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Go Red Sox!

I try to limit the number of baseball posts, as I know that's not really our focus here. However, I can't resist congratulating the Red Sox on another amazing playoff comeback to win the American League Championship series. They overcame a 3-1 deficit, and outscored a strong Cleveland Indians team 30-5 over the last 3 games. Yay!!!!!!!!!!

From a sabermetric point of view, the interesting thing about the series is that the Red Sox hammered the Indians' two ace starters - C.C. Sabathia (my pick for the AL Cy Young Award) and Fausto Carmona - in all four of their starts and went 3-1 in those games. Yet the Indians managed to get enough good work out of their 3-4 starters and bullpen to almost win the series. Both of these events are unlikely occurrences. But low-probability events do happen in short playoff series, and this is the second straight Indians-Red Sox series where the Sox won three must-win games in a row to stave off elimination (the other was the 1999 AL Division Series).

In any event, I'm going to kick back and enjoy the World Series. If nothing else, a series held at Fenway Park and Coors Field should be extremely interesting, with lots of scoring. I think that the Red Sox are stronger than the Rockies in all three phases of the game, and posted a significantly better record while playing in a stronger league. However, anything can happen in a short series, so a Rockies victory would not be a huge surprise.

PabloF:
Ilya, that was one post too many. Go Yankees '08!
10.22.2007 2:45am
PabloF:
Ilya, that was one baseball post too many. Go Yankees '08!
10.22.2007 2:46am
Kovarsky (mail):
you really think the red sox are better than the rock's defensively? i haven't seen the numbers, but the rock's have a gold glove calibur shortstop and center fielder, the two most important fielding positions other than catcher. i don't know whether you've noticed the way lugo played, but that wouldn't make me feel so confident. i should also add that i'm an astros fan, and had the pleasure of watching the lugo circus for many years myself (lugo was ultimately replaced by adam everett, who is by any statistical measurement the best fielding shortstop in baseball).
10.22.2007 3:21am
Kovarsky (mail):
uh, "caliber"
10.22.2007 3:22am
Nathan_M (mail):

a gold glove calibur shortstop


Gold gloves like Derek Jeter, or the sort of gold glove who can catch the ball if it's not hit directly to him?
10.22.2007 3:25am
Kovarsky (mail):
actually, now that i think about it, the boston rotation is really leaky, and i wouldn't feel so great about it - i think most people would give the edge to the rockies there. boston obviously has the better 'pen though. although rockies have the best player on the field (holliday).

also, i just checked the fielding stats; colorado has the highest fielding percentage in baseball. that's obviously a stat that doesn't perfectly measure a team's defensive prowess, but it's not like the rockies are one of those teams that doesn't get to anything but executes everything they get to. they score well on range factor computations as well.
10.22.2007 3:26am
Nate F (www):
The Rockies are on a very hot streak. While I think Boston is more likely to prevail, I sort of hope they don't. I am not really a fan of this Yankee-esque practice of buying a team and sparing no expense that the Sox have adopted in recent years.
10.22.2007 3:26am
Kovarsky (mail):
the stat comparison between tulowitzki and jeter is pretty amazing. they played exactly the same number of games and almost the same number of innings.

yet tulo got 33% more chances (834 to 607) (which means far better range)

about 33 % more putouts (262 to 199)

about 40% more assists (581 to 390)

committed 7 fewer errors (18 to 11)

fielding .017 fielding percentage points higher (.987 to .970)

conclusion: tulo can pick it with the best of 'em; jeter is grossly overrated defensively.
10.22.2007 3:34am
Ilya Somin:
you really think the red sox are better than the rock's defensively? i haven't seen the numbers, but the rock's have a gold glove calibur shortstop and center fielder, the two most important fielding positions other than catcher.

