Links 11-1-2011: Pedroia wins a Fielding Bible award

Congratulations to Dustin Pedroia, who finished first among all second basemen in this year’s Fielding Bible Awards¬†(expanded results are here).¬†Adrian Gonzalez finished in second place among all first basemen, making the right side of our infield the best in baseball. Those of you holding out for us to sign Albert Pujols, it ain’t happening. You can’t play either of those guys at DH or anywhere else.

Carl Crawford finished eighth in left field, and Jacoby Ellsbury was sixth among centerfielders.

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10-14-2011: How much did Ellsbury change his projection?

Jacoby Ellsbury recently won AL Comeback Player of the Year, and with good reason. His MVP-caliber performance really buoyed this offense when they lost key contributors like Kevin Youkilis. He is definitely one of the bright spots in a season filled with bad news.

Here is what we projected for him coming into 2011, based on his previous three years of performance:

Age AB 2B 3B HR BB SO SB Avg OBP SLG wOBA wRAA
27 478 18 6 8 36 63 42 0.280 0.336 0.390 0.347 11.5
28 482 18 6 8 36 63 40 0.280 0.336 0.389 0.346 11.0
29 481 18 5 8 36 62 38 0.279 0.335 0.387 0.344 9.9
30 476 17 5 8 34 61 36 0.278 0.333 0.384 0.341 8.1
31 465 16 5 8 32 59 33 0.276 0.330 0.379 0.336 5.7
32 449 15 4 7 30 56 31 0.273 0.325 0.373 0.331 2.9
33 429 14 4 7 27 53 28 0.269 0.319 0.366 0.325 -0.1
34 404 12 4 6 24 50 26 0.265 0.312 0.358 0.318 -3.2
35 375 11 3 5 20 46 23 0.261 0.305 0.348 0.310 -6.1

Boy does that look dumb now. Once we factor in his amazing 2011, the projection now looks like this: Read more of this post

10-6-2011: The year that was

Alright, now that the initial sting has worn off a bit, I can go back and actually try to analyze this past season with some objectivity. We’ll cover our predictions, what went right and what went wrong.

First up, we predicted that the Sox would take the division with 92 wins. While the win figure was not off by much, the Yankees took it with 97 wins (not 90), and of course the Rays edged us out in the final game of the season with 91 wins (not 83). We also had Baltimore with 79 wins and Toronto at 76. Oops.

OFFENSE

We projected Boston to be 2nd best in the AL East at 820 runs behind New York’s 830 runs. In actuality, we led all of baseball by scoring 875 runs compared to 867 for the pinstripes.

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Links 9-26-2011: Ellsbury’s power surge, Papelbon’s heater and Lackey at Fenway

In winning game 2 of the doubleheader with New York, Jacoby Ellsbury hit his 31st home run yesterday. Needless to say, I and everyone else have been flabbergasted by his power surge in 2011. Baseball Analytics takes an interesting look at how he has been doing it, and in addition to pulling just about everything down the line, their heat maps tell the story that he has just been punishing thigh-high fastballs from righties. His month-to-month SLG and average HR distance has been increasing all year long, so this could be a real change in what to expect from Ells going forward; I’d guess that he goes from being a 10 HR guy to maybe a 18-22 HR guy.

Jonathan Papelbon has had a real renaissance of a season, which has really rescued this overtaxed bullpen and helped it remain as one of the most productive in the AL. Baseball Analytics shows that he’s been using that high heat very effectively this year. The velocity is not changed much from previous years, but I think he’s setting up the pitch much better by mixing in his other pitches. He’s been locating the four-seamer more inside to lefties, and that’s helped.

Bill Petti points out that John Lackey has been especially horrific at Fenway Park this year, where 12 of the 20 HRs hit against him have come. If you believe in mapping ball landing spots onto another stadium, he suggests that as many as 7 of those taters might not have been taters at Anaheim Stadium. Lackey’s FIP would then be a much more respectable 4.18 on the year. FIP is a linear approximation, so it tends to underestimate at the low and high ends of the ERA spectrum anyway, but certainly, we have to be concerned about Lackey as a hittable fly-ball pitcher at Fenway. Those guys typically have to balance those extra homers with more Ks and fewer walks if they want to be successful.

6-2-2011: May wrapup, a great month

The month of May was a good one for the Sox, a really good one. They began the month at just 11-15 on the year, scraping the bottom of the division. The offense was barely average, and the pitching was decent but inconsistent. What a difference a month makes. Now Boston sits at 30-26 on the year, and is in second place, just two games back of the Yankees, despite the recent three-game sweep at the hands of the ChiSox. What have been the keys to this turnaround?

