Our beloved Boston Red Sox are on a shockingly elite pace for nearly 100 wins. This on the heels of the franchise’s worst season – on the field and over the PR waves – in over half a century. With their shutout victory last night over their “closest” competitors for the division crown, the Rays, the Sox now stand 8.5 games ahead of them. As reported by NESN, their magic number for a playoff birth is just 8 and to clinch the division, 10.
How has this happened? Removing the lightening rod (and terrible manager) that is Bobby Valentine was certainly the best place to start. And replacing him with a manager who spent lots of time here as the Pitching Coach and knew the temperament and how to fix the rotation was an excellent 2nd move.
Of course, the actual player personnel acquisitions and performances are the most significant impacts to the incredible one-season turnaround. The term “clubhouse guy” has been beaten to death, but rightfully so. Guys like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster and newly-acquired Jake Peavy have brought “the fun” back to The Fens. Baseball comes first, not the Red Sox or individual player brands or preferences and demands.
Attitude and approach only lend so much credence however. These new players as well as “veteran” Red Sox in expanded roles have produced at similarly high levels all season long. Looking at BrandMatch Score’s Career Progression Index (CPI) shows the impact these traditional role players have had that are on par with or surpass Sox stalwarts. CPI is a comparative tool measuring how players stack up against other league players and teammates over a multitude of stat categories. (50 is a max CPI Score)
2013 CPIs (no career stats included):
Daniel Nava – CPI: 42.0 (25th in the League in BA, 5th in OBP)
Craig Breslow – CPI: 42.0 (12th in league in ERA among Qualified Relievers)
Koji Uehara – CPI: 44.0 (3rd in league in ERA and 4th in Ks among Qualified Relievers)
And while the above have produced far more than could have been expected, newcomers Napoli (37.5) and Victorino (35) have very solid CPI results as well. Napoli ranks 3rd or higher on the team in multiple categories while Victorino is Top 4 on the team in 5 different offensive categories.
As a measuring stick, here are Jacoby Ellsbury’s, Dustin Pedroia’s and Jonathan Papelbon’s 2013 CPIs. As you can see, Uehara has done quite well in his new role, even considering the save totals (Papelbon 30, Uehara 19):
Ellsbury – CPI: 42.70
Pedroia – CPI: 44.70
Papelbon – CPI: 41.65
This is by no means a denouncement or criticism of those three’s contributions to the Sox or Phillies. Papelbon still has those 30 Saves, while Ellsbury and Pedroia are similarly Top 25 or even Top 10 in the league in Batting Average, Steals, Hits and Runs. But the overall balance of production from surprising outlets is largely the reason the Local 9 are on the verge of matching win totals from World Series Championship years of 2004 and 2007.
Unlike those years when the Sox had monster names, personalities and production numbers from the likes of Pedro, Schilling, Big Papi (who, this year’s stat line cannot go unnoted), Manny, Beckett et al, these Sox are succeeding and creating their own brands through complimentary above average play across the whole lineup and pitching staff. That, and of course growing very big beards.