Was the 2013 offensive whole greater than the sum of its parts?

Snodgrass'Muff

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Let's start off by acknowledging that it's 6 games into the season and that no conclusions can be drawn from the team's performance in such a short span.  It might even be early to start asking questions, but I thought I'd throw this out there just as something to keep an eye on, or in case anyone else is seeing hints of the same thing.
 
The 2013 offense was relentless.  As the winter leading into last season was unfolding, I noted that the players they were signing may not have been world beaters with the stick, but they all seemed to see a higher than average amount of pitches per plate appearance.  Gomes saw 4.13 and 4.05 in the two seasons leading into 2013.  Drew saw 4.02 in 2011 and split time between ARI (4.25) and OAK (4.31) in 2012.  Carp saw 4.07 in 2012.  Victorino was the worst of the new acquisitions at 3.77 in 2012.  The team already had some hitters who excelled at drawing out at bats and wearing pitchers down in Pedroia (3.97), Ortiz (3.91), Salty (4.06), Nava (4.07), Ellsbury (3.89), and Napoli (4.43).  Even the team's worst free swinger, Middlebrooks, saw 3.88 per plate appearance in 2012 and managed a 4.11 in 2013.  The offense, from top to bottom, made pitchers work hard to get through every at bat and was successful in getting them out of games early on a regular basis.
 
Enter A.J. Pierzynski.  He saw 3.47 P/PA in 2012, and only 3.27 in 2013.  He doesn't fit with the kinds of hitters the team targeted in the 2012-2013 winter.  On top of that, his OBP in 2013 was .297.  I get that the Red Sox signed him because of the circumstances, but there's no polite way to say it... he's not a tough out at the plate and gives the pitcher a chance to catch his breath once every time through the order.  So I find myself wondering, how much does that impact a pitcher on any given night?  Maybe the effect isn't so big, but what if it is?  Is there a possibility that it can erode the lineup's effectiveness overall?  Was the constant pressure from every hitter in the lineup in 2013 a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts?  A lot of people had trouble seeing just how good the offense was going to be in 2013 and a lot of us are expecting the offense this year to be one of the best in the majors.  So far, they are 2nd to last in runs scored in the AL.  Again, super SSS warning.  I'm not jumping off of a bridge here.  I'm not even glancing up at it mournfully as I stroll past.  I'm just thinking out loud (or in a text box, actually).
 
Is it too early to be jumping to conclusions?  Absolutely.  Only one pitcher this season has made it into the 7th inning against the Red Sox so far.  Most haven't made it into the 6th.  But I'm left wondering how much having one spot in the order that is so much easier to work through can impact the team's ability to wear down a pitcher and trigger mistake pitches or a loss of command or any number of things that contribute to a more effective offense that might not be obvious in the box score.  We've acknowledged that in the age of pitch counts, 100 pitches is not necessarily equal to another 100 pitches.  The Red Sox look to remove pitchers after their third crisis, for instance, rather than stick with a hard pitch count limit.  They are concerned with how hard a pitcher has worked in his outing more so than the raw number of pitches thrown.  So it's not so crazy to wonder how a hitter who provides an easier at bat might allow a pitcher to stay fresh and effective a little longer on any given night.
 
Or maybe I'm just crazy and am letting the first brief losing streak of the season get to me.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Snodgrass'Muff said:
Or maybe I'm just crazy and am letting the first brief losing streak of the season get to me.
This.

I don't like AJP much either but the estimated difference between him and Salty might be 2-3 pitches total for the opposing team's starting pitcher. In terms of talent level, its also not obvious that their respective 2013 is really an appropriate baseline. Salty had .288 OBP in 2011 and 2012 while AJP was at .323 and .326. ZIPS likes Salty a little bit more for 2014 but their Steamer projections are nearly identical. Thinking that AJP could basically give us roughly Salty's production at the plate for a year (and probably better defense) isn't really all that far fetched.
 

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I'm not entirely clear about the premise of this thread.  The title and the thesis don't appear to be related to each other. 
 
Also, what MMS just said.
 

TheYaz67

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I also don't know that pitchers regard AJP as a batter to "catch your breath against" just b/c of his PA/AB #s - dude did hit 27 HR in 2012, and can usually be counted on 15 HR +/-....
 

Snodgrass'Muff

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glennhoffmania said:
I'm not entirely clear about the premise of this thread.  The title and the thesis don't appear to be related to each other. 
 
Also, what MMS just said.
 
