The Most Interesting AL Contender: Boston Red Sox

Over the next couple of weeks, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting teams in baseball – one contender and one rebuilder from each league. What makes a team “interesting”? Taking advantage of the extreme nature of its ballpark, for a couple of clubs. Bucking some of the game’s most prevalent current trends and having success, for another. Or almost completely breaking from every pattern displayed in a club’s fairly successful recent past. To kick it off, let’s look at our AL contender, the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, who a little more than a year and a half ago, were considered by most to be the single most underachieving team in the game.

THE TRADE

As August 25, 2012, ended, the Boston Red Sox were 60-67, in 4th place in the AL East, 13.5 games out of first. This was the ill-fated Bobby Valentine year, that followed the fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse season. The Sox had missed the playoffs in spectacular fashion on the last day of that season in 2011, after a calendar year full of transactions that enthralled just about every pundit and prognosticator – you know, like the Philadelphia Eagles “Dream Team” of a couple years back. They had landed Adrian Gonzalez in late 2010, and extended him for seven years and $154M the next season. They had also signed Carl Crawford for seven years and $142M during the 2010-11 offseason. As the 2012 season slipped away, the heady days of 2004 and 2007 seemed long gone, as the Gonzalez-Crawford centered club was headed nowhere, and had seemingly very limited financial flexibility.

Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers, freshly buoyed by an aggressive new ownership group apparently unencumbered by any semblance of financial restraint. The Sox sent Gonzalez, Crawford and Josh Beckett (along with Nick Punto) to L.A., along with the over one quarter billion dollars they were owed. If the deal was simply those three players in exchange for the associated salary relief, it would have favored the Red Sox. However, the Sox were also able to acquire two significant pitching prospects, RHPs Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, in the five-player package they received in return.

The bottom fell out of the remainder of the Sox’ 2012 season, as they lost 26 of their last 35 games after the trade to finish 69-93, buried in last place. The club now had the financial flexibility, however, to enter the 2012-13 offseason and build around their still considerable core moving forward.

BUILDING TO THE BALLPARK

The Red Sox avoided the temptation to invest in a single big-name star, instead spreading the wealth to an eclectic group of veterans, among them 1B Mike Napoli, SS Stephen Drew, LF Jonny Gomes, RF Shane Victorino and RHP Koji Uehara. They also added 1B Mike Carp in a waiver deal after he was removed from the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Obviously, in retrospect these appear to be spectacular moves, as most of these guys were bearded and delirious at the end of last season. Why this group, however? Let’s take a step back and examine some of the nuances of the Red Sox’ home, Fenway Park. Its’ unique configuration yields some unusual park factors, especially on fly balls.

FLYBALL PARK FACTORS
ADJ FOR BIP SPD/ANGLE
2013 ACT AVG ACT SLG PRJ AVG PRJ SLG PARK FCT
COL 0.335 0.829 0.256 0.617 176.4
BOS 0.342 0.858 0.273 0.707 151.1
SD 0.282 0.744 0.254 0.614 136.7
MIL 0.305 0.806 0.275 0.698 129.3
BAL 0.314 0.870 0.292 0.759 124.9
NYY 0.270 0.736 0.264 0.658 116.5
MIN 0.285 0.725 0.264 0.672 116.3
NYM 0.272 0.686 0.260 0.631 114.7
CWS 0.269 0.751 0.270 0.672 114.3
CIN 0.280 0.790 0.279 0.735 109.6
CUB 0.284 0.770 0.279 0.729 108.2
TEX 0.271 0.713 0.270 0.694 103.7
LAD 0.259 0.657 0.260 0.642 102.7
DET 0.286 0.731 0.281 0.726 102.3
HOU 0.310 0.877 0.313 0.873 99.8
TOR 0.294 0.844 0.304 0.829 99.8
TB 0.284 0.753 0.291 0.768 95.9
OAK 0.251 0.666 0.264 0.685 92.9
CLE 0.294 0.792 0.303 0.828 92.4
PHL 0.319 0.859 0.322 0.913 91.9
WAS 0.273 0.698 0.287 0.745 88.8
LAA 0.292 0.771 0.307 0.854 84.9
AZ 0.284 0.745 0.302 0.833 83.2
ATL 0.303 0.768 0.326 0.902 77.7
STL 0.249 0.620 0.278 0.719 76.5
MIA 0.243 0.569 0.269 0.669 76.1
PIT 0.261 0.641 0.286 0.757 76.1
SF 0.261 0.626 0.283 0.744 76.0
SEA 0.283 0.757 0.323 0.913 71.8
KC 0.254 0.615 0.291 0.755 70.0
MLB 0.284 0.743 0.284 0.743 100.0

