Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Totally random Red Sox statistics (subscription required) has one of the most impressive inventories of obscure statistics imaginable. With the Red Sox still idle for one more day -- what's the point of a day off two days after the All-Star Game, by the way? -- it seemed like a good time to dive into the ocean of statistics and see what we could dig up:

The Bill James plus-minus baserunning analysis gives a player one point for advancing an extra base where an average player would not -- be it stealing a base, scoring from second on a single or beating out a double-playball -- and takes away three points for being thrown out on the bases when an average player would not have been thrown out. The numbers are broken down between baserunning, stolen bases and net gain. Zero is average.

The point, of course, is that baserunning has to do with far more than speed. Baserunning has to do with instincts and understanding game situations as much as it does the ability to get from base to base as fast as possible.

Jason Varitek: -2
BR: -2
SB: 0

Kevin Youkilis: -1
BR: -3
SB: +2

Dustin Pedroia: +7
BR: +3
SB: +4
(A year ago, Pedroia had a minus-7 baserunning score but a plus-18 stolen-base score.)

Nick Green: -11
BR: -4
SB: -7

Mike Lowell: -17
BR: -15
SB: -2
("What I do really isn't called 'sprinting.'")

J.D. Drew: +7
BR: +9
SB: -2

Jacoby Ellsbury: +27
BR: +1
SB: +26
(We all know he's a tremendous base-stealer -- but isn't it a little of a surprise that Drew and Pedroia both are better at taking the extra base during the run of play?)

Jason Bay: +17
BR: +9
SB: +8
(For a guy who's not particularly fast, he's an outstanding baserunner.)

David Ortiz: -6
BR: -2
SB: -4
(In case you were hoping for a surprise, well, sorry.)


Performance as leadoff man
Much has been made about who should be leading off for the Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew all have had their turns, and Kevin Youkilis wouldn't be a terrible fit there, either. The mission of a leadoff hitter is to set the table so the team scores some runs -- and here's a measure of how many runs are scored when each of the above players leads off an inning:

Average Red Sox player: 0.6 runs per inning

Jacoby Ellsbury (116 innings led off): 0.73 runs per inning
* Reached base 33 times; team scored 49 runs in those innings (1.48)#
* Did not reach base 83 times; team scored 36 runs (0.43)
#: Ranks seventh in the major leagues behind Justin Morneau, Jimmy Rollins, Jason Bartlett, Torii Hunter, Brandon Inge and Jerry Hairston. Ryan Howard, Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Young round out the top 10.

Dustin Pedroia (95 innings led off): 0.67 runs per inning
* Reached base 35 times; team scored 43 runs in those innings (1.23)
* Did not reach base 60 times; team scored 21 runs (0.35)

J.D. Drew (75 innings led off): 0.53 runs per inning
* Reached base 22 times; team scored 21 runs in those innings (0.95)
* Did not reach base 53 times; team scored 19 runs (0.36)

Kevin Youkilis (61 innings led off): 0.52 runs per inning
* Reached base 25 times; team scored 15 runs in those innings (0.60)
* Did not reach base 36 times; team scored 17 runs (0.47)

It's not a huge sample size, but it does lend some credence to the idea that Ellsbury ought to be back at the top of the batting order sooner rather than later.


Performance by quality of opposing pitcher

Pretty self-explanatory. Sorted by ERA. Listed by OPS.

Jason Varitek
Sub-3.50: .728
3.51-4.25: .460
4.26-5.25: 1.030
5.25-plus: .936

Kevin Youkilis
Sub-3.50: .916
3.51-4.25: .926
4.26-5.25: .821
5.25-plus: 1.234
(Great against good pitching. Awesome against bad pitching.)

Dustin Pedroia
Sub-3.50: .730
3.51-4.25: .848
4.26-5.25: .670
5.25-plus: .990
Nick Green
Sub-3.50: .666
3.51-4.25: .688
4.26-5.25: .662
5.25-plus: .875
(Really struggles against anything but bad pitching.)
Mike Lowell
Sub-3.50: .694
3.51-4.25: .727
4.26-5.25: .636
5.25-plus: 1.085
J.D. Drew
Sub-3.50: .720
3.51-4.25: .740
4.26-5.25: .829
5.25-plus: 1.167
Jacoby Ellsbury
Sub-3.50: .571
3.51-4.25: .823
4.26-5.25: .603
5.25-plus: 1.012
Jason Bay
Sub-3.50: .697
3.51-4.25: .987
4.26-5.25: .856
5.25-plus: 1.114
David Ortiz
Sub-3.50: .668
3.51-4.25: .820
4.26-5.25: .623
5.25-plus: .848
What's interesting about this stat is how it applies to the old idea of how good pitching always beats good hitting (and vice versa). Youkilis, Drew, Ellsbury and Bay all tear bad pitching apart (to the tune of a 1.000-plus OPS). But only one player even has an OPS of .750 against great pitchers -- Youkilis is at .916 -- and Drew (.720), Varitek (.728) and Pedroia (.730) are the only ones above .700.
Those might be the guys the Red Sox will need to see producing both in games against tough pitchers down the stretch as well as in Game 1 and 2 of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series.

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