Slices of the Blame Pie

BaseballJones

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Oct 1, 2015
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I want to preface this by saying that I'll *happily* take the past four years every four years. Two division titles but losing in the divisional playoffs, one WS title, and one .500 season. I'd also happily take these past two years, trading a WS for a crappy season. I'm good with it, though of course I had much higher hopes for this season coming off what we experienced in 2018.

So in other words, this thread is not me complaining. But I don't think I'm the only one who had higher hopes for this season, and I'm not just talking about fan expectations. I'm sure each and every person in the Red Sox organization expected much more from the team this year. So even though there's still a quarter of the season left, I think it's ok to start talking about blame. I don't mean this to be personal...it's just baseball. But things have gone wrong and it's not just all bad luck. So I'm going to break it down into these categories:

Position Players - Offense
Position Players - Defense
Starting Pitching
Relief Pitching
Management (manager/coaches/GM)

Position Players - Offense
I think that on the whole, the offense has been fine. Some guys are having down years, but there have been some real bright spots too. Devers, Bogaerts, and Vazquez have been tremendous. Betts, and JD been worse than last year, but both have still been very good. Benny is down from last year but he's been more than acceptable. This year they're averaging 5.7 runs per game when all of MLB is averaging 4.8 runs per game. Last year they averaged 5.4 runs per game when all of MLB averaged 4.5. So they've gone up at roughly the same pace as all of MLB has gone up. So it's hard to say that offense has been the main culprit. Yes, they've been inconsistent and have had games where they've simply not shown up offensively, but that happens every year. I'd put only about 2% of the blame on the offense.

Position Players - Defense
Last year the Sox fielding percentage was .986, good for 7th in all of MLB. They committed 0.48 errors per game. This year they're down to .984 (14th in MLB), averaging 0.56 errors per game. This year the Sox are allowing 0.40 unearned runs a game; last year they allowed 0.24 unearned runs per game. Even to my admittedly biased "eye test", they've looked worse on defense this year. Bad defense makes the pitching worse. Pitchers have to throw more pitches and get out of tougher jams. Bad defense makes mediocre pitching BAD. Some of it is incomprehensible too. Seeing studs like Bradley and Betts watch a ball fall between them while both of them stand there looking at each other. And some of the bad defense (though this can happen any season) doesn't even get counted as errors. Devers the other day allowing a slow roller by Ohtani to not only stay fair (it was going to stay fair anyway), but get past him down the third base line for an insane double on a slow check swing roller. Now that run didn't score, but it put a lot more stress on the pitcher having to pitch out of that situation. That stuff adds up. The defense has been a letdown this year. I'd put about 8% of the blame on the defense.

Starting Pitching
Let's start with the basics. In 2018 the Sox' starters pitched to a 3.77 era, good for 8th in all of MLB. Averaged 5.1 innings per start. This year, they're at 5.08, good for 21st in MLB. Averaging a little over 5 innings per start. So that third of an inning adds up, as it's meant that over the course of 162 games, the bullpen has had to pick up about 54 more innings, which takes its toll. Moreover, the jump in era by 1.31 unearned runs is huge. In 2018, starters allowed 2.44 runs per game, and in 2019, they've allowed 3.15 runs per game. Enormous difference. Then, on an individual level, their big three have just been gobs worse than last year:

- Sale: 2018 (2.11 era, 209 era+, 0.86 whip) vs. 2019 (4.41 era, 109 era+, 1.09 whip)
- Price: 2018 (3.58 era, 123 era+, 1.14 whip) vs. 2019 (4.36 era, 110 era+, 1.32 whip)
- Porcello: 2018 (4.28 era, 103 era+, 1.18 whip) vs. 2019 (5.67 era, 85 era+, 1.43 whip)

Just disastrous. All three saw far bigger jumps than MLB's era has jumped from 2018-2019. Allowing a lot more baserunners, more runs, more earned runs, more everything, and pitching slightly fewer innings. I'd put about 40% of the blame on the starting pitching.

Relief Pitching
Again, the basics. In 2018, Sox' relievers pitched to a 3.72 era, good for 9th in all of MLB. This year they're at 4.44, which is 15th. Now to the much-maligned blown save issue. In 2018 they had 20 blown saves in 66 save opportunities, good for a 69.7 save percentage. That ranked 9th best in MLB. This year they've blown 21 saves in 44 opportunities, good for a save percentage of 52.3, which is dead last in MLB. We can talk about whether blown saves is a lousy stat, but when comparing apples to apples, the 2019 Red Sox bullpen has been the worst in baseball at protecting leads. Period. That doesn't mean the LOSE every one of those blown save games, but when we are talking about bullpen performance, the offense bailing them out is irrelevant. It's never good to blow leads and they've been the worst bullpen in baseball at protecting leads. In 2018 their bullpen whip was 1.29 (12th best in MLB). In 2019, it's 1.38 (16th best). So a slight drop there. In 2018 their ops against was .700 (compared to a .722 number for all of MLB). In 2019, it's .745 (compared to a .752 number for all of MLB). So relative to the rest of baseball, Boston's bullpen ops against has gotten worse.

Long story short, the bullpen has been mediocre at best, and very bad to disastrous at worst. I'd put about 40% of the blame on the relief pitching.

Management
The team that won 108 games and crushed three great teams en route to a World Series title was largely put back in place for 2019. Losing Kimbrel and Kelly no doubt ended up hurting bullpen depth considerably. Eovaldi didn't work out for 2019 because of his injury, which some here felt was likely to happen. But the bullpen...well, many here have long said that going cheap in the bullpen is the way to go because of the seemingly random nature of relievers. Why spend $8 million on a reliever whose performance could be just as uncertain as a reliever that costs $2 million (or less)? Well that may be great in theory (and the theory might still be right), but this year's results sure don't support it. While the bullpen was bad, at least it wasn't *expensive* and bad.

Barnes: 1.6m
Hembree: 1.3m
Workman: 1.1m
Brewer: 557k
And a bunch of guys making minimum

In 2018 they had Kimbrel at $12m, Kelly at $3.8m, Thornburg at $2.1m, and even Pomeranz in the pen at $8.5m. So maybe going cheap didn't turn out to be the best idea, though I'm not sure the theory as stated above is bad. Regardless, they had numerous chances to improve the bullpen - in the offseason, early in the year, and at the deadline - and did nothing. The starting pitching was terrible, but it's hard to fault management for that. Nobody expected Sale, Price, and Porcello ALL to completely flush the season away like they've done. One might argue that giving Sale the long-term deal they gave him was unwise, but that has nothing to do with 2019, as Sale was already under contract to pitch for Boston this year. Can't blame that contract for his awful 2019 season. ERod has been similar to last year, which is fine for a 4th starter, and the 5th starter has been roughly the same as last year too. So really, it's just the top three that have performed way under expectation, and I can't blame DD for that.

HOWEVER, I can blame management for the way they prepared their pitchers going into this season. I remember asking during spring training, Where the heck is Sale? Because I hadn't seen him in a spring training game for weeks. Someone then pointed out how they're handing the starters, and I didn't really think much of it. But obviously it became a hot topic of conversation as they came out of the chute with *disastrous* pitching. No idea if the way they handled it was at fault, but it's hard to argue that it *helped*. Moreover, as others have discussed the past couple of days, there does seem to be an organizational philosophy of preferring to pitch for the strikeout, being willing to live with more walks than other teams are comfortable with. Those walks might not seem like a bad thing (that concept worked when facing Bregman and the Astros in the 2018 ALCS, after all), until the random homer comes after you've walked two guys ahead of it.

