Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Offense Not What It Used To Be

When I look at the Boston Red Sox, I have no idea how they score runs. None. I look at the names in their lineup and I see an offense I expect to be in the middle of baseball in runs scored. I think their lineup is closer to "stinks" than "elite". And this is a team that leads the Majors in runs scored. By 29 runs over the second ranking Yankees.

The reason for this is that I grew up dealing with Manny and Papi in their prime. I used do deal with Bill Mueller leading the league in batting while batting 9th. In 03/04, I would start counting outs the second the lineup go past Manny cleaning up, because I didn't want the lineup to turn over and get back to them for three innings. I cringed every time they swung the bat.

Now when I look at the Boston lineup I see one superstar, who doesn't remotely scare me as much as Manny and Papi in their prime. His stats may be near their realm, but the fear factor isn't. I see two more players providing excellent seasons at premium positions (Pedroia and Ellsbury), but the truth strength of their seasons is found relative to their positions, at least in comparison to how it used to be. .300+, 20-25 homer guys would have to take a number back then in those lineups, no matter what positions they played. Same can be said, to a lesser extent, of the catcher position. Then I see two more players having typically very good but nothing spectacular type seasons in Youkilis and Ortiz. The rest of the lineup stinks.

And listen, one of the things that got me thinking about this is the way the Yankees lineup looks without Rodriguez. Compared to those lineups of 5-6 years ago, this Yankee lineup just doesn't look as scary. And that's with Granderson and Teixeira going bananas, hitting as many homers between them as the Padres have as a team.

These teams may still be scoring runs. And they may be the two best offenses in baseball. But in terms of fear factor, and how the lineups look on paper, it's just not happening. Gonzalez is one of the best players in the game, and Pedroia and Youkilis crush the Yankees, but I feel like I'm sitting on a beach chair relaxed as could be compared to those Damon/Ortiz/Ramirez at-bats of half a decade ago.

Offense is not what it used to be, at least in terms of perception even if the numbers don't reflect it. And I much prefer it this way. Fear factor during the Red Sox half of the inning at bat is way down, even when they are scoring runs.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

A big part of that is that this is just a different time in baseball. 30 home runs is a big deal now. 40 homers is a landmark number. In 2008 Miguel Cabrera led the AL in homers with 37. In 2001 Barry Bonds hit twice that many. Also in 2001, Bret Boone, a second basemen, hit 37 homers and led the league in RBI with 141. That stuff isn't happening anymore and unless some unknown/untraceable performance enhancer comes along, those types of numbers will be rare, rather than the norm that they once were. These days if a 2B hits 15 homers you're thrilled. 30 homers and 100 RBI are big time counting stats. Guys aren't having the types of historical decade long performances like Manny, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, ARod, et al.

So, because as fans we were used to that type of massive production from middle of the line-up guys, were breathe a sigh of relief when we see a Mark Teixeira or Kevin Youkilis come to the plate because they aren't 45 homer/150 RBI guys. They are still dangerous. and relative to the current crop of players they are excellent. But their productions pales in light of the 1995-2005 numbers, and because we are used to that type of thing, current production is a bit of a let down.


--the Gunn

Ross Kaplan said...

I fondly remember the days where after Yankees pitchers got by Manny and Ortiz I could breathe easily for 2-3 innings with the knowledge that Reese, Bellhorn, Mueller, Man-cave-itch, Millar, O-Cab, et al. were highly unlikely to get an extra base hit, although I have to admit Bellhorn worried me every now and then because he was just bad enough to do something totally unexpected.

Unfortunately for Pat and I, those days are long over. Ortiz, Youk, Gonzalez, Pedroia, 46 and even Crawford if he gets his shit together all scare the hell out of me if they come up with a man on and less than 2 outs. Even worse is the fact that most of these guys are locked up for the next 5 years.

the gm at work said...

First thing: We don't need to tiptoe around this. A lot of this has to do with steroids. Those people who said "STERIODS DIDDNT CHAINGE TEH WEIGH BASEBALL WAS BEYING PLAID THE PICHERS WERE USING TWO!" was wrong, and we see this in the 2010- brand of baseball. Back when you had Bret Boone hitting 40 home runs, baseball was "scarier" because games were won by the home run instead of the singles, doubles, and (yes) walks.

Starting in earnest last year, the "year of the pitcher," games were won offensively by long strings of professional hitting (a Mike Lowell term, I believe). Saltalamacchia working a walk, Scutaro grounding to second on a hit-and-run, 46 going the other way with an RBI single, Pedroia hitting a single, and Gonzalez hitting a two-run double off the wall is not "scary." But it gets the job done. That's how it happens these days - at least for the Red Sox.

Nobody's gonna have one-dimensional power guys in the lineup anymore, "scary" guys like Giambi or McGwire, who are hitting .220 but have 40 home runs. The closest there is to a guy like that (despite the fact that 46 thinks he is) is Adam Dunn, and he sure as hell doesn't have 40 home runs. Bautista and maybe Pujols might very well be the only "scary" guy(s) in baseball right now, while in 2003 every team had a few of them. It's the sign of the times. It's not a Red Sox/Yankees thing. It's a change in the way baseball is played now that steroid rules are "enforced."

the gm at work said...

Tank,

46 is signed only through 2013. Boras is already putting together the pink three-ring binder with subjective buzz words. .212, 2 XBH, 7K his last seven games while fancying himself as a power hitter. As Jay-Z once said, men lie, women lie, numbers don't. On a serious subject, the way 46 plays when he realizes he's not a power hitter - that's the way teams score runs in 2011. The fact that he's been swinging for the fences nonstop since the Kansas City series is part of the reason the last few games have come down to the ninth inning.

the gm at work said...

Last installment of the rant. Pat, you know what's scary (other than your volume of quality posts on this website)? Papelbon's stare-down. Look out. He might get you out and effectively perform his job.