Perhaps the title isn't the best way to introduce the idea, but what I'm trying to get at is the idea that the "relentless offense" approach may need to be continuous throughout the lineup to be fully effective, and that if your offense is built with that as its foundation, a weak link might have a greater negative impact than it would on a lineup constructed in another way.
 
MMS makes a good point in comparing Salty to AJP and what to expect going forward, but this was not meant to be a Salty vs AJP thread, and it's not mean to point fingers at anyone in the organization.  It's just an abstract look at the offense, both last year and this year and an attempt to get at what makes it succeed or fail when you get under the surface.
 
TheYaz67 said:
I also don't know that pitchers regard AJP as a batter to "catch your breath against" just b/c of his PA/AB #s - dude did hit 27 HR in 2012, and can usually be counted on 15 HR +/-....
 
While this is true, he also only gets on base around 30% of the time, swings at very high rate of pitches and makes a lot of weak contact.  Additionally, if he's hitting low in the order, the chances of him coming up without men of base goes up and those home runs have less of a chance to be big damage.  Lot's of pitchers say they don't really get rattled by solo shots because the damage is minimal.  It's the 2 or 3 run bombs that really hurt, so while Pierzynski is capable of going yard, he's not typically a huge threat.
 
As a hitter in general, Pierzynksi is fairly poor.  His P/PA is a reflection of his approach, not the only only reason pitchers would consider him a bit of a breather.
 

Hank Scorpio

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Granted, it's early in the season, but AJP has been simply putrid. Here's a running tally of his season thus far:
 
Game 1: 4 PA, 11 pitches
- 2 pitch flyout
- 3 pitch single
- 3 pitch groundout
- 3 pitch groundout

Game 2: 4 PA, 9 pitches
- 1 pitch flyout
- 5 pitch strikeout
- 2 pitch double play
- 1 pitch single

Game 3: Did not play. Ross had a key RBI single in his place, and saw 19 pitches.

Game 4: 3 PA, 8 pitches
- 4 pitch strikeout
- 3 pitch strikeout
- 1 pitch lineout

Game 5: 4 PA, 9 pitches
- 1 pitch groundout
- 3 pitch groundout
- 2 pitch double play
- 3 pitch strikeout

Game 6: 1 PA, 1 pitch
- 1 pitch groundout

Total: 16 PA, 38 pitches = 2.38 P/PA
 
His "best" at bat of the season is arguably that 5 pitch strikeout, because it was at least a battle. Sort of.
 
Combining his ineptitude at the plate with his terrible, apathetic baserunning and poor defensive showing, I really have to wonder how long he'll be allowed to be a major liability on this team.
 
At the same time, the homer in me thinks the rest of the team will be just fine, and blames the lousy cold weather. But screw the new guy.
 

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Snodgrass'Muff said:
Let's start off by acknowledging that it's 6 games into the season and that no conclusions can be drawn from the team's performance in such a short span.
 
Okay.
 
Adios.
 
EDIT: More seriously, yes it's too early. And yes, even "relentless offense" is going to have a stretch where they aren't. From May 3 through May 14 of last year, they went 2-9, and only scored 5+ 3 times.
 

OilCanMDS

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I came across this article during the offseason and couldn't find a good place to post it, but it seems to be somewhat related to the topic of the thread.
 
http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/2/13/5404978/the-best-team-in-baseball-the-team-after-the-red-sox-pitches-seen-pitches-per-plate-appearance
 
The article states that all of the pitches the Sox saw most directly benefited the team following the Red Sox rather than the Sox.  The benefit of getting to the middle relievers and wearing down starters was not apparent from an inning-by-inning breakdown of the Sox's scoring versus the MLB and AL average.  The benefits to the team following the Sox can be summarized in these quotes:
 
"All told, Boston opponents went 17-34 in their next games, for a .333 winning percentage. Although no MLB team managed a winning percentage as good as .600 last season, the team that stood in just after Boston won two-thirds of its games."
"When a team had no off day after facing the Red Sox, their winning percentage in their very next game dropped to an incredible .278 (10-26)."
 
So, I'm not sure if the P/PA thing is really what drove the success of the offense, and think it could more likely be attributed to having solid hitters throughout the lineup.  Which I guess is also a relentless offense, just not in the sense of the pitcher having to use lots of pitches to get every batter out.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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Snodgrass'Muff said:
 
Additionally, if he's hitting low in the order, the chances of him coming up without men of base goes up and those home runs have less of a chance to be big damage.  Lot's of pitchers say they don't really get rattled by solo shots because the damage is minimal.  It's the 2 or 3 run bombs that really hurt, so while Pierzynski is capable of going yard, he's not typically a huge threat.
 
