Mistaken Blame in Beantown

Reputations and public conceptions are hard to shake, even in the light of contradictory evidence. The Red Sox through the 2000s were known as heavy hitting team thanks in part to the exploits of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and a good supporting cast. With Ramirez gone and David Ortiz visibly declining last season, the Red Sox changed course over the winter and tacked toward a pitching and defense-oriented ball club.

Despite a recent spate of acceptance of the value of good defense can bring amongst mainstream fans and pundits, the praising of it still tends to be limited to teams with good overall records. After all, defense first is a strategy whose fruits are hard to see. People can easily digest the value of a home run. Excellent outfield range is a lot harder. So if the team is doing poorly after deemphasizing offense, then said plan comes under easy attack.

It’s no surprise that Boston’s 19-19 record and current fourth place standing in the AL East has them facing some of these criticisms. The problem is that Boston’s offense is not the unit that is letting down the team, far from it in fact. Even with the continued demise of David Ortiz the Boston offense remains strong. So strong that by batting runs alone, they rank fifth in the Major Leagues. They are well ahead of the sixth-ranked Tigers and within easy striking distance of third-place Minnesota.

What’s actually been felling the Red Sox involves more shades of gray than a simple black hole on offense. The bullpen has been mediocre to downright bad with high walk totals and only average strikeout figures. The defense has also been merely average when it was hoped they would be well above that. On top of that is a slight dose of bad luck in their expected wins and losses and the bad luck to be playing in a division with the Yankees and Rays, two teams everyone expected to be great, and the Blue Jays, who have legitimately played like one of the best teams in baseball.

The Red Sox current record is a result of many things, but most of those 19 losses are not the hitter’s fault and a fair share of the 19 victories are.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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