The Red Sox have gold glovers at third base (Lowell) and catcher (Varitek). They also have gold glove caliber fielders in center field and right field. Lugo is not a great defensive shortstop, but he's not bad either. When you combine fielding percentage and range, I think the Red Sox have the edge here. In any event, there is certainly no clear edge to the Rockies of the sort that the Sox enjoy in both hitting and pitching, both of which are vastly more important than defense in determining game outcomes.

the boston rotation is really leaky, and i wouldn't feel so great about it - i think most people would give the edge to the rockies there. boston obviously has the better 'pen though. although rockies have the best player on the field (holliday).

The Boston rotation has its problems, sure. But Beckett (who could pitch 3 times in the series) is by far the best starter on either team, and Schilling has pitched very well since coming back from his injury. THe 3-4 starters are suspect, but so too are Colorado's 3-4 starters. When you factor in the bullpens, there's a clear pitching edge to the Sox.

As For Holliday, I won't run the numbers in detail due to lack of time, but there's no way he stacks up to Either Ortiz or Manny once his numbers are adjusted to take account of Coors Field. Indeed, Ortiz had a better OPS this year (1066 to 1012 for Holliday) even WITHOUT ballpark adjustments. With such an adjustment, Ortiz's OPS was 71% better than the AL average hitter, while Holliday's was 50% better than the NL average. And the AL is better than the NL.

See stats at baseballreference.com for the data.
10.22.2007 4:02am
NathanD (mail):
Looking at defensive efficiency (% of batted balls turned into outs), the two teams were both very good (#1 and #4 in baseball). But Boston was just a liitle bit better (70.4% to 70.1%). So the Rockies don't have any kind of an edge there.
10.22.2007 7:27am
GM Roper (www):
As a resident of one of the states of the Red Sox Nation (Texsox if you must know) I'm proud of the effort to come from behind that the Sox exhibited. However, Colorodo (which after the series will be renamed ColoREDo) will be a tough team to beat, but they will be beaten. Go Sox!
10.22.2007 9:40am
GM Roper (www):
10.22.2007 9:43am
GD (mail):
Coors field is no longer the highest scoring park in baseball. It is, in fact, now a pitcher's park:


Article
10.22.2007 10:21am
jrose:
Coors is still a hitter's park, but not nearly as much as it used to be.

The problem with Gardner's analysis is he only looks at total runs scored in Coors instead of comparing runs scored in Rockies games played at home versus on the road.
10.22.2007 10:45am
Mikeyes (mail):
Hooray for the boys of November!!!

If the series goes to seven games, it might be called on account of snow.
10.22.2007 10:54am
Bpbatista (mail):
What?!? The Red Sox were playing the Indians? I didn't know that. From the national media reports it seemed that the Red Sox weren't playing anyone but some how still managed to go down in the series 3-1. All the media reports were about the Red Sox losing, not another team winning. Same with the Yankees. They seem to have lost to no one but themselves. I'm sure the same will happen in the World Series. One will have to scour the national media reports very carefully to figure out who, if anyone, the Red Sox are playing in the World Series -- Even if the Sox get swept in 4 games.
10.22.2007 10:58am
curt:
Actually, Ilya, you forgot to mention this year's Gold Glove at first base. Youk was error free!!
10.22.2007 11:04am
Pete Freans (mail):
They overcame a 3-1 deficit, and outscored a strong Cleveland Indians team 30-5 over the last 3 games. Yay!!!!!!!!!!

Boooo!!!!!!....says the Phillies fan
10.22.2007 11:12am
jrose:
Ilya,

Why do the Sox have a big advantage in hitting when the two teams scored about the same number of runs, with the Sox getting a DH in a slightly less hitter-friendly park?
10.22.2007 11:18am
Pius XXX:
Rox? Red Sockies? I don't care. I am too busy being despondent for my beloved Yankees.
10.22.2007 11:21am
frankcross (mail):
The Sox won more games in a much tougher American League. But in a short series . . .
10.22.2007 11:35am
Cold Warrior:

The Red Sox have gold glovers at third base (Lowell) and catcher (Varitek). They also have gold glove caliber fielders in center field and right field. Lugo is not a great defensive shortstop, but he's not bad either. When you combine fielding percentage and range, I think the Red Sox have the edge here. In any event, there is certainly no clear edge to the Rockies of the sort that the Sox enjoy in both hitting and pitching, both of which are vastly more important than defense in determining game outcomes.


