General Red Sox

How Good Is This Team?

Since starting the season 13-6, bouyed of course by their 11-game winning streak, the Red Sox are 16-16.

In those 32 games …

… they've scored 4.8 runs per game and posted a .270/.347/.440 line with 36 homers. The league average is 4.9 runs per game, so the Sox are not translating a decent line (that .787 OPS would still be good for sixth) into enough runs. Thirty-six home runs in 32 games translates to 57 home runs over the season so far — one more than league average, but four fewer than the club's actual total.

… the Sox have allowed 4.9 runs per game and allowed a line of .282/.347/.438 — essentially identical to the line their offense has contributed. Again, the Sox would be below average in runs per game — league-average is 4.88 allowed — while their 10.0 H/9 would be second-worst in the league, ahead of only Baltimore. Meanwhile, allowing 3.5 BB/9 would be exactly league average, and a WHIP of 1.50 over the last 32 games would put them second from the bottom in that category, as well.  The only saving grace is that the staff has struck out 7.8 per nine innings — which would easily be the best total in the league, topping their own league-leading mark of 7.5.

Most intriguing is the Sox' continued inability to win on the road (yesterday's series- and face-saving win notwithstanding). For the season, they are 17-6 at Fenway, 12-16 on the road, a .310 gap in winning percentages that dwarfs even last year's .211 gap. Since 2003, the Sox have performed much better at home every year, but until last year, they had managed at least a winning record on the road while being nearly unstoppable at home.

Since last March, however, the Red Sox are 73-31 at home (.701 winning percentage, 112 wins in a 162-game season), but just 51-58 (.468, 76 wins) on the road. It's a performance over the past two years that matches the Red Sox' Jeckyl and Hyde 2008 thus far.

For more than a month now, the Sox have been Hyde more often than not, and I'm beginning to wonder whether that's closer to how good this team truly is.

35 replies on “How Good Is This Team?”

I can’t read the team, Paul. The starting pitching will surely (hopefully!?) get better, which will help, but then the bullpen might regress, right? And the offense isn’t that deep, and that lack of depth makes Papi’s cliff-dive even more impactful. So if Papi progresses to some sort of mean (he isn’t THIS bad, is he? Or is he hurt?), then that will help. But these are a lot of ifs. I think the best-case is that the offense produces at or slightly above what it is doing now, and the starting pitching improves to what we might have thought we were getting at the beginning of the year. The Sox should remain in the thick of a playoff battle in this case.

I’m really amazed by how well most Sox hitters prefer Fenway. I wonder if it affects their swings when they go on the road. It’s not easy to hit 90+ mph fastballs. It’s even harder if your swing is changing.
Here are some splits that stand out for me:
Offense –
Home: .302 .378 .522
Away: .252 .339 .405
Pitching –
Home: .260 .336 .390
Away: .277 .355 .439
Even the pitchers seem to know how to use Fenway, but it’s certainly not as dramatic. The offense takes twice the hit on the road as the pitching.
That’s the problem with figuring this team out. The pitching seems to be much more stable than the offense. And yet can you really expect a .900 OPS at home through the rest of the year? Almost all of batters look a lot better at home (Varitek, Ellsbury, Lowell, Pedroia, even Youkilis) with some differences over 200 points in OPS.

With the righties it’s understandable how they might get a lot of cheap doubles off the monster; with Lowell and Pedroia I think this is a lot more obvious. Ellsbury is the one that stands out to me, because the vast majority of his hits are singles, in which the left-field doesn’t even come into play.

And SF, the lack of depth is mostly due to injuries; once Kotsay and Lowrie come back our bench will look a lot better. Jeff Bailey just ain’t cutting it.

Left Field in Fenway does come into play at Fenway – it supresses singles to that field (cause the fielder plays so much shallower sue to the Wall, cutting off LD and fliner would-behits)). So you would think that would hurt Ellsbury if anything. Unless he too is getting cheap doubles off the Monstah. I suspect hitters tend to perform better at home because they get used to seeing the ball out of that particular background and pick it up better, even when the dimensions of their home park don’t favor their spray charts.

