What Happened to the Red Sox

It’s early in the season, but the Red Sox don’t look good. I’ve found a few reasons for this.

Loss of Bay
First off, they didn’t address the loss of Jason Bay. Without Bay they have scored 65 runs, which ranks 21st in baseball. Last season, they scored 872, which was good for 3rd in baseball.

Now, I’m not saying Bay is the root of the issue; David Ortiz still can’t hit, J.D. Drew is still worthless, and Mike Lowell is still on the team.

Their free agent picks were mainly for defense; Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Cameron all had stellar defensive reputation with varying degrees of success hitting. I was looking at the 2 left fielders the team was linked to prior to signing Cameron the top hitting free agents – Jason Bay and Matt Holliday

How would their numbers help…

Jason Bay – .241/.369/.315, 9 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 54 AB, -7.0 UZR/150, WAR .0, Dollar Value of .0MM
Matt Holliday – .310/.355/.586, 11 R, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 58 AB, 26.3 URZ/150, WAR .8, Dollar Value of 3.0MM

Compare that to Cameron and Ellsbury, both who would have been effected by the free agents:
Mike Cameron – .233/.361/.333, 2 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 30 AB, 17.1 UZR/150, WAR .2, Dollar Value of .9MM
Jacoby Ellsbury – .333/.333/.467, 6 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 30 AB, 49.5 UZR/150, .3 WAR, Dollar Value of 1.3MM

Now, if they would have signed Bay or Holliday and passed on Cameron, Ellsbury would have been playing centerfield, where he as a career URZ/150 of -.8. The current combination would lead Boston to an above average defensive outfield. If they would have gone with Bay, the defense would have been below average for both positions. With Holliday, they’d have one above and one pretty much at average. Here are the different combos with the bats:
Cameron/Ellsbury – 6.79 RC total
Bay/Ellsbury – 10.25 RC total
Holliday/Ellsbury – 16.37 RC total

The total wins added by each combo according to my calculations:
Cameron/Ellsbury – 7 wins
Bay/Ellsbury – 0 wins
Holliday/Ellsbury – 4 wins

Moving Ellsbury from center to right is huge for the Red Sox; he doesn’t fit the corner outfield mold (but neither does Cameron), but the Red Sox should have enough production else where to make up for it.

Of course, this could all change depending on what happens with the injuries to Cameron and Ellsbury and if any of the players don’t continue to play at the current level.

Pitching Woes
The starting pitching has been as bad as the hitting. Here are the stats of the starters:
Josh Beckett – 1-0, 5.26 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 17:10 K:BB
Clay Buchholz – 1-2, 2.70 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 18:7 K:BB
John Lackey – 1-1, 5.63 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 8:7 K:BB
Jon Lester – 0-2, 8.44 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 14:9 K:BB
Tim Wakefield – 0-1, 6.38 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 11:7 K:BB

See a trend; they have been walking a lot of batters. It’s early in the season and I expect the first 4 to rebound; Wakefield has been informed that he’ll be headed to the bullpen next week when Diasuke Matsuzaka returns from rehab.

The other issue is most of the starters aren’t going deep into games and the bullpen has been ineffective outside of Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard. The result has Bard on pace for 85 games and 108 innings for the season (the league leaders last year had 70 games and 83 innings). To me, using a young reliever like that is a recipe for disaster.

Stop the Running
The final issue that is killing the Red Sox right now is their catching defense; Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek can’t catch a person stealing if their life depended on it. Last Tuesday, the Texas Rangers were 9 for 9 in stolen base opportunities; granted that was against the knuckleballer Wakefield, whose slow pitches make it easy to steal (76% success).

On a whole, the catching tandem is 1 for 33 in throwing out baserunners. It’s obvious that Theo Epstein is concerned, as the team has been recently linked to Chris Snyder of the Diamondbacks. That deal won’t happen soon since Miguel Montero is on the DL for the D’backs right now, but it’s something that could pop up in 2 months or so.

One way to look at this is a stolen base is worth .18 of a run; teams gained 5.76 runs from stealing against the Red Sox, which is equal to half a win. If nothing changes and teams continue to steal bases at this pace, the Red Sox look to give up 58.32 runs and lose 5 wins.

The value for being caught stealing is -.43 runs. IF they would have thrown out 25% of base runners, they would have saved 3.55 runs so far. Again, if they did this over the season and people continued to run as they are now, the Red Sox would save 35.94 runs or gain 3 wins.

Conclusion
The most troublesome part of the Sox right now is the catching defense. If teams continue to exploit this, the Sox could have some problems.

The pitching and hitting should come around; the team is too good to play this bad.

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