So far the people who have started in the three slots before him in the Sox order have been Bogaerts (4 games), Sizemore (3), Gomes (2), Carp (2), and Napoli (1). I don't think having a dearth of guys to drive in is going to be a problem for A.J. this year. He has been (and will probably continue to be) more sinning than sinned against in that department.
 

Hank Scorpio

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TheYaz67 said:
I also don't know that pitchers regard AJP as a batter to "catch your breath against" just b/c of his PA/AB #s - dude did hit 27 HR in 2012, and can usually be counted on 15 HR +/-....
 
Snodgrass'Muff said:
 
While this is true, he also only gets on base around 30% of the time, swings at very high rate of pitches and makes a lot of weak contact.  Additionally, if he's hitting low in the order, the chances of him coming up without men of base goes up and those home runs have less of a chance to be big damage.  Lot's of pitchers say they don't really get rattled by solo shots because the damage is minimal.  It's the 2 or 3 run bombs that really hurt, so while Pierzynski is capable of going yard, he's not typically a huge threat.
 
While typically true, I'm don't think this is going to be especially true with this Red Sox team, especially when healthy.
 
The more I mull over AJP's at bats, the more infuriating they become.
 
On Saturday, trailing 3-0 with one out in the second inning, Bogaerts singles and Gomes follows with a double. AJP immediately follows with a one pitch ground out. While it scored a run, does anyone here suspect his approach would have changed had Gomes walked or singled? Does anyone doubt the outcome would have been an inning ending double play? The inning would have ended there, with the Red Sox trailing 3-0 rather than 3-2. Over the course of the season, having a guy doing what AJP has been doing is going to cost a lot of runs and wins.
 
With the team's expected overall propensity for getting on base, and AJP's seeming tendency to promptly ground into double plays, a solution would be to create a scenario that keeps him far away from any competent hitter (especially a guy like XB) in the batting order. Moving Xander up in the lineup definitely works, and you can only move AJP so far down.
 
If we're stuck with AJP all year, it might be best to bat WMB 8th and AJP 9th (or WMB 7th, AJP 8th, JBJ 9th if JBJ is starting). WMB doesn't walk much, and his power will likely generate a higher proportion of doubles and home runs to singles than average. This would somewhat minimize the damage AJP could do by somewhat lowering his chance of GIDP.
 
If AJP is hitting behind a guy who hits a lot of singles and draws a lot of walks, he's going to ground into a lot of double plays. Probably at a record pace.
 
If he hits behind a guy who doesn't really hit a ton of singles, doesn't take many walks, but might hit a good amount of doubles, it might be expected a lot of would be "0 out double plays" become sacrifices to put a runner on third with less than two outs, typically a favorable outcome.
 
AJP is going to suck, may as well try to get blood from a rock.
 

kieckeredinthehead

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The 2014 team is seeing 4.02 pitches / PA. The 2013 team saw 4.01 pitches / PA.
 
The 2014 team is seeing 16.7 pitches / inning. The 2013 team saw 17 pitches / inning (see again how pitches/PA might not be the best predictor of pitches/inning or pitches/game?).
 
AJP is awful, and not fun to watch and not fun to root for. But I'm going to go ahead and question the premise here. If the Sox this year were batting .278 w/ RISP like they did last year, they would have six more hits with RISP. Assuming that's about 1.5 runs / hit (judging by RBI/AB w/ RISP this year and last), that's an additional 9 runs that they're missing just from the small sample / slumping with RISP. Those extra 9 runs would put them tied for 5th most runs scored in the AL. Unlike Minnesota, who's in first, we haven't had the benefit of facing the dregs of the Cleveland and Chicago pitching staffs.
 
Here's a simpler explanation: tough opponent rotations, no Drew, no Ellsbury, no Salty, and Victorino and WMB are hurt. 
 

