Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Joy, pain; sunshine, rain

I need to rant. (I'll end it on a happy note, I promise.)

So after the elation that came from sweeping the Orioles, it seems half of RSN is back on the ledge. This is after losing to the best team in baseball, in non-blowout fashion. The Orioles, on the other hand, suck. I would actually submit that last night's game was better than the last two they played against the O's. Yes, Hale made an absolutely boneheaded decision, which cost them a chance at the game - but given that it's mid-August and this is the first time his name has even showed up in the dailies, I can't complain: that's not bad for a third-base coach. The other big complaint it Francona: yes, his hook is slow, but seriously, what choice does he have? Every game he can't trot out Papelbon, especially if it's the 8th and the Sox are down by a couple. Just like I couldn't stand when people complained about the lack of moves at the deadline, while having no suggestions for moves that should've been made, I'm getting tired of hearing about how Francona didn't take so-and-so out soon enough, while offering no ideas whom he should've brought in.

Blaming the coaching staff is the nice pat answer to the Sox's woes. But the fact is, this team just isn't very good right now. I think they're playing well below potential, and when you add that to some key injuries and a poorly constructed bullpen (in hindsight), it's difficult to win. I will add: it's an extremely likeable team, with tons of potential...I hope they bounce back from their slump and their injuries and have a great last 6 weeks of the season. It really can be done.


  1. There was a sense of finality in your post. And rightfuly so. And we will turn it on, if only because now, Tuesday through Monday, is a so importent stetch. I guess we'll know so much more come Monday night. Smiles??? We'll see.

  2. And I loved the title to your post. A classic.

  3. Queue it up JT......

  4. I agree with a lot of your post, but I posted not too long ago that I think this team is playing at their level given their situation.

    With Tek gone, the young guys are going to struggle. That is going to be extremely tough to overcome.

    Second, the starting pitching is not good. While Lidle may not be very good, would it have killed the Sox to make the move for Abreu and take a guy that is just as good (or bad) as Jason Johnson? Yes, Nixon wasn't hurt, but Abreu is the prototypical on base machine the Sox crave, and considering what the Yankees gave up for the two of them, I can't believe the Sox couldn't have offered more WITHOUT Hansen AND LESTER.

    And Craig Wilson is a no brainer. He's a powerbat off the bench and can spell infielders or outfielders.

    Making a run at Carlos Lee (before he was traded) might have been nice.

    But getting away from the trades...I happen to think that this team is playing at about what they are...

    Crisp..he might have a little more upside offensively, but not much more. i.e.- he's not going to be the difference maker.

    Loretta- He's definitely at potential.

    Ortiz- a monster as always.

    Manny - another monster.

    Youk- he's been tremendous.

    Lowell- above what we all thought he could be.

    Wily Mo- Again, another surprise. He strikes out a lot, but he's hitting (and some bombs, too)

    Gonzalez- Above what we thought we'd get.

    Catcher(s)- With Tek out this is the only real down position.

    Bench- weak hitting...(this should have been improved)

    Pitching- Struggling with Tek out. But Lester is what he's been all along. He will improve in the future, but he's been fairly solid. Schill, I think we can say we're getting what we can from him. Beckett, is underperforming, but maybe he isn't...Wells looked great in his last outing and he is going to help. Johnson is who he is...

    The pen...Timlin is ok (I certainly don't expect to see the dominant Timlin), Papelbon is excellent, but I think he is coming down to earth a little bit (which was/is to be expected), Seanez and Tavarez? They aren't going to get any better (and Seanez has been pretty good). Snyder? Ditto.

    What does all this mean? The Sox are what they are. I don't see tremendous upside from this team right now and I wish that I did. You guys know that I usually wear rose-colored glasses and look past weaknesses...They played phenomenal baseball against the NL and everyone was hooked. Aside from that stretch they are pretty much a .500 team.

    I would love more than anyone to see them light it up. But I think that these guys are going to have to OVERperform to get the job done because right now I see most of them playing at their potential.

    By the way, I don't blame the coaching staff at all...I think Francona's done a tremendous job given what he has...

  5. I agree, the individuals have been fine (with the catcher position, Crisp, and Beckett being the main letdowns), but that's not the whole story. As a whole, this offense simply isn't clicking. They ground into tons of key double plays. And they lead all of baseball with runners left on base. [Some of that comes from leading baseball in OBP, but it's a minor effect: their OBP is .003 higher than the 2nd-place Yankees, but they've stranded 71 more runners: over 1.5 more per game!] This suggests a real problem with getting the Big Hit (Ortiz excepted, of course); and for that reason I feel they could be playing a whole lot better.

