By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Red Sox by the numbers

The Boston Globe’s Adam Kilgore has the statistic I was looking for. The notion that the Red Sox can’t hit good pitching isn’t just a cliché — it’s actually true. Kilgore writes:

The Sox sputtered all season against frontline pitchers. Against the top 15 American League pitchers in ERA+, a stat that adjusts ERA for ballparks, the Red Sox hit .220 with a .266 on-base percentage and a .327 slugging percentage. The league average against those pitchers was .248, .292, and .387.

Next, one of my own favorite stats. The Sox ended the season 95-67, for a very respectable winning percentage of .586. It’s hard to believe they finished eight games out with a record like that, but that’s what happens when the Yankees sign the three best free agents on the market.

But if you eliminate the woeful Orioles, against whom the Sox were 16-2, then the Red Sox’ record for the year was 79-65, for a mediocre winning percentage of .549. Not that every team doesn’t have a cousin or two, but that’s ridiculous.

Granted, that still would have been good enough to get them into the post-season, and it’s better than Minnesota’s .534. But it is, perhaps, a more accurate measurement of their actual abilities.

The Sox still have a chance to prove us all wrong. But right now things don’t look good.

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Through the glass darkly


  1. O-FISH-L

    I hate to say “I told you so,” but without Manny Ramirez, or a player of his caliber, the Red Sox are going nowhere, last year, this year and into the future.

    No more titles for a while, but at least Kevin Youkilis can whine, throw his bat and helmet after making an out, without fear of anyone stepping up to backhand him in the face, and the Traveling Secretary needn’t worry about any heavy ticket requests.

    The Sox front-office blew this season in spring training…the All-Star break at the latest, by failing to land the big bats. One run in eighteen innings is pathetic, but at least we got rid of that terrible Manny (off to a slow start in this post season, but a powerhouse last year, batting .520).

    • Dan Kennedy

      Fish: If you haven’t noticed, the Dodgers also lack a hitter of Manny Ramírez’s caliber. Attitude and steroids aside, everyone gets old eventually. Manny is old.

  2. mike_b1

    Whoa — a .549 winning percentage is mediocre?

    In what universe?

  3. Mr Punch

    The Sox lineup has been deteriorating for years, and lacks guys who can’t be pitched to (Manny, Papi in his prime). Against really good pitching, mistake hitters (Lowell, Bay) don’t see mistakes, and very selective hitters (Youk, Drew) take too many called strikes.

  4. Laurence glavin

    I plan to go to a performance at the Tsai Concert Hall on Comm Ave on October 21st. All I care about is that there MUST BE NO BALL GAME AT FENWAY ON THAT NIGHT so I can get good parking space. An early demise of the Red Flops is in my best interest!

  5. jvwalt

    There’s a fundamental truth about playoffs that is often overlooked: it’s an extremely small sample size, and anything can happen. A great team can lose, a lesser team can win. We tend to assign some ultimate value to playoff performance, but the biggest variable is simple random chance. The Sox didn’t hit for two games in a row, against a good team with good starting pitchers. That doesn’t make them bums; it just means they had two bad games.

    • Dan Kennedy

      JV: The Sox aren’t bums. They’re a good team. But the numbers show they’ve done more poorly against good pitching than the average, and that’s been borne out in the first two games.

      You’ve also got to go into the playoffs hot, and they were flat as a pancake the last couple of weeks.

      And no knock against Beckett, who pitched well last night, but except for 2007 he hasn’t been an ace in the Pedro/Schilling mold. Look at his first four seasons here: bad; great; hurt; and, this year, good but inconsistent.

  6. mike_b1

    “You’ve also got to go into the playoffs hot, and they were flat as a pancake the last couple of weeks.

    Is this true?

    Here are the final 14 games of the past six seasons the Red Sox made the playoffs, with clinching game #:

    2009 – 2-7 – Clinched Game 157
    2008 – 8-6 – Clinched Game 157
    2007 – 7-7 – Clinched Game 155
    2005 – 8-6 – Clinched Game 162
    2004 – 9-5 – Clinched Game 156
    2003 – 9-5 – Clinched Game 159

    As my friend Joe notes, “As you can see the Sox have rarely had anything to play for the final week of the season. The one time they did they finished the 2005 season winning 3 out of 4 and promptly got their heads handed to them by the White Sox.

    “As we saw above there are some good things happening lately and some bad things happening lately. Obviously it would be nice if the Sox could steamroll into the playoffs on a 21-0 streak but if you think back to 2007 people were freakin’ out and that turned out OK.

    “For further evidence I would refer you to the recent examples of the 2000 Yankees (2-12 in their last 14), the 2006 Cardinals (4-10) and the 2006 Tigers (4-10) as clubs that struggled badly down the stretch yet went onto post-season glory of one form or another.

    “The folks at True Blue LA did some analysis ( and found that there was little correlation between a good finish and October success. I thought this line summed things up well:

    ‘It seems to me that it won’t matter as much how the Dodgers play this week, but rather how they play next week and beyond will determine their fate more than anything.’ ”

    # Teams with the better regular season record won 16 of 27 league championship series (59.3%)
    # Teams with the better record in the final 10 games won 11 of 20 league championship series (55.0%)
    # Teams with the better record in the final 20 games won 12 of 25 league championship series (48.0%)
    # Teams with the better record in the final 30 games won 9 of 24 league championship series (37.5%)


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