Last year happened. No need to go into specifics there. Everyone in the baseball world watched the mighty Boston Red Sox stumble pathetically during the last month of the season.
This year, while Bobby Valentine now paces the dugout, most of the players remain the same from the previous campaign. Much of the blame last year fell on the pitching staff, which is a completely valid assessment. They choked–big time. They weren’t alone, however, as Boston’s positional players matched them step-for-step en route to the collapse.
Believe it or not, out off all of this wreckage rises a phoenix of hope: This team is still really good. Call it an off-year, a hiccup, or whatever moniker floats your boat. The truth is that the Red Sox are an extremely talented group that just lost it mentally, emotionally–or both. There were some good things that happened last year, and some things that will have to change.
Here are some things that need to happen for the Red Sox to party like it’s 2004/2007:
Someone needs to tell Carl Crawford that more fans ≠ a different sport.
Poor Carl looked fazed all year. Somehow he forgot how to hit a baseball. Whether it was the number of people in the seats or the weight of his jumbo contract, he just wasn’t right. He showed flashes where you could see his overflow of talent, but they were few and far between. Let’s hope a year of big-market baseball under his belt will keep him at the top of the lineup.
David Ortiz needs to find–and share–his clutch box.
Statistically, Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez had pretty good years for themselves. Ortiz’s .309/29 HR/96 RBI season was arguably his best since ’07. Adrian’s .337/27 HR/117 campaign looks stellar on a stat sheet as well. The problem is that you can hit all you want, but if you don’t hit when it counts you lose games. There was absolutely no clutch mentality in this team.
A common way to calculate clutch is to look at a player’s REW (how many runs are expected to be scored based on a player’s performance) and his WPA (win probability added; how a player’s performance adds or subtracts from the chance of winning).
The WPA takes into account the inning and situation, thus helping show how a player faces pressure. Factored together these stats make up the “clutch factor”. Dense, I know, but all you really need to know is that Ortiz had his second worst clutch season (-1.46), and that Gonzo was pretty unstellar as well (-.45). They have both had multiple seasons with great clutch stats, so we know they can figure it out. It’s just too bad that they wasted career seasons by striking out when it counted.
Jacoby Ellsbury, do that again!
Just a fantastic (almost MVP) season from the speedy stud. His stats, both regular (.321/32 HR/98 RBI/39 SB) and clutch (1.82) were simply off the charts. He came through repeatedly when we needed him down the stretch. Unfortunately, none of this seemed to rub off on his teammates. It was great to see him bounce back from an injury plagued 2010. No critique to be found for Ellsbury here, just rinse and repeat.
For some, a little extra detergent might be in order.
All stats can be found at www.fangraphs.com.
Timothy Helgesen has lived in Massachusetts his entire life and feels blessed to be a Boston sports fan in this great period of championships. Follow him on twitter @tphelgesen.