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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)

Wednesday
May012013

Pitching was reason for the Red Sox great April

At 18-8 (.692), the Red Sox have the best record in baseball, off to its best start since beginning the 2002 season with a 19-7 record.

Their first John Farrell managed month is certainly better than their first Bobby Valentine 11-11 managed month last year.

The last two times the Sox held MLB’s best record at the start of May were in 2004 (15-6, .714) and in 2007 (16-8, .667). If those years are not familiar to you, just ask any citizen of Red Sox Nation who will remind you that those years Terry Francona's club went on to win the World Series.

A huge reason for this early success belongs to Boston's pitching

The Sox have scored 135 runs and allowed just 97. That 38 run differential is the best in baseball. The Rangers have a +32 and the Braves are +31. For some perspectives the preseason favorite Blue Jays are at -33 and the Angels are -28.

While the Sox bats have been steadily batting the ball around the ballpark, it's the starting pitching that has excelled. The Sox starters have a 3.24 ERA, fourth best in the majors. The Cardinal starters have a spectacular 2.15 ERA, the Reds are a 2.95, the Rangers are at 3.15, and the Tigers are at 3.18. On the other hand, the Astros are at 6.08, Padres at 5.48, and the Angels at 5.32. The  Sox starters’ 15-4 record (.789) is the best in baseball.

The Rangers and Cubs starters are holding batters to a .220 average, but the Sox are close behind at .224.

The Sox starters lead the majors averaging 9.66 strikeouts per nine innings. The Twins starters are only at 4.37.

Clay Buchholz has been the ace thus far winning all five of his starts and his 1.19 ERA (five earned runs in 37.2 IP) ranks third in baseball trailing only Jake Westbrook's sick 0.98 and Matt Moore's 1.13. It's the lowest by a Red Sox through the first five starts since Roger Clemens in 1991 (0.66).

The WHIP and ERA of Red Sox starters

If you really want to see how the Sox starters stand alone, check out this chart:

Red Sox pitchers lead the majors in double-digit strikeout games

Rk Tm #Matching W L
1 BOS 16 12 4
         
2 DET 13 9 4
         
3 CIN 11 8 3
         
4 LAD 10 7 3
         
5 STL 9 6 3
         
6 TEX 8 7 1
7 SFG 8 4 4
8 PIT 8 6 2
9 ARI 8 6 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2013.

The Bullpen

The Red Sox bullpen reputedly may be in the top three in baseball, but you wouldn't know it from their ERA which is 4.33, 22nd in baseball (Atlanta's pen has a 2.01 ERA). The bullpen has a 3-4 record and have completed 8-of-13 save opportunities. The Diamondback's pen is 8-3 but has only completed 8-of-16 save opportunities. The Rangers pen is 5-1 and 9-for-9 in saves. The Braves relievers are 6-1 and have succeeded on nine-of-10 save opportunities.

When it comes to relievers, I'm a fan of WHIP as a measuring device.

Red Sox Reliever Games/WHIP

Another critical measurement for relievers is the "tax stat," IRS, Inherited Runs Scored

  IP GR IR IS IS%
Alfredo Aceves 17.2 2 2 1 50%
Andrew Bailey 12.1 13 2 0 0%
Daniel Bard 1.0 2 0 0  
Joel Hanrahan 5.2 7 0 0  
Andrew Miller* 5.2 10 3 0 0%
Clayton Mortensen 10.2 8 0 0  
Junichi Tazawa 12.2 13 9 1 11%
Koji Uehara 10.2 12 7 2 29%
Alex Wilson 6.0 6 3 1 33%
Steven Wright 3.2 1 1 0 0%
League Average         32%
Team Total   74 27 5 19%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2013. 

For the Red Sox, so far, so good

There are many months, and many games to go this season and it is impossible to predict who will stay healthy, who will get injured, who will get hot, or who will get cold. However, April is in the books, and this season, so far, there are no complaints from Red Sox Nation.

Tuesday
Apr232013

The Mike Napoli RBI Machine

Mike Napoli may have found a silver lining to the offseason hip cloud he experienced.