  6. Actually, though, they are second in the majors in runs scored. I know they leave a ton of guys on, and I have to say that a lot of that is because of the poor bench. Who are you going to have pinch hit out of Mirabelli, Kapler, or Cora? I actually thought I was forgetting someone but they are carrying about 20 pitchers...because their pitching is in shambles.

    This is the one thing that I can't see them being able to fix the rest of the year.

    If Wakefield comes back, and Wells continues to deliver like last time, then the starters might be ok...But, you can't count on Lester to get you to the 7th, you can't guess which Beckett will show up...Schill, Wells, and Wake can get you deep in games. They'll need that so they won't have to lean on Tavarez, Snyder, and Seanez (although, it can sort of be argued that his numbers aren't that bad)...

    Again, if they can bring some guys up in September that can swing the bat, they might be all right.

  7. I guess my last post was to say "You can't rely on outslugging everyone"...The pitching has to improve or they are going nowhere...

  8. That's a very good point about all the runs they're scoring affecting their LOB totals. So I guess the better metric is fraction of baserunners (not counting HR hitters) who make it home to score. Boston's at .339, and only two AL teams are worse: Royals (.332) and A's (.323). Not good company. The "good hitting" teams are much higher: CWS at .378, DET at .371, NYY at .354 (the AL average). So I think there's serious room for improvement in terms of getting key hits.

    But I totally agree: it's about pitching.

    (I assume there's some huge flaw to my calculations, or I just reinvented a well-known stat. Any thoughts?)

  9. Dammit, forgot about FC's, CS's, and GIDP....

  10. It seems like we go through this whole too many left on base thing every year, but I can't get too excited about it. The sox lead the league in OBP, so I would fully expect them to lead in LOB. Plus we move station to station.

    I think every team feels like their team leaves too many men on base. Just ask NY about A-Rod.

    Percent of runners who make it home is interesting, I'm just not sure how it correlates. To not include HR hitters kind of distorts it in favor of the White Sox since they hit so many HRs, their other baserunners are more likley to score. Also the White Sox get so many runners thrown out on the basepaths and that lowers their LOB a bit as well.

    Also, I'm not sure I would call DET a good hitting team. They are a fairly average hitting team with great pitching.

    What about TOR and CLE - they are similar high OBP high scoring teams - they have a bit more speed (although CLE sure don't steal).

    And not that it is a perfect stat, but the sox are pretty much mid pack T-6 in BA with RISP and 2 out (4th in OBP). They have as many two out RBI and runs scored as anyone in the AL, so they can't be completely lacking in the clutch. Plus they have scored more runs than anyone in the 7th inning on.

    I'm not sure this all adds up to anything, other than to say teams with the 10th best ERA in their league rarely win playoff series, which is the real issue with the team.

  11. ...I can't find fielder's choice data (espn is down). But with GIDP and CS, the differences become less stark. Boston (.313) is still below average (.323), but Toronto is actually worse (.312). CWS is still the best (.347), with Detroit right behind (.343).

  12. Maybe I should be talking more generally then - not just hitting in the clutch (though my guess is if you take out one particular guy, the Sox are average or below in some of those categories as well) - but instead "ability to get guys home". By any means necessary. And it seems "fraction of runners who make it home" is a good measure of that. It may be a not-so-useful stat, but it definitely shows Sox are worse at LOB's than most teams, even when corrected for OBP. So you can't just discount their high number of LOB's as a result of their high OBP.

    Also, I'm not sure why you think it favors HR-hitting teams, except for the fact that many offensive stats favor HR-hitting teams.

  13. Oops, messed up again. Here are the fractions for each team (leaving out runners erased by FCs):

    CWS .347
    CLE .343
    DET .338
    TEX .337
    MIN .333
    LAA .329
    SEA .329
    NYY .324 (the average)
    KCR .319
    BAL .316
    BOS .313
    TOR .312
    TAM .300
    OAK .293!

    No huge correlations between hitting ability or success and these numbers. But it's pretty clear: Boston's not getting as many guys home as it should.

  14. So what is the adjustment for CS and GIDP - you remove them from the "on base" total? I think that is what you mean, which would be why it probably makes CHI look better - they don't leave men on because they get thrown out.

    I guess I would need to spend a bit more time (with some pen and paper), but the thought on why a HR hitting team would be more efficient at getting men home is that some percent of their HRs (for any team) will be the last hitter in an inning to reach base.

    But that also contributes a bit to the inaneness of the discussion - the original question was asked about men being LOB, but then in your last comment you say "get guys home by any means necessary." It seems a small point, but what is an acceptable number of men to leave on base? The answer, to me, would seem to be any when a team is losing.

  15. The correction for CS and GIDP was simply to get the right number of total baserunners. I suppose the other way it to take total bases and subtract 1 for each 2B, 2 for each 3B, and 4 for each HR.

