I’m a glass half full kind of guy. I see the bright side of things even in a tumultuous season like the one the Boston Red Sox are currently having.
This post is nothing like that.
Boston is 15 games out of first place in the AL East and because of that, they packaged up and dealt almost every player from the 2013 championship team. This post is the blueprint of how and why this team has failed.
Here are the 5 stats that have defined the 2014 Boston Red Sox:
.236 average with RISP (26th in MLB)
Let’s start with the most obvious of the bunch: hitting with RISP. When the season began way back in April, Boston’s lineup seemed to be out of synch and was unable to cash in on numerous chances.
No big deal they said. They’ll figure it out they said. Wrong, all wrong. The Red Sox never figured it out.
OBP is an extremely valuable stat that, at least nowadays, every team in the league relies upon when doing their due diligence on scouting. The saying goes that in order to drive the runners home, they first need to get on base. Seems reasonable, no? Well, for whatever reason, Boston time and time again would put runners on and leave them exactly where they stood. They defied all logical mathematics by doing so.
For example: in April, Boston had the 4th highest OBP at .333. All those runners on base resulted in only 111 runs. How about July? Well, that month they had a .330 OBP, which again produced lackluster results with 101 runs — good for 16th in MLB that month — but 11 out of the 15 teams ahead of them in runs had a lower OBP. (Houston scored 108 runs with a .295 OBP).
The record has been on repeat nearly all season long.
The good ole twin killing.
There’s really nothing quite like the agony you feel when an inning starts with such hope and ends with such despair. And with Boston leading the known universe in double plays, there has been a whole lot of despair.
I don’t have much to add about this stat because it’s pretty self-explanatory. When a hitter makes two outs instead of one, that is bad. Got it? Great, let’s move on.
37 stolen bases
Perhaps the biggest difference between 2013’s and 2014’s Red Sox team has been the presence of speed.
When Jacoby Ellsbury — who signed with the Yankees last December for seven years, $153 million — would get on base last season, it was almost an immediate double. He swiped 52 bags last year and by doing so, did two extremely important things for Boston: got into scoring position and ELIMINATED the possibility of the aforementioned double play.
I think every fan acknowledged that the Sox would dearly miss the luxury of having a base stealer like Ellsbury. I’m just not so sure people (including myself) realized the severity of losing a speed threat without replacing it, or transitioning into a power approach.
It wasn’t just Ellsbury either. Shane Victorino, who’s played in just 30 games this season due to hamstring and back injuries, had 21 steals last year. And your boy Dustin Pedroia even contributed with 17 steals last season compared to just 5 so far in 2014.
Like I said, if you have a ball club with absolutely zero speed, you better be prepared to start taking the ball out of the park. (ie: Baltimore Orioles. Dead last in steals, first in home runs).
89 home runs
Which brings me to the next stat that has sunk the Sox this season: the long ball.
Sitting at 29th in MLB, Boston’s offense, with the exception of David Ortiz and Mike Napoli (41 combined homers), is essentially powerless. Obviously the addition of Yoenis Cespedes immediately changes that, but it’s a little too late to make a surge now.
If you can’t run and play small ball, you’ve got to be able to go long and Boston hasn’t done either.
So how did Boston have so many last year and so few in 2014? Will Middlebrooks had 17 in 2013 but has battled injuries and awfulness all season long; Victorino got hot in the summer last season and ended up with a rare 15 homers; Jarrod Saltalamacchia contributed 14, Daniel Nava added 12, and even Stephen Drew got into the mix with 13. This year, no player not named Papi and Nap have more than 8.
70 errors/.984 fielding percentage
Sometimes I get the feeling that the average fan overlooks defense. Not just in baseball, but sports in general. If you’re talking NBA, Steph Curry is a phenomenal offensive player, but he’s also one of the worst defensive point guards in the league, people overlook that. Everyone wants to see home runs and RBI’s pile up, but forget to give props for outfield assists or how quick a guy’s first step is.
What I’m saying is that defense is equally as important. Last year, Boston was one of the best in MLB at it. They didn’t make bonehead plays to giveaway outs or runs. 27 is all you got when facing the Red Sox last season. That’s partly how they won so many games, eventually leading to a World Series.
This year hasn’t been the same. It’s not that they’re bad, they sit at 15th in the league with 70 errors, but when you’ve played in 47 one-run games, you have to be clean in order to win more than you lose.
Obviously stats can be twisted one way or another to make a point, but in this case, these are the numbers that have plagued Boston from resembling a playoff team.
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