Sunday, May 13, 2007

I've Been AWOL, But The Red Sox Haven't

I've been derelict in my posting here. Mostly because I haven't been watching as many games in the last week, so I don't feel like I can add anything to the discussion.

That said, the Red Sox have been crushing. I recall a period of time, I believe it was August 2004, when the Red Sox were simply beating all comers. The A's has just run off something like 10 straight wins, and then faced the Red Sox in Oakland. The Red Sox just crushed them, winning three straight. You get the sense that, as long as the Sox big four starters stay healthy the Red Sox are going to string together a lot of wins against who ever they face, the Yankees, Indians, Angels, Brewers, or who ever. It doesn't matter. We'll see how long this hot streak goes, or even if this is a 'hot streak.' It may not be a hot streak, it may legitimately be how good this team is.

I recently read a quote on some Yankees blog, I can't recall which, that said in effect, 'if you want to find out how good a team is, compare it to its chief rival. Which players would you take? The team with the most players chosen is the better one.'

The Red Sox are up by 7.0 games on the entire division, so one might reasonably say right now they are their own competition. To that end, I thought I'd take a quick and dirty look at the Sox roster and see who is playing over what was originally and reasonably expected of them before the season started.

I took a look at the OPS of each player on the team and then compared them to what Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system predicted they'd hit this season. The results were not surprising at all. The upshot of it is that, as a team the Red Sox are doing almost exactly what was expected of them. In fact, the starting lineup is just slightly below what they are projected to do.

This makes sense. For every player who might be 'hot' or if you prefer, 'playing over their head' (Mike Lowell), there is one not performing up to expectations (Manny Ramirez). The Red Sox do score some runs, but right now (before Sunday's game) they are averaging just under five and a half runs a game (5.48). Over a full season, that comes out to 888 runs. Not bad, but not a great offense by any stretch (the 2004 team scored in the neighborhood of 950 runs).

While the offense has been effective but not great, the pitching that has been amazing. Three of the four intended starters is bettering his PECOTA projected ERA. The only exception to that is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who's 4.80 ERA hasn't hurt the team much because of some good run support.

The bullpen has been good so far, but Brenden Donnelly, Hideki Okajima, and Jon Papelbon have been especially amazing so far. The others have been more hittable. Romero, Piniero and Snyder have been alternately decent and mediocre.

[As I'm typing this the Red Sox are losing 5-0 and Josh Beckett has left the game with a cut on his pitching hand. Its unclear right now the true extent of the injury, or if there will be any more time missed other than part of today (Sunday's) game.]

As Curt Schilling has said in numerous interviews, the team with the healthiest starting rotation will likely come out ahead in the division. With Beckett's injury, the Sox may be looking at their first spot-start of the year next time his turn comes around in the order. For the Sox to keep winning, they likely just have to remain healthy.

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