I'd say that ultimately, the players just need to play better, and even without doing much for the roster, this team should be MUCH better than it is. Way too much talent there. Two CYA winners in the rotation along with a guy that probably should have won a couple by now (Sale). Almost any team in baseball would take that to head up their rotation. The lineup has been fine. Defense has been a step down from last year but on the whole, average at worst. The bullpen has been terrible and is probably the place where management should have invested more. I don't think they're playing with a much different philosophy than last year, and last year it worked pretty damned well. Long story short, I'll give management 10% of the blame here, because at the end of the day, they've assembled a team with quality coaching and tons of on-field talent, and the talent - especially the starting pitching - has just let them down big time.


So, by my reckoning:

2% - Position Players - Offense
8% - Position Players - Defense
40% - Starting Pitching
40% - Relief Pitching
10% - Management (manager/coaches/GM)

(Obviously this isn't scientific!)
 

Rovin Romine

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Excellent analysis.

I agree on all the major points, except I'd tender the idea that pitching performance is often very much tied to coaching, conditioning, pitch calling/strategies for going after batters, etc. So if every pitcher were calling their own games, I'd say it's incumbent on them alone to execute better. But it's a bit much to say that they were all given league average pitching plans and that a massive failing of in-game skill (plus random luck) caused the abysmal outcomes this year. In reality I think it's a combination of bad strategy and poor execution. So I'd bump management's portion at the expense of the individual pitchers.
 

bosockboy

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Jul 15, 2005
10,519
St. Louis, MO
In regards to spring training management, they made a bet that they could hang at the top of the division for a couple months and ease the pitchers in and then hit the gas. They didn’t hang, they got off to a disastrous start. And they couldn’t hit the gas. For whatever reason this franchise’s successes have almost always correlated with great starts and wire to wire type runs. Hopefully this is a lesson learned, and the extra month off this fall gets the pitching rejuvenated for 2020.
 

mfried

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Nov 23, 2005
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I want to preface this by saying that I'll *happily* take the past four years every four years. Two division titles but losing in the divisional playoffs, one WS title, and one .500 season. I'd also happily take these past two years, trading a WS for a crappy season. I'm good with it, though of course I had much higher hopes for this season coming off what we experienced in 2018.

So in other words, this thread is not me complaining. But I don't think I'm the only one who had higher hopes for this season, and I'm not just talking about fan expectations. I'm sure each and every person in the Red Sox organization expected much more from the team this year. So even though there's still a quarter of the season left, I think it's ok to start talking about blame. I don't mean this to be personal...it's just baseball. But things have gone wrong and it's not just all bad luck. So I'm going to break it down into these categories:

Position Players - Offense
Position Players - Defense
Starting Pitching
Relief Pitching
Management (manager/coaches/GM)

Position Players - Offense
I think that on the whole, the offense has been fine. Some guys are having down years, but there have been some real bright spots too. Devers, Bogaerts, and Vazquez have been tremendous. Betts, and JD been worse than last year, but both have still been very good. Benny is down from last year but he's been more than acceptable. This year they're averaging 5.7 runs per game when all of MLB is averaging 4.8 runs per game. Last year they averaged 5.4 runs per game when all of MLB averaged 4.5. So they've gone up at roughly the same pace as all of MLB has gone up. So it's hard to say that offense has been the main culprit. Yes, they've been inconsistent and have had games where they've simply not shown up offensively, but that happens every year. I'd put only about 2% of the blame on the offense.

Position Players - Defense
Last year the Sox fielding percentage was .986, good for 7th in all of MLB. They committed 0.48 errors per game. This year they're down to .984 (14th in MLB), averaging 0.56 errors per game. This year the Sox are allowing 0.40 unearned runs a game; last year they allowed 0.24 unearned runs per game. Even to my admittedly biased "eye test", they've looked worse on defense this year. Bad defense makes the pitching worse. Pitchers have to throw more pitches and get out of tougher jams. Bad defense makes mediocre pitching BAD. Some of it is incomprehensible too. Seeing studs like Bradley and Betts watch a ball fall between them while both of them stand there looking at each other. And some of the bad defense (though this can happen any season) doesn't even get counted as errors. Devers the other day allowing a slow roller by Ohtani to not only stay fair (it was going to stay fair anyway), but get past him down the third base line for an insane double on a slow check swing roller. Now that run didn't score, but it put a lot more stress on the pitcher having to pitch out of that situation. That stuff adds up. The defense has been a letdown this year. I'd put about 8% of the blame on the defense.

Starting Pitching
Let's start with the basics. In 2018 the Sox' starters pitched to a 3.77 era, good for 8th in all of MLB. Averaged 5.1 innings per start. This year, they're at 5.08, good for 21st in MLB. Averaging a little over 5 innings per start. So that third of an inning adds up, as it's meant that over the course of 162 games, the bullpen has had to pick up about 54 more innings, which takes its toll. Moreover, the jump in era by 1.31 unearned runs is huge. In 2018, starters allowed 2.44 runs per game, and in 2019, they've allowed 3.15 runs per game. Enormous difference. Then, on an individual level, their big three have just been gobs worse than last year:

- Sale: 2018 (2.11 era, 209 era+, 0.86 whip) vs. 2019 (4.41 era, 109 era+, 1.09 whip)
- Price: 2018 (3.58 era, 123 era+, 1.14 whip) vs. 2019 (4.36 era, 110 era+, 1.32 whip)
- Porcello: 2018 (4.28 era, 103 era+, 1.18 whip) vs. 2019 (5.67 era, 85 era+, 1.43 whip)

Just disastrous. All three saw far bigger jumps than MLB's era has jumped from 2018-2019. Allowing a lot more baserunners, more runs, more earned runs, more everything, and pitching slightly fewer innings. I'd put about 40% of the blame on the starting pitching.

Relief Pitching
Again, the basics. In 2018, Sox' relievers pitched to a 3.72 era, good for 9th in all of MLB. This year they're at 4.44, which is 15th. Now to the much-maligned blown save issue. In 2018 they had 20 blown saves in 66 save opportunities, good for a 69.7 save percentage. That ranked 9th best in MLB. This year they've blown 21 saves in 44 opportunities, good for a save percentage of 52.3, which is dead last in MLB. We can talk about whether blown saves is a lousy stat, but when comparing apples to apples, the 2019 Red Sox bullpen has been the worst in baseball at protecting leads. Period. That doesn't mean the LOSE every one of those blown save games, but when we are talking about bullpen performance, the offense bailing them out is irrelevant. It's never good to blow leads and they've been the worst bullpen in baseball at protecting leads. In 2018 their bullpen whip was 1.29 (12th best in MLB). In 2019, it's 1.38 (16th best). So a slight drop there. In 2018 their ops against was .700 (compared to a .722 number for all of MLB). In 2019, it's .745 (compared to a .752 number for all of MLB). So relative to the rest of baseball, Boston's bullpen ops against has gotten worse.

Long story short, the bullpen has been mediocre at best, and very bad to disastrous at worst. I'd put about 40% of the blame on the relief pitching.