This is incorrect. The Rockies are, by any account, the best fielding team in baseball. The Red Sox are certainly a good fielding club, too, so the edge isn't particularly great. Defensive Efficiency Rating is the best stat for evaluating overall team defense. See the baseballprospectus.com page. The clubs are close: Boston .712, Rockies .703. But you have to take into account Coors Field here -- with the big outfield and the way the ball carries, outfielders play deeper and allow a lot of singles to drop in. Correcting for that probably give the Rockies the edge.

The Red Sox pitching is clearly superior. It isn't even close there.


As For Holliday, I won't run the numbers in detail due to lack of time, but there's no way he stacks up to Either Ortiz or Manny once his numbers are adjusted to take account of Coors Field. Indeed, Ortiz had a better OPS this year (1066 to 1012 for Holliday) even WITHOUT ballpark adjustments. With such an adjustment, Ortiz's OPS was 71% better than the AL average hitter, while Holliday's was 50% better than the NL average. And the AL is better than the NL.


The AL is better than the NL. But you've got the park effects all wrong. As far as the runs park factor, Fenway and Coors are roughly equal. They are both excellent hitters' parks. Coors is no longer the monster it used to be, but it certainly is not a "pitchers' park" by any stretch.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor

The Rockies have a deeper overall batting order, but we're dealing with two very productive offenses here. There's really little to choose between the two.
10.22.2007 11:43am
LongSufferingRaidersFan (mail):
Ah, they're playing baseball? As long as it Boston or New York, the rest of us (i.e, 99% of the country) really don't care...
10.22.2007 12:01pm
WHOI Jacket:
Life-long Braves fan, but willing to pull for the Sox, since it's a residency requirement here in the Commonwealth.
10.22.2007 12:39pm
BRL:

The AL is better than the NL. But you've got the park effects all wrong. As far as the runs park factor, Fenway and Coors are roughly equal. They are both excellent hitters' parks. Coors is no longer the monster it used to be, but it certainly is not a "pitchers' park" by any stretch.

To back up Cold Warrior on this, the Rockies started storing balls for home games in a humidor a few years ago to dampen the Coors Field Effect.
http://espn.go.com/mlb/news/2002/0508/1379809.html
The Discovery Channel show Mythbusters tested this in one of their episodes and the results seemed pretty convincing. Dry balls went further than normal balls which in turn went further than damp balls.
10.22.2007 1:13pm
Ilya Somin:
Why do the Sox have a big advantage in hitting when the two teams scored about the same number of runs, with the Sox getting a DH in a slightly less hitter-friendly park?

Because the Red Sox did it against tougher opposition and in a park that is less hitter-friendly than Coors (which is still clearly the best hitters' park in the majors).
10.22.2007 1:18pm
WHOI Jacket:
The DH is proof of the AL's inherent inferiority. At least we expect our pitchers to bat in the NL.
10.22.2007 1:24pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
WHOI - You can cheer for the Braves here - same as cheering for the Dodgers in Brooklyn. (Given that I think like that, and still consider the Mets an expansion team, I say Rockies who?)