Snodgrass'Muff

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OilCanMDS said:
I came across this article during the offseason and couldn't find a good place to post it, but it seems to be somewhat related to the topic of the thread.
 
http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/2/13/5404978/the-best-team-in-baseball-the-team-after-the-red-sox-pitches-seen-pitches-per-plate-appearance
 
 
That's a really interesting article.  Thanks for posting it.  As I was reading, my first thought was to respond with league splits and point out that the top innings for OPS in order are the 4th, 5th and 6th innings with the 8th and 9th being the lowest OPS's teams put up last year in the AL. However, the Red Sox had their two worst innings relative to the rest of MLB in the 5th and 6th innings.  The 4th was only their third best inning in that regard.  It seems they had their biggest advantage in the 7th, followed by the 3rd.  They also did an exceptional job in the 9th.
 
Savin Hillbilly said:
 
So far the people who have started in the three slots before him in the Sox order have been Bogaerts (4 games), Sizemore (3), Gomes (2), Carp (2), and Napoli (1). I don't think having a dearth of guys to drive in is going to be a problem for A.J. this year. He has been (and will probably continue to be) more sinning than sinned against in that department.
 
That's a fair point.  Both you and my favorite Bond Simpsons villain covered this well.
 
kieckeredinthehead said:
The 2014 team is seeing 4.02 pitches / PA. The 2013 team saw 4.01 pitches / PA.
 
The 2014 team is seeing 16.7 pitches / inning. The 2013 team saw 17 pitches / inning (see again how pitches/PA might not be the best predictor of pitches/inning or pitches/game?).
 
AJP is awful, and not fun to watch and not fun to root for. But I'm going to go ahead and question the premise here. If the Sox this year were batting .278 w/ RISP like they did last year, they would have six more hits with RISP. Assuming that's about 1.5 runs / hit (judging by RBI/AB w/ RISP this year and last), that's an additional 9 runs that they're missing just from the small sample / slumping with RISP. Those extra 9 runs would put them tied for 5th most runs scored in the AL. Unlike Minnesota, who's in first, we haven't had the benefit of facing the dregs of the Cleveland and Chicago pitching staffs.
 
Here's a simpler explanation: tough opponent rotations, no Drew, no Ellsbury, no Salty, and Victorino and WMB are hurt. 
 
I bolded the bit that I'm specifically responding to here.  Another thing I should have looked at is the team's BABIP in each game so far.  .276, .308, .467, .200, .240, .300.  The bold are the wins.
 
Thanks for the responses.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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kieckeredinthehead said:
The 2014 team is seeing 4.02 pitches / PA. The 2013 team saw 4.01 pitches / PA.
 
The 2014 team is seeing 16.7 pitches / inning. The 2013 team saw 17 pitches / inning (see again how pitches/PA might not be the best predictor of pitches/inning or pitches/game?).
 
Why are you saying that? Those numbers seem to track pretty well. And the 2013 numbers seem pretty well correlated when compared to league average. Last year the AL P/PA figure was 3.86. The league P/IP figure was 16.44. The Sox were 3.9% above league average in the former, and 3.4% above average in the latter. I'm not seeing any smoking guns of unrelatedness here. (Wasn't that the name of an acid rock band?)
 

kieckeredinthehead

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Savin Hillbilly said:
 
Why are you saying that? Those numbers seem to track pretty well. And the 2013 numbers seem pretty well correlated when compared to league average. Last year the AL P/PA figure was 3.86. The league P/IP figure was 16.44. The Sox were 3.9% above league average in the former, and 3.4% above average in the latter. I'm not seeing any smoking guns of unrelatedness here. (Wasn't that the name of an acid rock band?)
 
Well, more importantly, P/PA does not always lead to higher runs. The missing factor is on-base percentage. The 2012 team was a classic example: they were 2nd in the league in P/PA, but 5th in runs. Hitters that strike out a lot have high P/PA, but not necessarily high OBP.
 
edit: and to answer your question directly, you could strike out the side and have a high P/PA, or walk a bunch of guys, give up a bunch of first-pitch hits and have a lower P/PA but higher P/inning. 
 

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Quick look at last year's opening 6 games the Sox scores 8,7,2,6,0,13. Yes the 13 run where WMB went from a pumpkin to a prince then back to a pumpkin. fyi he was hitting .200 before that 4 for 5 game  There was no Papa or Drew.  Ells .310 Vic .360 Pedey .346 Nava .400 and Iggy  (drumroll please) .529 were carrying the club.  I realize that BA is not a great, even good stat but for the beginning of the season it does shed some light. Salty, Nap and JBJ below 200.
 
This year the BABIP in the opening day is very misleading as there were at least 2 balls that s/b HR but were killed by the wind. I was there on 3rd base side and those flags were rigid pointing towards home.  Full disclosure Sizemore HR total wind gift.  Sox should have won 4 - 2.
 