Management
The team that won 108 games and crushed three great teams en route to a World Series title was largely put back in place for 2019. Losing Kimbrel and Kelly no doubt ended up hurting bullpen depth considerably. Eovaldi didn't work out for 2019 because of his injury, which some here felt was likely to happen. But the bullpen...well, many here have long said that going cheap in the bullpen is the way to go because of the seemingly random nature of relievers. Why spend $8 million on a reliever whose performance could be just as uncertain as a reliever that costs $2 million (or less)? Well that may be great in theory (and the theory might still be right), but this year's results sure don't support it. While the bullpen was bad, at least it wasn't *expensive* and bad.

Barnes: 1.6m
Hembree: 1.3m
Workman: 1.1m
Brewer: 557k
And a bunch of guys making minimum

In 2018 they had Kimbrel at $12m, Kelly at $3.8m, Thornburg at $2.1m, and even Pomeranz in the pen at $8.5m. So maybe going cheap didn't turn out to be the best idea, though I'm not sure the theory as stated above is bad. Regardless, they had numerous chances to improve the bullpen - in the offseason, early in the year, and at the deadline - and did nothing. The starting pitching was terrible, but it's hard to fault management for that. Nobody expected Sale, Price, and Porcello ALL to completely flush the season away like they've done. One might argue that giving Sale the long-term deal they gave him was unwise, but that has nothing to do with 2019, as Sale was already under contract to pitch for Boston this year. Can't blame that contract for his awful 2019 season. ERod has been similar to last year, which is fine for a 4th starter, and the 5th starter has been roughly the same as last year too. So really, it's just the top three that have performed way under expectation, and I can't blame DD for that.

HOWEVER, I can blame management for the way they prepared their pitchers going into this season. I remember asking during spring training, Where the heck is Sale? Because I hadn't seen him in a spring training game for weeks. Someone then pointed out how they're handing the starters, and I didn't really think much of it. But obviously it became a hot topic of conversation as they came out of the chute with *disastrous* pitching. No idea if the way they handled it was at fault, but it's hard to argue that it *helped*. Moreover, as others have discussed the past couple of days, there does seem to be an organizational philosophy of preferring to pitch for the strikeout, being willing to live with more walks than other teams are comfortable with. Those walks might not seem like a bad thing (that concept worked when facing Bregman and the Astros in the 2018 ALCS, after all), until the random homer comes after you've walked two guys ahead of it.

I'd say that ultimately, the players just need to play better, and even without doing much for the roster, this team should be MUCH better than it is. Way too much talent there. Two CYA winners in the rotation along with a guy that probably should have won a couple by now (Sale). Almost any team in baseball would take that to head up their rotation. The lineup has been fine. Defense has been a step down from last year but on the whole, average at worst. The bullpen has been terrible and is probably the place where management should have invested more. I don't think they're playing with a much different philosophy than last year, and last year it worked pretty damned well. Long story short, I'll give management 10% of the blame here, because at the end of the day, they've assembled a team with quality coaching and tons of on-field talent, and the talent - especially the starting pitching - has just let them down big time.


So, by my reckoning:

2% - Position Players - Offense
8% - Position Players - Defense
40% - Starting Pitching
40% - Relief Pitching
10% - Management (manager/coaches/GM)

(Obviously this isn't scientific!)
This is a truly balanced, comprehensive view of the core differences between 2018 and 2019. My own reaction: appreciation of the big picture combined with disappointment with this year’s performance - is identical to the writer’s. I would accent a few, highly subjective factors: Mookie’s tentativeness in all aspects of his game paired with Devers’ joy in hitting and (admittedly a bit inconsistent) fielding. Mookie takes two strikes too damn often, and he has lost the timing and explosiveness of base stealing. JD looks stiff at the plate (back problem persists?), though I can’t argue with results. If Mookie were a superb lead off man, X would be a great no. 3 - he’s pretty damn good nevertheless. Workman, Walden, Taylor could be a great bullpen core next year.
 

Danny_Darwin

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It's pretty common around here to bring up the abbreviated Spring Training as an explanation for, at the least, the slow start. Was it so abbreviated?
Chris Sale, 2018: 4 starts, 14.2 innings
Chris Sale, 2019: 2 starts, 9.2 innings
David Price, 2018: 3 starts, 12 innings
David Price, 2019: 2 starts, 6.2 innings
Eduardo Rodriguez, 2018: (Injured list)
Eduardo Rodriguez, 2019: 5 appearances (4 starts), 15 innings
Rick Porcello, 2018: 4 starts, 16 innings
Rick Porcello, 2019: 3 starts, 12 innings

Sale and Price threw simulated games before their first "proper" starts, but obviously there aren't records for those - call it three innings each. Is cutting back by, basically, one start each for everyone that big of a difference-maker? Maybe it is! I am not an MLB pitcher.

EDIT: For more context, Sale's four starts in 2018 already marked an abbreviation from the five he threw in 2017 under the watchful eye of John Farrell. Nobody complained about his lack of preparation that year.
 

Plympton91

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Don’t they throw simulated games before their first start in spring training every year?

I don’t think you can add those. And the damage might be cumulative. If you are “rounding into form” then you’re two games behind not just for your first two starts, but all the way until you’re at some steady state place.
 

Salem's Lot

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I would like to know if the starters’ approach to offseason training was different this year then in years past. And if so, was that recommended by the organization, or did they all just decide to take it easy from November until February?
 

The Needler

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Dec 7, 2016
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Position Players - Offense
I think that on the whole, the offense has been fine. Some guys are having down years, but there have been some real bright spots too. Devers, Bogaerts, and Vazquez have been tremendous. Betts, and JD been worse than last year, but both have still been very good. Benny is down from last year but he's been more than acceptable. This year they're averaging 5.7 runs per game when all of MLB is averaging 4.8 runs per game. Last year they averaged 5.4 runs per game when all of MLB averaged 4.5. So they've gone up at roughly the same pace as all of MLB has gone up. So it's hard to say that offense has been the main culprit. Yes, they've been inconsistent and have had games where they've simply not shown up offensively, but that happens every year. I'd put only about 2% of the blame on the offense.
I would note that Vazquez’s “tremendous” season has amounted to -1.552 WPA per b-ref, and -1.27 per fangraphs (9th worst in MLB).
 

nattysez

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As bad as the top 3 starters have been, it's worth noting that ERod's been a bit worse this year than last year (116->112 ERA+). But the fifth starter is where things really go off the rails. Pomeranz was shaky for 11 starts, but Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez were roughly league average over 21 starts, and then Eovaldi came in and pitched well.

It may say all you need to know that BRef doesn't list anyone as the Sox's 2019 fifth starter. No one other than the top 4 has made more than 8 starts. Velazquez and Cashner have made the most starts out of the 5-hole and both have been horrific.
 

lexrageorge

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I would note that Vazquez’s “tremendous” season has amounted to -1.552 WPA per b-ref, and -1.27 per fangraphs (9th worst in MLB).
He's got an 0.800 OPS, 103 OPS+, and a 1.9 total bWAR. Take that almost every day from your primary catcher. You cannot eat WPA.

The spring training regimen will obviously undergo a lot of scrutiny, but that doesn't explain performance in June-August. A bigger problem is that the Sox have 3 reliable starters, and they've each had their issues. Sale is undergoing regression; maybe it's injury related, maybe it's just a combination of events. Price is getting BABIP'ed. EdRod is who he is: a mid-rotation starter who puts a lot of stress on the bullpen. The 4/5 spots have been disastrous. Combine the SP problems with an already thin bullpen and there you go.

