Red Sox 2009 Regular Season Retrospective
2009 was the third consecutive year, and sixth in the last seven, that the Red Sox won 95+ games. They finished tied with the Dodgers for the third best record in all of baseball (behind New York and LAnaheim) and they finished with the third best run differential in baseball (behind New York and the Dodgers).
They have managed to be successful while changing their roster along the way. Of the 15 players who got at-bats during the World Series for the 2004 Red Sox, two of them (Jason Varitek and David Ortiz) are still here, and Varitek is both clearly done, and clearly not going to play in the post-season in other than an emergency situation. The one pitcher from that staff who's still here, Tim Wakefield, is not going to be on the post-season roster. So this is essentially a completely different team than the one which won the World Series just six years ago. And they've had that roster turnover while winning at least 85 games every year, at least 95 in every year but one, making the post-season in every year but one, and winning another World Series.
And they've done it by drafting and development of the farm system, supplemented with judicious use of the checkbook. There are two big cost acquisitions on the roster, JD Drew and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Everyone else is a result of the farm system, either directly (Lester, Buchholz, Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury) or via trade (Beckett for Hanley Ramirez, Martinez for Masterson and Hagadone). David Ortiz was a low-cost free agent, available to anyone.1
The front office deserves to stand up and take a bow for that.
1 - Obviously, the Red Sox are one of the "haves." That said, it's easier to spend money badly than well, and easier to just go out and buy what you need with an unlimited budget, which the Red Sox don't have. They've got an advantage over many teams, but not over everyone, and they've done a great job utilizing their resources.
After opening with a win, the Sox had a rough first week and a half, losing five straight to drop to four games under .500. It would be their low point of the season, as they won their next 11.
They played under .500 over the next month before putting together another excellent run which saw them play 13 games over .500 from May 30 to the All Star break. The break was followed by their worst month of the season, as they went 7-14 from July 18 through August 9. The last stretch ended with the first of their two six-game losing streaks on the season, and essentially ended their legitimate division title hopes. They played pretty well from that point until essentially wrapping up the Wild Card, then scuffled again, resting people and pushing back starters to get ready for the post-season.
Biggest Week - Positive
OK, not exactly a week, but from September 7 to September 20, the Red Sox went 10-1, and raised their lead in the Wild Card race to 8 games with just 14 to play.
Biggest Week - Negative
From August 4th through the 9th, the Sox lost six straight to Tampa and New York, dropping from 1 1/2 to 6 1/2 games out in the East in the process.
|Days in First||47||last on Monday, Jul 20, counts only the days a team played and was in first at the end of the day|
|55||last on Jul 20, counts all days of the season including off days|
|Biggest Lead||5||last on Wednesday, Jun 24, for days on which they played|
|Farthest Behind||10.5||last on Wednesday, Sep 30, for days on which they played|
|Most Games over .500||30||last on Thursday, Sep 24|
|Most Games under .500||4||last on Tuesday, Apr 14|
|Longest Winning Streak||11||Wednesday, Apr 15 to Monday, Apr 27|
|Longest Losing Streak||6||Tuesday, Aug 4 to Sunday, Aug 9 and Friday, Sep 25 to Wednesday, Sep 30|
|Most Runs Allowed||20||Friday, Aug 21|
|Most Runs Scored||18||Sunday, Aug 2|
|Longest Game (innings)||15||Friday, Aug 7|
|Times Shutout by Opponent||7|
|Times Opponent Shutout||11|
The Red Sox, as has been the case for most of the past decade, were a very good offensive team. They finished 3rd in the AL in runs scored, 2nd in OBP, SLG and OPS. They draw walks, hit for average and hit for power. With Jacoby Ellsbury stealing 70, they also finished 5th in the AL in stolen bases (without the benefit of being able to steal against Jason Varitek.)
While there were some frustrating lineups run out during the regular season (going in to the 9th with Brian Anderson, Jason Varitek and Alex Gonzalez due up does not make for warm, fuzzy feelings) the team that takes the field during the post-season should only have one real hole, at SS. At every other offensive position, they are average or above, depending on your take on Mike Lowell and David Ortiz, which I'll get to in a minute. Certainly the outfield is a strength, as are Youkilis at 1st, Pedroia at 2nd and Martinez behind the plate.
36 different batters had plate appearances for Boston in 2009, including eight pitchers and four position players who were traded or waived. Seven players had more than 100 hits, seven players hit 10+ home runs, eight players had 20+ doubles, eight players had 50+ RBI and three had 10+ stolen bases. Four player created 20-60 runs, four created 60-100 runs and three players created over 100 runs.
