Friday, May 01, 2009

Red Sox: April Audit

A one-month snapshot of the Boston Red Sox and the race in the AL East. (Thanks, as always, to David Pinto's invaluable Day by Day Database. If you're a baseball fan and you're not reading Baseball Musings every day, well, you should be...)

Records:

Boston finishes the month of April at 14-8, in first place in the AL East, percentage points ahead of the 15-9 Toronto Blue Jays.



AL East - April 2009
WLGB%R/GRA/GPythagoreanLuck

Boston148 - .6365.7274.864.5741

Toronto159 - .6255.9174.667.6070

New York12102.5455.8186.182.4722

Baltimore9135.4095.2736.545.4020

Tampa Bay9145.5.3914.7834.478.530-3


  • The Red Sox started the month at 2-6, and finished it 1-2. In between, of course, they won 11 straight. They've compiled the best record in the division without necessarily playing the best ball, but I began the season thinking them the best team in the East, and nothing that's happened so far has altered that opinion.


  • The Blue Jays have played very well. On a strict runs scored/runs allowed basis, they've been the best team in the AL so far. I don't believe that they can maintain either the run prevention or the run scoring at current levels, though, and still see them as battling Baltimore for the fourth spot in the division.


  • Tampa was very good last year, but I maintained all season that their record was better than their performance. So far this year, their performance has been better than their record. They've outscored their opponents, and have essentially played like a 12-11 team rather than a 9-14 one. Expect them to finish well ahead of Baltimore and Toronto, and to be in contention for a playoff spot when September arrives.


  • The Yankees are outperforming their run differential, but that's a bit misleading. All it takes is one "disaster" start to skew that differential, particularly with such a small sample size, and they've already had 4, three of them from a pitcher coming back from injury who has now been yanked from the rotation. That's not to say that their pitching has been good, but it's been better than it looks from the runs allowed number. How much it has been, and will continue to be, affected by the new Yankee Stadium remains an open question. But, despite the way they looked in getting swept out of Fenway last weekend, this remains a formidable team, and one which should be battling for a post-season berth all year.


  • Baltimore is showing signs of life, for the first time in a decade, but they aren't ready to play with the big boys in this division. If things break right, they could compete with Toronto for fourth, but it's very difficult to imagine a higher finish than that.



Offense:

This chart contains some standard offensive numbers and a couple of more advanced metrics. The last two columns are Bill James' Runs Created, and Runs Created per 25 outs, an estimate of how many runs per game a lineup would score with nine hitters performing the way that hitter performed. (The fact that it can end up negative is, indeed, an indicators that these are estimates.)



Red Sox Offense - April 2009
PlayerGamesGSABRuns Hits 2B3BHRRBIBBSBCSBAOBASPctOPSRCRC/25

Kevin Youkilis 2121762030805151410.395.505.6971.20323.712.3

Jason Bay 2222711923515192320.324.490.6341.12322.611.5

Mike Lowell 212184122681423300.310.341.571.91213.25.1

Jason Varitek 161660101550410700.250.348.533.88111.46.3

Dustin Pedroia 222289172570171133.281.369.393.76211.33.8

Jacoby Ellsbury 222194122730195102.287.320.351.67110.73.6

J.D. Drew 1917641115613101101.234.347.500.84710.04.7

David Ortiz 222287102071012801.230.290.333.6238.63.0

Nick Green 1815517145017101.275.351.431.7827.65.0

Jonathan Van Every 515120012200.400.5711.0001.5712.420.2

Jeff Bailey 4310320013200.200.333.500.8331.85.5

Julio Lugo 326120001200.333.500.333.8331.38.3

Rocco Baldelli 5413230001100.231.286.231.516.92.1

George Kottaras 7617121001300.118.238.176.415.4.6

Gil Velazquez 502000000000.000.000.000.000-.2-2.5

Chris Carter 405000001000.000.000.000.000-.5-2.1

Jed Lowrie 5518010000200.056.150.056.206-.6-1.0


Team Totals2211987521262075542612195168.275.364.463.827123.65.3



The Red Sox are currently 4th in the AL in offense, averaging 5.73 runs/game.

  • The Red Sox offense is up from last year. They're hitting, as a team, .275/.364/.463/.827 vs. the .280/.358/.447/.805 that they hit last year. They're on a pace to score 927 runs vs. the 845 that they hit last year. Offensive levels in the AL in general appear to be up at this point, but it's impossible to say for sure what the season-long run scoring environment will be. I had the Red Sox at 853 runs on the season, and I'm now thinking that 875 or 880 may be the right number. I don't think that they're going to score 927, because I expect Youkilis, Bay and Varitek to drop more than Ortiz, Pedroia and Ellsbury pick up.


  • Kevin Youkilis had a monster month.


  • The Ortiz numbers are chilling. The team is 4th in the AL in runs/game, and its number 3 hitter and DH is hitting .230/.290/.333/.623 with no home runs. The big question is, of course, is this a "slump" or is this a real change in fundamental performance level? Certainly, good hitters can have bad 80 at-bat stretches. But this is an extremely bad stretch, with no strong recent performance to alleviate the concern. I certainly don't think that this represents a real performance level. But it is not inconcievable that the new "real performance level" is mediocre. This is the biggest source of offensive concern, and the biggest room for improvement going forward.