I'm not one of those that thinks the situation is hopeless this offseason. But there will be work to do. I agree that it would be nice for the team to at least have been competitive. Wasted years are never fun to watch.
 

The Needler

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He's got an 0.800 OPS, 103 OPS+, and a 1.9 total bWAR. Take that almost every day from your primary catcher. You cannot eat WPA.
WPA *is* the meat. You can’t eat WAR. You can hope it’s predictive, but WPA is what he’s actually done this season. And in terms of helping the team win at the plate, it has not been much.
 

lexrageorge

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WPA *is* the meat. You can’t eat WAR. You can hope it’s predictive, but WPA is what he’s actually done this season. And in terms of helping the team win at the plate, it has not been much.
Then perhaps you can explain how a catcher with an 0.800 OPS is magically 9th worst in MLB at the plate.
 

The Needler

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Dec 7, 2016
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Then perhaps you can explain how a catcher with an 0.800 OPS is magically 9th worst in MLB at the plate.
You can look up WPA by yourself. But a few hints: a .317 OBP is not good; and hitting .235 with an OBP of .290 in high and medium leverage situations does not help your team win baseball games.
 

BaseballJones

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Vazquez is #11 in all of MLB catchers in bWAR (3rd in fWAR), 6th in homers, 5th in slugging (among players with 200+ ab), 4th in runs. He's not the ideal player but he's given the Red Sox WAY more at the C position than they've had recently.
 

The Needler

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Vazquez is #11 in all of MLB catchers in bWAR (3rd in fWAR), 6th in homers, 5th in slugging (among players with 200+ ab), 4th in runs. He's not the ideal player but he's given the Red Sox WAY more at the C position than they've had recently.
His WAR is largely defensive. I thought we were talking about how he did offensively? He's 23rd in offensive RAA, 16th in WRC+, and as noted horrible in WPA. I'm not saying he's the main reason for this team's failing, but he just has not been "tremendous."
 

BaseballJones

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His WAR is largely defensive. I thought we were talking about how he did offensively? He's 23rd in offensive RAA, 16th in WRC+, and as noted horrible in WPA. I'm not saying he's the main reason for this team's failing, but he just has not been "tremendous."
Compare him offensively to what the Sox have had in the past few years.
 

lexrageorge

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His WAR is largely defensive. I thought we were talking about how he did offensively? He's 23rd in offensive RAA, 16th in WRC+, and as noted horrible in WPA. I'm not saying he's the main reason for this team's failing, but he just has not been "tremendous."
From baseball-reference: 1.5 oWAR, 0.4 dWAR.

Fangraphs gives him much more credit for his defense, but even credits his batting with 0.3 RAR. His base running is another story, but who cares. As for WPA, the low- and high-leverage at bats are too finely sliced sample size to have a lot of meaning.

He's a catcher; the fact that he has an 0.800 OPS is something for everyone to be happy with. He is hardly the culprit.
 

The Needler

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Fangraphs gives him much more credit for his defense, but even credits his batting with 0.3 RAR. His base running is another story, but who cares. As for WPA, the low- and high-leverage at bats are too finely sliced sample size to have a lot of meaning.

He's a catcher; the fact that he has an 0.800 OPS is something for everyone to be happy with. He is hardly the culprit.
Again, this is completely wrong. They have exactly the meaning they had. WPA is not intended to be predictive; it tells the story of the plate appearances Vazquez actually had with respect to how they helped (or didn't help) the team win the games that were played. If you want to be excited about his OPS (despite the more-important OBP component), and discount his WPA as bad luck that will be turned around next season, that's perfectly reasonable. But he simply has not been a net positive at the plate in helping this team win this season.
 

DanoooME

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Again, this is completely wrong. They have exactly the meaning they had. WPA is not intended to be predictive; it tells the story of the plate appearances Vazquez actually had with respect to how they helped (or didn't help) the team win the games that were played. If you want to be excited about his OPS (despite the more-important OBP component), and discount his WPA as bad luck that will be turned around next season, that's perfectly reasonable. But he simply has not been a net positive at the plate in helping this team win this season.
You're buying into one stat way too much. It's one element in a whole offensive profile, most of which looks pretty good.

And then how do you explain Vazquez's WPA/LI (situational wins)? That stands at 0.0. By that stat, he's pretty neutral. And here's the definition of that stat:

It is the sum of WPA divided by the leverage index for each play. WPA depends greatly on the context of its at-bats. This stat does not.
So he hasn't done well in individual context on an average team (per the definition of WPA - which also talks about measuring the probability of winning during the game, not certainty). That's no different than a lot of players with one specific weakness as opposed to another.

There's more to a player than one stat being myopically adhered to. WPA is not the be-all, end-all of stats. It's just one element of a bigger portfolio. And using it as a club to get your point across isn't helping you make your point.
 

The Needler

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You're buying into one stat way too much. It's one element in a whole offensive profile, most of which looks pretty good.

And then how do you explain Vazquez's WPA/LI (situational wins)? That stands at 0.0. By that stat, he's pretty neutral.
No, you’re failing to understand the meaning of the stats. WPA/LI is not truly situational wins. It’s the opposite of that; context neutral wins. Because it attempts to remove leverage from the equation, WPA/LI is largely just a different way of expressing WAR - a context neutral stat. As I have explained repeatedly, all I am talking about here is Vazquez’s *actual* value added toward team wins in the context he WAS presented with, which is what WPA (a context dependent stat) seeks to express. He’s been relatively neutral (over the average player) when you disregard leverage. Which is not being debated.


There's more to a player than one stat being myopically adhered to. WPA is not the be-all, end-all of stats. It's just one element of a bigger portfolio. And using it as a club to get your point across isn't helping you make your point.
Except I haven’t been myopically adhering to it. (I have also cited, for example, his offensive RAA, his wrc+, and his OBP.) I am using it for exactly the reason it was intended. Which, for the umpteenth time, is not to evaluate his talent level, or predict future seasons, or count home runs. It’s to measure the amount of win probability he has added to the Red Sox with his plate appearances in the situations in which he found himself.
 
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DanoooME

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No, you’re failing to understand the meaning of the stats. WPI/LI is not truly situational wins. It’s the opposite of that; context neutral wins. Because it attempts to remove leverage from the equation, WPA/LI is largely just a different way of expressing WAR - a context neutral stat. As I have explained repeatedly, all I am talking about here is Vazquez’s *actual* value added toward team wins in the context he WAS presented with, which is what WPA (a context dependent stat) seeks to express. He’s been relatively neutral (over a replacement-level player) when you disregard leverage. Which is not being debated.
Funny, I pulled the definition of WPA/LI word-for-word from BBRef. So they are wrong?

Except I haven’t been myopically adhering to it. I am using it for exactly the reason it was intended. Which, for the umpteenth time, is not to evaluate his talent level, or predict future seasons, or count home runs. It’s to measure the amount of win probability he has added to the Red Sox with his plate appearances in the situations in which he found himself.
OK, then I will leave you with this question. So what?
 

The Needler

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Funny, I pulled the definition of WPA/LI word-for-word from BBRef. So they are wrong?
To the extent a made up term can be wrong, yeah? I get that it’s the definition given by its creator, but It’s definitionally less of a situation-dependent stat than WPA, its numerator.


OK, then I will leave you with this question. So what?
I’ll leave you with this answer I offered in my very first post: he hasn’t been “tremendous.”
 
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JMDurron

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Great opening post, but I think you might be understating the relative amount of blame that should fall onto the defense here, particularly in the OF.

