Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pitching and Defense

It looks like Jason Bay has finally passed his physical, and has finally been announced as the newest member of the New York Mets. This means, he is officially not returning to the Boston Red Sox. Now, that’s probably not groundbreaking news of any sort. But, it’s interesting. Theo is once again trying to convince Red Sox Nation that pitching and defense will win championships more than offense. Should we fall for it?
Remember, Theo’s been using this line ever since he came to the Sox. When he traded a certain All-Star shortstop for a bag of magic beans, he claimed it was because the defense would cost them everything. The “fatal flaw” line was trotted out so often, he sounded like he was a Shakespeare professor. Of course, when the Sox won the Series that year, the idiotic move was covered up. Now Theo’s trying it again. The big bat isn’t necessary. All you need is to prevent runs, and you’ll win just as many games. To enforce that, Theo went out and got a gold glove third baseman, to replace the current gold glove third baseman. (Yeah, I have no idea either) The one problem with the PnD route, is that in order to win a game 1-0, you need to score 1 run. In order to win 3-2, you need to score 3. A quick look at the Red Sox rotation has ERA’s in the 3-4 range. So, even if this amazing defense saves a run a game…which isn’t exactly likely…the Sox need to score 3-4 runs every game. Is it there? I don’t know.
I’m not saying that the PnD theory can’t work. It has worked. The look of the 2010 Sox looks a lot like the offense of the LA Angels the last few years. Lots of team speed. Lots of guys who all hit pretty well. An offensive anchor in the middle of the line-up. It can work. Looking at the list of World Series winners from the decade suggests that quite a few teams have won using that theory. A quick listing puts the 2001 D-Backs, 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2005 White Sox, and the 2006 Cardinals as PnD champions. That’s actually quite a few…more than half. The 2004 and 2007 Sox, 2008 Phillies, and 2009 Yankees were more sluggers. The ’09 Yankees were really a hybrid. They slugged their way into the playoffs, but the schedule let them morph into a pitching team when it suited them. What’s the point? The only double winner was the slugging Sox. When you have power in the line-up, you can depend on that production. The PnD theory produced the occasional champion, but it was almost flukey. When everything aligned for a year, it came together. The other years, it didn’t work.
Let’s look at the different ways you can score a run during an inning. You can have a strike out, followed by a strikeout, followed by a solo home run from Manny. Or, you can get a single, advance him on a groundout, a walk, a flyball to advance, and a single. Lots of things need to happen in order to score the second way. Only one thing has to happen when you slug. It’s more dependable to have a couple superstars hitting a lot than it is to assume that everyone in the line-up hits a little. If you can’t score runs, all the pitching and defense in the world can’t help you.
After all, I once saw Pedro go 17-6 with a 1.74 ERA.


  1. I don't think that trading away Nomar was an idiotic move at all. In 2004, the Sox had offense to spare and could afford to trade away a bat for better defense. Nomar never was the same player after hurting his wrist and once he started sulking in 2004, it was time for him to go. The fact that he sulked so publicly during a Red Sox/Yankees game that featured Jeter diving into the stands to make a play allowed Theo to make the move without being run out of town. He didn't do much after leaving Boston so the Sox sold at the right time.

    The Sox don't have as much offense right now, but they've also only signed Beltre to a one year deal. There wasn't much available on the free agent market and the Sox want to keep their options available for next year or a deadline deal for Adrian Gonzalez. It would be one thing if Beltre had been signed for 4 or 5 years, but that's not what they did. Now next year they can chase both Gonzalez and Mauer and will have third open for Youk.

  2. It's not the Beltre move I mind on its own. I'm sure Beltre will be just fine. It's that I don't see him as a big improvement over Lowell, who is still under contract. Seems like a waste of money to me.

    And, BTW, Jeter dove into the stands after making a play, not to make a play.


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