Think about this: Napoli had agreed to three-year $39 million contract with the Red Sox. Boston fans waited and waited for the deal to become official. Then came the news in December that catcher/first baseman Napoli was suffering from avascular necrosis, a degenerative bone disease that was doing a number on his hips. Both camps regrouped and after much negotiations, now just first baseman Napoli ended up with a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Today, 19 games into this season, Napoli's hips are behaving and he leads the majors with 25 RBI. The team record for April is 25 held by Manny Ramirez who did his damage in 23 games in 2003.

Napoli is hitting .278 and slugging .570. In 10 games at home, he's hitting .306 and slugging .611 with five doubles, two home runs, and 12 RBI. At Fenway, he's hitting .389 with runners on base and has gone 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

This is what .611 slugging looks like

Napoli is showing tremendous horizontal coverage of the strike zone but the pitcher who attempts to get a pitch by Napoli low in the zone is simply punished.

That red area you see on the heat map above reflects a .400 batting average and an .875 slugging percentage, all four of his homers, and 17 RBI.

Look how effective Napoli has been when he's come to the plate with runners on base

  • BR = Base runners
  • BRS - Base runners scored
  Base Runners
Year BR BRS BRS%
2010 326 42 13%
2012 283 33 12%
2011 268 48 18%
2009 283 36 13%
2007 183 24 13%
2006 200 26 13%
2008 175 31 18%
2013 78 21 27%
8 Yrs 1796 261 15%
MLB Average     15%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2013. 
  • As you can see, Napoli is driving in baserunners at an amazing rate with productivity approaching that of some full seasons. 

All of this with the right-hand hitting Napoli so far looking miserable against lefties.

Napoli is lifetime .271 against lefties and .255 hitter versus righties. This season, he's hitting .188 against lefties and .302 against righties.

Whiffs are still an issue

There is still some reality that could be an issue when Napoli's .367 BAbip stabilizes: Napoli has struck out 26 times good for sixth in the majors with Rickie Weeks and if you need some perspecitve, Adam Dunn, the current model of hitting inefficiency, has whiffed 27 times.

However, we wait and watch Napoli drive runners home and possibly turn a cloud's silver lining into pure gold.

Monday
Apr222013

Why are the Royals, Twins, Red Sox, Orioles, and Rangers above .500?

AL Teams Batting Average and BA w/RISP

I can't help be fascinated with the differential between team batting average and team average with runners in scoring position as an indicator of team success.

AL teams are hitting .251 overall and .251 with runners in scoring position 

 

It stands to reason then that the teams that are succeeding this young season are the ones with the highest positive differential between the two figures.

As you mouse over the teams, you can see that in terms of batting, the team closest to the average is Houston. Remember, this only takes into account batting and clearly the 5-13 Astros have problems that far exceed their ability to hit with runners in scoring position.

When you look at the Kansas City Royals numbers you can see why they are a first place team. Their batting avg. is fifth best in the league, but their abilty to hit with runners in scoring position is the best in the AL and  at +55 points, you can see a reason for their success.

Look at the Twins, and you can see a reason for their surprising early success. They have a +49 point differential. The Red Sox have a +35 which has brought them success when paired with their strong pitching.

Wonder why the Tigers with their great bats are off to a rocky start? How about hitting 42 points lower with runners in scoring position as an answer? 

The Angels have the highest batting average in the league at .280, but are only hitting .223 w/RISP. This puts them in the bottom four in the league.

But no team is exhibiting worse timely hitting than the White Sox

Chicago, like Toronto, is not hitting well overall, both at .232. But as bad as the Jays are hitting with RISP at .200, that is robust compared to the White Sox at .170, a -62 differential.

Unless, and until, those two teams narrow the gap, the liklihood of even reaching .500 this season remains remote.

In the meantime, as the Royals, Twins, Red Sox, Orioles, and Rangers continue to hit well with runners in scoring position, we will see them above .500 and challenging in their respective divisions.

 

 

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