Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Red Sox at 100 Games

My friend Adam, who's a whiz with numbers and stats regarding the Red Sox, sent me an email yesterday about the Red Sox having reached the 100 game mark for 2008. He's mostly positive about where the Red Sox stand right now. I thought it was worth sharing with you, my audience.

The Red Sox have played 100 games. They have a .570 WP, 3rd best in the AL--even though they have been abysmal on the road (.396 WP) and have faltered a bit lately, going 7-8 so far in July. Prior to this month, though, they were very steady:

Month W L RF RA WP
March 1-1 7 10 .500
April 16-11 129 120 .593
May 17-12 154 121 .586
June 16-11 138 105 .593
July 7-8 75 60 .467

As a team, they have scored 4 fewer runs than they did after 100 games in 2007 and allowed 23 more runs. However, their pitching--especially their starters--is significantly better than it was in 2004. Here's how they stack up after 100 games with the championship teams:

Year RF RA
2004 561 488
2007 507 393
2008 503 416

Negatives - the relief pitching
The Sox' overall pitching numbers aren't awful. They're 6th in the AL in team ERA (3.86), tied for 2nd in saves (31), 1st in strikeouts (720), and 3rd in BAA (.245). However, that's largely due to the starting pitchers. Sox starters are 3rd in ERA (3.79), 3rd in CG (5), and 2nd in strikeouts (476) and BAA (.241).

The bullpen has the 11th best (4th worst) ERA at 4.02. They are also 10th in BAA (.253) and they have the 5th most losses (16). Relief losses can be a sign of lousy pitching. But it can also mean the offense isn't doing it's job, as in the case of the Blue Jays whose relievers have a 7-17 record despite having the 2nd best bullpen ERA (3.12). In Boston's case, I think it's more the former than the latter. Only one "contending" team--the Tigers--has a worse ERA after the 7th inning. The Sox' pitchers have an ERA of 3.90 in the 7th and later, compared to the MFY (3.33) and the Rays (3.35).

There is room for improvement. Masterson may stabilize things, giving the Sox quality innings out of the pen. He will also be able to work as a long-man if needed. I also believe an improved offense will lead to an improved bullpen by cutting down on relief losses.

Positives - Ortiz is coming back
This is huge. While I don't expect Papi to carry the team immediately, he will give the team a huge lift. I expect Ortiz to put up good numbers in the final two months of the season. Pat Burrell had a similar injury and it did not affect his production. But even if Ortiz is only able to function at 70%, he is a huge upgrade over Coco Crisp.

Having Papi back lengthens the line-up, with only Tek, Lowrie/Cora, and the struggling Ellsbury as "easy" outs. If Jacoby gets hot again, the Sox have a pretty scary line-up. Either way, I expect Boston to score a lot more runs with Ortiz back, which will take a lot of pressure off the pitching staff.

Positives - the remaining schedule
I keep hearing about the Sox' road record (which is awful). A lot of Sox fans and media types have said if the Sox don't start winning on the road, they'll miss the post-season. I think they forget that only one AL team has a winning record on the road: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, USA. The MFY are at .500. Every other team has a sub-.500 road record. The team the Sox are chasing, the Rays, are 6 games under .500 on the road—and they’ve played 9 fewer road games than the Sox.

Here are the number of games each AL contender has played at home and on the road so far:
Red Sox – 47 home games (34 remaining) 53 road games (28 remaining)
Rays – 53 home games (28 remaining) 44 road games (37 remaining)
MFY – 52 home games (29 remaining) 46 road games (35 remaining)

White Sox – 48 home games (33 remaining) 49 road games (32 remaining)
Twins – 53 home games (28 remaining) 45 road games (36 remaining)
Tigers – 48 home games (33 remaining) 50 road games (31 remaining)

The Sox have played 53% of their games so far on the road. Boston and Texas have played the most road games so far in the AL.

55% of the Sox’ remaining games are at home, as compared to 43% for the Rays and 45% for the MFY. Assuming all three teams play the same way at home and on the road, here's how they'd finish the season:

Red Sox 94-68 1st place
Rays 93-69 1 game back
MFY 88-74 6 games back

If the Sox continue to win at home, I’d say they’re in very good shape.

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