This table contains some standard offensive numbers and a couple of more advanced metrics. The last three columns are Bill James' Runs Created, outs made, 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.)
|William Joshua Reddick||27||10||59||5||10||4||0||2||4||2||0||1||17||0||0||0||0||.169||.210||.339||.549||4.0||49||2.04|
|Jonathan Van Every||7||2||11||1||4||0||0||1||3||2||0||0||5||0||0||0||0||.364||.462||.636||1.098||3.0||7||10.82|
Four players, Youkilis, Bay, Martinez and Drew, created over 6 runs per 25 outs. Youkilis, Pedroia and Bay all produced over 100 runs for the season, and Ellsbury missed that mark by .3 runs. Those six players are all well above average for their positions, and provide for a deep and dangerous lineup.
- Kevin Youkilis played outstanding defense at first base, acceptable defense at 3rd base, went back and forth between the two with no obvious problems, and continued to be the best hitter on the team. Second in the league in OBP, fifth in SLG, second in OPS, this was another outstanding season for an outstanding hitter. The grade misses an A+ by virtue of games missed, both to injury and the suspension following the utterly stupid charging of the mound in August.Season grade: A
- If this was Jason Bay's only full season in a Boston uniform, it was a memorable one, hitting .267/.384/.537/.921 with 36 HR. For those who care, he finished 2nd in the AL in RBI with 119 Runs Batted In. If his 36 home runs didn't all come at important moments, enough of them did to make it feel as if he had an even better season than the numbers suggest. Someone's going to give him a good contract this off-season. I'd just as soon it was Boston, but someone may offer him significantly more than he's worth, so we'll have to wait and see. Season grade: A
- It wouldn't take a lot of research to confirm or refute this, and maybe I'll do it later, but for now let me just say that I'd be very surprised to learn that any team made a more productive trade than the one Boston made with Cleveland to acquire Victor Martinez. The Red Sox gave up, I think, a lot, but nothing that they're going to miss too much this year, and the Martinez acquisition fixed one of the biggest black holes in the game. Both catching and playing first base, Martinez was outstanding, putting up a .336/.405/.507/.912 line in his time in Boston. Season grade: A
- JD Drew played in 137 of Boston's 162 games, putting up a .279/.392/.522/.914 line with 24 HR. There are many people with Drew Derangement Syndrome, people who think that hitters have to be measured by RBI, and that Drew's contract is one of the worst ever signed. Many of these people do not understand team offensive production, or the value of what Drew does, which is pretty much everything. He hits for a decent average, takes a ton of walks, doesn't make outs, hits for power, plays plus defense with a plus arm and is a good baserunner (which is not synonymous with being a good base-stealer). He was in the top 10 in the AL in both On-Base Percentage (which, as I've said before, is the single most important measure of offensive player performance) and OPS. I'm sure that they'd love to have had him play 150 games instead of 137, but I'm also sure that they're not dissatisfied with the production they've gotten from him, happy that he's manning right field, and either irritated or amused when people throw his name into those "worst contract ever" discussions. Season grade: A-
- Jacoby Ellsbury seems to have figured out that he needs to reach base to be effective. Certainly the 70 steals at an 85% success rate help put runs on the board. If he could get his OBP up to .380 and continue improving his defense, he'll be a legitimate All Star. Season grade: B+
- Dustin Pedroia followed up his MVP season from a year ago with one that wasn't as good. Actually, 2009, by OPS+, was the worst of Pedroia's three full MLB seasons. But a 108 OPS+ from a gold-glove caliber 2nd baseman is a very good season anyway. Season grade: B+
Journeyman Nick Green gave the team more than they could have expected, and then gave way to Alex Gonzalez, who also gave them more than they could have expected.
- It's not a secret that I was not a fan of the Alex Gonzalez acquisition. I believe him to be vastly overrated defensively, and a black hole on offense. That said, it's not debatable that he's smooth and steady in the field, regardless of what his range may be, and he was not as bad offensively over the past month as he typically is, hitting .284/.316/.453/.769 in a Red Sox uniform. The trade, much as I disliked it, probably has helped the team. Season grade: B
- Nick Green was signed as minor league depth, and moved into a regular role at short when Lugo began the season on the DL, and Jed Lowrie quickly joined him. He then put up the best month of his career, basically winning the right to keep the position for a while. I think the team handled it badly, as I believe that Lugo was a better option, all things considered, but overreaction to a few errors resulted in the Nick Green era, the exile of Lugo and the re-acquisition of Alex Gonzalez. Green wasn't good, but considering his history and what he was brought in to do, it's fair to say that he exceeded (very, very low) expectations. Season grade: B-
The Inconsistent Veterans:
Mike Lowell and David Ortiz went through very up and down campaigns, with stretches both productive and hideous.
