Saturday, August 13, 2011


"If nothing goes wrong, is everything all right?"
The AL standards don't show that the Red Sox are 71-34 after a disastrous start (we'll just pretend that didn't happen), but they do show the Sox leading the AL and second in run differential. Among the playoff contenders, who creates the worst matchup? Detroit has the best pitcher in the league, Justin Verlander, who is a major weapon in a short series. Texas has better balance and the Red Sox are 6-16 against Texas in the past three seasons.

In other words, as well as the Red Sox have played this season, the road isn't as simple as many think it might be.

Objectively speaking.

Jon Lester. "What have you done for me lately?" Expecting Lester to be Sandy Koufax isn't reasonable. Lester remains one of the best pitchers in the AL, but he's not invincible. In the past five starts (30.2 innings), he's allowed ten earned runs, but his strikeout to walk ratio (30/13) has fallen off. Coincidentally, this relates to his prior injury. Only time will tell whether he's 100% or just having a spell of "more mortality".

Josh Reddick. The right-fielder has tailed off a little lately, despite his monster jack last night. He is nine for thirty-one in August with an .837 OPS. The answer for major league players is always about adjustments. Pitchers are working him with fastballs away and breaking stuff and off-speed pitches down. Last night Blake Beavan threw a fast ball down and in to Reddick and he lost it. The best pitchers make the fewest mistakes and the best players make adjustments. This was a simple case of a mistake being punished.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Since June, the Red Sox catcher is 40 for 139 (almost .290) with 27 runs scored and 23 RBI with seven homers. Aside from struggling with some Lackey pitches in the dirt last night, his defense and throwing have become very serviceable. It's unfair to compare his catching ERA with Varitek's, as he usually handles Lackey and Wakefield, the higher ERA pitchers.

Matt Albers. Albers helped carry the bullpen...until August. It's not clear whether fewer opportunities have meant diminished performance or vice versa. His ERA is 5.79 and you get the feeling he's on a shorter leash.

"Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint." Observers have to tease out trending from random performance variation. All of the above performance reports could be simply statistical fluctuation rather than meaningful trends. But you can't spot trend changes without some measurements, and the Red Sox organization has a deep metric-based organization to assess their players.

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