    I agree - there's not much point to this (I'm procrastinating, obviously) - except just to point out that our sneaking suspicion that Boston is leaving more guys on than most teams do (that seems like a good definition of how many LOB's are acceptable!) is actually right. Who knows how to deal with it, and it could just be bad luck. But it seems to be happening.

  16. Right, and not to bring this whole thing full circle, but you still have to have a lot of guys on base to leave a lot of guys on base.

    You also need a lot of guys on base to score a lot of runs.

    The Sox, therefore, must have a lot of guys on base as they do both...

    The fact that they are second in runs scored in the majors must mean that they almost lead the league in driving in guys on base. They certainly aren't doing most of it by way of the solo home run.

    Either way, I am of the belief that if they didn't give up over 5 runs a game (5.025) that this LOB wouldn't really be much of an issue.

  17. you still have to have a lot of guys on base to leave a lot of guys on base.

    You also need a lot of guys on base to score a lot of runs.

    That's totally true. But the whole point of this analysis is to show that even when you take into account all the runs scored, the Sox still have a worse problem with runners LOB than other teams do.

    The White Sox have scored 20 more runs than the Red Sox, and yet have left 150 fewer guys on base; the Indians scored just 6 fewer runs than the Red Sox, and had 130 fewer LOB's; and so forth. These aren't small differences here.

    But like I said, I totally agree the main problem is pitching. I just thought this was an interesting sidebar, and suggests that the Sox's offense could be a bit better.

  18. Just a real quick numbers run for the Sox with guys in scoring position...

    Loretta (.271) 129 at-bats
    Ortiz (.295) 129 at-bats
    Lowell (.271) 118 at-bats
    Ramirez (.313) 112 at-bats
    Youkilis (.324) 102 at-bats

    That's not bad for the guys with the most at-bats. Loretta and Lowell may be a bit low, but .270 isn't that bad.

    Next highest averages
    Wily Mo (.309) 55 at-bats
    Varitek (.271) 89 at-bats
    Cora (.303) 33 at-bats

    Those are all pretty impressive (and Tek seems to be thriving compared to his regular batting average).

    Now the lower end...
    Gonzalez (.172) BUT 26 RBI
    Nixon (.250) BUT 38 RBI
    Mirabelli (.250)

    Those are pretty good numbers with risp...not all hits lead to RBI, but they are being productive in these situations.

    Maybe alot of this really does point to bad fundamental base running (not taking the extra base when you can) or stretching short hits into doubles and being caught...I just don't remember many plays like that.

  19. I'd love to contribute, but my head exploded after the first comment. Interesting banter, indeed.

    Pitching and defense win playoffs. We have 1 of 2.

  20. A runner on first still counts as an LOB....

  21. Yeah, it's weird. Though: as a team, their BA does drop 14 points with RISP. But their OBP stays the same. So they're drawing more walks while hitting less - some but not all of that is IBB (they lead the AL by 1). A walk only occasionally drives in a runner in RISP; whereas a hit almost always does; so I guess that plays a role?

    (with RISP, CWS has an OPS of .910, which is insane.)

    (also, random note unrelated to this: with RISP Boston's slugging drops 50 points. Lots of singles I guess, which sounds about right.)

    (Crap, I have REALLY got to get to work.)

  22. I'm probably going to word this question wrong, but as a possible explanation to this statement "with RISP Boston's slugging drops 50 points" it could be that Boston's top sluggers (Manny and Ortiz) are also Boston's top OBP guys. Thus, they are not as likely to be hitting with men actually in scoring position. In fact that might be the answer to the entire question of LOB. With the exception of the HR, Manny and Papi generally can't drive each other in (especially so since Papi is not scoring from first on too many Manny doubles and if Papi is on second, Manny is not likely to be pitched to.)

    I know they have other guys with high OBP and SLG, but hitters 3 and 4 are 1&2 in both.

    Make sense?

  23. Makes a lot of sense. That might be it. So basically: the Sox offense is completely reliant on these two guys. Which is sort of obvious when stated that way, I guess. Also leads to a terrifying thought: if one of them gets hurt...

  24. And to further something you brought up before, very rarely does a walk force home a run, so even though they lead the league in OBP, they are mid-pack in average. Of course they are only one point from T-4, but the delta probably adds up.

  25. I think this thinking makes a lot of sense. I am too lazy to look up the numbers, but I feel the offense was working MUCH better when Loretta was hitting and Lowell was hitting. This really helped "protect" Ortiz and Manny in the line up. It feels like we've been Grady Little-sizing our line up lately, especially with the 5 slot. Again, too lazy to actually look this up.