Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Redsox and Yankees in 2010: Who you got?

Following the announcement of the Red Sox signing Adrian Beltre last night, a discussion broke out on Twitter about whether this was a good or bad thing. We bantered a bit about whether a one year contract or a move to the friendly confines of Fenway Park might be a good thing or a bad thing. Then my good friend (and fellow Big Papelbon conspirator), Tim Walker, dropped the bomb on us...
@adamcohen @jimstorer @aaronstrout @peplau @DougH Bigger picture: the #redsox will not contend for the division this year, and that's that.

Whoa! If Tim wasn't a fellow Red Sox fan, I'd consider those fighten' words. Of course Tim has a point and that isn't that the Red Sox don't have a chance in 2010. Just that they don't stack up well against the men in pinstripes. So this got me thinking. For one, if you look at the Red Sox starting rotation, I'm pretty confident that we have an edge over the Yanks, particularly in numbers 3-5 (I'll give the Yankees a "push" on Sabathia and Burnett vs. Beckett and Lester). Yes, the Yankees did sign Javier Vazquez but he wasn't that impressive with the Yanks back in '04 (arguably one of their better years minus their ALCS performance). But the Sox have Lackey, Wakefield, Dice K, and Buchholz with up and comers Michael Bowden and Boof Bonser to boot.

Tim was willing to concede to my point about the pitching but correctly asserted that the Sox lineup wouldn't hold a candle to the "murderer's row" that the Yanks have assembled. While I don't think that there is as much of a disparity as Tim points out (Youk, Pedroia, Scutaro, Drew and VMart are all pretty decent hitters in their own right), I can't in good conscience try and argue that the Sox have a leg up on the Yanks. However, I will make the point that other than last year, the team with the best offense in the majors over the last decade has NOT been the World Series winner. In fact, teams like the '01 Arizona Cardinals, '03 Florida Marlins and '08 Philadelphia Phillies all won with a combo of good defense, great pitching and some timely hitting.

To back up my claim, I've listed the World Series winner and then the top run producer (my take on offensive dominance) in the column next to it. While I know there are a 1,000 different other stats/measurements like RBIs, OBP, OPS, etc., I think this is a fair measurment:
  • Year ----------------- Won WS ----------------- Best Offense (by runs)
  • 2009 -----------------Yankees ----------------- Yankees (915)*
  • 2008 ----------------- Phillies ----------------- Rangers (901)**
  • 2007  ----------------- Red Sox ----------------- Yankees (968)***
  • 2006 ----------------- Cardinals ----------------- Yankees (930)****
  • 2005 ----------------- White Sox ----------------- Red Sox (910)*****
  • 2004 ----------------- Red Sox ----------------- Red Sox (949)
  • 2003  ----------------- Marlins  ----------------- Red Sox (961)
  • 2002 ----------------- Angels ----------------- Yankees (897)
  • 2001  ----------------- DBacks  ----------------- Seattle (927)*******
  • 2000 ----------------- Yankees -----------------White Sox (978)********
*Red Sox were 3rd in runs w/ 872 in spite of losing in 1st round of playoffs

**WS winner, Philadelphia, was 8th in runs scored with 799

***WS winner, Boston, was 4th in runs scored with 867
****WS winner, St. Louis, was 14th in runs scored with 781
*****WS winner, Chicago (AL), was 13th in runs scored with 741
******WS winner, Florida, was 17th in runs scored with 751
*******WS winner, Arizona, was 7th with 818
********WS winner, NY (AL), was 10th with 871

At the end of the day, this is why we play the games, right?

Image credit: MLB


Tim Walker said...

Good points, Aaron. Some follow-ups:

~The Sox will have a solid or well-better-than-solid lineup this year -- and that includes hitters like J.D. Drew, who is consistently underrated by Sox fans. But the Yankees have them beat for hitting, not just overall, but individually at most positions.

~The Sox *could* win the division, and I like their chances at the Wild Card. All kinds of things could happen. But if you had to bet $100,000 on who will win the A.L. East . . . would you put it on Boston?

~The playoffs are fun precisely because we get such weird results sometimes. The D-Backs were three demigods and a bunch of guys named Ed. The Angels singled the Yankees to death. The Cardinals were just an outright fluke, but even their win is understandable based on (1) having the game's best player, (2) having a very good fundamental defense to back up solid pitching, and (3) the Tigers' totally unpredictable meltdown in the Series. It happens -- and good things could happen for the Sox from the Wild Card slot, too.

