I know the quick answer. They won one fewer game than they needed to. That’s true. That’s also going to make this a harder exercise. Basically, they needed one more hit in any number of key spots. Or, one more strike in any number of key spots. They needed one less double play with the bases loaded. I get that. But, beyond the specifics of a single game, what happened with this team?
I took a look at the offensive stats for this season. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised. Did you know that the Red Sox led the major leagues in runs scored? How about on-base percentage? Slugging Percentage? OPS? RBI? Yup. They were the major league leaders in all those categories. They were second in batting average, and third in home runs. So, we can complain about Carl Crawford being ineffective all we want. We can wish JD Drew were on the field more (or less, depending on your point of view). But, the Red Sox had the best offense in the major leagues. Can’t ask for much more than that. It must be a problem with the pitching.
I bet you guessed that too. You’ve probably read once or twice that the Red Sox team ERA wasn’t great. And, you’d be right. They finished at 4.20 for the season. That’s 22nd in the league. Just for comparison’s sake, the four playoff teams had team ERAs of: Tampa 3.58, Texas: 3.79, NYY: 3.73, and Detroit: 4.04. Hmm. Not really as drastic as I would have thought. Let’s look at runs. The Red Sox gave up 737 runs in 2011. The Rays 614. That’s a lot fewer. The Yankees 657. 80 fewer. The Rangers 677. 50 fewer. Tigers 711. 26 fewer. There’s not a lot of separation there at the end. It gets even more confusing when you look at WHIP. The Sox ranked 16th in baseball in WHIP. Ahead of both the Yankees and the Tigers (barely). So, what happened? They allowed fewer base runners, but more of them scored? The also had a lower batting average against than both NY and Detroit…by ten points. So, the Sox gave up fewer base runners than those two teams that finished with more wins. But, they allowed more runs. So, a much higher percentage of their base runners scored? But, they weren’t allowing hits as often, or walking people as often. How were they scoring? Was it just the timing of the hits? The Yankees allowed 1 hit every inning, but the Sox had seven hitless innings but two innings with four hits in them? They were just bunched together instead of spaced apart? What does that mean? Is that a problem that can be fixed? Is it bad luck? How do you improve on giving up runs when you’re not allowing hits or walks?
This isn’t going to be easy.