The above table list my fly ball park factors for all 30 major league ballparks — based on my own calculations and information available from my time in a front office — from most to least hitter-friendly. The first two columns indicate the actual AVG and SLG generated on fly balls, while the next two indicate what the AVG and SLG “should have been” if balls hit at the actual mix of speeds and angles would have resulted into singles, doubles, triples and homers at major league average rates. The fifth column, the park factor, reflects the run value inflation or deflation caused by the difference between the two. As you see, Fenway inflates run-scoring on fly balls at a rate (151.1) second only to Coors Field.

In arriving at that 151.1 figure, one might inquire as to how Fenway inflates fly ball singles, doubles, triples and homers specifically. Well……1B = 101, 2B = 181, 3B = 128, HR = 104. Since the raw number of actual and projected triples is relatively low, the run value inflation is by far most attributable to the inflation of fly ball doubles.

Let’s also look at this another way, and break down Fenway’s fly ball park factor by outfield sector:

LF = 205.4 LCF = 179.1 CF = 200.2 RCF = 89.5 RF = 81.7 OVERALL = 151.1

We are now beginning to localize and quantify the Fenway fly ball factor – it is largely attributable to fly balls that would be outs almost anywhere else, that instead become doubles off of the high LF, LCF and CF fences. Now, to find some position players who hit more such fly balls than other players do, as well as some pitchers who can minimize such damage. (For the record, Fenway’s line drive and ground ball park factors for 2013 were 95.6 and 98.8, respectively.)

How did the Sox’ position players take advantage of their confines in 2013? Here are some Sox regular and semi-regular personnel from last season and their respective fly ball frequencies, expressed in percentile rank form (99 = maximum, 50 = average, 1 = minimum): Jarrod Saltalamacchia 97, Daniel Nava 96, Will Middlebrooks 79, Carp 78, Gomes 75, Napoli 73, Drew 71, David Ortiz 53. That’s a critical mass of some extreme fly ball hitting right there.

Even the two key 2013 Sox regulars with low fly ball frequencies (Jacoby Ellsbury 27, Dustin Pedroia 25) got some points added to their batting average from the Fenway fly ball factor. Ellsbury actually hit .364 on fly balls compared to a projected .295 based on his hard/soft fly ball rate, while Pedroia batted .248 compared to a projected .210 – for both, the difference was almost entirely attributable to wall-balls that would have been outs almost anywhere else. Let’s take an even closer look at batted-ball production by type for a couple of the 2013 Sox’ complementary players.

PROD
Carp AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.429 1.102 223 107
LD 0.735 1.059 136 105
GB 0.271 0.322 141 110
ALL BIP 0.416 0.732 186 120
ALL PA 0.287 0.353 0.505 139 96
Gomes AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.324 0.972 154 88
LD 0.667 0.844 100 93
GB 0.386 0.404 258 168
ALL BIP 0.339 0.586 122 88
ALL PA 0.244 0.334 0.421 111 86

The above table shows batted-ball production by type for Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes. The “REL PRD” column shows the run value of their actual production relative to league average for each batted-ball type, scaled to 100. The “ADJ PRD” column adjusts for ballpark, luck, etc., to give a better insight to the player’s true talent level. The next to last row indicates actual production on all balls in play, and the K’s and BB’s are added back to the last row, which measures overall performance. SH and SF are included as outs, and HBP are not included in OBP for purposes of this exercise.

As you can see, Carp and Gomes’ 2013 performances were primarily driven by inflated production on fly balls. Carp’s .429 AVG and 1.102 SLG on fly balls “should have been” only .289-.774, and Gomes’ actual .324-.972 “should have been” only .274-.683. Instead of productive part-timers, both Carp and Gomes should have been near replacement-level performers, with ADJ PRD figures of 96 and 86, respectively, with little to no defensive value, if the balls they had hit would have been converted into outs at MLB average rates for their speed and angle off of the bat. With Gomes specifically, let’s take a step back and look at the whole picture – a massive K rate (84 percentile rank), an even more massive popup rate (99 percentile rank, highest in baseball), and an extreme pull profile, even in the air. In most parks, this is a recipe for the end of a career – in Fenway, it’s the profile of a solid complementary piece.

