The calls continue to flood in. A lot of listeners that are card-carrying members of Red Sox nation and even some Hub hosts are appalled, shocked and chagrined. Why are they upset? Two words. Thirteen letters. Run prevention.
Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, shortly after the off-season, had the nerve to say the dastardly expression on NESN. And soon, run prevention would take on a life of its own. By the time Jason Bay was taking a bite out of the Big Apple, some fans had already predicted failure. This run prevention “thing” was going to be the downfall of the 2010 season, even if it was only January.
The Red Sox would sacrifice some offense for gold glove caliber defense and a wicked staff; a starting rotation that will consist of three aces, a talented but inconsistent import and a young stud with front of the line stuff.
Listeners are aghast and want their Manny Ramirez- David Ortiz lineup back. Forget that this is the same GM that spearheaded two World Series Titles and a consistent winner, we’re being bamboozled. Well, let’s take a step back, analyze the facts and actually examine whether or not this is a strategy that can win.
First, let’s inspect the term. “Run prevention” has been a part of baseball since its inception. It might’ve been phrased differently, such as “defense wins championships” or “good pitching beats good hitting,” but it’s existed nevertheless. There are countless similar sayings that have been accepted as part of “sports lingo”. So, look past the term and dig deeper by asking the important question; how much worse is this offense?
Let’s compare three year averages between the major changes. We’ll use three years, because it’s a much better sample than looking at a single season. You may be surprised at the results:
Mike Lowell vs. Adrian Beltre
Lowell (386 Games Played) – .296 avg. 18 HR’s 89 RBI’s .351 OBP .829 OPS
Beltre (403 Games Played) – .269 avg. 19 HR’s 73 RBI’s .316 OBP .756 OPS
Mike Cameron vs. Jason Bay
Cameron (420 Games Played) – .245 avg. 23 HR’s 72 RBI’s .333 OBP .787 OPS
Bay (451 Games Played) – .266 avg. 29 HR’s 101 RBI’s .361 OBP .853 OPS
Marco Scutaro vs. Alex Gonzalez (2 year averages/Scutaro full time)
Scutaro (289 Games Played) – .274 avg. 10 HR’s 60 RBI’s .360 OBP 743 OPS
Gonzalez (222 Games Played) – .255 avg. 12 HR’s 48 RBI’s .302 OBP .714 OPS
Victor Martinez vs. Jason Varitek (3 year averages using most healthy seasons)
Martinez (455 Games Played; ’06, ’07 and ’09) – .306 avg. 21 HR’s 105 RBI’s .382 OBP .865 OPS
Varitek (395 Games Played; ’05, ’07 and ’08) – .252 avg. 17 HR’s 60 RBI’s .348 OBP .771 OPS
Total Differences (using three year averages above):
2009 Lineup Totals – .267 avg. 76 HR’s 298 RBI’s .340 OBP .792 OPS
Projected 2010 Lineup – .274 avg. 73 HR’s 310 RBI’s .348 OBP .788 OPS
Now, you can tell me that the ‘ole “eye test” doesn’t agree, but there’s a line from Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint 3” album that says: “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” The numbers say that if this Red Sox team can stay healthy, they won’t lose much total offense at all. Especially when you include lineup protection and project ball park adjustments.
This offense doesn’t carry the one or two or three big boppers any longer, but instead, consists of depth. When you look at the lineup one through nine, you have six batters who are more than capable of hitting 20 home runs or more this season. This is a team that will score runs and if they need another bat, they have the chips to go get one at the trade deadline.
With the offense not losing much and factoring in how good this rotation and defense figures to be, you should feel optimistic about this team winning 90-95 games. Maybe Epstein’s critics are just upset that he hasn’t built a New York Yankees like offense. But there’s two questions for those skeptics: who has a New York Yankees like offense other than…the New York Yankees? And, does it matter? Well, there’s an old adage…