Sunday, May 04, 2008

Themes of Consciousness

As we examine the Red Sox after one-fifth of the 2008 regular season, what themes, dreams, and schemes exist? We can evaluate them in terms of run creation, run prevention, and miscellaneous. Look, we're not talking State of the Union here.

Run Creation:

The most surprising statistic I've seen lately was that in J.D. Drew's first 163 games with the Red Sox he has 77 RBI and 103 runs scored. Maybe he hasn't exactly produced as advertised, but his production overall approaches acceptable.

Manny Ramirez, even with recent sluggishness still is on pace for 100 runs scored, 30 homers, and 110 RBI. More surprising, even with his well-documented struggles, David Ortiz prorated numbers translate into 95 runs, 25 homers, and 120 RBI.

If we simply look at the sum of runs scored and RBI (a bit misleading as a homerun counts for both), Drew and Ellsbury both account for 35, Pedroia 34, and Youkilis 33.
Mike Lowell cannot be fairly evaluated based on injury, and Jason Varitek's contribution gets slotted for his defense, although we cannot overlook his key homer against the Tribe and his ability to chip in with key hits.

Sean Casey was serviceable as a fill-in at first base, Kevin Cash solid as Varitek's back up, and Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss have both had their moments. Ditto for Jed Lowrie.

All of which brings us to Julio Lugo, who has produced little (17 combined runs and RBI) and fielded poorly (8 errors) but has the odd feel of a talisman. Go figure. Time will tell whether Lowrie can push him for PT.

Run Prevention.

Which Red Sox starter has the worst ERA? Josh Beckett. That's an aberration because of injury and other factors, because Beckett has the best K/BB ratio of the group at 4.1, ahead of Buchholz and 2.4, Matsuzaka 1.7, with Wakefield and Lester both around one. Beckett also has the best WHIP of the group (0.95) while Matsuzaka leads in wins with 4.

Objectively, the starting pitching has rounded into form recently, particularly well documented recently here concerning Buchholz.

Jonathan Papelbon has been the premier closer in baseball with a K/BB ratio of 21 and eight saves to accompany two wins this week. Hideki Okajima hasn't been as effective this year but still has an ERA of 0.79. When he throws strikes David Aardsma has been the next most effective reliever, while the troika of Javier Lopez, Mike Timlin, and Manny Delcarmen haven't met expectations. Timlin had a good second half next year, Delcarmen has the stuff, and Lopez, well, he's the situational lefty, for now.

The Red Sox 19-13 record reflects their ability to win close games, and so far that has occurred because of late game offense and Jonathan Papelbon. Baseball's Pythagorean Theorem suggests that run differential over time reflects record better than current record. The Sox have lived a little bit higher than their overall differential so far. Papelbon is my team MVP so far.

Within the division, Tampa has exceeded projections because of better pitching and defense and a core of very good young players (Crawford, Pena, Longoria, Upton) and the Blue Jays have underachieved despite their formidable rotation led by Halladay, Burnett, and McGowan. The Yankees starting pithcing remains very suspect, with Wang producing, Pettitte and Mussina aging, and Hughes and Kennedy more suspects than prospects thus far. Baltimore will simply disappear.

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