Napoli and Drew’s offensive contributions were also upsized by Fenway – note Napoli’s nine doubles as a Ranger in 2012 compared to his total of 38 in 2013. The Red Sox also recognized the need for a second center fielder to patrol their spacious RF area when they signed Victorino, and identified the relief stud within when they signed Uehara and his outlandish combination of K, BB and popup rates. Their 2013 roster construction work was done, and they accomplished their goals while retaining significant financial flexibility, thanks both to the short-term nature of their newer financial commitments, as well as the Pedroia Factor.

THE PEDROIA FACTOR

Dustin Pedroia has eight years and $109M left on his contract. Robinson Cano has 10 years and $240M left on his. Cano is the best second baseman in baseball – but he’s not $131M in guaranteed money better, or even close to that. Pedroia too is helped by Fenway, though not nearly as much as most of his teammates. He outperforms his generally solid but unspectacular batted ball profile annually by minimizing his K’s, maximizing his BB’s, and outperforming his hard/soft groundball rates, often on sheer will and hustle. As much value as Pedroia brings on the field, however, it can be argued that he delivers even more in less tangible ways. When one of your core stars consciously takes a long-term discount in the interest of the big picture – of long-term championship contention – players throughout the game notice, and are often eager to get in on the fun. Many of the Sox Class of 2013 free agent signees left money on the table to come to Boston, and they got one hell of a baseball and life experience as a result. As bad as the clubhouse dynamic might have been at the 2012 low point, it was that good and better in 2013.

Ryan Dempster, one of the Sox’ few personnel misfires of the 2012-13 offseason, had $13.25M coming to him in 2014 if he just showed up and went through the motions, even if he wound up spending the entire season on the DL. Instead, he stepped back from the game for a combination of physical and family reasons, forfeited his salary, and even mentioned the best interests of the club in his statement. Might he have done the same if he pitched for another club? Perhaps – but while his actions speak most loudly about the character of Dempster, they also speak to the high regard in which he held the organization. What did the Red Sox do with the savings resulting from this decision?

SIMULTANEOUS MAJOR AND MINOR LEAGUE STRENGTH

You always hear about clubs being right up against their budget number, especially late in the offseason. Well, if most clubs were to suddenly receive $13M in salary relief, they would be inclined to race out and address immediate needs, including those created by the player whose self-removal created the relief. Not this version of the Red Sox. Though their projected 2014 rotation is solid (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Felix Doubront), the Sox know as well as anyone that your original five generally isn’t enough to get you through the season. They even more logically could have used the funds to bring back Stephen Drew, one of the perfect Fenway fly ball fits of 2013.

They chose not to, however, instead signing Chris Capuano out of the bargain bin for rotation insurance, and entrusting the shortstop position to rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts. Beyond this, they resisted the temptation to make a big-ticket move to replace the departed Jacoby Ellsbury, instead entrusting the center field position to another talented youngster, Jackie Bradley, Jr., with reclamation project Grady Sizemore brought in as insurance on a make-good deal that offers little risk and potentially sizeable reward. Behind Capuano in the rotation pecking order stand the two prospects obtained in “the trade”, Webster and De La Rosa, along with high-end prospects Henry Owens and Matt Barnes. Catching depth, a sore spot in almost all organizations, is plentiful, with Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart not too far away, and the recently untouchable Ryan Lavarnway supposedly available for trade. Yes, the Red Sox, along with the Cardinals, Rangers and possibly the Pirates, are the only clubs in the game who currently boast well above average major and minor league talent, with no signs of an imminent downturn on either front. Most contenders pushed all of their chips toward the center over the winter, but the Sox held many in reserve, both in the form of dollars and prospects, retaining maximum flexibility to enhance their club on the fly.

Everything went right for the Boston Red Sox last season, and there are no guarantees for a repeat performance in 2014. Luck is the residue of design, however, and this organization currently is very well designed. The major league club is talented throughout, with young talent sprinkled around a core of proven but ever-motivated veterans. The club fits their ballpark impeccably, and most of its members appear to be proud to wear the uniform. When the inevitable roadblocks present themselves after the season begins, their combination of minor league strength and financial power and flexibility should still give them the ability to be squarely in the conversation for the AL pennant. They aren’t going away anytime soon.




