, why is Tek getting two days off? Don’t we want him helping Buchholz behind the plate?

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:33 am
  • “I want him as a starter and so does everyone else, including him, and that is what we are working toward and we need him there now,” Steinbrenner said Sunday by telephone. “There is no question about it, you don’t have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy. You just don’t do that. You have to be an idiot to do that.”

    “The mistake was already made last year switching him to the bullpen out of panic or whatever,” Steinbrenner said. “I had no say in it last year and I wouldn’t have allowed it. That was done last year, so now we have to catch up. It has to be done on a schedule so we don’t rush him.”

    TJ April 21, 2008, 11:33 am
  • Apparently Tek has the flu.

    Devine April 21, 2008, 11:34 am
  • Tek has the flu

    TJ April 21, 2008, 11:34 am
  • Clay escapes the inning

    TJ April 21, 2008, 11:35 am
  • I’m passing along info from Joe C and Obie.
    Tek is battling flu-like symptoms. been bothering him for a couple of days. But he’s feeling really crappy today. Let me find Hank’s latest dandy.

    I'm Bill McNeal April 21, 2008, 11:35 am
  • Ahhh, thanks TJ. So now Hank is throwing Cashman under the bus for using Joba as a reliever?
    Clay got lucky there. Two singles and a walk, all with two outs. Could have been horrible, but ends up just raising his pitch count to 42 pitches after 2 IP.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:37 am
  • From the NY Times:
    “I want him as a starter and so does everyone else, including him, and that is what we are working toward and we need him there now,” Steinbrenner said Sunday by telephone. “There is no question about it, you don’t have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy. You just don’t do that. You have to be an idiot to do that.”
    “The mistake was already made last year switching him to the bullpen out of panic or whatever,” Steinbrenner said. “I had no say in it last year and I wouldn’t have allowed it. That was done last year, so now we have to catch up. It has to be done on a schedule so we don’t rush him.”
    “I think once Hughes and Kennedy get plenty of starts and get Joba back, and with Wang and Pettitte, we will be fine,” Steinbrenner said, referring to the Yankee starters Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte.
    He also said he thought Mike Mussina, who is 39, “just needs to learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer,” the Phillies’ 45-year-old starter, suggesting that Mussina shouldn’t try to rely on his diminished fastball to get hitters out.
    “The starting rotation is not what I would have chosen at the beginning of the year, but that is not a big news flash to anyone,” Steinbrenner said.

    I'm Bill McNeal April 21, 2008, 11:38 am
  • Gabbards spikes got caught and he slipped trainers are out

    TJ April 21, 2008, 11:38 am
  • hes apparently ok

    TJ April 21, 2008, 11:39 am
  • Drew walks on 5 pitches, all fastballs. Looks like Gabbard’s struggling with his command now.
    Or he’s just pitching around a dangerous hitter, because Lowrie-Lugo-Cash-Thurston are the bottom 4 tonight this morning.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:41 am
  • Drew to third, now Lugo is walked. Again, probably pitching around him to get to Cash.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:47 am
  • Both teams leave the bases loaded, both pitchers up around 45 pitches through 2.

    Atheose April 21, 2008, 11:54 am
  • Gabbard done with an injury! Hreres the bullpen FUN TIME

    TJ April 21, 2008, 12:06 pm
  • i just put up a gamer above.

    Nick -YF April 21, 2008, 12:06 pm
  • Well, I agree that the ‘wait until we can get at their bullpen’ strategy is not something that can carry the team through until October, but I am still really optimistic about this year. With the fairly brutal early schedule (in terms of travel time, few days off, tough opponents, the injury to Beckett) I expected a .500 record at best in the early going, and figured we’d get stronger in the later part of the year.
    I see no reason to believe that the Sox won’t still be stronger in the later part of the year just because they’re getting lucky/playing out of their minds right now. The fact that we’re *not* .500 with the schedule we’ve had is just icing on the cake.
    Oh, and why compare them to the 2006 club? Why not 2003 or 2004? The ’03 team had 9 one or two run wins in April alone, and IIRC they went pretty far. (F*cking Grady.) The vast majority of playoff teams have a fair amount of luck… and good relief pitching, which is another major factor in low win margin games.

    Jackie (SF) April 21, 2008, 4:22 pm
  • Good point, Jackie.
    dc, as Atheose said, no one was arguing with you. Everyone knows that a baseball season is riddled with streaks, inconsistencies, and (some) luck.

    DUFF - SF April 21, 2008, 9:34 pm
  • Graph is inaccurate. Should have Boston starting the game at around 50%. There is no way there was an even chance that either team wins at the start of the game. The Rangers are not exactly the cream of the crop in the AL.

    tells-yf April 22, 2008, 1:49 pm

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