Position Players - Defense
Last year the Sox fielding percentage was .986, good for 7th in all of MLB. They committed 0.48 errors per game. This year they're down to .984 (14th in MLB), averaging 0.56 errors per game. This year the Sox are allowing 0.40 unearned runs a game; last year they allowed 0.24 unearned runs per game. Even to my admittedly biased "eye test", they've looked worse on defense this year. Bad defense makes the pitching worse. Pitchers have to throw more pitches and get out of tougher jams. Bad defense makes mediocre pitching BAD. Some of it is incomprehensible too. Seeing studs like Bradley and Betts watch a ball fall between them while both of them stand there looking at each other. And some of the bad defense (though this can happen any season) doesn't even get counted as errors. Devers the other day allowing a slow roller by Ohtani to not only stay fair (it was going to stay fair anyway), but get past him down the third base line for an insane double on a slow check swing roller. Now that run didn't score, but it put a lot more stress on the pitcher having to pitch out of that situation. That stuff adds up. The defense has been a letdown this year. I'd put about 8% of the blame on the defense.


So, by my reckoning:

2% - Position Players - Offense
8% - Position Players - Defense
40% - Starting Pitching
40% - Relief Pitching
10% - Management (manager/coaches/GM)

(Obviously this isn't scientific!)
Put simply, I don't think fielding percentage and unearned runs is measuring just how large the dropoff in defensive effectiveness from the 2018 to the 2019 Red Sox may have been. Obviously, looking at any more recent/advanced defensive statistics invites all the usual issues with how noisy those numbers are, but in context of the "eye test" that the defense appears to be underperforming, I think they are still worth considering.

Personally, I think of the purpose of the defense is to convert balls in play into outs (so I consider catcher pitch framing, pitch calling, ball blocking, pitcher BB and Ks, and HRs a part of "Pitching", not "defense" for purposes of slicing up the blame pie here). In this context, there's a particular stat on baseball-reference that I've found myself drawn to, called Defensive Efficiency (DefEff). The short definition is "Percentage of balls in play converted into outs." The longer explanation of how they come to that is spoilered for those who don't care:

This is an estimate based on team defensive and pitching stats.
We utilize two estimates of plays made.
One using innings pitched, strikeouts, double plays and outfield assists.
And the other with batters faced, strikeouts, hits allowed, walks allowed, hbp, and .71 * errors committed (avg percent of errors that result in an ROE)
Total plays available are plays made + hits allowed - home runs + error committed estimate.

In 2018, the Red Sox put up a DefEff of 0.693, 12th out of 30 MLB teams. Given the IF defense issues last year (Nunez at 2B and Devers at 3B immediately spring to my mind), and the fact that Fenway's dimensions can be intuitively expected to increase "balls in play" that could not actually have been caught by anyone that might have been outs (or HRs) elsewhere, that's pretty solid results out of the defense.

Thus far in 2019, the Red Sox have a defensive efficiency of 0.670, good for dead last in all of MLB. This, in a stat that excludes the impacts of both HRs (which we know are up this year) and BBs (which the Red Sox may be especially struggling with compared to last season), would seem to indicate that there is more going on here than just bad starting and relief pitcher performance. Even if those pitchers are missing their spots more often, thereby giving up harder contact off the bat that is therefore more difficult to field, that's a striking drop relative to the rest of the league. If we accept this stat, however imperfect it may be, as representing something other than noise, the next question becomes "what is going on here?"

I switched over to Fangraphs to see if their numbers might help to answer the question, with a focus on my suspicion that the OF defense might be a key differentiator between the 2018 and 2019 defenses. I therefore queried for the defensive stats for just the OFers in 2018 and 2019 to see if any major differences jumped out.

In 2018, the following key numbers were: 0.921 RZR, 19.1 ARM, 5.4 RngR, 26.4 UZR.
In 2019, the same stats are: 0.924 RZR, 12.8 ARM, -6.1 RngR, 7.4 UZR

The range number immediately caught my attention, as that's exactly the kind of "invisible" difference in performance that I think we'd collectively have a really hard time picking up on from watching the games with our own eyes. The difference in arm seems noisy given the comparison of a full season to a partial one, but the UZR difference seems larger than could be explained away by that consideration.

Back to b-ref, I took a look at their defensive metrics for the OF in both 2018 and 2019 to see if the same dropoff in OF defense seemed to manifest itself in their data. It appears to do so. B-ref's definitions are spoilered below the numbers.

2018: 54 Rtot, 40 Rtz, 14 Rof, 9 Rdrs
2019: -4 Rtot, -10 Rtz, 6 Rof, 8 Rdrs

Rtot -- Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Avg
The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.
This number combines the Rtz, Rdp, Rof, Rcatch numbers into a total defensive contribution.

Rtz -- Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Avg
The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on fielding plays made.
This number does not include OF kills, or double plays turned

Rof -- Total Zone Outfield Arm Runs Above Avg
The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on baserunner kills and baserunner advances.
See the glossary section for a more complete explanation.

Rdrs -- BIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Avg
The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.
This number combines the Rpm, Rbdp, Rbof, Rbcatch numbers into a total defensive contribution.

Given that the difference between the 2018 Rtot (35, 6th best in MLB) and the 2019 Rtot (-8, 20th in MLB) is smaller than the difference in the OF performance, I'd suggest that the performance of the OF defense has been the biggest factor in why the 2019 Red Sox have been so much worse at turning balls in play into outs than the 2018 team was.

I won't argue against anyone pointing out that pitchers giving up harder contact and the coaching staff possibly making pre-pitch positioning mistakes are also considerations when trying to determine why that decrease in OF defensive performance has occurred. I also understand that these defensive stats are much noisier than their offensive equivalents, and are not necessarily predictive. I think there's still something here that helps to tell the story that we are already seeing play out before our eyes. I do think, however, that placing 80% of the blame on the performance of the pitchers and only 8% of the blame on the defensive performance is unfair to the pitchers themselves, as all of those extra balls not being converted into outs should be considered a part of cause of the 2019 team's general inability to limit the number of runs allowed.
 

Devizier

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Then perhaps you can explain how a catcher with an 0.800 OPS is magically 9th worst in MLB at the plate.
The point is that the *results* of Vazquez's performance have not been good, even if his performance in the abstract has been.

Fortunately, WPA is not predictive but it does explain (in part) how the Red Sox might have underperformed in some areas this year.

But I should state that is all that it explains.
 