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64 Responses to “The Most Interesting AL Contender: Boston Red Sox”

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  1. DonChrysler says:

    Not to nitpick on an enjoyable article, but fried chicken and beer was a story during the 2011 season when the Sox collapsed out of contention in September under Terry Francona. Bobby V had no such excuse.

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    • isavage30 says:

      You seem to have misread something. The article talked about the 2012 season, that “followed the fried-chicken-and-beer-in-the-clubhouse season”, i.e. 2011.

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  2. Padraic says:

    Great stuff – especially the park factor for fly balls. Very surprised to see that Philly rates as a park that actually suppresses FB production and that SD is so high!

    As someone kind of unfamiliar with what goes into these numbers, how is it that SD is such an extreme advantage (Fenway and Coors level!) on FB, but (at least on B-Ref) ranks as a 91 3-year Park Factor. Can a park really suppress runs based on ground balls, or am I missing something?

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  3. Biesterfield says:

    New Moneyball: Having a park with a structural quirk so that you can build a team around that quirk and reap disproportionate benefits.

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    • John C says:

      Teams have been doing this forever, even before sabermetrics. The Stengel-era Yankees used to keep sluggers around who could jerk the ball into that 296-foot porch in in Yankee Stadium’s original configuration. Yankee was always a pitcher’s park, but you could make it work to your advantage if you were a lefty dead-pull hitter.

      Ironically, the Red Sox haven’t always built for Fenway the way they should have. It’s not a homer-friendly bandbox where you should just sign a bunch of sluggers. It’s actually much better at boosting batting average, OBP, and extra-base power, especially doubles. It has a fantastic “batter’s eye” and almost no foul territory. The perfect Fenway player was Wade Boggs, and anyone who lived through the 1980s was lucky to see a great player playing in his absolute optimal environment. It was the same as if Barry Bonds had gotten to play for the Rockies.

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      • Tyler says:

        While Boggs is a good choice, I’ll take Williams as the perfect Fenway player.

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        • Andrew says:

          Except Williams was hurt by Fenway. As a left handed pull hitter, the depth of RF (so long as the ball wasn’t hit straight down the line) cost him quite a few home runs. Williams has a case as the best hitter of all time, but he was far from the perfect Fenway hitter.

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        • redsoxu571 says:

          If Williams had been a RH hitter, you’d be dead on. Scary to think that Williams did what he did as a LH dead pull hitter in Fenway.

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        • John C says:

          And you’d be wrong. Ted Williams could have done the same damage in any park. Wade Boggs wouldn’t have hit .360 anywhere else. He couldn’t even do it in the minors. Fenway was perfectly suited to his skill set as a hitter.

          Williams didn’t benefit from Fenway any more or less than any other hitter does. And he didn’t need the help in the first place. He hit .344 with 521 homers; he might have hit .340 with 506 somewhere else.

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        • technicality says:

          While comparing Williams and DiMaggio in “The Summer of ’49” Halberstam points out that each would likely have had even more-otherworldly numbers if they’d exchanged home ballparks. While both could (and did) hit anywhere, the Splinter was better-suited for Yankees stadium, and Joltin’ Joe for Fenway.

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        • Tyler says:

          Touche everyone I did not know Williams was a dead pull hitter.

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        • Rufus T. Firefly says:

          Add Freddy Lynn to that mix. I remember the talk that a Don Mattingly for Wade Boggs deal would be like the fabled almost-trade of Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio.

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      • tz says:

        And the Green Monster can actually turn line-drive would-be HRs into doubles or even singles.

        I remember Jim Rice, at his late 70’s peak, hitting a bunch of these bullets to straightaway LF/left-center that may have gone closer to 400 ft if not interrupted by the Green Monster (I’d love to have the data to estimate the impact)

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      • blahblahblah says:

        Don’t forget that Fenway played differently until the built the rooftop press boxes.
        Whereas now it’s a great doubles ballpark, before the did the changes it was also a terrific Home Run park.
        Boggs maximized the version of Fenway he played in. But a right handed power hitting beast like Foxx likely got more value of out it

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    • Aaron Trammell says:

      How about a six-inch high outfield wall? Instead acrobatic catches, outfielders would trip over the wall, turning robbing home runs into slapstick comedy.

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      • jruby says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        Or you could just build a weird ramp in the outfield. Haha just kidding no one would do something like that.

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        • technicality says:

          Yeah a ramp. Or an in-play flagpole. Either would be ridiculous. But can you imagine both? In the same outfield?

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      • Jake says:

        I also think the amount of ground-rule doubles such a fence would allow would be quite comedic.