- Mike Lowell's numbers for the year aren't great, .290/.337/.474/.811. He started well, and then struggled badly (.206/.286/.309/.595 in June) before getting a shot in his hip and some rest prior to the All Star break. After the ASB, he hit .302/.361/.480/.842 which is very productive. One's evaluation of Lowell going into the post-season largely rests on how one considers June. If you think that the numbers are a result of not enough rest for his hip, a problem rectified during the nearly three weeks he went without playing, then you look at the post-ASB numbers as more predictive than the full season numbers. If you think it was just a slump, you look at the whole season. My position leans more to the former than the latter. Season grade: B-
- What do we make of David Ortiz? How you assess him depends almost entirely on how much weight you give to the first two months of the season. He was coming back from injury, adjusting to missing Manny (I'm skeptical that Manny had any real effect on Ortiz, but he may have struggled, in part, from thinking that there was an effect) and probably adjusting to being another year older. In any event, he was among the worst players in baseball through the end of May. From the end of May on, however, he was a good hitter. Not the old Papi, but a good and dangerous hitter nonetheless, hitting .264/.356/.548/.904 with 27 HR in 104 games. The first two months count, though. For the year, he hit .238/.332/.462/.794, which is obviously not acceptable for a DH. Season grade: D+/C-
The Black Hole:
Why was the trade for Victor Martinez necessary? The alternative was trying to win a post-season berth, and post-season games, with Jason Varitek.
- There was a lot of debate over bringing Varitek back for this, his 13th season in a Boston uniform. He was bad in 2008, particularly later in the year, as he hit .223/.333/.367/.701 after the All-Star break and .183/.286/.300/.586 in September. The counter-argument, and we must concede its force, is that there wasn't a good alternative. So he came back and hit .209/.313/.390/.703, and only .157/.250/.239/.489 after the All-Star break. He was a very good player in Boston for a fairly long time, but it's hard to see a reason to think his career isn't over. Season grade: D-
There were occasional highlights from the rest of the crew, but no one else did enough, either positively or negatively, to get a grade. If I were going to, Jed Lowrie would get an incomplete, spending another season fighting the wrist problem.
Just as they were a good run scoring team, the Red Sox were a good run-preventing team. (For the most part, that's what good teams look like - they're good at scoring runs, and they're good at preventing the opposition from scoring runs.)
They allowed more hits and more walks than you'd like to see, but the ability to keep the ball in the park and strike batters out leads to a lot of stranded runners. A power pitching staff is one of the team components which has typically correlated with post-season success, and they've got that.
Eleven different pitchers started games for the 2009 Red Sox. 20 different pitchers pitched in relief. Four did both, so the total number of players pitching for Boston in 2009 was 27. Three of those (Jonathan Van Every, Nick Green and Dusty Brown) were position players taking the hill to save the bullpen in blowouts.
This table shows the individual pitching performances for the Red Sox this year. Note that four pitchers (Bowden, Byrd, Masterson and Tazawa) have multiple lines, as they both started and relieved. Everything should be self-explanatory except for the last column. This is a simple version of "runs saved" produced by calculating the difference between the number of runs a pitcher allowed and the number of runs that a league-average pitcher would have allowed in the same number of innings. Obviously, bigger is better.