I was brought up in the Bronx, but I left a job I disliked in Mets country to move here at the time of the Them vs. Them 1986 series, and I found that cheering for the Sox didn't cause me to combust. I figure I live here now, my in-laws and my children are natives, so I cheer for the home team.
10.22.2007 1:24pm
Kovarsky (mail):
ilya,

Because the Red Sox did it against tougher opposition and in a park that is less hitter-friendly than Coors (which is still clearly the best hitters' park in the majors).

as several people have pointed out, after the advent of the humidor, much has been made about how coors is no longer coors. i just don't think the numbers bear out what you're saying about there being a pronounced difference in the two parks. i'm an astros guy; i watch every astros game at coors on tv, and every time we go there there's some feature on how the humidor has dramatically changed the way balls fly off the bat there.

it is STILL a very strong hitter's park; but the numbers just aren't as inflated as they used to be.
10.22.2007 1:30pm
Kovarsky (mail):
478 to 372 (runs at home v. runs away - colorado)

472 to 395 (runs at home v. runs away - boston)

as someone upstairs pointed out, it's really only a slightly better hitters advantage at coors.
10.22.2007 1:37pm
glangston (mail):
I hear the knuckleball of Tim Wakefield will not work well in Coors Field.

Anyway it seems both teams have some definite home team advantages.
10.22.2007 1:40pm
nunzio:
The Rockies took the Red Sox down 2 to 1 in June in Fenway Park.

They rocked Josh Beckett. The best measure of success is actually measuring the two teams in head-to-head competition.

Rockies in 5
10.22.2007 1:48pm
jrose:
Because the Red Sox did it against tougher opposition and in a park that is less hitter-friendly than Coors (which is still clearly the best hitters' park in the majors).

1) Data has been presented to support the conclusion that (at best) Coors is only slightly more of a hitter's park than Fenway.

2) You did not address my point that the DH offsets the Coors effect (the AL scored 4% more runs than the NL).

3) What evidence supports the claim that the Red Sox opposition pitching/defense was tougher than the Rockies?
10.22.2007 2:07pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
So the baseball crap is finally over and I can watch "House" and "Prison Break" again? Good, finally. I hate that baseball crap, they should keep it on ESPN or some all-sports channel (or make a new channel for those who want to watch it) so it doesn't interfere with regular TV. So annoying to those of us who don't give a rat's ass about baseball. Frankly, other than 2 cities out of the tens of thousands in America, I don't see why anyone would care (other than the families/friends of the players). One city's team beat another's, yay.
10.22.2007 2:10pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Oh wait I just re-read it, it was only the AL championship, so that means there will still be a world series clogging up my TV channels? Can they at least put it on CBS which has no good TV shows? Crap.
10.22.2007 2:11pm
Kevin R:
Sox in 6.

There are rumors that Wakefield will pitch game 2, to keep him in Fenway instead of at Coors. (Plus we won't lose Varitek and Lowell/Youkilis in the same game. When's the NL going to get out of the 60s and adopt the DH?)
10.22.2007 3:25pm
New Pseudonym (mail):
Considering the stated weakness of the 3-4 Boston starters and the speculation of snow days, perhaps Boston can have a rotation like its NL team did in 1948. After all, "Schilling" rhymes with 'chilling". See e.g. "Sain" and "rain."
10.22.2007 3:31pm
bittern (mail):

As long as it Boston or New York, the rest of us (i.e, 99% of the country)

You figuring 99% by area or what? Da Bronx is nearly half a percent itself -- by population; by area, not so much.
10.22.2007 3:42pm
Al Maviva (mail):
I liked the RedSox when they sucked, even though I'm a Yankees fan. I respected the fan loyalty and the fact they were a good club, perenially, with the odds stacked against them. But since the ownership group started pouring money into the roster at a Steinbrenneresque rate, they became consistent contenders, picked up whole new legions of baseball know-nothing fans, and basically became the mid-90s Dallas Cowboys.