Offense

The Red Sox offense was the most potent in the American League in May, and not by a little. Putting up 126 runs in 29 games (5.38 runs/game) is very impressive by 2011 offensive standards, where league average is just 4.30 runs/game. Just a year ago, the average was 4.45 runs/game, and the year before that, it was 4.82 runs/game. So you probably have to kind of mentally add a quarter to a half run per game onto that figure if you want to compare with previous years.

Month R/G Avg OBP SLG BABIP wOBA BB% K%
April 4.11 0.243 0.331 0.380 0.283 0.319 10.9 21.1
May 5.38 0.287 0.349 0.472 0.317 0.361 7.9 18.4

As a team, the Red Sox put up a .287/.349/.472 slash line and a .361 wOBA (second was the Yankees at .340) and were about 26 percent better than the average AL offense. Looking at the walk and strikeout rates, it looks like the Sox as a team got more aggressive, and it’s been paying off. also, the power is back on. They hit the most doubles with 61 and tied with New York for first with 39 HRs this month. Even the running game got started (along with Carl Crawford), as the Sox swiped 28 bases in May. Some of this extra production comes from that high .317 BABIP in May. With league average at .286 on the year, that’s going to fall back to earth a bit. Still, this offense has moved up to fourth on the year and has the potential to keep pushing up the ranks.

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5-10-2011: What we know so far about our Red Sox lineup

This year is just over one month old, but it seems like the Red Sox have been scuffling forever, doesn’t it? Besides that 10-day streak of pitching dominance, this year’s team just hasn’t felt like contenders to me. BUT small sample size, you say! Yes, I grant you that. There are certainly signs of hope. Carl Crawford is turning it on now, and Adrian Gonzalez’ power is showing up one month late. But when is it safe to say something according to the numbers we already have?

When stats start to mean something

Turns out sabermetricians have already gone and done the hard work for us. Here is a handy list of statistics and around how many plate appearances you need before they start to mean something. Given that most of our regulars have about 100-150 PA, that means we can only really draw meaningful conclusions about the following:

  • Swing rate (50 PA)
  • Contact rate (100 PA)
  • K rate, LD%, Pitches/PA (150 PA)

Not a whole lot to go on. But let’s do the exercise anyway:

2011 2010
Name PA Swing% K% Contact% LD% Pit/PA PA Swing% K% Contact% LD% Pit/PA
Pedroia 151 44.0 20.5 79.4 13.7 4.36 714* 39.7 7.2 93.0 20.0 3.96
Gonzalez 149 48.2 16.8 85.7 16.8 3.71 693 48.8 19.3 78.7 21.1 4.50
Ellsbury 140 44.7 22.5 84.3 20.4 3.79 693* 41.2 11.9 88.4 17.7 3.77
Crawford 136 47.7 18.8 83.3 15.9 3.76 663 51.1 17.3 82.8 16.5 3.75
Ortiz 131 43.4 14.2 81.7 20.4 4.23 606 44.5 28.0 75.8 17.3 4.37
Youkilis 128 35.9 30.7 78.5 21.1 4.63 435 38.5 18.5 87.0 16.3 4.28
Lowrie 105 51.5 19.2 82.5 18.5 3.89 689** 43.2 22.1 83.0 20.0 3.98
Drew 104 39.2 25.0 81.3 10.8 4.55 546 38.3 22.0 82.7 16.5 4.08
Scutaro 76 35.1 5.9 97.0 11.1 3.76 695 37.5 11.2 94.8 17.3 4.04
Salty 73 52.3 27.5 74.8 16.0 4.08 972** 49.4 30.6 72.8 20.4 3.92

[* = 2009 stats, ** = career stats used]

You can see that most of the numbers fall into place, but there are some notable differences. Dustin Pedroia’s numbers are all out of whack. He’s swinging more at the dish and striking out almost three times as much as he did last season. His contact rate and line drive percentage are WAY down, which to me suggests some kind of injury. Is this a result of his offseason foot surgery? Could be. He may need some extra time off, which might actually be doable while Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro are both healthy.

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4-29-2011: April wrapup, the team

With two games left in April, the Red Sox find themselves at 11-13 on the young season, 4 games back of the Yankees, and right on the heels of Tampa Bay and Toronto in the standings. Thanks to a terrible 2-10 start, our Sox have not yet been on the right side of .500, though things seem to be evening out now. With these two games against the lowly Mariners and Felix Hernandez not due up until game 3, I have hope that we can finish the month above the .500 line.

Time to take stock of what we’ve seen so far, and separate the real from the illusion. Today we’ll look at the overall team performance, and in a later post we’ll look at individual players.

Offense

This lineup got a lot of positive reviews before the season even began, with some calling it possibly the best Boston lineup ever. I thought these expectations were overblown, but 4.3 runs a game and a .318 team wOBA is not what anyone had in mind. This lineup has actually been below average, which is mind-blowing. While they haven’t pounded fastballs much worse than anyone else, the Sox as a club have really struggled against hard breaking stuff (sliders and cutters).

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