|Jon Lester||32||32||2||0||15||8||0.652||0||0||203 1/3||186||80||77||20||64||225||3||0||6||3.41||9.96||2.83||0.89||28.80|
|Josh Beckett||32||32||4||0||17||6||0.739||0||2||212 1/3||198||99||91||25||55||199||7||1||3||3.86||8.43||2.33||1.06||14.62|
|Tim Wakefield||21||21||2||0||11||5||0.688||0||0||129 2/3||137||67||66||12||50||72||10||0||4||4.58||5||3.47||0.83||2.38|
|Justin Masterson||6||6||0||0||2||2||0.5||0||0||35 1/3||38||18||18||3||13||28||4||0||0||4.58||7.13||3.31||.76||.91|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka||12||12||0||0||4||6||0.4||0||0||59 1/3||81||38||38||10||30||54||2||0||8||5.76||8.19||4.55||1.52||-6.25|
|Brad Penny||24||24||0||0||7||8||0.467||0||0||131 2/3||160||89||82||17||42||89||5||0||4||5.61||6.08||2.87||1.16||-18.55|
|Takashi Saito||56||0||0||30||3||3||0.5||2||0||55 2/3||50||16||15||6||25||52||5||0||1||2.43||8.41||4.04||0.97||13.79|
|Ramon Ramirez||70||0||0||16||7||4||0.636||0||0||69 2/3||61||26||22||7||32||52||4||2||2||2.84||6.72||4.13||0.9||11.28|
|Daniel Bard||49||0||0||12||2||2||0.5||1||0||49 1/3||41||24||20||5||22||63||3||1||1||3.65||11.49||4.01||0.91||2.40|
|Billy Wagner||15||0||0||2||1||1||0.5||0||0||13 2/3||8||5||3||1||7||22||1||0||1||1.98||14.49||4.61||0.66||2.31|
|Dustin Richardson||3||0||0||1||0||0||-||0||0||3 1/3||3||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||1||0||0||2.7||0||1.78|
|Jonathan Van Every||1||0||0||1||0||0||-||0||0||0 2/3||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||13.5||0||.36|
|Enrique Gonzalez||2||0||0||2||0||0||-||0||0||3 2/3||5||2||2||1||2||1||0||0||0||4.91||2.45||4.91||2.45||-.04|
|Justin Masterson||25||0||0||4||1||1||0.5||0||0||36 2/3||34||20||18||4||12||39||2||0||3||4.42||9.57||2.95||.98||-.38|
|Manny Delcarmen||64||0||0||6||5||2||0.714||0||0||59 2/3||64||34||30||5||34||44||4||0||1||4.53||6.64||5.13||0.75||-2.07|
|Fernando Cabrera||6||0||0||3||0||0||-||0||0||5 1/3||7||5||5||0||4||8||1||0||0||8.44||13.5||6.75||0||-2.15|
|Billy Traber||1||0||0||0||0||0||-||0||0||3 2/3||9||5||5||2||1||1||0||0||0||12.27||2.45||2.45||4.91||-3.04|
|Junichi Tazawa||2||0||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||5 1/3||11||7||7||1||1||3||0||0||0||11.81||5.06||1.69||1.69||-4.15|
|David H Jones||11||0||0||1||0||0||-||0||0||12 2/3||16||13||13||3||7||9||1||0||2||9.24||6.39||4.97||2.13||-6.22|
|Javier Lopez||14||0||0||5||0||2||0||0||0||11 2/3||20||13||12||1||9||5||2||0||1||9.26||3.86||6.94||0.77||-6.76|
On almost every team, there's a significant disparity between the performances at the top and the bottom of the pitching rotation. The Red Sox took this to almost ridiculous levels.
- If they could identify and fix Jon Lester's early season problems, he would be a strong Cy Young contender. If you look at all AL pitchers starting on May 26, Lester had the second-lowest ERA, behind Felix Hernandez. Of all ML starting pitchers with 150 innings pitched over that period, he had the highest strikeouts per inning. He's a dominant pitcher, but he's started April poorly two years in a row. I'm will to exchange that for dominance in October, of course. Season grade: A
- Josh Beckett had three seasons. He had an awful season, which lasted most of April. He had a dominant season from about the beginning of May until the middle of August. And then he fell apart again. He's shown signs of getting it back together over the past few weeks, but the bad stretches have been long enough, and bad enough, that he hasn't been an A pitcher this year.Season grade: B+
- Clay Buchholz went to Pawtucket after an outstanding spring and dominated the International League. Called up after the All Star break, he took a couple of starts to settle in, and then put together the kind of run people have been expecting from him for a few years now. Two bad outings at the end drop his grade. Season grade: B
- Tim Wakefield was outstanding for a month and a half, and did little outside that. He made the All Star team off his win total, and a couple of good games in late June/early July despite the fact that he wasn't one of the best 15 pitchers in the league, and had a very rocky stretch for a month that people ignored or didn't notice. Season grade: B
- Brad Penny bought into the program, and for a while, it seemed to work for him. But he just couldn't get enough outs, and gave up too many hits, and, at the end, they had too many better options to keep him around. It was a reasonable gamble, and I suppose one could say that they got an appropriate return on the investment, but it certainly wasn't the return they were looking for. Season grade: C
- The Red Sox believe, and there seems good reason to so believe, that Daisuke Matsuzaka was badly affected by the World Baseball Classic. He clearly prepped for the three week tournament as opposed to the six month season, and he wasn't ready for the grind when it arrived. Before being DLed for "extended spring training," he was very bad. When he came back, though, he looked to be the Daisuke Matsuzaka that was so effective for his first two years in Boston. The season was a disaster for him, but could be partly redeemed with good performances in the post-season. Season grade: C-
- The Red Sox and John Smoltz both believed that Smoltz had something left. There were occasional positive signs, the random good inning here and there, some decent peripherals, but Smoltz got hammered. A league average pitcher would have allowed about 21 runs in his 40 innings of work rather than the 37 that Smoltz allowed. I liked the signing when they made it, thinking that the potential reward far outstripped the risk, but that one didn't pay off at all. Season grade: D-
The rest of the starts went, in various number, to Byrd, Tazawa, Masterson and Bowden. Tazawa pitched a notable game against the Yankees in August, Byrd had an almost miraculous return to baseball in September and Masterson provided excellent coverage early in the year. On the whole, the spot starters were fine.
