The Pirate Princess RETURNSSSSS!
(The extra “s”s look ominous, don’t they? TooSoxy Dislclaimer: Lauren is on vacation. The following diatribe was submitted by Pirate Princess Jeb McRary in advance of Lauren’s departure. Lauren is not responsible for the content. She trusts her readers will “stick it to him” if Jeb is any way prickish in his writing. *Oh. And he wrote this like Thursday. Or Friday morning. When we were winning. I’m writing this Saturday. When we’re not. I hope that, by the time you read this, the Yankees have lost two games and we’re back at our rightful pinnacle. We are, right? If you have a guest-blog, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Not sure what my internet access is going to be- but it might make its way to your favorite sports blog. Um. Mine.)
Your worst nightmares have come true: The Pirate Princess has made his (her?) triumphant return! And by triumphant, I mean not triumphant at all. In case you didn’tnotice (and you probably didn’t) Pittsburgh has returned to their losing ways. Thanks to a poor offense that has finally reared its ugly head, some ill-timed bullpen miscues, managerial blunders and Secret Atlanta Braves fan and somehow-still-employed (sadly) umpire Jerry Meals, the Pirates are two games below .500 and 7 games out of first. The odds of a playoff berth are quite slim at this point. But no sour grapes from me! My goal at the start of the season was a .500 record and that’s still within reach. I can still dream.
But I’m not here to talk about the Pirates. I know my audience. I was asked to provide an “unbiased blog about who is going to be in the World Series.” And since I…
- Picked the Red Sox to win the World Series
- Don’t particularly care for the Red Sox
… who better than the Pirate Princess to provide some analysis?
I decided the best way to go about this was to break the Red Sox down into three components: Hitting, fielding and pitching. Revolutionary, I know! Most of you will probably be more familiar with your team’s strengths and shortcomings than I am but this is how someone who doesn’t follow Boston on a regular basis sees. Any data I use comes from Baseball Reference unless stated otherwise.
HITTING (The art of successfully making contact with a small white sphere)
This may come as a surprise to you, but Boston has a great deal of offensive firepower. I think Soxy already posted this article from the Wall Street Journal, but here it is again.
This article is actually combining players’ offensive performance and defensive performance. I can tell you that as of today that even if you exclude fielding performance, Boston STILL has FOUR players with a Wins Over Replacement (WAR) over 4.0. In case you’re not deeply ingrained in the field baseball sabermetrics, WAR is a metric that measures the number of additional wins a player provides a team over that team just playing a “replacement-level” player from AAA. Ellsbury, Gonzalez, Youkilis, and Pedroia are all hitting the 4.0 level mark just on offense. Few teams in history have been so blessed to have four position players performing at such high levels, but it’s not like the rest of the Red Sox are scrubs. Ortiz, Saltalamacchia, and Reddick have also provided at least an additional WAR with their offensive production. This embarrassment of riches at the plate has allowed Boston to score more runs than any team in baseball this year. Boston has scored 602 runs this year. Only SIX other teams have even scored 500 runs this year. Out of those six, the Yankees look to be the only lock to be in the postseason. Toronto and Cincinnati won’t be there while Arizona, St. Louis, and Texas are currently locked in tough divisional races. Boston has looked to be by far the best offensive team in baseball this year.
Prognosis: Very strong
FIELDING (The art of not allowing people to touch flat white squares and/or pentagons)
Boston is not as dominant in fielding as they have been in hitting but they’re no slouches either. Pedroia’s fielding has provided more than 1 WAR while Ellsbury and Gonzalez are very close to the 1.0 WAR level. On a sidenote, Pedroia’s fielding and hitting combined currently makes him the second most valuable player in the American League (behind Jose Bautista) and third in all the majors (Matt Kemp). The rest of the team is a bit of a wash in the fielding department, but Boston still compares favorably to most teams. In fact, the only playoff contenders that compare favorably to Boston in fielding are Arizona, Cleveland, and the Angels. The good news is I doubt any of those teams make the postseason and even if they did, have too many other issues to be a serious World Series contender.
Prognosis: Very good
PITCHING (The art of throwing a small white sphere in such a way as to confuse and flummox the recipient)
If Boston fails to win the World Series this year, the odds are quite strong it’ll be because of their pitching. Boston ranks right around the average in MLB with their pitching staff. They’re not bad, but they’re not exemplary as they are in the hitting and fielding departments. What’s worse is that most of the other likely playoff teams are better and significantly so. Let’s use Baseball-Reference and see how Boston’s pitching ranks with some other key contenders.
Overall Pitching WAR:
San Francisco 16.4
So Boston’s pitching is providing around 3.3 less wins than the next lowest team in this sample. Boston is nearly 6.5 wins lower than the average of the other teams in the sample. Let’s break it out into relievers and starters.
Relief Pitching WAR
San Francisco 5.9
Boston isn’t particularly great at relief pitching, but they actually pass Texas on that metric. The average of the other teams in the sample two wins better than Boston. Let’s check starters.
Starting Pitching WAR
San Francisco 10.5
Boston trails every team in this sample by at least two wins and the average by more than 4.5 wins. It gets even more worrisome when you break the starting pitching out by individuals. Every single team in this sample has five started with a positive WAR except Boston. Boston has three: Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz. If Boston had used those three starters and pitched every other game with AAA-level talent, they would be expected to have three more wins than their current record.
This ignores the addition of Erik Bedard. If Bedard performs at the level he did with Seattle this year, Boston’s pitching staff has improved. But the problem is even if you put him in the rotation and cut Lester from the team, Boston’s pitching is STILL behind the Texas staff.
Prognosis: Danger Will Robinson
Overall Outlook (in which I make bold predictions that will come back to haunt me)
Even with the pitching issues, I still think Boston is the best team in the American League. They are a near-certain lock to be in the postseason and even though they’re tied with the Yankees, I expect Boston to win the division. But it is important that they win the division. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say that home-field against Detroit and the Yankees is more conducive to a World Series appearance than being the away team against Texas and New York. If Boston fails to hold off New York for the AL East, I would probably pick against a Boston World Series appearance. I put the odds of Boston winning the division at around 60%. If they succeed, then I think Boston uses home-field advantage to win the ALCS. I picked San Francisco in the preseason to win the NL. I am ready to change that. Beltran will help but the offense is still going to be very weak. Even more concerning is that their vaunted pitching staff is not performing as well as Philly or Atlanta. Philadelphia has the best pitching staff in baseball and with the addition of Hunter Pence, the only NL team that can compete on offense is St. Louis. I predict a Boston-Philadelphia World Series. Boston will have the advantage on offense, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to score runs against the Halladay/Hamels/Lee triumvirate. As the NL won the All-Star Game this year, Philadelphia will also have home-field advantage. I think that’s too much for Boston to overcome.
Phillies in 6
I was told I had to say at least five nice things about the Red Sox. I think I already performed that task but just in case, here are five more:
The Red Sox were probably not responsible at all for yesterday’s terrible stock market sell-off.
No Red Sox players have been reported to be involved in any illegal high-stakes poker games involving cocaine use and/or violent thugs.
It’s been several weeks since David Ortiz looked like the worst fighter on the planet while playing Baltimore.
The Boston Red Sox had nothing to do with the death of Amy Winehouse.
To the best of my knowledge, the Boston Red Sox do not currently employ any child-murderers.
The Pirate Princess