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« Breaking Bad | Main | Can Lefty-Killer Liriano Tame Cincinnati's Lineup? »
Monday
Sep232013

Chemistry Makes a Most Valuable Team

When there is discussion about AL MVP candidates, do you notice you don't hear any of the Red Sox being mentioned? Isn't it odd that the team that has the best record in baseball, does not have one of the players you might consider as the lower case most valuable player in the league?

In fact, if you ask 10 people who they thought is the most valuable Red Sox player, you'd get probably a half-dozen different responses.
But, consensus on the Sox MVP would be very difficult...because it's better to have a Most Valuable Team than a Most Valuable Player.

Perhaps that's why they are so good

As baseball moves away from outrageous seasons developed in a pharmaceutical lab, teams are seeing the value of chemistry coming from a psychologist's lab.

This is what motivated Ben Cherington as he cleansed this team of Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez and replaced them with the like of Jonny Gomes and David Ross. The difference is best exemplified as Boston moved from the detached J.D. Drew to the involvement and engagement of his brother, Stephen Drew.

The team contributes

There are only two teams that have 11 different players who drove home at least 35 runs this season.

While you're thinking of the other obvious choice, check out the Red Sox numbers:

The Boston Red Sox 35 RBI Guys
G AB H HR RBI
David Ortiz (BOS) 133 502 154 29 98
Mike Napoli (BOS) 136 487 125 23 90
Dustin Pedroia (BOS) 156 623 186 9 83
Stephen Drew (BOS) 120 424 106 13 64
Daniel Nava (BOS) 130 441 131 11 63
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (BOS) 117 410 109 13 59
Shane Victorino (BOS) 119 463 136 14 58
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 131 566 169 8 52
Jonny Gomes (BOS) 113 302 72 12 50
Will Middlebrooks (BOS) 89 325 75 15 42
Mike Carp (BOS) 82 208 62 9 42

The other team shouldn't be a surprise

This offseason, there was another team that recreated itself with chemistry as the focal point.

Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti knew that the first thing he needed to do was hire Terry Francona as his manager. If there was anyone who could quickly change the culture of this ballclub, Tito was the guy.

“We would not be where we are without Tito,” Antonetti recently told Tyler Kepner in the NY Times. “The impact he’s made on our organization — not just the major league team — has been profound.”

Francona told Kepner, “I get a little careful when they say I’m changing the culture, or being responsible for that. I want to be a part of that, but it’s us doing it together. It’s a complete team effort, and that’s why it’s working.”

Antonetti began looking for the same type of players that Cherington was seeking: guys who could make a difference, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse as well.

One of the guys the Tribe added was 42-year old Jason Giambi, who was being considered for the Colorado Rockies managerial job that Walt Weiss ended up. Francona told Kepner that he had never met a person like Jason Giambi.

“His leadership, his presence, for me not to use that, I would be an idiot. I’ve leaned on him so much. He’s not making enough money, I tell him that all the time. He’s the best influence on players I’ve ever seen — ever, and I’ve been around some pretty good ones.”

Giambi, who will make a great manager sooner than later told Tyler,

“Every single guy — from the Latin players to the white guys to the black guys — I’m tight with everybody. I get to care about them with no ulterior motives. I just want to see them succeed. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and I want them to turn into the best players they can, because I truly believe that’s the gift you give back to this game.”

The Tribe 11

The Cleveland Indians 35 RBI Guys
G AB H HR RBI
Jason Kipnis (CLE) 143 541 150 17 80
Carlos Santana (CLE) 148 518 138 19 69
Michael Brantley (CLE) 145 529 148 9 68
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) 130 484 117 14 61
Nick Swisher (CLE) 139 524 130 20 59
Ryan Raburn (CLE) 80 225 62 16 53
Michael Bourn (CLE) 126 513 133 6 48
Mark Reynolds (CLE) 129 428 94 20 65
Mike Aviles (CLE) 118 339 87 9 44
Drew Stubbs (CLE) 141 421 97 9 42
Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) 92 287 65 11 36

Two teams - both most valuable

“I think I believe in them more than our numbers,” Francona explained. “Like, our numbers may not add up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add up. And I think that as long as we believe that, we’re going to have a chance.”

I'm with Terry.

Chemistry makes a Most Valuable Team.

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Reader Comments (2)

Oakland certainly fits in that category as well.

However, I would argue that Post Season baseball is very different than the regular season. Key Differences between top heavy teams and well balanced teams:

1. #1 and #2 Pitchers pitch in a higher percentage of innings than regular season. Together, Tigers Scherzer and Sanchez will get close to 1/2 of the Tigers Innings should they make it to the ALCS....likely 60% of the total starter innings. They would only get 40% of starter innings during the regular season.

2. Valuable bench players are often left on the bench. Tigers are top heavy. Their backups are not as good as Oakland's or Boston's... but that is less of a factor when you only have to play 2 games every 3 days v. 162 games in 6 months.

3. #5 Starters are made into relievers, which pushes many in the pitching staff down a rung. Those 6th and 7th inning guys that come in the regular season are no longer a distinct advantage to the well balanced team. Tigers could to tell Verlander to go all out for 5 innings, knowing the Porcello could handle 2 innings.. which would be impossible in the regular season.

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter@Bobbleheadguru

One nitpick: to say JD Drew was "detached" is unfair to Drew. Non-emotive is not the same thing as detached. He was very much a part of the team, and I don't recall anyone in the clubhouse having anything negative to say about Drew during his time with the Sox.

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlone1c
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