Sunday, May 22, 2005

Quality Time (W5-2) Season 25-18

Well, I didn't get to see the game today, although I was in Kenmore Square, more precisely up the street at graduation at Boston University. There was a Red Sox connection, however, as BU bestowed an honorary Doctor of Letters degree upon Red Sox principal owner John Henry.

Meanwhile, Matt Clement (5-0, 3.34) dispatched the Atlanta Braves with a complete game 4 hitter, the best of quality starts, and Manny Ramirez pounded out three hits and a homer to raise his average to .242 on a blustery Boston day.

The Sox top three pitchers (Clement, Wakefield, and Arroyo) are tied with a number of others for number 6 in quality starts at six. Believe it or not, Kenny Rogers leads the AL with 8. I've noted before that the statistic that tends to correlate best with ERA is K/BB ratio. This inherently makes sense, as strikeouts and few walks both limit baserunners and strikeout pitchers can often keep runners in scoring position out.

The Twins with Brad Radke, Johan Santana, and Carlos Silva incredibly are 1 through 3 in the AL in K/BB ratio (all over 9 - incomprehensible), while Arroyo checks in as the Sox leader at number 24 with 2.38. From a team perspective, the Sox are at 4 in K/BB (2.28), 5th as starters and 11th as relievers.

The Sox remain second in runs scored, behind the Yankees, and second in OPS trailing the Orioles.

Defensively, the Sox are 19th in runs allowed, 20th in stolen bases allowed (0.6 per game), and 19th in double plays turned per game (0.8).

Why all this attention to statistics? Baseball lends itself to intensive statistical analysis. Winning percentage tends to focus around the Baseball Pythagorean Theorem ( Obviously the game is about scoring and preventing runs, and imbalances in offense or run prevention (pitching and defense) require correction if optimization can occur.

The Red Sox organization believes in the quantitative method, and are advantaged relative to organizations with similar philosophies but fewer dollars. Presuming the goal is to diagnose your team in the first two months, repair it in the second, and compete down the stretch in the third, GM Theo Epstein and his baseball staff are well on their way to trying to repair the team going forward.

Offense. It's amazing that the team has been as productive as it has with below expected performance from the entire infield, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz. Varitek, Damon, and Nixon have all overachieved, but the latter two can be diminished with lefthanded pitching. Ramirez and Ortiz should get hot, and how long Francona and the front office will go with Millar remains to be seen. Perhaps Renteria will be more productive the second or third time around.

Pitching. Absent both Schilling and Wells for most of the season, the starting pitching has been better than adequate. Clement and Arroyo have both been solid if not consistently outstanding. Clement's confidence seems to be growing, and Wade Miller adds a solid third starter. Tim Wakefield started out hot and has cooled off. Getting Schilling or Wells back and pitching effectively would make for a solid group. The bullpen remains the principal Achilles heel for the club. We can only hope that 'good pitchers will pitch good baseball'. A more reliable long man would be welcome, and its easy to envision a callup for Jon Papelbon in July if nothing changes (in his or the bullpen's performance).

Defense. Varitek remains a rock behind the plate, and in limited action, Youkilis looks adequate at first. Bellhorn plays a more steady second than appreciated, and Miller has been steady at third. Thus far, Renteria has been a disappointment in the field as well as at the plate, but both fans and management will be patient. In the outfield, Damon has range but no arm and struggles on balls hit directly over his head (notoriously difficult to play). Ramirez is better in Fenway than on the road, and Nixon limps after everything; playing hard but hurt can come back to haunt both on the road and spacious Fenway.

Farm land. Portland dropped two to Bowie today, scoring only one run in two games. David Pauley worked five shutout innings in the first, and Papelbon (3-2, 2.27) took the loss in the second, with control issues (3 walks in 5 2/3 innings.

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