The Red Sox will begin the second half of their season tonight in Tampa Bay. Their first half was disappointing to say the least. Here’s a brief recap of what we have seen so far in 2012:
- Record: 43-43, 4th place in AL East
- Pythagorean W-L: 47-39 (What their record should be based on their runs scored and given up)
- Runs Scored Per Game: 5.02 (2nd in AL) [4.46 League Average]
- Runs Given Up Per Game: 4.52 (9th in AL) [4.37 League Average]
So what do these numbers tell us? The Red Sox are hitting well but their pitching has underperformed immensely. With Beckett, Lester, and Bucholz having sub par seasons thus far, we can at least hold onto some hope that they will get better. The team has also fallen victim to a little bit of bad luck based on their Pythagorean W-L record being 4 games better than their actual record. With some good luck in the second half they should be able to close that gap and make a run at the playoffs.
With Jon Lester’s struggles this season I have heard people say that he is not going to become the “ace” pitcher they thought he could be. Jon Lester does not need to become an “ace”, he has been one for four years. I am not sure where the impression that he wasn’t an “ace” came from, but lets look at how he compared to the rest of the American League from 2008 through 2011.
Ranks among AL starting pitchers 2008-2011 (min. 648 IP):
- ERA – 3.33 (5th)
- Wins – 65 (3rd)
- FIP – 3.43 (5th)
- K/9 – 8.68 (2nd)
- WAR – 20.9 (4th)
I split the list into two groups; the first is the more traditional stats used to evaluate pitchers and the second group is the more advanced and accurate metrics. Looking at either group puts Jon Lester at the top of the AL with the other aces like Verlander and Sabathia. But unfortunately, looking at these numbers also makes his first half performance even more disappointing.
Earlier this week I declared that Big Papi was the greatest DH of all time. I wasn’t exactly going out on a limb with that statement, but it got me curious. Just how good has he been? Ortiz is a DH, so his overall value as a player is diminished by the fact that he does not contribute in the field. However, at the plate over the last 10 seasons David Ortiz has been one of the best hitter in the game.
From 2003-2012 David Ortiz has hit 338 home runs, only Pujols (384), A-Rod (343), and Adam Dunn (343) have hit more. One of the prerequisites of being a good DH is hitting for power and Ortiz has done it better than all but 3 players in Major League Baseball for 10 seasons. Another must for a DH is getting on base and Ortiz has done that very well too. Since 2003 Ortiz has walked 806 times, good for 6th in baseball.
Now let’s take a look at his overall production has a hitter. OPS is a good and easy to understand metric for estimating a players’ production at the plate. Since 2003 David Ortiz has logged a .959 OPS, good for 5th in baseball. The names in front of him are impressive: Bonds, Pujols, Manny, and Joey Votto.
David Ortiz is greatest DH of all time and is one of the best players of his era. If I had a Hall of Fame vote I would put him in Cooperstown (along with another great DH, Edgar Martinez). The odds are against him and I don’t think he will get into the Hall, but that does not take away from the fact that we have had the pleasure of watching one of baseball’s all-time greats.
What is wrong with Adrian Gonzalez? As of today Adrian’s OPS checks in at .707, a whopping .170 below his .877 career average. In fact, he had not posted an OPS below .900 since 2008. His season is looking more and more Carl Crawford like every day (Crawford posted a .694 OPS last season).
Let’s look a little deeper at his season so far. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is .299, below his .320 career average and not even close to his .380 last season. So he’s been the victim of some bad luck on balls he’s hit in play. He’s also not walking or hitting home runs. He’s posted a 7.3% walk rate (11% career) and is only hitting home runs on 6.2% of his fly balls (16.3% career). Interestingly though, he’s leading the league in doubles with. Without those double his season would be even worse.
So what should we expect going forward? Adrian is a great hitter, he should improve based on how he has hit for the majority of his career. He’s also been better in the second halves of seasons: .857 OPS in the first half vs. .903 in the second. The Red Sox have still managed to score the second most runs per game in the AL (5.19) without Adrian hitting. So his likely turnaround combined with the returns of Crawford and Ellsbury should bode very well for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox are still in the basement of the AL East but there are 5 reasons to be excited about this team as we enter the summer.
5) Bad Luck: The Red Sox have been the victims of some bad luck this season. Their record currently stands at 35-33 but based on their runs scored and runs given up they should be 38-30. So if they hit and pitch the same as the season goes on their record should better reflect their performance.
4) The Bullpen: The Red Sox bullpen was a disaster in April posting a 6.10 ERA. However, since then they have been great, posting a 2.37 ERA in May and a 1.59 in June. Alfredo Aceves has been particularly good. Since his implosion against the Yankees in mid-April he is 15 of 16 in save chances with a 2.84 ERA and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
3) Returns: The Red Sox are awaiting three returns: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Jon Lester. Ellsbury and Crawford are returning from injuries and should be back mid-summer. We are waiting for the REAL Jon Lester to return. From 2008-2011 Lester posted a 3.33 ERA with 8.7 K/9. This season he has a 4.53 ERA with only 7.2 K/9. History tells us he is much better than he has been so far this season.
2) Young Players: Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Kalish are already here and we could eventually see Ryan Lavarnway. It’s always fun watching young players come into their own.
1) David Ortiz: Not only is Ortiz 3rd in the AL in OPS, he is 4 home runs away from 400. Only 48 players in history have more than 400 home runs. He has been on a mission this season and is making everyone (including myself) who thought he was washed up look foolish. He is already the greatest DH of all time and he’s now making his case for Cooperstown.
According to Peter Abraham (@PeteAbe) at the Boston Globe, Daniel Bard has been sent down to AAA Pawtucket. His transition to the starting rotation has not gone well and this move reflects that. Details are coming soon, but we don’t know the Red Sox reason for the demotion. As I see it, there are two possibilities: 1) They want him to work out his problems in the minors and hopefully come back to the rotation later in the season. 2) They want him to transition back into the bullpen. We should know shortly.
Magglio Ordonez announced his retirement today after a solid 15-year career with the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. However, his career almost took a much different path.
After the 2003 season the Boston Red Sox made it their mission to trade for Alex Rodriguez. A deal was struck between the Sox and the Texas Rangers and it looked like the reigning MVP was coming to Fenway. With A-Rod in and Manny Ramirez being sent to Texas, the Red Sox had a hole to fill in the outfield and a surplus of All-Star shortstops. To fix this problem they called up the Chicago White Sox and started trade talks involving Nomar Garciaparra and Magglio Ordonez. The deal may also have included other players: Johnny Damon, Paul Konerko, and Billy Koch were names being thrown around.
In the end, the MLBPA voided the A-Rod to Boston trade over salary reduction and he was eventually traded to the New York Yankees. The trade talks with Chicago also dissipated and Nomar, Manny, and Damon remained in Boston for the 2004 season. We all know how that season ended up, but I’ve always wondered if a Sox lineup with A-Rod, Magglio, and Konerko could have still reversed the curse.