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  4. tz says:

    The Cano comparison is probably a bit extreme, since the Mariners overpaid in both AAV and contract length.

    However, I’d guess that if Pedroia had been in this past FA marketplace, he could have reasonably expected about 8 years at $20 millon per. So very roughly speaking, the home team discount is worth about $6-7 million per year over each of the next 8 seasons. While that won’t make or break the Red Sox budget, it’s a nice cushion if the Sox want to snag a targeted free agent or absorb a slightly rich contract in a trade.

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    • Catoblepas says:

      $6-7 million per year for 8 years is not a small amount of savings, at all. Based on current market prices, that’s close to 1 win in spending, by either spending more aggressively for better free agents or signing more of them. While it’s probably not fair to just add a win to Pedroia’s value, it’s conceivably not that far off from that. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to highlight that as a big deal, especially when it potentially inspires others to do the same (see: Lester, John).

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      • tz says:

        Great point about Lester, etc. (which Tony also mentions). Just a few of these “discounts” give the team a lot of room to make some bold moves.

        Heck, 3 times $6-7 million per year is about what it cost to get Carl Crawford to sign with Boston instead of the Yankees. Disregarding health issues, Crawford’s skill set was as excellent a match for LF in Yankee Stadium as it was an awful match for LF at Fenway. That point alone probably justified some part of Boston’s aggressive bidding on Crawford.

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  5. Cap'n Scrappy says:

    Pedroia is sooooo scrappy and hustle-y. Cap’n Scrappy loves scrappers. He’s pretty sure Pedroia once had an MRI show that his heart was made entirely of scrappiness, grit, and gritty scraps. And muscle tissue. But mostly the other things.

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    • redsoxu571 says:

      FJM called to congratulate you for carrying on its (amusing) schtick!

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    • M. Incandenza says:

      I was just going to compliment this article for doing about the best job I’ve ever seen of couching some *legitimate* points about intangible value in a statistically-informed context. But maybe we should just never, ever talk about stuff like that no matter what, eh?

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  6. George says:

    The further away we get from 2012, the more I believe the Red Sox FO intentionally sacrificed the 2012 season by hiring Bobby Valentine, knowing the players would hate him. There were many reports that the players would not listen to Francona toward the end of 2011, so I think the management team wanted to teach them a bit of a lesson. For an organization like the Red Sox, who (as far as I can tell) don’t really make many boneheaded moves, hiring Bobby V just doesn’t make sense.

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    • John C says:

      Lucchino was in love with the guy, and he got John Henry’s ear even though Ben Cherington told them both it was a terrible idea. It blew up in their faces, so Cherington got to hire who he wanted.

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      • Joebrady says:

        I agree. It wasn’t a BB move, it was an executive decision by someone unfamiliar with the situation. That usually backfires in every company.

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      • Joe R says:

        Lucchino had wayyyyyy too much influence for too long. He was the guy pushing for a lot of ridiculous deals, and Theo wanted out mostly because of him.

        Compare the first half of Theo Epstein’s tenure with the 2nd. The Red Sox went from a well oiled machine to a total mess, and multiple FA busts.

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        • RSquared says:

          Ben said he pushed the CC signing, but his batted ball profile does not fit with the narrative of this article. Methinks he fell on his sword for LL after Theo tried to distance himself from the signing.

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    • M. Incandenza says:

      That’s absurd. Going into 2012 they looked like a hugely talented team that just happened to have had a disastrous September the previous season. They weren’t gonna sacrifice the season to teach their own players a lesson – they were trying to contend.

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  7. jim fetterolf says:

    You do nice work, Tony. Thanks.

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  8. Patrick says:

    “The above table list my fly ball park factors for all 30 major league ballparks — based on my own calculations and information available from my time in a front office”

    Um. I’m mildly surprised that you can do that.

    I mean, there’s all sorts of park factors variants on this and other sites, and it’s not likely some sooper sekrit formula. I doubt you’re giving away the keys to the kingdom or doing anything malicious.

    But still, you’re basically coming right out and saying you’re writing an article for a blog unaffiliated with MLB, using proprietary information from a major league ballclub.

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    • Richie says:

      Not all workplace information is proprietary.

      Wait, are you that lawyer guy? OK, while all workplace information including what cleanser they use for the rest rooms is de jure proprietary, in de facto terms not all, in fact very much, of it is not, is recognized as such, is treated as such.

