Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

The topsy-turvy American League East

The topsy-turvy American League East.
Over the past 15 years, the American League East has become decreasingly predictable. Above: win totals from 1998 to 2012 by team.

Matthew Leach, writing for MLB.com, notes the recently emerging unpredictability of the American League East:

The division that set the standard for sameness is virtually unrecognizable these days.

Just a decade ago, the American League East race was the most predictable competition in sports. From 1998 through 2003, the five East teams finished in exactly the same order, every single year. Six straight seasons with the Yankees on top, the (Devil) Rays on the bottom, and the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles in order in between. It was baseball’s version of a caste system…

As the 2013 campaign approaches, though, that predictability is gone. Last year offered a taste, but this year might bring full-on chaos. And that’s great news — unless you’re a Yankees fan.

All five teams could finish in different positions than they did a year ago. Every club in the division has reason to think it can finish first. Every team in the division has reason to fear a flop. You want wide-open? You’ve got it.

Chris Lund, who wrote about this same phenomenon last December for The Hardball Times, was on the same page:

The Yankees and Red Sox both appear to be very expensive, mortal teams. The Tampa Bay Rays have several question marks on their roster. The Toronto Blue Jays have completely overhauled their roster, though how it will play out on the field remains to be seen. The Baltimore Orioles have stood pat thus far after a dream season one year ago.

The AL East seems as wide open as ever. Five teams are roughly capable of competing with one another, though many would score the Rays, Jays and Yankees as the favorites to come away with the division crown. Yet, with so much parity in the “toughest division in sports”, there has never been more reason to feel that the AL East has wandered into vulnerability.

The graph above tells the story. The biggest season-over-season improvement for any one team in the AL East over that 15-year period was that of the Tampa Bay Rays from 2007 to 2008. Not only did they improve from 66 to 97 wins — an astounding 31-win jump — but they literally changed their name as well. (In 2007, they were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The next year they became the Tampa Bay Rays.)

As for the single biggest drop, that dubious distinction belongs to my beloved Boston Red Sox, whose collapse this past year — 69 wins, versus 90 in 2011 — was really just a continuation of the disaster begun in September 2011.

Zooming out to include all Major League Baseball teams, I’ve analyzed every year-over-year win differential since 1996/1997. (Although the current divisional format began in 1994, both that season and the subsequent one were shortened by the infamous strike.) The largest change in win total from one year to the next took place from 1997 to 1998, when the Florida Marlins’ record plummeted from 92-70 in their sophomore year to 54-108 the next season. Going in the other direction, the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks improved on their 1998 total by 35 wins, jumping from an abysmal 65-97 record in their inaugural year to 100-62 in the followup.

The 2007/2008 jump of 31 wins for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays is second only to that leap by the Diamondbacks, going all the way back to 1996/1997 (a period that encompasses 506 entire team-seasons). Conversely, it provides me only a modicum of relief to note that the 2012 Red Sox’ 21-win dip is only bad enough to tie for 16th-worst year-over-year decline in that period — along with the 2002 Chicago Cubs (2001: 88-74; 2002: 67-95) and 2012 Philadelphia Phillies (2011: 102-60; 2012: 81-81).

Let’s just say I’m looking forward to putting all of this behind us for 2013. Oh, and go Red Sox.

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Baseball Prospectus figure of the day

From Baseball Prospectus 2013, page 53:

[The 2012 Boston Red Sox] missed 1,587 man-games to injury, second most of any team since 2007, as far back as our data goes. We estimate those injuries cost Boston 7.9 WARP [Wins Above Replacement Player], the most in baseball by 1.4.

Over at the web site, guest writer John Paschal takes a crack at why baseball players get injured so often, and in such bizarre fashion:

So, given the fact that objective math provides only an incomplete answer, we must turn to the subtle art of subjective guessing, with each of us hazarding a sound hypothesis as to why baseball players seem to suffer a disproportionate number of very odd mishaps—the sort that saw former infielder Chris Brown miss time because he “slept on (his) eye funny” and former infielder Geoff Blum land on the DL with an elbow injury he sustained while putting on a shirt. And let’s not forget the time All-Star Ron Gant, just a week after signing the largest single-season contract in history, broke a leg in an off-season motorcycle accident, or the day All-Star Larry Walker separated his shoulder while fishing.

