Red Sox Season Finale vs. NY

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Get It Right: The Starting Pitching Is The Current Problem

My friend Adam, who is always up on stats concerning the Red Sox, wrote me a very interesting email about the Red Sox season so far, one that shoots down the theory that the Red Sox absolutely need another power hitter in their lineup, and where they stand compared to the Rays over the last few years.

The Sox have won 14 of their last 21 (including the MFY series and the sweep in Baltimore). They have been carried by their offense because the starters continue to be spotty. Right now, the Sox are 3rd in the AL in runs per game, 2nd in HR, and second in team OPS.

Tampa's offense by AVG/OBP/SLG is around league average. Yet they're second in the AL in runs per game right now. In my opinion, the Rays' offense is over-performing. If they continue to hit like they have, they should score fewer runs the rest of the way.

Here's a comparison of the Sox offense the past three seasons:

2010 - 5.24 R/G .273 AVG/.353 OBP/.456 SLG (.809 OPS)
2009 - 5.38 R/G .270 AVG/.352 OBP/.454 SLG (.806 OPS)
2008 - 5.22 R/G .280 AVG/.358 OBP/.447 SLG (.805 OPS)

Even with the slow start, the Sox are on pace to score 849 runs. Remember that the Sox have played 34 games, and Jacoby Ellsbury has only played 6 games and Mike Cameron has only played 11 games so far this year.

Let's look at Tampa. Right now, they're on pace to score 909 runs. I don't think they'll get close to that number. Here's a three-year comparison of the Rays' offense:

2010 - 5.61 R/G .254 AVG/.334 OBP/.407 SLG (.741 OPS)
2009 - 4.96 R/G .263 AVG/.343 OBP/.439 SLG (.782 OPS)
2008 - 4.78 R/G .260 AVG/.340 OBP/.422 SLG (.762 OPS)

Tampa's 5.61 R/G seems like a fluke. Based on their performance, they should be scoring many fewer runs than they have. Assuming they continue to hit like they have, it's safe to assume that they'll score fewer runs. Aside from Longoria and Crawford, the Rays line-up is pretty weak. The Rays are only averaging 4.1 R/G through 10 games this month. So maybe they're already coming back down to Earth. Their pitching has been great (2.80 team ERA). How long can that continue?

The problem for Boston so far this year has been run-prevention: pitching and defense. That should improve. Boston's pitchers are too good to be awful over 162 games. And the return of Ellsbury and Cameron should improve the OF defense. Even VMart's throwing has improved. His CS% is up to 18%. I think it's way too early to bury the Sox.

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