Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hands Off The Panic Button: An Appeal to Beantown

After a 2-9 start, Sawx Nation is going berserk. Trust me, I’ve heard the calls into WEEI, I’ve seen the talk shows, and though people aren’t putting the fork in them yet, they’re not happy with the early returns from the team that outspent the rest of the league at $172 million this offseason, nearly $50 million more than the next team (Washington). Their 40 runs scored are 11th in the AL, and their 72 runs allowed are dead last in all of baseball. Clearly, Boston’s playing some bad baseball.

However, all is not lost. In an 11-game sample size, there’s a lot of room for luck, and the Red Sox have been victimized by across-the-board bad luck. At the plate and on the mound, the Sox have been playing much better baseball than their record suggests, and their record will likely come to reflect the true level of talent on this highly paid (and highly skilled) club has.

On offense, every stat suggests they’ll be back to chasing the top spot in the AL East in the very near future. Their BABIP of .266 is 11th in the AL. Although their groundball rate of 47.3% is certainly handicapping the team’s ability to get on base, Chris Dutton’s xBABIP calculator gives them an expected BABIP of .314, so they can expect to get on base at a much higher rate than they have been up to this point. They have also put up a miniscule 6.7% HR/FB rate, a rate which will surely climb over a larger portion of the season. Don’t expect Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, or JD Drew to remain homerless for much longer.

Boston’s pitching has been subject to worse gopherball issues, as their 18.9% HR/FB rate currently leads the AL. The Sox have allowed 21 home runs, 5 more than Royals pitchers have allowed to stand second worst in the category. Their ERA of 6.77 far outpaces their 5.90 FIP and 4.38 xFIP, further suggesting that Sox pitchers have allowed more than their fair share of opposing players to cross the plate. Sox starters have gotten the worst of it, allowing 20% of fly balls to leave the park. 1 in 5 fly balls going for dingers is simply an unsustainable rate. The Sox talented pitching staff will soon show its’ true colors. They should be able to improve their run prevention and pitch deeper into games, which has been an issue so far this season. Boston’s rotation’s 58 innings pitched is currently third to last in all of baseball. That’s a trend that is highly unlikely to continue.

The Red Sox are obviously a talented team. Don’t let a short patch of poorly played and unlucky baseball change your image of them, as come September, they’ll be in the hunt for a playoff position and World Champion barring a complete meltdown. The Sox are still one of the best teams in baseball, and they won’t let 2 weeks in April affect the rest of their season.

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