Any way, if Mujica's early work is not representative of his large sample size, back end of BP will be fine.  However I am at least politely concerned about Clay. As stated, the outfield D is brutal and the O isn't great.  Vic's return will help greatly on both fronts.
 
The team O will be fine if we get decent production out of CF while getting good D. 
 
While I am also disappointed with the quality of AJPs ABs, I am more concerned with his pitch framing which consists of pulling close pitches about a foot into the center of the plate, instead of a slight wrist lift to the corner.
 
The Sox will go as far as Clay, Mujica, and WMB (or their replacements) will take them.
 

koufax37

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Last year a lot went right, but I think that downgrading from Salty to AJP doesn't have a huge impact, especially if Ross can get the 45% playing time he should have last year (although he is a year older as well, and will likely lose a step).
 
AJP is my least favorite Red Sox player in a while, and I am one of his detractors on a lot of levels, but as a LHB who can run into one he isn't a huge step down from Salty and is a bridge to what I optimistically expect will be a 2014 call up for Vazquez.
 
I do think that the wear down the pitcher is a team concept and a player or two can impact it, but I'm hopeful that his impact on that will be two or three pitches a game, and not the 6-10 that really allows a starter to get to face an extra better or two and an extra middle reliever to not be used.  More importantly is if he can run into a couple (which he has done consistently in his career with 13 straight double digit seasons) and have it hopefully come with a couple guys on?  If so I don't think he costs us or hurts us, and this early losing streak is just a couple bounces away from not being so bad and I trust our roster construction is in a place to allow us to compete and try to win the AL East.
 

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koufax37 said:
Last year a lot went right, but I think that downgrading from Salty to AJP doesn't have a huge impact, especially if Ross can get the 45% playing time he should have last year (although he is a year older as well, and will likely lose a step).
 
I'm concerned this may not turn out to be the case because of how OBP yields more value the more OBP guys you have in the lineup. Boston didn't have a substantially higher OBP than Detroit last season (.349 v. .346), but what it did have was a regular lineup with no less than average or really even less than above average spots in the lineup whereas Detroit's lineup had a couple "holes." And, of course, Boston scored 57 more runs.
 
As such, I'm concerned that while the drop-off from Salty to AJP may not seem huge, it does alter the "relentless lineup" approach Snod raises in the first post. Especially since JBJ is as yet a question mark, even without injuries the "regular lineup" doesn't have the same consistent OBP production from to back as the 2014 team did, which I think could show up disproportionately in runs vis-a-vis individual statistics.
 

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OilCanMDS said:
I came across this article during the offseason and couldn't find a good place to post it, but it seems to be somewhat related to the topic of the thread.
 
http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/2/13/5404978/the-best-team-in-baseball-the-team-after-the-red-sox-pitches-seen-pitches-per-plate-appearance
 
The article states that all of the pitches the Sox saw most directly benefited the team following the Red Sox rather than the Sox.  The benefit of getting to the middle relievers and wearing down starters was not apparent from an inning-by-inning breakdown of the Sox's scoring versus the MLB and AL average.  The benefits to the team following the Sox can be summarized in these quotes:
 
"All told, Boston opponents went 17-34 in their next games, for a .333 winning percentage. Although no MLB team managed a winning percentage as good as .600 last season, the team that stood in just after Boston won two-thirds of its games."
"When a team had no off day after facing the Red Sox, their winning percentage in their very next game dropped to an incredible .278 (10-26)."
 
So, I'm not sure if the P/PA thing is really what drove the success of the offense, and think it could more likely be attributed to having solid hitters throughout the lineup.  Which I guess is also a relentless offense, just not in the sense of the pitcher having to use lots of pitches to get every batter out.
 
OK, that's fascinating. Two thoughts:
  1. Given the unbalanced schedule, Boston should still reap a small benefit from their opponents getting beat up by the next guys as a disproportionate number of their games are against division rivals.
  2. Boston could get an opportunity to reap the benefit in a 5-7 game series, so that could be part of being built for the playoffs.
 

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It's early, of course, but this reminds me of the presence of Sea Bass in the 2005 lineup. The game threads were full of, "at least we cleared the pitcher's spot" after he'd make the last out of an inning (which was often).  
 
But at least that guy could play his position defensively.
 

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Seems like the Red Sox should be playing hit and run just about every time AJ is up. If he's going to swing at everything and (generally) make contact, they might as well try to make some holes in the infield.