  • Biggest upside surprise: Jason Varitek, who has been very productive thus far. Far more productive than they had any right to reasonably expect. And far more productive than he can be expected to continue.


  • Biggest question answered: "Can Mike Lowell come back from his hip surgery and still hit?" Answer: "Yes."


  • Jacoby Ellsbury might be the most exciting player in the Major Leagues. And the most frustrating. Because it just isn't all that exciting when he gets to first base and turns right, back to the dugout, which is happening far too often for him to actually be productive. If he can get the On-Base Percentage up to about .350, then he probably does enough to be an adequate lead-off hitter. But he's got a ways to go to get there.


  • Jason Bay is not Manny Ramirez, but he's put up a passable imitation thereof for the first month. Not only has he hit the ball well, he's taken a ton of walks. (His career high for walks is 102 - he's currently on a pace to draw nearly 170. Obviously, that's unlikely, but it makes for a very productive month.) And, in the past week, he's hit two monster (in importance) home runs, beating the closer for the Yankees to save a game, and the closer for the Indians to win a game.


  • Did I mention that Kevin Youkilis had a monster month?


  • Offensive hightlights:
    • Dustin Pedroia hitting the second pitch of the season into the Monster Seats.

    • Ellsbury steals home.

    • Bay beats Rivera and Wood in the span of four days.

    • 6 runs scored with two out in the 8th, putting the game away following the 10 inning bullpen effort, to start the winning streak.

    • Coming back from 7-0 to beat the Orioles.

    • Coming back from 6-0 to beat A.J. Burnett and the Yankees.

    • Jonathan Van Every beats the Indians in the 10th with his first ML home run.


Pitching:

The Red Sox finish the month of April 7th in the AL in runs allowed/game, though it was better before last night's 13-0 drubbing at the hands of the Rays.



Red Sox Pitching - April 2009
PlayerGamesGSCGGFW L WPctSvShoIPHRERHRBBKHBPBKWP ERAK9BB9HR9

Justin Masterson22002010010 2/3 10220370001.68755.906252.531250

Tim Wakefield 4420210.6670029 1666012174021.865.283.720

Jon Lester 5500120.3330030 361818510331015.49.931.5

Josh Beckett 5500220.50028 2/3 362423316310107.229.735.020.94

Brad Penny 44002010017 2/3 24211751161018.663.065.62.55

Daisuke Matsuzaka 2200010006 1/3 149935510112.797.117.114.26


Starters22222096.60000122 1/3 13680751657997155.527.284.191.18


Michael Bowden 100000-002 0000020000900

Jonathan Van Every 100100-00 2/3 1000100000013.50

Manny Delcarmen 100001010013 820071010006.924.850

Ramon Ramirez 100012010012 1/3 50004610004.382.920

David H Jones 400100-005 1/3 3111050011.698.4401.69

Jonathan Papelbon 1000800-6010 1/3 82216101001.748.715.230.87

Takashi Saito 800300-208 11442280004.592.252.25

Justin Masterson400100-006 7330170004.510.51.50

Hideki Okajima 12001201009 2/3 86627121005.5911.176.521.86

Javier Lopez 11004020007 2/3 13980832019.393.529.390


Bullpen71002052.7148075 642724636636022.887.564.32.72


Total9322220148.63680197 1/3 20010799229316213174.527.394.241.00


  • The Good - The bullpen has been as advertised. Deep, and filled with pitchers who strike batters out. Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen combined to throw 25 1/3 April innings without allowing an earned run. Tim Wakefield is on one of his upside runs, and has been far and away their most effective starter.


  • The Bad - The starting pitching has been less than stellar. With an ERA of 5.52 and fewer than 6 innings per start, it's a good thing that the bullpen has been special, because they'd have had a significantly less successful month with an average 'pen.


  • The Ugly - Three-fifths of the rotation, the first, third and fifth starters, have made a total of 11 starts with an ERA of 8.37.


  • Read that last one again. If you'd known before the month started that Beckett, Matsuzaka and Penny would combine for 11 starts and an ERA of 8.37, would you have thought that 14-8 was feasible? No, 8-14 sounds more likely. It really is an almost miraculous month when looked at that way.




Odds and Ends:


  • Twelve games at home (10-2), ten on the road (4-6). They had a huge home-road discrepency last year, and it has continued through the first month of this season. They'll probably win more at home than on the road again, but they certainly won't finish with a difference as big as it looks right now.


  • It's hard to tell, at this point, how the competition has been. Certainly, the teams that were expected to be good (Yankees, Rays, A's, Angels, Indians) have underperformed thus far. How much of that is inherent weakness, how much is just poor timing, and how much is the fact that they've played Boston is impossible to know.


  • They've already finished one of their two trips to the west coast, and the next one's coming up. They'll actually be done in the Pacific time zone on May 17. When the dog days arrive, it'll probably be helpful to have no cross-country flights.


    • Prop bets that might have made you a lot of money a month ago:
    • Home runs in April - David Ortiz vs. Jason varitek

    • Home runs in April - David Ortiz vs. Jacoby Ellsbury

    • Home runs in April - David Ortiz vs. Jonathan Van Every

    • Wakefield April ERA > 6 runs lower than Beckett April ERA

    • Innings pitched in April - Hunter Jones + Michael Bowden vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka


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