“I’d say the reason baseball players injure themselves in weird ways is because they (a) have a lot of free time; and (b) they have a lot of money,” posits baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, of the NBC Sports website Hardball Talk, in an emailed response. “This allows them to fill that free time with all manner of fun and, occasionally, dangerous activities. Helping things along is that, as elite athletes, they have never had a particularly hard time doing things most people can’t do. I have this feeling a lot of them think they’re going to be immediately and effortlessly successful in other pursuits as well. Which, unfortunately, isn’t always the case.”

John Thorn, the Official Historian of Major League Baseball, is considerably more succinct.

“Randomness,” he writes.

Yes, it’s that time of year: I’m geeking out about baseball again.

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Red Sox on the trading block?

I don’t know whether this is a “say it ain’t so” moment or a time to shout “good riddance,” but the speculation is likely to stick around for awhile:

Whether or not Henry, Werner, and team president Larry Lucchino ever want to admit it, they have a credibility problem in this market and they always have. Much of it stems from their inability to honestly and sincerely communicate with the media or the fan base. Nonetheless, the first six or seven years of the Henry era were wildly successful, the Red Sox winning a pair of World Series titles and twice reaching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

As angry as Sox fans have been, dating back to September of last year, here’s the question: are the Red Sox owners and operators capable of recreating the operation that existed from roughly 2003 to 2008? Can winning here (and not money-making) ever mean as much to Henry and Werner as it did then? If you believe the answers are yes, then you should not want this group to sell. If the answers are no, then let’s hope Henry and his partners are telling lies and have every intention of unloading the franchise sooner rather than later.

Whatever you choose, be careful what you wish for. Frank McCourt is a native Bostonian and wanted the Red Sox back in 2002 … and he bankrupted the Los Angeles Dodgers several years later. The answer isn’t always inside of 128. The most frustrating part of the Henry era is that the Red Sox had a budding baseball dynasty, then let it slip through their fingers solely because they wanted to move on to new, bigger, and more exciting things.


Oh, and speaking of sports…

…I have to gloat about the only thing going right for my first love, the Boston Red Sox, this year:

Ten years ago, when the Boston Red Sox were sold to a trio of out-of-staters, the new owners signed a contract with state Attorney General Tom Reilly, promising to raise $20 million for area charities over 10 years. Soon after acquiring the team in February 2002, they established the Red Sox Foundation to fulfill that duty.

A report released Monday by the foundation reveals that it has donated more than twice that amount — a total of $52 million to charitable programs in the past decade — making the Red Sox by far the most charitable team in Major League Baseball.

The report offers a rare bit of good news for a team that has struggled all season, hovering at or near last place in the AL East standings.

Very rare indeed.

Can the baseball season get any worse for the Red Sox?

Actual tragedy, via Bleacher Report:

BOSTON — Boston Red Sox public address announcer Carl Beane, the voice of Fenway Park whose booming baritone called ballplayers to the plate for two World Series champions, died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack while driving. He was 59.

Carl Beane in Fenway Park Control Booth“We are filled with sadness at this tragic news,” Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said in a statement issued by the team that attributed the death to a heart attack. “His legion of friends with the Red Sox and the media will miss him enormously, and all of Red Sox Nation will remember his presence, his warmth, and his voice.”

The Worcester District Attorney said that Beane died in an accident after his car, an SUV with a spare tire cover stitched to look like a baseball, crossed the double yellow lines and left the road before hitting a tree and a wall. He was pronounced dead at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge a short time later, according to a release from D.A. Joseph D. Early Jr.

A longtime fixture in the Red Sox media who provided radio reports and gathered sound for broadcasters, including The Associated Press, Beane landed what he called his dream job when he won a competition for the job announcing the lineups at Fenway Park after the 2002 season. IN his second season, he announced the home games of the World Series when the Red Sox won the championship to end an 86-year title drought.