So it's been one of the longer offseasons that I can remember. It might have to do with the early exit (probably does, as a matter of fact), but the stretch since the Red Sox made their last major move until Truck Day on Friday has stretched on for far too long.
In that time, there have been a few things I've wanted to post here, but two children and a(nother) new job have conspired to keep me away for a while. So here's a rundown:
- Ron Borges is something of an idiot.
- John Dewan, inventor of the Plus/Minus defense-measurement system, thinks the Red Sox could save 84 runs on defense over 2009.
- And Amalie Benjamin repeats what fast became one of the bigger myths of 2009: That the Sox' road offense was alarmingly bad.
I want to touch more on this last point, because I've raised it twice in the comments but never devoted main board space to it. The fact is the Sox' offense on the road in 2009, while much worse than it was at home, was not any worse than in 2004 or 2007. I actually take the exact opposite view that Amalie does when she says in her mailbag:
The biggest problem for the Sox on the road, however, wasn't pitching or defense. The problem was offense.
Baseball-Reference provides two bases for cross-era comparison in its splits — sOPS+, in which 100 equals the league average in the given split, and tOPS+, in which 100 for our purposes equals the overall team average. This way we can compare the 2009 club to its more successful counterparts and see whether the offense actually performed any worse on the road, both relative to the club's overall average that season and relative to the league's home/road splits that season.
Looking at 2009, 2007 and 2004, we find the following:
- 2009 Home/road tOPS+: 113/88
- 2007 Home/road tOPS+: 109/90
- 2004 Home/road tOPS+: 112/88
So the 2009 Red Sox, with their 88 tOPS+ on the road, were slightly worse than the 2007 Sox (but better at home) and exactly the same as the '04 squad. So from this we can say that the 2009 Red Sox were not unusually bad on the road when compared to their overall average. The Epstein-era Sox have consistently been excellent teams at home and mediocre on the road. On offense, 2009 was no better and no worse than its predecessors.
- 2009 Home/road sOPS+: 123/106
- 2007 Home/road sOPS+: 119/106
- 2004 Home/road sOPS+: 127/108
Here we see that the 2009 road offense was actually above the league-average road offense, and that it was identical to the 2007 club's output. And the 2009 Sox were even better at home than the '07 club. The vaunted 2004 offense was much better at home and slightly better on the road, but looking solely at the road offense alone, it's hard to see much of a difference between the three clubs: they all were dominant at home and merely good on the road.
So if the offense wasn't actually any worse on the road in 2009 than it had been in 2007 or 2004, why then did the '09 Sox go 39-42 away from Fenway when those other clubs won 45 and 43 road games, respectively?
It's gotta be pitching and defense, right?
- 2009 home/road tOPS+ allowed: 94/106
- 2007 home/road tOPS+ allowed: 106/94
- 2004 home/road tOPS+ allowed: 99/101
Well, this is a start: The Sox did indeed pitch worse on the road, a change from either of the other two seasons, when they were either better away from Fenway or exhibited little difference at all. But is that because the Sox were just really good at home, or because they truly did pitch poorly on the road?
- 2009 home/road sOPS+ allowed: 101/102
- 2007 home/road sOPS+ allowed: 95/77
- 2004 home/road sOPS+ allowed: 92/89
There you go. The 2007 club may have pitched better on the road, but they were still good at Fenway and dominant away from it. The 2004 club was, again, pretty good in either location. But the 2009 club, despite pitching so much better at home, was still below average there when compared to the league. And they were below average on the road, a stark contrast to the miniscule numbers their pitching staffs posted on the road in 2007 and 2004.
As I mentioned when I first posted these numbers last month, they include quite a bit of defense; unmade plays that count for hits, any baserunners allowed by a pitcher after a two-out error, etc. At any rate, the Dewan link above indicates how poor the Sox were on defense last season (-47 runs from 3B, SS, C and CF, and that doesn't count Jason Bay in left).
So let's put this to bed once and for all. The Red Sox finished third in the AL in runs, third in homers, fourth in batting, second in OBP, second in slugging, second in OPS and third in OPS+ in 2009. Offense last season was not the problem. And, barring a calamity, it shouldn't be a problem this season either.