April 13, 2011

What Should The Red Sox Do? Nothing.

And here it is ... your Make A Bee-Line To The Liquor Cabinet Thought Of The Day:
27 of the other 29 major league teams have won at least twice as many games as the Red Sox (2-9).
Of the 30 MLB teams, Boston is 23rd in AVG, 16th in OBP, 24th in SLG, 23rd in Runs Scored Per Game, 30th in ERA, 30th in Runs Allowed Per Game, and 26th in WHIP.*

* The Yankees (5-4) are far more close to the Red Sox in most of these categories than i would have thought:
          AVG   OBP   SLG   RS/G  RA/G  ERA   WHIP
Boston    23rd  16th  24th  23th  30th  30th  26th
New York  21st  22nd   3rd   6th  25th  24th  25th
While the Red Sox are getting on base more often than the Yankees, New York is scoring more runs, thanks in part to a much higher slugging percentage. They have hit 18 home runs; Boston has hit seven. I assumed that the Yankees' BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) would be higher, but it's not: .242 to Boston's .262; however, home runs are not considered balls in play). Thinking of my LOB post yesterday, while the Red Sox have left an average of 7.9 men on base per game this year, the Yankees' average is only 5.8. Whether that's a bit of luck that may change or whether the tight grouping of averages in my post of roughly eight LOB per game is a coincidence, I don't know.

So. What can the team do? What should the front office do?

For the most part, nothing. Most of the team is slumping and there are no obvious places on the roster where the team could fix an obvious mistake with a easily obtained solution. I was going to go into some depth about how the team is "stuck" with what it's got and concentrate on that day's game and things will even out, but TheYellowDart5 at SoSH did it more succinctly than I would have:
How much can be done, though? I mean, look at the problems.

Lackey and Matsuzaka have been awful so far, but they both have long-term deals and can't/won't be dumped. Besides, the internal options to replace them are Wakefield, Aceves and Doubront. Not exactly an inspiring trio.

Saltalamacchia isn't hitting and his defense has been weak. But the only backup option is Varitek, who is hitting even worse and couldn't throw out any poster on this site. There are no decent Triple-A options, and I imagine there's nothing much out there on the market.

Crawford and Youkilis aren't hitting. Well, they will eventually, and sitting them on the bench doesn't help them and forces the Red Sox to play inferior talent in their place.

Ellsbury has been miserable. But who replaces him? McDonald is no better, Cameron looks ancient, and the Triple-A options (Reddick and Kalish) need more time in the Minors. And the CF market isn't that great either.

The only venue in which there exists a good, in-house replacement options is SS, and even then, I doubt Francona's going to anoint Lowrie the starter just yet. But one position change isn't going to turn around what ails this team.

Sadly enough, Francona and the Sox just need to ride this out. There aren't better options in Triple-A or on the bench.
Playing Lowrie -- who turns 27 on Sunday -- over Scutaro was also suggested by John Tomase in today's Herald.
          PA   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
Lowrie    18  .438  .500  .563  1.063
Scutaro   33  .172  .273  .207   .480
SSS and all that, but man ...

Lowrie's line-drive percentage this year is roughly 30% (BRef has 27% and Fangraphs has 33% (easily tops on the team)); BRef gives the MLB average as 19%. In limited time last year (roughly 200 PA), Lowrie had a .907 OPS, better than everyone on the team except Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre.

Francona has been giving Lowrie more playing time. Lowrie has started two of the last four games and has reached base in six of his last nine plate appearances.

Other stuff:

Much has been made of the team's failure to hit with runners at third and/or second (RATS): 20-for-104, .192. Part of that can be chalked up to seven of the nine starters have a BABIP under the league average:
Lowrie         .467
Pedroia        .424
Drew           .421
AL Average     .278
Gonzalez       .270
Saltalamacchia .267
Youkilis       .261
Ortiz          .257
Ellsbury       .185
Scutaro        .185
Crawford       .184
Varitek        .125
Cameron        .111
McDonald       .000
The top three guys will see their average drop, and the bad luck of the guys at the bottom will improve.