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    • tz says:

      With BatFX available to all MLB teams, chances are good that the competitive value of anything Tony has calculated here is far less than the competitive value of the detailed information each club probably has on ballpark effects.

      The bottom line is, I don’t think any team would have incentive to go after Fangraphs and/or Tony for the information presented here.

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    • John C says:

      I would imagine that anyone who wanted to spend a few weeks with Retrosheet information could compile the same chart with almost the same degree of accuracy. He just happened to have the data first-hand because he worked for the Mariners, and figured it all out from that.

      Besides, since when do the Mariners care about stuff like this? If they did, he’d still be working for them…

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  9. htownhacker says:

    All of that building for the ballpark didn’t appear to hurt them on the road. They had the AL’s best road record last year.

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    • Joebrady says:

      Okay, ignoring minor details to make a larger theoretical point.

      I might add that the RS didn’t really tailor their team to have a RH stud hitting team setting out to destroy the wall. Their success was partially as a result of great offensive flexibility, as well as an excellent-hitting left-hand lineup, not RH. Some things to consider-

      1-They scored more runs on the road than at home.
      2-They had the best OPS in the league against righties, and ranked only #4 against lefties.

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  10. james wilson says:

    Watching balls fly far over the Monster at the Florida Fenway really demonstrates the truth that the luxury build up behind home plate in Boston caused changes in wind dynamics which limits fly ball distance, which is how how Epstein sold Shilling on coming to Fenway. It’s especially important because of the short porch from left to center, but that seat marked out in red at the end of the RF bleachers which Ted Williams hit at 506 ft. will never be hit again.

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  11. Juan says:

    Just think what Williams’ stats would be like if he had
    played in 1943 – 1945, the three years he was away in
    military service!

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    • QuetzalCuddyer says:

      I love me some Ted Williams, but I just can’t take baseball stats too seriously pre-integration. Post 1959 – since the Boston Red Sox became the last team to integrate – I’d choose a dream team of position players that is almost entirely non-White: Bench, Pujols, Morgan, Schmidt, A.Rod (though I hate this guy), Bonds, Mays, and Aaron. The pre-integration major leagues was essentially a Spring Training type environment, where 30% of the guys don’t belong on a major league roster. You could put Williams in any ball park on earth and he would hit, but he’d hit a bit worse if he suddenly played significantly better players through the inclusion of non-white players.

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      • Wobatus says:

        What would your dream team of pitchers look like?

        Ted Williams himself was of mixed Mexican heritage on his mother’s side.

        Williams played until 14 years after the color barrier was broken. He faced 7 opposing teams in the AL through his last year, 1960. Nowadays there would be 14 other clubs, a much larger pool.

        In 1960, his last year at age 41 he slashed .316/.451/.645. Good for a 184 wRC+, better than anyone in the AL with over 300 plate appearances (he had 390 PA). Mantle was second at 154 wRC+ albeit in a full season.

        In 1960 he didn’t have to face many african-americans, Mudcat Grant being the only one who threw over 150 innings in the AL that year (out of 29). Don Newcombe pitched for the same Twins clubs but only a few innings. Last year there were 4 african americans out of 48 AL pitchers with over 150 innings. Price, Sabathia, Ervin Santana and Jerome Williams.

        There are of course now japanese pitchers that Williams didn’t face in the old AL. There were 13 japanese, hispanic or african american pitchers who threw over 150 innings in the AL last year (I may be miscounting). Williams never faced a Darvish, Iwakuma or Kuroda.

        He did face hispanic pitchers. In 1939 the only AL one of note seems to be Alex Carrasquel from Venezuela. The NL had Dolph Luque, Cuban. But they were quite the exception and not of apparent african descent.

        In 1960, the color barrier was broken and there were more hispanic pitchers, including Chuck Estrada (from San Luis Obispo but of Mexican heritage), Pedro Ramos, Camilo Pasqual (who led the league in pitching fWAR in 1959) throwing over 150 innings. These guys all mostly appeared of european descent, but there was no de jure color barrier. Nothing ostensibly would keep, say, Felix Hernandez pitching then, although there weren’t many Dominican players then (Ozzie Virgil, Sr being the first in the 1950s).

        Williams didn’t seem to have problems hitting Mudcat Grant, Ramos or Pasqual (well, a little harder against Ramos), and even went 1-2 against Newcombe with a homer in ’59-’60.