Yeah, success must be sweet for all you Sox fans, but how does it feel to have turned into what you despised for 80+ years? Any twinges at all? I'd walk away from the game if the Yankees and the hardcore fans, those of us who've been with the club our entire lives, started evolving into the Cubs and their lackadaisical fanbase. The Cubs and their fans are innocuous enough and hard to hate, but I still wouldn't like it, losing isn't something the Yankees organization or club is willing to put up with, and that's what underlies Steinbrenner's tampering, the locker room blowups, the huge payroll (much of which is owed to guys who aren't even playing at NY any more). I used to think the Sox were different but they are starting to look a lot like what Theo Epstein until recently called "The Evil Empire." How do you deal with that as fans? Any cognitive dissonance at all?
10.22.2007 4:02pm
WHOI Jacket:
I'm telling you. You don't want Matsuzaka pitching at altitude.
10.22.2007 4:15pm
JB:
Beckett and Schilling if the weather is willing?
10.22.2007 4:22pm
PLR:
I grew up in Massachusetts as a Red Sox fan, leaving for college a couple of years after the great (but losing) series against the Reds in 1975.

Last night during the celebration, David Ortiz brought the A.L. trophy onto the diamond and hoisted it to the cheers of thousands. I couldn't help thinking back to the time when the comparably built and affable George Scott was with the Sox, and the talented and moody Reggie Smith patrolled the outfield with fan favorites Yaz and Tony C.
10.22.2007 4:27pm
frankcross (mail):
Al Maviva with the Bill Rhoden argument.

When they signed Gagne, my fondness for the Sox took a big hit. That was classic ugly Yankees behavior, signing a player to keep him away from an opponent (and then suffering the consequences). But Manny and Papi are so darn appealing, I can't resist them.
10.22.2007 6:35pm
Ilya Somin:
When they signed Gagne, my fondness for the Sox took a big hit. That was classic ugly Yankees behavior, signing a player to keep him away from an opponent (and then suffering the consequences). But Manny and Papi are so darn appealing, I can't resist them.

I don't think they signed Gagne just to keep him away from the Yankees. They genuinely thought they could get some good use out of him. That's why they repeatedly used him in key situations in August - with disastrous results. The Gagne trade was a bad move. But it was not Yankee-like.
10.22.2007 6:48pm
Zywicki (mail):
It is definitely a good time to be a Boston sports fan--the Red Sox, Patriots, Boston College football, and the revilatized Celtics. Even the Bruins don't stink this year.
10.22.2007 6:57pm
frankcross (mail):
At the time of the trade, the Red Sox had the best bullpen in the American League. The Yankees were dying with bullpen problems. Sure, the Sox wanted to use him, but that deal made no sense to me. Gabbard had shown a lot of potential and it was old Yankees-like to trade a blossoming young player for an old established star. Plus, the two minor leaguers. To bolster a bullpen that had the best record in baseball?
10.22.2007 7:40pm
theobromophile (www):
YAY!!!!

What a game. What a comeback. Very happy that the Sox did it again - of course, nothing can rival the comeback of the 2004 ALCS. Looks like another semester of law school with more time spent watching baseball than reading my casebooks.
10.22.2007 7:57pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
It is definitely a good time to be a Boston sports fan--the Red Sox, Patriots, Boston College football, and the revilatized Celtics. Even the Bruins don't stink this year.
BC has the misfortune of being ranked second this week. The second-ranked team has lost the last three weekends in a row. Since BC has to play 11th-ranked Virginia Tech next weekend, there's a very real chance the streak will continue.

I used to live in Boston and I've got nothing against BC, but it will be easier to believe in them if they win their next game. Until then, I'm focusing on the Sox and the Pats.
10.22.2007 9:34pm
KeithK (mail):
BruceM:

I don't see why anyone would care (other than the families/friends of the players). One city's team beat another's, yay.

You sir are un-American! In my day you would've been taken out back and thrashed for saying that. Actually, I'm not that old but I like to think that was the attitude back when baseball really was the national pastime.
10.22.2007 9:36pm
KeithK (mail):
But Manny and Papi are so darn appealing, I can't resist them.

I'll give you Ortiz. Even as a Yankee fan I respect him. But in what possible alternate universe is Manny Ramirez appealing? The man is a self-centered spoiled brat. Yes, you may like the numbers he puts up but like the player?
10.22.2007 9:41pm
byomtov (mail):
All else aside, the Rockies really need to lose those slow-pitch softball uniforms.