(BTW, note that the Phils were 8th overall in runs scored in 2008, but 2nd in the N.L. -- important b/c of the A.L.'s use of the DH.)

Aaron_Strout said...

Tim - I hear you. And by the way, I am very much enjoying this point, counterpoint. Especially with someone as knowledgeable/rationale as you.

I like your question about the fictitious $100K bet (although I'm on a losing streak bet-wise). While my money probably would go to the Yankees winning the division, I had to think for a minute before I made that decision with conviction.

As for your post script note, good point. Although it still speaks to the fact that the best hitting teams very often don't win it all, even if there is a built in bias against the NL with their lack of DH.

Doug Haslam said...

I was going to take the conversation on Twitter somewhere in that direction, so thanks for the stats, Aaron. Back in the day there was an ongoing stat that very few WS winners had a 30HR hitter. That no longer applies, I'm sure, but the point was, and remains:

- You need a good offense, but offense over a certain amount is piling on rather than helping you win games. For example, Granderson doesn't make the Yankees better, though it does solidify the outfield- though losing Melky was a bit of WTF to be honest.

- Instead of chasing a too-expensive bat you may or may not need (Texeira last year, Bay/Holliday this), the Red Sox are going with more of a sure thing- defense. Plus, even though we lost a bopper we gained some predictably consistent performers and have (most days) a lineup with no real holes in it. You want to pitch to Cameron batting 8th? Have fun with that.

- The Yankees' win last year had less to do with their incredible offense- which guaranteed they beat bad pitching, rather than all-but-guaranteeing it- it was the fact that all the gambles (Burnett? How did he not melt down in NY?) they took with the pitching staff paid off- big. Plus, they got away with what started as an awful bullpen, which actually gelled midseason, didn't it?

- I'm not proclaiming the Adrian Beltre signing a slam-dunk, but I do think he fits in this lineup. And with the Sox's pitching, they're probably one more Ramon Ramirez away from being very hard-to-hit, no matter who's hitting

Aaron_Strout said...

Doug - great additions (this is why I love doing a sports blog with a bunch of bloggers - each comment is it's own post).

Regarding Beltre, while he had a pitiful year last year (especially from a HR perspective), he's traditionally a 20+ HR/year hitter. And we only have him for 1 year (2 if we like him).

Given the fact Bill James predicted Bay to hit 32 HRs with the Sox [http://www.overthemonster.com/2009/10/27/1101661/bill-james-handbook-sneak-peak] - we've more than compensated for his departure with the additions of Beltre, Scutaro, Cameron and a full season of VMart behind the plate (subtract about 12 runs from LF, add 5 at 3B, 5 at SS and 5 at C).

This doesn't take into account that we have a better starting rotation (arguably the best in the majors form top to bottom) AND a marketedly better defense than last year with the only drop off coming at Catcher on the days that VMart is behind the plat.

Tim Walker said...

Right on, Doug.

Here's the thing: SUCH good hitting as the Yankees has does more than guarantee that you beat bad pitching. It also means that you "demote" EVERY pitching staff you face. Even a lights-out staff (which I think the Sox could have this year) becomes not-quite-lights-out. (Major reference point for all of this: 1998 Yankees.)

And you make an excellent point: facing a bottom 1/3 of Beltre, Cameron, and Scutaro will hardly be a walk in the park for opponents of the Sox.

Warren said...

Although the Yankees have an excellent lineup, I think too many of their core players are either old (Posada, Pettite, Rivera, Jeter, A-Rod) or brittle (Johnson, A-Rod, Swisher, Burnett). So the need for a bench becomes more acute. And they have none. Theo's done a great job of building a younger, more pitching and defensive oriented club. And the bench of Hermida, Lowell, Lowrie and even Varitek gives them many options. Couple that with the pitching depth and I'll take our chances.

Aaron_Strout said...

Warren - was just listening to WEEI today. They mentioned the importance of a bench if key players go down. They were also talking about the fact that the Sox arguably have the 2nd best offensive team in the AL (maybe Tampa Bay stacks up but I'm not buying that). That being the case, who really cares if we win the division. All we need to do is get to the Fall Classic and then let our big three pitch the shit out of a seven game ALCS.

Johnny Rooster said...

Another point is scouting often overcomes good hitting in the post season - look at how teams have shut down Dwight Howard and A-Rod in the postseason. However, defense and good pitching (at least to a point) can't be "solved" with good scouting. With that said, one team still needs to score more runs than the other, and we will have to see how the Sox do on that end.