The Last Ten: At the End of a Half
Record: 6-4 (42-38)
RS: 48; RA: 33 (407, 355)
Offense: .336 wOBA (.333)
See The First 50 for a wOBA and FIP primer.
The Red Sox offense was on a roll as the last ten games began. However, a trip out West seems to have put a damper on things. After providing run support of 8, 9, 6, 5, and 10 runs at home against the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays, they scored just ten runs in the last five games on the road against the Seattle Mariners and most recently, the Oakland A’s.
Since returning from the disabled list in mid-June, Cody Ross (.499 wOBA) has been a boon to the team. Over the last ten games, Ross set the pace; batting .371 with three home runs and four doubles. He also drew walks in 12.5% of his 40 plate appearances to contribute to a team best .450 on-base percentage during the stretch.
Beyond Ross, other major contributors of late have been David Ortiz (.411 wOBA), and Dustin Pedroia (.401 wOBA). The two combined to hit .301/.388/.562 with seven extra-base hits, including two home runs.
Adrian Gonzalez (.380 wOBA) is in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak that has pulled his batting average up 16 percentage points to .272, from a season low of .256 on June 22. It would be more reassuring though if he’d show some power. Despite batting .372 over the last ten games, only three of Gonzalez’s 16 hits have gone for extra bases.
Luck may have run out (or at least temporarily flipped) on Will Middlebrooks (.294 wOBA) and Daniel Nava (.249 wOBA). The two combined to hit .183 with a .616 OPS.** Both have, at times, played above their head, so a downturn isn’t surprising. It’s not time to abandon ship though, as the reality for both players likely exists somewhere in between the fast starts and the current lulls.
**OPS stands for ‘on-base percentage’ plus ‘slugging percentage’, a quick and crude method to get a sense of a player’s ability to both get on base and hit for power. League average the last couple years has been about .720-.730.
Pitching: 2.87 ERA, 3.84 FIP (4.15 ERA, 4.06 FIP)
With the exception of last night’s start by Daisuke Matsuzaka (1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 2/0 K BB) against the Oakland A’s, Red Sox pitchers have continued to put the team in the position to win. It’s because that start was an outlier, as well as the fact that Matsuzaka was placed on the disabled list this afternoon, that I’ve omitted it from the staff’s numbers from the period hence forward in this post. We can’t pretend that it didn’t exist, but given the context, it likely skews the overall picture.
Part performance, part sub-standard opponents (SEA, OAK), Red Sox starters have managed an excellent 2.72 ERA and 3.44 FIP over the last ten (nine) games. The discrepancy between the staff’s ERA and FIP is slightly exaggerated because of the two strong starts by Aaron Cook (14 IP, 2/0 K/BB, 0 HR/9, 2.77 FIP), in which he allowed only two earned runs (1.29 ERA) despite not doing the one thing that successful pitching is most often predicated upon: striking batters out.
FIP, when used in reflection over a small period, can undervalue a high-ground ball, low-strikeout pitcher. This is because it relies on the three true outcomes concept (see more here). As long as he’s getting a ton of weak ground balls (and they’re converted into outs) and limiting home runs, as Cook did in both starts, he’s capable of “beating” his FIP.
Franklin Morales (13 IP, 15/3 K/BB, 0 HR/9, 1.44 FIP) was another highlight during the run, striking out 28.8% of batters he faced enroute to a 1.48 FIP. His five-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio over the two starts (eight-to-one in three starts this season), if sustained over a long enough period of time, would rank at the top of MLB.
Where there’s good, there’s also bad though. According to his 5.62 ERA, as well as his peripherals, Felix Doubront (10.1 IP, 6/6 K/BB, 1.7 HR/9, 6.44 FIP) appears to have hit a wall. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against a strong Yankee lineup in his final start before the All-Star Break.
Relief pitching (1.85 ERA, 3.49 FIP) has somehow been one of the team’s biggest strengths this season and it was no different in the last ten games. If there’s a concern, it’s that as a group, the bullpen only struck out 16 of 125 total batters faced over the last ten games. That’s a rate of 12.8%, which is way off their mark on the season of 20.0%. It might though just be a case of using too narrow a scope and shouldn’t been taken as the expectation going forward. It’s more likely they’ll bounce back around the season average than remain in this strikeout rut.