We began the year thinking that the bullpen would be a strength. Despite some hiccoughs along the way, it has been, and it looks very strong headed in to the post-season.
- Was Jonathan Papelbon experimenting earlier in the year? He allowed a lot of walks, for him, but mostly earlier in the season. As to his job, he finished 59 games with 38 saves and only two decisions. For a closer, that's a good thing - losses mean losses, and wins tend to mean blown saves (he had three). His 1.85 ERA was outstanding, and he's still a dominant strikeout pitcher. Season grade: A
- Billy Wagner came over from the Mets with some physical limitations, as he was coming off Tommy John surgery. In the last week, he did pitch on back-to-back days Season grade: A
- Daniel Bard dominated AAA and virtually forced the team to bring him up. After a brief adjustment period, he put together one of the most dominant stretches that you can imagine. In 14 innings over 12 appearances, he allowed four hits, two unearned runs and struck out 23 while walking none. That couldn't be sustained, and wasn't, but he finished up with a very strong first MLB season. Season grade: A-
- Another of the low risk/high reward off-season pitching acquisitions, Takashi Saito didn't get many high-leverage innings, but was effective when pitching, with no memorable meltdowns (unlike most of the rest of the 'pen). His peripherals were unspectacular, but he didn't allow many runs, and he didn't cost much. A consistent, if unspectacular, contributor to the effective relief corps. Season grade: B
- Ramon Ramirez came over from Kansas City in the Coco Crisp trade, and was dominant for a month and a half, giving up no runs in his 13 appearances through May 3, and only one run in his first 19 appearances. He was a little more up-and-down after that, but it goes into the books as an effective season. Season grade: B
- Hidecki Okajima continues to be an effective reliever. He had trouble with the long ball this year, allowing eight HR in his 61 innings. He appears to have been supplanted as the primary set-up reliever, but is still and important part of the 'pen. Season grade: B
- Manny Delcarmen threw some good innings early in the year, but earned the nickname Manny DelGagne down the stretch. I presume he'll make the post-season roster, but it's hard to imagine that he's going to get any high leverage innings. On the whole, a disappointing season. Season grade: C
Justin Masterson continued his effective work before being traded to Cleveland. Javier Lopez tossed away a throw to first, ending a game in Oakland and his career in Boston. The rest of the innings went to people who were pretty much cannon fodder in 2009.
Odds and ends:
- I don't remember a season in which so many games were seriously affected by the rain. The Red Sox lost a game to Florida 2-1 in five innings. They lost a game in Baltimore in which they'd had a 9-1 lead when a long rain delay knocked the starter out of the game. They held on to win a game in Philadelphia after the starter was knocked out by a long rain delay. They lost a game in seven innings in which they were down six but with runners at second and third with none out in the seventh. And, in one of the strangest things I've ever seen, they played a rain-shortened seven innings in the first game of a double-header with Minnesota. (Yes, they called the first game in the seventh and then, three hours later, played the second game in its entirety.)
- In 3 2/3 innings over three outings, three position players combined to allow one run.
- Through 32 games, the Sox were 20-12. Through that same period, their top three starters, Beckett, Lester and Matsuzaka, had a combined ERA of 6.83.
- Major League Debuts: Josh Reddick, Aaron Bates, Dusty Brown, Daniel Bard, Junichi Tazawa, Hunter Jones and Dustin Richardson.