As for the Sox pitching, Beckett is very likely to get better – he’s actually been fairly unlucky this season and his peripherals are good. Lester’s periphs pretty closely match his performance, although I think he’s been slightly unlucky. Both have come on in their last couple starts, no? I would expect Beckett to have a good rest of the season, with a good deal of improvement from Lester as well, although my worry (were I an SF) there would be his dramatic innings increase from last year catching up to him as the season goes on. I also expect Clay to replace Penny at some point as well, so yeah, i think their starting pitching will improve,
Their Bullpen has generally overperformed their peripherals (IIRC, Papelbon, Oki, and Ramon Ramirez have all been pretty fortunate), but their peripherals are still pretty darn good – so I would say it’s a very good pen, just not THIS good.
The hitting, i think, is about where it should be. We all know about Papi’s struggless, but the Sawx also have plenty of guys overperforming their projections (Bay, Youk, Varitek, even Ellsbury), and only Lowell realyl down from where he should be. That said, there are a number of moves that could really help the lineup – either a a 1B, 3B, or SS would really help them and improve the order. They have the pieces to get something done, so i assume they will.
Basically a long way of saying, yeah, i expect the Sox to perform better than they have over the last month or so. It’d be foolish to think they won’t be in the mix at the end.

Kotsay coming back helps the Sox at 1B and 3B (by allowing Youk to play 3B), along with the outfield depth. Lowrie coming back helps 3B and SS.

“As for the Sox pitching, Beckett is very likely to get better – he’s actually been fairly unlucky this season and his peripherals are good. Lester’s periphs pretty closely match his performance, although I think he’s been slightly unlucky. ”
Beckett’s last three starts have been very good. I disagree on Lester – his Fip is 4.28, where his ERA is 5.65, so his peripherals are actually good. His swing and miss percent is higher this year as well. He’s been hurt by some poor fielding at SS, and a couple meatballs with men on. He’ll get better (his BABIP this year is .374 vs career .314 as well, which includes this year’s statistics so far).

So when Kotsay comes back does he go to first, Youk to 3rd, Lowell to DH, and Ortiz benched/relegated to pinch-hit duty? Is the team ready to commit to giving up on Papi yet? Francona must be looking forward to away games in NL parks so the decision can be made for him.

It won’t matter ponch because by the time Kotsay comes back Ortiz is going to be hitting 2 homers a game.

Well Lester’s Walk and HR totals are up too (although his K totals are still very good). He’s giving up a few more flyballs, and a lot more of those flies are leaving the park – add that to a lot fewer popups, and I just think his FB has a little less life and movement than it did last year. Which isn’t to say I don’t think his results will improve. I do. I just6 thought he was less unlucky than Beckett thus far.
You’re right in that his FIP is a lot better than his actual ERA, but that’s largely a function of the poor Sox defense this year, which I don’t think will change unless (until?) they address 3B and SS. But the oufield D has been even worse (only the Nats have an outfield D worse than the Red Sox in ’09), and that seems less likely to be addressed.

“You’re right in that his FIP is a lot better than his actual ERA, but that’s largely a function of the poor Sox defense this year, ”
hey Mark, I may be incorrect, but BABIP would be indicative of the defense (or lack thereof) behind him. The Fip is a measure of what the pitcher can control – walks strikeouts, etc, and a good indication of how good he’s pitching (or not). granted his Fip isn’t that great either, but it’s pretty different than his ERA, showing he’s pitched better than the results show.
Beckett’s ERA and Fip have dropped like a rock recently – and are tracking pretty close together.

BABIP is considered to be more a function of luck, varying on what kind of pitcher you are – fly ball pitchers have lower BABIPs, for example. FIP is exactly what it says – Fielding Independent Pitching. It’s how the pitcher pitches with a league average defense e. but the Sox defense is what it is, and unless they make some changes, their end results are going to be that their pitchers continue to underperform their FIP.

Yeah, FIP = Fielding-Independent Pitching. It measures only those things a pitcher can control: Walks, strikeouts, home runs. Not to say those things won’t be affected when your defense keeps lengthening your innings… And Lester’s a bit of an odd duck anyway. His FIP is pretty low in part because he has had vastly more shut-down innings, but he’s been killing himself with home runs at inopportune moments, which inflates the ERA but may actually be underrepresented in the FIP formula (which treats all home runs as being equal).
As for home/road, it seems pretty obvious the Red Sox draft, sign and trade for players they think will be a good fit with the organization — in temperament, talent and playing style, and that includes finding players whose strengths will be magnified by the ballpark where they will play 81 (and probably more) games every year. I think that’s a good idea. But the extreme nature of the home/road splits for more than a year now (if it were just these two months I’d write it off as a small sample) is both bizarre and worrisome. No team can truly survive in an ultracompetitive division by doing as badly in half its games as the Red Sox players have done. Is it bad luck or something more fundamental?

