Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good pitching beats good hitting

Those who believe the Red Sox still need another bat in the middle of the lineup make the point that the Red Sox too often were vulnerable against good pitching, too easily beaten by the elite arms in the American League.

In a lot of ways -- even though your small-sample-size alarm should start going off in situations like this -- they're right. Here's how the Red Sox fared last season against the top five opposing pitchers in the American League as ranked by ERA+:

Zack Greinke: 2-for-20 (.100), 0 R in 6 IP, .367 OPS
Felix Hernandez: 7-for-28 (.250), 3 R in 7 IP, .764 OPS
Roy Halladay: 24-for-109 (.220), 9 R in 29 IP, .614 OPS
Justin Verlander: 4-for-28 (.143), 0 R in 8 IP, .440 OPS
CC Sabathia: 17-for-99 (.172), 7 ER in 28 1/3 IP, .467 OPS

Opponents combined for a .641 OPS last season against those five pitchers. The Red Sox managed a .641 OPS last season against just one of them. Most hitters have trouble against elite pitching, but the Red Sox did seem to have more trouble than most.

Let's break it down even farther with the help of the numbers at, where hitters' statistics are broken down by opposing pitchers' ERA. Here's how each of the Red Sox fared last season against opposing pitchers with a sub-3.50 ERA:

Jason Varitek, C: .480 OPS
Kevin Youkilis, 1B, .642
Dustin Pedroia, 2B: .605
Nick Green, SS: .350
Mike Lowell, 3B: .669
J.D. Drew, RF: .727
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: .665
Jason Bay, LF: .778
David Ortiz, DH: .766
Roughly calculated average: .631 OPS

Compare that to the expected Opening Day lineup for this season -- still using, of course, last year's statistics:

Victor Martinez, C: .635 OPS
Kevin Youkilis, 1B: .642
Dustin Pedroia, 2B: .605
Marco Scutaro, SS: .881
Adrian Beltre, 3B: .614
J.D. Drew, RF: .727
Mike Cameron, CF: .569
Jacoby Ellsbury, LF: .665
David Ortiz, DH: .766
Roughly calculated average: .678 OPS

Contrary to popular belief, the Red Sox actually will field a team that's better at hitting good pitchers -- again, as defined by a sub-3.50 ERA -- than it was a year ago. Marco Scutaro, for one, was more than twice as productive against good pitchers as Nick Green was.

But is it enough? Just for fun, let's compare it to the Yankees' anticipated Opening Day lineup and how well Joe Girardi's team hits good pitching:

Jorge Posada, C: .842 OPS
Mark Teixeira, 1B: .816
Robinson Cano, 2B: .639
Derek Jeter, SS: .785
Alex Rodriguez, 3B: 1.066
Nick Swisher, RF: .714
Curtis Granderson, CF: .685
Brett Gardner, LF: .727
Nick Johnson, DH: .887
Roughly calculated average: .796

Yeah, there might still be room for the Red Sox to improve.

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