Saturday, March 20, 2010

War on Old Statistics

If we look at what the Red Sox did in the offseason, it gives an easy understanding of what problems existed.

First, the Red Sox were third in runs scored (the ultimate offensive stat) and second in OPS. Admittedly, losing Jason Bay has to be made up somewhere, but they could theoretically get more offense at catcher, second, short, and DH, so offensively it could be more of a wash. 

The Red Sox were seventh in ERA and eleventh in ERA after the All-star break (4.70) and eighth (4.64) on the road. It didn't feel as though it was quite that pitiful, but that's why stats are so revealing.

Teams are placing greater emphasis on defense, particularly the Red Sox. This excerpt: "For Boston last year at third base, for example, Mike Lowell, who was unable to move well because of injury, cost them 20 runs, and now they have Adrian Beltre, and he added about 20 runs," Dewan explains. "Right there, the Red Sox have added four wins. Plus they've added three wins at short with Marco Scutaro and a couple more in the outfield with Mike Cameron. It's a huge improvement."

The Sox were ninth in MLB in fielding percentage, but that doesn't tell the whole tale, as their defensive inefficiency proved most costly on the road where they finished 39-42. Their performance in one-run games was unspectacular (22-17), but only half a game worse than the Yankees. In 2008, Tampa relievers were 31-17, ERA 3.55 with 52 saves. Last year Tampa was 26-23, 3.98 with 41 saves which may have been the second biggest reason the Rays finished eleven games behind the Sox. 

The latest darling of baseball statistics is "Wins Above Replacement" (WAR)...astonishingly, they had Mike Lowell at -10 last year because of his injury-limiting range. The top 500 position players in MLB by WAR are here. The top active player (21) is A-Rod. 

David Ortiz has 27.4 career WAR, just below the top 500 (27.7). One of my all-time Sox favorites, Dwight Evans had 61.7, in the top 100 at 96. Kevin Youkilis has 21.1, Dustin Pedroia has 14 so far, Mike Cameron 46.6, J.D. Drew 44.2, Jacoby Ellsbury 6.8, Jason Varitek 22.6 (0.2 each of the past two years), Victor Martinez 22.3, Josh Beckett 23.7 and Jonathan Papelpon 14.7.

For comparison, Roger Clemens is second on the all-time pitching WAR list (128) and Pedro Martinez was 23rd at 75.9. My boyhood idols Bob Gibson (85.6) and Jim Palmer (63.5) were 15th and 39th. 

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