Then we can talk.
10.22.2007 9:41pm
sigh (mail):
Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland...
My heart remains broken, having never recovered from when the Indians lost the World Series to the evil Marlins...
10.22.2007 9:45pm
frankcross (mail):
I love Manny because, well, he be's Manny. I don't think he's a self-centered, spoiled brat, anymore than other major league players. I think he's disingenuous and honest, unlike most of them. And a total flake.
10.22.2007 11:38pm
theobromophile (www):

But in what possible alternate universe is Manny Ramirez appealing? The man is a self-centered spoiled brat. Yes, you may like the numbers he puts up but like the player?

Ah, you don't remember the memorable line about "we're just a bunch of idiots playing baseball?" He's one of the "idiots" in question - which is, in many ways, entirely loveable. He makes millions every year but doesn't take himself too seriously. Manny is the one who, IIRC, held up a sign during the 2004 victory parade through downtown Boston that said, "Jeter is playing golf today. This is better!"
10.23.2007 1:04am
Visitor Again:
Zywicki wrote:

It is definitely a good time to be a Boston sports fan--the Red Sox, Patriots, Boston College football, and the revilatized Celtics. Even the Bruins don't stink this year.

This illustrates the dangers of letting your thoughts run wild. On the same day you wrote this, my Montreal Canadiens thrashed the Boston Bruins, 6-1. Reminded me of the good old days of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.

I don't like the Red Sox, but I do like Manny Ramirez. Not just for what he says, which is based on a healthy perspective of what the game is and what he does for a living. That was a pretty fine catch he made to end game seven; he was going at a pretty good clip when he took the ball and ran into the wall. Perhaps not a Willy Mays 1954 catch, but good enough to earn some cheers from me.

This is from one who remembers hearing the cheers from Fenway Park waft across the Charles River to married student housing during the 1967 World Series, which came during my last year in law school. The cheers did no good; the Red Sox failed then in seven games, just as they later did in 1975 and 1986.

I didn't go to any of the 1967 games; I used up my sports budget going to the old Boston Garden to watch the Canadiens take on the Bruins seven times a season in the old six-team setup--and even a few more times if the Bruins made the playoffs and met Montreal. I saw Bobby Orr's first NHL goal, a screaming slap shot from the left point--against the Canadiens in his rookie 1966-67 season.

I also took in a few Celtics games, particularly against Cincinnati, which had Oscar Robertson, a star among stars. They're the only Boston team I ever cheered for. I couldn't help myself; the Celts of those days, with Bill Russell, were a wonderful team.
10.23.2007 4:45am
Peter Margulies (mail):
Theo Epstein is a genius, and Manny is a product of the Bronx - what could be better. Speaking of which... next year (there's always next year) I believe the Yankees can field a better rotation, with Hughes, Kennedy, and Chamberlain joining Wang and Mussina, and Tony Pena as manager!
10.23.2007 3:43pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
KeithK: most americans these days couldn't physically stand for 9 innings of baseball, let alone run around a baseball diamond. To the extent they feel that "they" have any interest in baseball (beyond gambling) is hypocritical. Whenever I see a fat drunkard yelling "we won! we won!" after his city's team wins a game, I want to point out that he did absolutely nothing other than yelling, drinking beer, and eating porkrinds.

I don't care if people like it, but what happens on "Prison Break" and "Bones" is seriously infinitely more important than who wins the World Series to me. And neither of those things are even marginally important in terms of life. So, I shouldn't have to miss "important" TV shows because of baseball (or football or basketball) game finals. There should be a separate channel for that; the networks can take turns sharing in the commercial revenue each year, but it should not interrupt regular network programming. Reserve channel "1" for such things, to be dead air at all other times. Then everyone can feel like a winner, and be mindwashed by TV at the same time.
10.24.2007 4:34am