        If you made a dream team of pitchers over the years since 1959, in the AL of the top 30 starters by WAR in that frame, 3 were men of color or hispanic: Luis Tiant, Pedro Martinez and Sabathia. Over time more will join the list, King Felix et al.

        I think generally speaking pitchers throw harder, better trained and are “better” than what Williams faced. But given that he played much of his career after the barrier was broken, and that there has not been a huge expansion in the number of black pitchers since he played when compared to the expansion of the number of pitchers overall, I don’t think you can entirely discount his stats or the concept he was one of the great hitters of all time. You certainly have to discount for the era generally speaking, but there is little to me to suggest he wouldn’t be successful today. To what degree it is of course impossible to say.

        Williams also didn’t have Willie Mays robbing him of home runs his whole career (or at all, since they played in different leagues). The breaking of the color barrier would have impacted there as well. Yet again the fact there are now twice as many teams essentially lessens the impact in the increase in available talent.

        Willie Mays of course also missed time during the Korean War. He may have been first to pass Ruth but for that.

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      • james wilson says:

        I’d take Williams bat seriously in any era. In fact, the aging Williams shared an era with the young Mays and Aaron. Williams won that era also.

        But my point was about Fenway, not Williams. The new park effect pulls balls back. Nobody hits that seat in the bleachers even in batting practice.

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    • lewish says:

      Seems like I heard he was also away for some of the Korean war…maybe I am thinking of someone else. Away for WW2 & KW would be…tough on a lot of levels.

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      • Ian R. says:

        You’d be right. Williams was recalled just six games into the 1952 season and didn’t return to the Red Sox until August 1953, so he missed the equivalent of nearly two full seasons.

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    • Wobatus says:

      Not to mention almost all of 1952 and half of 1953, when he served in Korea, where he flew 39 combat missions.

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  12. Papi Brand Vitamins says:

    Good thing we have this park mang. Without this park we win 10 games less every year mang. That and Vitamins mang and Mr. Selig making the league buy a team so our Mr. Henry could buy the Sox. Life is good mang.

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    • John Elway says:

      Hay if you’re going to be a troll you’ll have to trot out something a bit funnier than that. At least some of the time.

      Just neighing.

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  13. pft says:

    “When one of your core stars consciously takes a long-term discount in the interest of the big picture – of long-term championship contention ”

    Buying the Red Sox and Pedroia PR coolaid there. He was 3 years from free agency and in his last season with a 2 that starts his age. He took the money on the table rather than risk that age related decline and injury killed his value 3 years hence.

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  14. pft says:

    More on the Pedroia myth. By signing the extension he essentially added 6 years and 88 million for his age 32-age 37 seasons, taking into account raises for 2014 and 2015. His 3 year Oliver projections are 8.9 WAR for the first 3 years. Add 7.3 WAR for the last 3 years assuming a 0.5 WAR per year decline and you have 16.2 WAR. That’s about 5.5 million per WAR which is close to the market rate today for WAR, a bit short of 6.0.

    Obviously, not a free agent deal, but extensions always come with a discount, with greater discounts the further you are from free agency. Players who take extensions take them for the security, not necessarily loyalty.

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  15. jim says:

    As a huge Yankees fan, it’s annoying to admit that Boston may very well have become the best run organization in the sport. The very definition of “grudging respect” is due them.

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    • tz says:

      As a huge Red Sox fan, it’s nice to see the tables turned.

      The Yankees of the late 90’s built a strong 1 through 9 high OBP lineup and solid pitching staff with a similar multi-pronged approach (farm, smart trades, well-targeted free agents). I had that same grudging respect working during that time period, until the Red Sox righted their ship this millennium.

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  16. Yehuda Hamer says:

    Based on this information which players would the Padres need to score more runs at home? High line drive averages? Would all these kind of players want to sign with the Padres if they saw this chart?

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  17. Nick says:

    Pro tip for people who think they’re smarter than they are: Hustle is not an intangible.

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  18. redsoxu571 says:

    Not to sound too negative, because this is an excellent article, but can we please retire the talk that “everything went right” for Boston in 2013? The team lost its top two closers (which means it also lost two RPs it was expecting to rely on). Dempster was awful. Ellsbury missed some time. Buchholz missed half the season. Victorino only played 122 games. Middlebrooks dudded worse than anyone expected.

    So call it like it is. Boston had enough go right to make up for these issues, and was as strong as it ended up being due to roster and lineup flexibility. As you said, the team made its own luck.

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