Pitt the Elder

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Given that the difference between the 2018 Rtot (35, 6th best in MLB) and the 2019 Rtot (-8, 20th in MLB) is smaller than the difference in the OF performance, I'd suggest that the performance of the OF defense has been the biggest factor in why the 2019 Red Sox have been so much worse at turning balls in play into outs than the 2018 team was.
Baseball Savant has a bunch of interesting defensive stats using statcast that are interesting to look at: https://www.mlb.com/news/new-outfield-jump-burst-route-metrics-at-baseball-savant

Here are the key stats for our guys:

Mookie:
  • Sprint speed: 27.9, 27.9, 28.1, 27.9
  • 2+ Star Out %: 64.0%, 68.8%, 62.8%, 56.6%
  • Outs above average: 13, 19, 10, 5
  • Reaction: 1.5, 1.1, 0.0, -0.2
  • Burst: 0.5, 1.1, 0.0, -0.2
  • Route: -0.2, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5
  • Feet vs Avg: 1.8, 2.1, 0.3, 0.0
  • Feet Covered: 34.9, 35.5, 33.9, 33.5
JBJ:
  • Sprint speed: 27.4, 27.5, 27.8, 27.5
  • 2+ Star Out %: 53.3%, 65.1%, 59.6%, 55.7%
  • Outs above average: 9, 11, 9, 8
  • Reaction: 3.1, 3.1, 2.7, 2.7
  • Burst: 0.7, 0.7, 0.9, 0.2
  • Route: -2.1, -2.0, -2.3, -1.9
  • Feet vs Avg: 1.7, 1.8, 1.4, 0.9
  • Feet Covered: 35.6, 36.0, 35.8, 35.3
Beni:
  • Sprint speed: 28.6, 28.3, 27.7, 26.9
  • 2+ Star Out %: 33.3%, 29.7%, 47.1%, 18.6%
  • Outs above average: -1, -7, -1, -5
  • Reaction: -1.1, -1.4, -1.4, -1.2
  • Burst: -0.2, -0.8, -1.1, -1.3
  • Route: 1.0, 0.8, 0.8, 0.8
  • Feet vs Avg: -0.3, -1.5, -1.7, -1.7
  • Feet Covered: 30.6, 30.7, 31.4, 31.4
Mookie is about as fast as he's always been, but he's performing worse on defense by all objective measures (fewer outs, worse range). It's interesting to see that his reaction time has worsened while his route efficiency has improved, but the net result hasn't improved. If he's not physically slower, what explains this? His game appears less aggressive overall this year than last, so maybe he's playing more conservatively and that's showing up in the stats. Mookie is a pedestrian 45th out of 105 in feet covered but a still respectable 17th in outs above average.

JBJ is pretty much who he has always been. His speed, though not great, is still in line with his career averages, as well as the rest of his stats. I think what's interesting about these stats is that his reaction time is fantastic - the best in baseball by a ton (Ramon Laureano is second in 1.9 and Leonys Martin is 3rd in 1.3, not even close to JBJ) but his route is fantastically bad, last in baseball by similar amounts. This sort of counters the prevailing opinion that JBJ runs directly to where he needs to be to catch the ball. Perhaps he reacts *immediately* with every hit ball but, because he reacted so fast, he has to course-correct once he has time to see where the ball actually goes. Still, he's 11th in baseball in feet covered and 5th in outs above average.

There seems to be something very, very wrong with Beni. His sprint speed, which used to be elite (89th percentile in 2016 at age 22) is now average (53rd percentile at age 25). If he's already suffering an age-related decline in his speed that drastic, that is very bad. Beyond that, his 2+ star outs and OOA have cratered, at 2nd and 15th worst in the league respectively. His route is good - 5th best in baseball - but his reaction, burst, and feet vs average are all bad. If anything, he might be doing the opposite of JBJ and waiting too long to figure out where, exactly, the ball is going to land before he starts running and, if he really has lost speed, he simply can't get there in time. His OOA (15th worst) and feet covered (18th worst) are among the worst in baseball.

The big caveat to all this is that I don't know how park factors or shifts break into it but it seems like Jackie is still very good defensively, Mookie is still playing good, but not elite defense, and Beni is absolutely terrible.
 

shaggydog2000

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The point is that the *results* of Vazquez's performance have not been good, even if his performance in the abstract has been.

Fortunately, WPA is not predictive but it does explain (in part) how the Red Sox might have underperformed in some areas this year.

But I should state that is all that it explains.
WPA doesn't do a great job of measuring performance, but does measure the situational distribution of performance. Needler is right that it measure what happened, and that it's not very predictive by nature. So it seems like a better way to measure luck over small samples than it is to measure ability, or even total performance. Marco Hernandez and Brock Holt have higher values by this metric than JD Martinez. I don't think any of us would use that info to determine who should bat 4th in the lineup tomorrow.
 

maufman

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The Red Sox’ third-order win percentage (a Baseball Prospectus metric) is .567, meaning they have underperformed that metric by about 6 wins this season. If you buy the metric, this is mostly just bad luck.

@JMDurron has superbly laid out the evidence that the Sox’ defense has underperformed this season. He doesn’t try to boil the analysis down to a bottom-line answer, but there are a couple metrics in there suggesting a drop-off of 40 runs, or roughly 4 wins.

So that’s about a 10-win drop-off based on hard-to-measure stuff, before you even get into obvious factors like declines in production from our top 3 hitters and our pitching staff’s inability to throw strikes.

I think this explains why every time we try to pinpoint the source(s) of this team’s woes, we end up with a healthy list but still end up saying “yeah, but that doesn’t explain all of it.”
 

The Needler

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t seems like Jackie is still very good defensively, Mookie is still playing good, but not elite defense, and Beni is absolutely terrible.
I question how how you’ve interpreted the outfielder data. Most of them are components, but you’ve treated them just as importantly as the primary data, which are: 2+ Star Out% (percentage of opportunities converted from balls with 0-90% probability); OAA on those same balls (note that this is not necessarily the same as overall OAA, because it excludes 1-star catches); and feet vs. average. (feet covered vs the average outfielder in the first 3 seconds after the ball is hit), which is essentially a sum of the reaction, burst, and route data.

When you consider those actual results, there is a noticeable decline among all three in every category except for JBJ in OAA, which is partially explained by the relatively high number of opportunities, and can be somewhat skewed by just one or two low probability catches. But his percentage of those overall catches made has declined as well. Note also that JBJ’s overall OAA has gone from 15 to 12 to 7 from 2017 to so far this year.

Mookie:

    • Sprint speed: 27.9, 27.9, 28.1, 27.9
    • 2+ Star Out %: 64.0%, 68.8%, 62.8%, 56.6% (21st among outfielders)
    • Outs above average: 13, 19, 10, 5
    • Reaction: 1.5, 1.1, 0.0, -0.2
    • Burst: 0.5, 1.1, 0.0, -0.2
    • Route: -0.2, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5
    • Feet vs Avg: 1.8, 2.1, 0.3, 0.0
    • Feet Covered: 34.9, 35.5, 33.9, 33.5
JBJ:

    • Sprint speed: 27.4, 27.5, 27.8, 27.5
    • 2+ Star Out %: 53.3%, 65.1%, 59.6%, 55.7% (27th among outfielders)
    • Outs above average: 9, 11, 9, 8
    • Reaction: 3.1, 3.1, 2.7, 2.7
    • Burst: 0.7, 0.7, 0.9, 0.2
    • Route: -2.1, -2.0, -2.3, -1.9
    • Feet vs Avg: 1.7, 1.8, 1.4, 0.9
    • Feet Covered: 35.6, 36.0, 35.8, 35.3
Beni:

    • Sprint speed: 28.6, 28.3, 27.7, 26.9
    • 2+ Star Out %: 33.3%, 29.7%, 47.1%, 18.6% (104th among outfielders)
    • Outs above average: -1, -7, -1, -5
    • Reaction: -1.1, -1.4, -1.4, -1.2
    • Burst: -0.2, -0.8, -1.1, -1.3
    • Route: 1.0, 0.8, 0.8, 0.8
    • Feet vs Avg: -0.3, -1.5, -1.7, -1.7
    • Feet Covered: 30.6, 30.7, 31.4, 31.4
 

Humphrey

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I would also perhaps add a category "long relievers and spot starters", which would consist primarily of Velasquez, Johnson, Wright and Weber*; this category I'd rate as poorly as the regular starters.

