12 January 2010
When Jason Bay signed with the Mets, most Red Sox fans began wondering where Theo Epstein planned to make up the 119 RBI and 36 homers he gave us in 2009.
Theo chose to take a different approach and sign a number of players that would increase run prevention, while hopefully maintaining a similar run production. In short, Mike Cameron is not going to out hit Jason Bay, but Marco Scutaro will out hit the combo of shortstops we had in 2009 and Victor Martinez will out hit Jason Varitek... so the Sox should still be able to score 800+ runs in 2010.
But what concerned me was the lack of timely hitting in 2009. The Sox didn't hit quality pitching and they struggled to get the big hit when it mattered most. So I pulled the 2009 stats for RISP and RISP with 2 outs. Then I looked at what the new guys had done over the past three years and used those numbers as a benchmark for what we could expect from them in 2010.
The result was a significant drop off in both categories:
My intention was to see if the 2010 Red Sox would be better in clutch situations than the 2009 Red Sox were. But BL Reader Freddy challenged me to take it one step further. He wanted to see everybody's stats for the past three years, not just the new guys. He also wanted to look at the "Late & Close" stats, not just the numbers with RISP.
Well, Freddy, ask and you shall receive. But before I show you all the results, I want to make a quick point:
In my opinion, clutch hits don't just happen in the 8th inning of a tie game. How many times have we seen an opposing starter hold the Sox to a handful of hits through seven innings and looked back to see one bases loaded opportunity in the third that wasn't converted?
Is that not a "clutch" opportunity? My point is: The Late & Close stat looks specifically at "PAs in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck." Sometimes, those key moments happen earlier in the game. If a player hits well with RISP, he's a clutch hitter in my book.
With that said, here are the stats Freddy was looking for:
At the top of the chart, I linked the 2009 players with their 2010 replacements. As Freddy pointed out, Lowell did post a .481 OPS in Late & Close situations last season, but over the past three years, he's been better than Beltre across the board. It's tough to predict if Lowell will continue to regress or if Beltre will improve while in Boston... but there are the numbers.
And as predicted, Jason Bay was better than Mike Cameron on all levels. But Scutaro is a big upgrade over Gonzalez, a full season of Martinez will be an upgrade over Varitek, and Hall is a fair swap with Kotchman off the bench, so you could argue that Theo's moves will even each other out.
Bottom Line: On paper, the 2010 Red Sox should be as successful as the 2009 team in the clutch and they should actually be better in the "Late & Close" situations.
I stand corrected... for now.
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