The Red Sox hit like All-Stars with a man on first, but get him to second, and the bats go cold:
      AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
1--  .342  .422  .575  .997
12-  .120  .214  .120  .334
-2-  .130  .167  .130  .297
Similarly, although the team is hitting better with men on base than with the bases empty, they are making lots of outs with RATS:
            AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
No One On  .207  .317  .319  .636
Men On     .254  .332  .379  .710
W/RATS     .192  .267  .240  .508
Red Sox batters leading off an inning are hitting only .200/.299/.318.

A chart posted at SoSH shows that while the Red Sox are 4th in the AL with 117 PA with RATS, their OPS of .508 is the league's worst. Also, 15 of their 20 hits with RATS are singles; the other five are doubles. By contrast, the Yankees have had only 73 PA with RATS (2nd fewest in the AL), but are OPSing .919, with 11 of their 15 hits for extra bases (6 doubles, 5 home runs).
Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his next start, as usual - Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park against the Blue Jays - and Terry Francona said that trading, demoting or releasing a player based on one game (or a handful of games) is not smart*.
It was a horrendous second inning. If we do things like that, we'll set ourselves up for some really bad mistakes. It was tough to watch, but if you make decisions based on emotion after bad starts, we wouldn't have a team left.
* - George Steinbrenner often wildly overreacted to a player making a game-losing error, failing to get a clutch hit, or getting shelled on the mound. And he became a laughingstock because of it. I'm glad the Red Sox do not run their club like a petulant 14-year-old or according to the whims of talk radio.


laura k said...

I completely agree with the do nothing strategy.

But this is so not fun.

allan said...

No, it's not fun.

And just like a 10-1 start would offer a cushion against a bad patch of losses later on, this 2-9 bullshit means there is a smaller margin of error as the season progresses.

We are 4 GB the Yankees, which is the most important thing. I do not expect the O's and Jays to keep pace.

I am wondering: If NY was 7-2 and BOS was 4-7, would there be as much panic?

FenFan said...

You have to believe that, at some point, the offense is going to click. I completely agree that there are several winning streaks waiting for us down the road.

But, as Laura already stated, this is so not fun. :-)

Pokerwolf said...

I think the panic stems from two things:

1) We were told this was the Greatest Team Ever over and over in the pre-season.

2) Red Sox fans are used to panic and severe drama and the Boston media heaps it on them as often as possible to sell product.

I'm bummed out, but I agree with all of your analysis, Allan. I will admit that I'd be feeling different if not for 2004 and 2007, though. It's really nice to keep a somewhat level head about baseball.

Pokerwolf said...

Also, watch what happens to the Yankees at the end of this week. They're about to have a three game series with the Rangers.

Jim said...

They locked up a number of these guys, and there was little competition for Spring Training jobs, for the same reason. They have plenty of talent. Leave them alone and let them Play Ball!
That said, I hate it when a stud like Price is on his game and makes them look even worse and a dick like Damon delivers the winning hit. Ah well. To better days.

Amy said...

This all makes sense, but why doesn't it cheer me up? Is it likely Lackey or DiceK will improve much? Even if the hitting improves---which I believe will happen---we need more than three reliable starters. And I don't see that happening with those two. But I also don't see options, as you point out, Allan.

I also agree with Pokerwolf that this is so much worse because of the elevated expectations we all had going into the season. How can a team that was so uniformly praised be doing SO poorly? Did the prognosticators just blow the quality of the team out of proportion, or are these guys doing that much worse than they should be?

At any rate, I cannot believe we have only won two games. Oy. Glad for a night off from frustration and disappointment.

Jere said...

"the Boston media heaps it on them as often as possible to sell product."

That's it right there--I've never panicked, never seen anyone panic, never even said the word panic. But the media just loves the word, it's borderline bizarre. I'm at the point where even "no need to panic" articles offend me, because they're assuming I'm panicking. Over a handful of games out of 162. 162!

The other night SportsCenter told me that it's time to panic in Boston and LA. They were talking about basketball. You know what the combined record of those two teams is going into tonight? 111-51. (The fact that the total games is 162 is coincidental but illustrates the point nicely.)

MacLeodCartoons said...

"But the only backup option is Varitek, who is hitting even worse and couldn't throw out any poster on this site." Might be the funniest put-down line I have ever read about a catcher.