Their injuries, suspensions and general ineptitude have contributed mightily to the breakdowns of the one inning guys.

*Weber's been more of a short reliever lately.
 

Pitt the Elder

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I question how how you’ve interpreted the outfielder data. Most of them are components, but you’ve treated them just as importantly as the primary data, which are: 2+ Star Out% (percentage of opportunities converted from balls with 0-90% probability); OAA on those same balls (note that this is not necessarily the same as overall OAA, because it excludes 1-star catches); and feet vs. average. (feet covered vs the average outfielder in the first 3 seconds after the ball is hit), which is essentially a sum of the reaction, burst, and route data.

When you consider those actual results, there is a noticeable decline among all three in every category except for JBJ in OAA, which is partially explained by the relatively high number of opportunities, and can be somewhat skewed by just one or two low probability catches. But his percentage of those overall catches made has declined as well. Note also that JBJ’s overall OAA has gone from 15 to 12 to 7 from 2017 to so far this year.
That's a fair point. That OAA stat is cumulative and there are still some 40 games to go, so I didn't want to focus too much on that, but the rate stats you cite are fair. I think 21st and 27th out of 105 outfielders still qualify as "very good" but definitely not elite.

To @jdmurron's point though, the outfield defense is doing much worse in 2019 as a collective unity than in 2018:

2018:
PlayerOutsOpp%
Mookie497862.8%
JBJ538959.6%
Beni326847.1%
Total13423557.0%

2019:
PlayerOutsOpp%
Mookie437656.6%
JBJ346155.7%
Beni84318.6%
Total8518047.2%


Doing some quick math, that translates in 18 fewer outs recorded by the outfield that they would have gotten in 2018.
 

Rovin Romine

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Putting aside relatively small sample sizes and bad luck, is it more likely that:

1) our three key outfielders, still in their prime, have all individually become significantly worse outfielders.

2) their abilities are mostly the same, but their environment has changed. e.g., harder hit, better angled balls.
 

The Needler

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Putting aside relatively small sample sizes and bad luck, is it more likely that:

1) our three key outfielders, still in their prime, have all individually become significantly worse outfielders.

2) their abilities are mostly the same, but their environment has changed. e.g., harder hit, better angled balls.
1) They are not all still in their prime as defensive outfielders, according to aging curves; or at the very least not at their peaks.



2) The data accounts for “harder hit, better angled balls.” It takes into account the distance traveled of the ball and the time it takes to get there.

So I’d say your #1 is more likely.
 
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maufman

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Putting aside relatively small sample sizes and bad luck, is it more likely that:

1) our three key outfielders, still in their prime, have all individually become significantly worse outfielders.

2) their abilities are mostly the same, but their environment has changed. e.g., harder hit, better angled balls.
I take your point, but with all three on pace for significantly fewer steals this season, perhaps there’s a loss of speed in addition to factors beyond their control (more hard-hit balls, plus just plain bad luck).
 

JMDurron

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The Beni numbers seem to make some sense in context of reports during his hitting struggles earlier in the season - I believe the term used was "dead legs" that were impacting him at the plate. I don't think it's much of a leap to suggest that whatever that exact term may mean, it's not a coincidence that his ability to get to balls in LF dropped off significantly during the same season when he has been dealing with that particular ailment.
 

Pitt the Elder

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I take your point, but with all three on pace for significantly fewer steals this season, perhaps there’s a loss of speed in addition to factors beyond their control (more hard-hit balls, plus just plain bad luck).
I know this metric isn't perfect, but Mookie's sprint speed over the past 4 years (27.9, 27.9, 28.1, 27.9) has been pretty constant, same for JBJ. Beni, though has really lost his speed this season. I wonder if there's a way to get splits on sprint speed to see if he's somehow regained it these past few weeks.
 

The Needler

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I know this metric isn't perfect, but Mookie's sprint speed over the past 4 years (27.9, 27.9, 28.1, 27.9) has been pretty constant, same for JBJ. Beni, though has really lost his speed this season. I wonder if there's a way to get splits on sprint speed to see if he's somehow regained it these past few weeks.
A couple of things to point out: (1) the basic sprint speed number only measure the player in his fastest one second window; so it's possible if not likely to get "slower" overall, even if you're still able to reach a similar peak speed, if you can't maintain it for as long, it takes longer to reach, etc.; (2) the sprint speed only uses an average of the faster runs a player makes (approximately 2/3 of total). So just because Mookie's measurement by this metric has stayed similar, it's not necessarily an apples to apples.

As an example, Mookie had 6 runs that qualified as "bolts" (at least 30ft/sec) in each of the prior two seasons, and 10 the year before, but just one this season.

As another, his average on competitive home to first sprints this year is 4.30; it was 4.18 last season. (Likewise, Tendi has gone from 4.22 to 4.32.)
 

Savin Hillbilly

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big caveat to all this is that I don't know how park factors or shifts break into it but it seems like Jackie is still very good defensively, Mookie is still playing good, but not elite defense, and Beni is absolutely terrible.
Oddly, Benintendi is the one whose DRS and UZR numbers have declined the least of the three this year.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I think those who frequent game threads know there are two offensive stats that I've been borderline obsessed with this year. I can't say really why, except that it's so dramatically different from last year that I think it must mean something, though I'm just not sure what.

First, stolen bases. Since the all star break, the team has stopped running almost completely. They have 7 SBs in those 34 games. Cherry picking just a little because it has been so noticeable, they have exactly 2 stolen bases in their last 24 games! Part of it is that they are not stealing bases well. In the last 24 games against those two SBs they have been caught stealing 5 times. For the year, they are 56 and 22. Compare that to 125 and 31 last year.

Stolen bases are not the be-all of anything. It looks as though they will end the year around mid to high 60s or so, which would be about 60 fewer than last year. I don't know the value of 60 stolen bases. It certainly is not the difference between 108 wins and 80 whatever they will win this year. But what stands out so dramatically about it is how deeply part of their identity it was last year. They were the most proficient SB team in the league. And it's the exact same roster. It wasn't just the stolen base itself, but more of a grinding type of relentlessness that really just wore the opponents down series after series after series. You could almost literally see opponents crumbling inning after inning after inning of just relentless baseball where there was simply no opportunity to take a minute off against the Red Sox last year. I remember so many times seeing opposing pitchers in close and winnable games looking like they just didn't want to be there. Stomping around the mound. Deep breaths. Calling for time outs. Asking catchers to recycle the signs. Looking into the dugout. Throwing to first base a half dozen times so they didn't have to throw a pitch.

It is true that from a run-production standpoint, the 2019 Red Sox do not seem all that different from the 2018 Red Sox. And runs are runs and maybe this oppressive relentlessness that I'm pining for is make believe nonsense. But there is something intangible going on with this squad. I just don't see how you can change your identity so completely. Perhaps the team has some math that says that the stolen base is too risky from a risk reward standpoint. But it's hard to fathom seeing a team that was relentless on the bases getting to the point where, since the ASB they have gone 23 of 34 games without even attempting to steal a base. Maybe it's not the stolen bases per se, but the difficulty of so fundamentally changing gears and the fundamental change in identity that is wearing on the team.

Or maybe it's just another way to note that the team's pitching has sucked and maybe the point is that when you're playing from behind more and when the other team feels like they can score on you, the value of the SB is less (or the risk of getting caught too high). So, there could be a chicken and egg thing here, but man is it sticking out like a sore thumb at this point.