Incidentally, looking at Lester some more, he’s had six starts where he’s given up five earned runs or more. In the other five starts, he’s given up a TOTAL of seven earned runs.
In those six crappy-beyond-belief starts (no game scores higher than 42):
April 8: four runs in the fifth, five runs total.
April 13: five runs in the second, six runs total.
April 29: generally crappy, with two runs in the first and fourth, five runs total.
May 9: six runs in the fifth, eight runs total.
May 15: four runs in the sixth, five runs total.
May 26: five runs in the fifth, five runs total.
That’s truly amazing. In his six awful starts, he’s allowed a total of 34 earned runs, and 25 of those occurred in just five innings (actually, just 4.1). If he could magically excise those 4.1 innings, dropping his total from 65.1 to 61, he’d have an ERA of 2.36.

I wonder if you looked at most pitchers if their stats wouldn’t illustrate something similar, whereby they give up runs in bunches. Thus, the idea of subtracting their bad innings to see just how good they could have been without those bad innings might be a bit of a fallacious tactic.
Lester’s year reminds me of Beckett ’06, but not actually as good.

That’s the thing about Lester: he looks ELECTRIC most of the time, it’s just that one inning where it all falls apart. Not sure what can be done about that, though he didn’t have that problem yesterday so who knows. Hopefully he and Farrell have worked out the kinks.

Great point on the organizational philosophy. I was thinking more that players might tailor their swings – consciously or unconsciously – to take advantage of Fenway then they get screwed, or screwed up, on the road. But if the Sox are actively seeking players with swings built for Fenway (right-handed pull hitters and left-handed other way guys) then that’s another interesting wrinkle.
120 points in SLG is huge.

>>I wonder if you looked at most pitchers if their stats wouldn’t illustrate something similar, whereby they give up runs in bunches.
I wondered that, too, and I would guess that for pitchers with ERAs as bad as Lester’s, this would not be the case. I certainly can only recall two Sox starters in the last five years to exhibit this trait — Lester this year and Beckett in 2006. It’s purely anecdotal, and I don’t have the time to research it, but I suspect pitchers with great ERAs probably will have the vast majority of their earned runs bunched into a few innings where their command faltered or they lost the feel of their change-up or something like that. But with you’re in the high-5s, you’re usually giving up bunches of runs pretty consistently — not just in one inning in each of one-half of your starts.

All right, I did Wakefield because I was curious.
He has four starts with five or more earned runs, six with three or fewer. In that sense, he and Lester are similar: Either really good or really bad (no surprise there for Wakefield).
His four bad starts:
May 2: No inning with more than three runs, five total.
May 13: Five runs in the third, seven total.
May 24: No inning with more than three runs, five total.
May 29: Five runs in the fifth, six total.
So right away we see that Wakefield only had two starts out of four that could legitimately be considered “one bad inning” starts (compared to Lester’s five of six). Removing those two innings, dropping him to 61.1, and those 10 earned runs, Wakefield would have an ERA of 3.23 — a nice improvement over his 4.55, but nowhere near the gap between Lester’s 5.65 and 2.36.

Looks like Paul will be notching some overtime hours on the YFSF payroll tonight.

Posting here for lack of YF gamer. Bottom 1 – Joba looks dominant out of the gate – 96-98 on the YES gun, sharp curve. Let’s hope he keeps this up and shuts up up the Joba to the ‘Pen contingent.

1st out of the bootom second: There’s a perfect example of how Girardi’s positioning has made Jeter’s defense serviceable. Ball hit up the middle, takes a bit of a skip of the mound, and Jeter is right behind second to field it. Two years ago that’s a single, no question.

Two batters later (after a Joba K – he looks gooood) – a chopper halfway between first and second (this time off a righty batter), and Jeter is again positioned nicely to make the play. Two nice anecdotes to support my theory of Girardi and staff making Jeets a top SS again!

Check that – chopper was halway between second and third – much further to Jeter’s right than the first play.

SMALL BALL! A GArdner walk, steal of second, Jeter lays down a perfect bunts and there’s no play at first! Runners @ corners, no out

Well Yanks only get one as Swisher GIDP’s on a great play (helped by a dubious call at first) that took away a double.

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