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@RedSox: “Mean” business since the All-Star break

by Bill Chuck on August 9, 2016

I guess it should come as no surprise that after the Red Sox fiery start that there would be some regression to the mean, but the question is how far down is the actual mean? Boston has spent 35 days in first place this season and as they prepare to face the Yankees on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday at Fenway, they are fighting a fading battle ahead of them and a threatening battle beneath them. This is not to say by any stretch of the imagination that they are out of contention. They are just 2.5 games out of first in the AL East, but their quality of play has been deteriorating.

It has gotten pretty ugly out there the last couple of weeks as the team lives out of suitcases, a custom they had better get used to and they better get used to playing in general because after their first off day yesterday in ages, they are not off again this month.

Here are the 22 remaining home games for the Sox this regular season

  • This week Boston plays the Yankees and Diamondbacks for six games. Neither team is particularly good and this would be a good week to fatten up.
  • They end the month with Royals and Rays for six. Neither team is particularly good and this would be another good time to fatten up.
  • In mid-September, the Yanks come in for another three and by that time they will be playing out the string, but they are followed by the Orioles for four and by that time they will be battling the Jays for first place.
  • Then over the last weekend of the month, they host the Blue Jays for three and it could very well be a do-or-die series.

That’s 22 home games of their remaining 52 games of the season. Thus far this season, they have played 59 home games with a record of 34-25 (.576). That pace gives them about another 13 wins in their last 22. They are 60-50 today. 13 wins puts them at 73 wins. Figuring 90 wins gives them a pretty good shot at a wildcard slot that means they need to win 17 of 30 on the road, a .566 pace. So far this season, they have gone 26-25 on the road, a .509 rate.

90 wins (which is no guarantee for the postseason) is certainly doable, but it’s certainly not going to be easy.

Nine to Know: Which brings us to the “mean” business again

  1. Since the All-Star break, the Sox are 11-12.
  2. The team is hitting .249. Before the break, they were hitting .292.
  3. David Ortiz is wearing out. We are understanding his pre-season decision to retire. However, as long as he can play he can contribute. However since the break, Papi is hitting .216. Then again Hanley Ramirez is hitting .214 and both of these guys are hurting.
  4. Dustin Pedroia has been getting banged up and is hitting .259 since the break; he hit .304 prior to the ASG. Jackie Bradley is hitting .259 since the break after hitting .296 before the break. Xander Bogaerts is hitting .276 since the break after hitting .329 before the break.
  5. The only Sox batter defying gravity is Mookie Betts, who hit .304 before the break and .376 since. Not only that, Betts is 7-11 AB (.636) with RISP since the break and David Ortiz is 8-18 AB (.444) w/RISP since the break. On the other hand, Jackie Bradley Jr. with runners in scoring position is hitting .235, Dustin Pedroia .222, Travis Shaw .111, and Xander Bogaerts is 2-19 AB (.105) with six whiffs.
  6. Since the break, Hanley has hit six homers, Mookie and Travis have hit five each, Pedey and Xander four apiece; and Papi, JBJ, and Sandy Leon have three each.
  7. As for the starters since the break: Steven Wright is 3-0 despite his 4.13 ERA and David Price is 0-2 because of his 4.31 ERA. Rick Porcello remains the Sox ace going 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA; Eduardo Rodriguez has improved but has not yet proved he can win, going 1-2 with a 3.18 ERA; and Drew Pomeranz may have done his best pitching of the season for the Padres and is 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA for Boston. Pomeranz has never pitched this many innings in a season in the majors and seems to have at least hit the “mean” wall.
  8. The Sox pen is grateful for the return of Craig Kimbrel from meniscus surgery; he’s struck out six in 2.1 IP in two appearances. Koji Uehara may well be done for the season. Brad Ziegler has appeared in 9 games for the Sox pitching 8.1 innings and has a sparkling 0.96 ERA and a beautiful 0.847 WHIP and while he has three saves, he has blown one and taken two losses. Junichi Tazawa has pitched six innings since the break and has allowed two homers. Last season after the break, Tazawa had a .386 BAA, this year it’s better, but a still not good .292.
  9. One last thought on the Red Sox fielding this season. Meh. Using the Total Zone fielding measure of Rtot which measures the number of runs below or above average based on plays made, we can see the importance of Pedroia who is +7 at second base for the season. That is balanced out by Bogaerts who is -7 at shortstop. Travis Shaw is +1 at third, but Hanley Ramirez is -4 at first. In left, Brock Holt is -2. In center, Jackie Bradley, Jr. is -7 (which demands an explanation from the folks who figure this out, although BillJamesonline.com lists him at -2 runs saved), and Mr. Everything, Mookie Betts is +10 in right. behind the plate, Sandy Leon is +3 and  Ryan Hanigan is -4. However, while it’s a mix overall defensively, according to BillJamesonline.com, Boston is third in the league with +22 Runs Saved defensively. While their postseason competitors: Astros +49, Blue Jays +38, Indians +6, Rangers +1, Orioles -25, and Tigers -48.

The Sox need this season to end soon

At this point it is unlikely that Boston is going to be getting any outside help. They need David Price to pitch better very soon. Since and including his May 29th start, Price is 2-7 and the Sox are 4-10 in his starts. His 3.66 ERA and .280 BAA speaks volume. They need Ortiz healthy enough to continue (which means no more appearances at first base) to drive home runs. Even though all of his other numbers are down, since the break he and Betts do have 15 RBI good for a tie for 17th in the majors.

Manager John Farrell is approaching games with a different sense of urgency and there are many doubts whether that is his forte.

But clearly the team is wearing down. In just another indicator of their fatigue or regression to the mean, before the break they were 59-of-69 in stolen base attempts (85.5%). Since the break they are 6-of-11 (54.5%),

As they chase, the Sox are being chased

The Sox are 2.5 games behind the Orioles and Jays who are in a virtual tie for first in the AL East. But perhaps of even greater concern, Boston is now tied with the Tigers for the second and last wildcard slot and suddenly the Mariners are just 2.5 back and the Astros are 4.0 games back.

It begins tonight against the Yankees, in a series that they must win against a team that consistently plays around .500 baseball (16-14 in their last 30). Thus far this season, the Sox have played 12 three-game series at home, they have swept three and they could use another. Just as importantly, the Sox have played 13 total series on the road and have yet to be swept and they need to keep that record pristine, otherwise the season will get very mean.

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