Second is situational hitting. Especially, 3B and less than 2 out. Last year they were .339/.386/.601 with a tOPS+ of 147 in that spot. When you let a man get to third base against the 2018 Boston Red Sox you were screwed. This year they are .279/.330/.405 with a tOPS+ of 81. I have no explanation for this. It is more than a SSS problem though the team is producing runs well and so it's just bizarre. I don't know what it means. But like with the stolen bases it's hard to believe that this is the same team when I look at those numbers. It's crazy.
 

The Needler

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Dec 7, 2016
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The Red Sox wSB is -.7 so far this year, compared to +8.7 last year. Everything else staying the same, that’s about 1 win by pythag.
 

Reverend

for king and country
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I think those who frequent game threads know there are two offensive stats that I've been borderline obsessed with this year. I can't say really why, except that it's so dramatically different from last year that I think it must mean something, though I'm just not sure what.

First, stolen bases. Since the all star break, the team has stopped running almost completely. They have 7 SBs in those 34 games. Cherry picking just a little because it has been so noticeable, they have exactly 2 stolen bases in their last 24 games! Part of it is that they are not stealing bases well. In the last 24 games against those two SBs they have been caught stealing 5 times. For the year, they are 56 and 22. Compare that to 125 and 31 last year.

Stolen bases are not the be-all of anything. It looks as though they will end the year around mid to high 60s or so, which would be about 60 fewer than last year. I don't know the value of 60 stolen bases. It certainly is not the difference between 108 wins and 80 whatever they will win this year. But what stands out so dramatically about it is how deeply part of their identity it was last year. They were the most proficient SB team in the league. And it's the exact same roster. It wasn't just the stolen base itself, but more of a grinding type of relentlessness that really just wore the opponents down series after series after series. You could almost literally see opponents crumbling inning after inning after inning of just relentless baseball where there was simply no opportunity to take a minute off against the Red Sox last year. I remember so many times seeing opposing pitchers in close and winnable games looking like they just didn't want to be there. Stomping around the mound. Deep breaths. Calling for time outs. Asking catchers to recycle the signs. Looking into the dugout. Throwing to first base a half dozen times so they didn't have to throw a pitch.

It is true that from a run-production standpoint, the 2019 Red Sox do not seem all that different from the 2018 Red Sox. And runs are runs and maybe this oppressive relentlessness that I'm pining for is make believe nonsense. But there is something intangible going on with this squad. I just don't see how you can change your identity so completely. Perhaps the team has some math that says that the stolen base is too risky from a risk reward standpoint. But it's hard to fathom seeing a team that was relentless on the bases getting to the point where, since the ASB they have gone 23 of 34 games without even attempting to steal a base. Maybe it's not the stolen bases per se, but the difficulty of so fundamentally changing gears and the fundamental change in identity that is wearing on the team.

Or maybe it's just another way to note that the team's pitching has sucked and maybe the point is that when you're playing from behind more and when the other team feels like they can score on you, the value of the SB is less (or the risk of getting caught too high). So, there could be a chicken and egg thing here, but man is it sticking out like a sore thumb at this point.

Second is situational hitting. Especially, 3B and less than 2 out. Last year they were .339/.386/.601 with a tOPS+ of 147 in that spot. When you let a man get to third base against the 2018 Boston Red Sox you were screwed. This year they are .279/.330/.405 with a tOPS+ of 81. I have no explanation for this. It is more than a SSS problem though the team is producing runs well and so it's just bizarre. I don't know what it means. But like with the stolen bases it's hard to believe that this is the same team when I look at those numbers. It's crazy.
I was expecting something about the foul balls.
 
Aug 11, 2019
6
Second is situational hitting. Especially, 3B and less than 2 out. Last year they were .339/.386/.601 with a tOPS+ of 147 in that spot. When you let a man get to third base against the 2018 Boston Red Sox you were screwed. This year they are .279/.330/.405 with a tOPS+ of 81. I have no explanation for this.
I had been looking at that along with the Yankees. While the Red Sox are below league average in BA/OBP/SLG/OPS in a number of situations with runners in scoring position and less than two out, the Yankees are not. Given that both teams had the same number of games in which they scored 9+ runs when I looked at this, I found it a bit puzzling. One would need to look at play-by-play for every game to see just when things happen and I don't feel like going through 100+ games for each team.
 

Humphrey

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Aug 3, 2010
746
I would actually love to be able to find those stats.
I did find something somewhere that stated that there was a 12% rise in the number of foul balls versus 15 years ago. Wonder whether the increase has been steady or jumped a lot the last year or so.

No one would build a new park like London's (because the seats close to the field would not be very close); but in an extremely short sample it did make the game more interesting when there was a chance for infielders to catch popups that normally would be well into the stands. Back 20 (and more) years ago this would have been seen as a minus, not a plus.
 

Reverend

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1) They are not all still in their prime as defensive outfielders, according to aging curves; or at the very least not at their peaks.



2) The data accounts for “harder hit, better angled balls.” It takes into account the distance traveled of the ball and the time it takes to get there.

So I’d say your #1 is more likely.
Keep in mind there may be a selection effect if players that break in at younger ages tend to be better-that would create some upward bias towards the left.

That said, the decline is more striking and persistent than I think many people realize.
 

The Needler

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Dec 7, 2016
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That said, the decline is more striking and persistent than I think many people realize.
Yep, and it's understandable. We watch athletes, and specifically baseball players remain at their positions well into their 30s, and we see their hitting skills remain relatively flat as we can confirm by looking at familiar numbers. But while outfield defense is certainly a skill, it's highly dependent on footspeed, which is mostly* a physical talent. And it's basically impossible for us to notice loss of speed with the naked eye, but these tiny drops have a significant impact in range. And probably mostly, for those of us who are older, it's nearly impossible to think of a 26 year-old as anything but young and in the very prime of prowess, and it's almost unfathomable to think they're getting slower. But even Usain Bolt got slower, and ran his fastest time at 22.

* My amateur theory is that while pretty much everybody gets slower after around 22 or 23, the typical training regimen of MLB players--which somewhat understandably places greatest emphasis on hitting--exacerbates the rate of decline. I base this on the fact that though male Olympic sprinters also peak in their early 20s, many of them--like Usain--are able to maintain almost all of that speed into their 30s. Likewise, notable MLB outliers (I'm thinking specifically Lofton and Ichiro) who maintained much of their speed well into their careers were renowned for their intense legwork focused on speed. I tend to think if more speedwork were integrated into training, you'd see that curve flatten out significantly.
 

Pitt the Elder

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Sep 7, 2013
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It would be amazing to do similar age curves with statcast data. I'm not sure if 4-5 seasons is enough to do this kind of analysis, but in a few seasons they'll start to have entire cohorts that have entered and left their prime completely within the statcast era.
 

Plympton91

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Oct 19, 2008
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I’d also be interested in seeing all these aging curves limited to elite players. What’s the aging curve of players who have won MVPs, gold gloves, etc for example.
 

The Needler

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Dec 7, 2016
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I’d also be interested in seeing all these aging curves limited to elite players. What’s the aging curve of players who have won MVPs, gold gloves, etc for example.
For outfield defense? Between the incredibly small sample size and the inclusion of subjective criteria to select groups, the result would be pretty much worthless.

If you're talking about more overall aging curves for young stars, some of that work has been done, though acknowledging the sample size problem: