Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Up and Down Red Sox

The Sox had back-to-back off days 10 days ago. Since then they've gone 3-6, and need a win tomorrow to avoid losing their third consecutive series. By no means is this the end of the world. There are still 20 games to play. You'd like to be playing better baseball at this stage of the season, but (1) every team goes through stretches like this, some times are just more noticeable than the others (the beginning and end of the season, as two examples), and (2) nothing about how you play in September matters if you get to October.

What is perhaps more interesting from an analytical perspective is the underlying performance, and how erratic the Sox have been in these last 9 games. They get shutout against the Rangers 10-0, win 12-7 the next night, lose 11-4 the next, then lose 1-0 in extras, before winning 14-0, and then losing 11-10. This all directly off scoring 2 in a loss, scoring 9 in a win, and scoring 2 in a loss to the Yankees. Teams are going to ebb and flow over the course of the long season, but the Sox are really all over the place. Not just in total, but their separate starting pitching, bullpen, and offensive components. Each have been a little bit boom or bust recently. The performance by the bullpen tonight, and getting caught stealing to end the game while staging a comeback, were exclamation point type examples of that.

I don't want to say that this is a microcosm of the Sox season, because that's a little bit too strong. Mostly because the overall performance has been so good. But 142 games into the season they remain very much a peaks and valleys team. They can be so good for so long, and then they can get into these extended ruts.

Without watching them every day, it's really hard to say why this is. I'm sure it's difficult to say why even watching them every day. After all, it might not be any more complicated than they're a streaky team. Nevertheless, I'd be interested to hear possible theories from those who do watch everyday. GM has talked about the "switch" theory, and I think there is certainly some merit to that. But I also think there could be some other things at play. Typically speaking, a "switch on/off" team would have the switch on right now. And even though this team likely will turn it on yet again, I'd like to hear any other insights or possibilities as to why this team - who has been so good overall - has gotten to that point by being so dramatically up and down.

4 comments:

the gm at work said...

Pat,

Thanks for bailing me out again as I count down the days until I get cable and the Internet at home again. Two more.

Last night's game, the switch was on. Especially with the manager, who (until he didn't have Papelbon warming up in the eighth) was managing the game like it was Game Seven of the World Series. The blast 46 hit to put the Red Sox back up and make Wakefield eligible for 200 wins was the most team-oriented thing I've seen (heard, I guess) from him since 2007. But, as middle relievers do, they imploded. This time it was the usually-reliable Bard. But guess what, folks. Even Bard is a middle reliever. And middle relievers are middle relievers for a reason.

This time, Wheeler, who's sucked all season, was good. Morales, Bard, and Albers sucked. This is the kind of thing that happens. But this game was more of a stomach punch than most.

I stick behind my "switch" theory. Remember what even Pedroia said about having the division lead: a sarcastic "yay." Part of this slump has something to do with the fact that they have a big lead in the wild card. This is what differentiates them from the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

I can certainly understand all of that gm, good comment. Especially complacency due to a wild card lead.

One thing I would add, however, is that a lot of, if not most, people read pedroia's comment a little bit different than you. That is, he was referring to first place by half a game not mattering in early august, but it mattering at the end of the season. That there was a lot of work to be done, and the team needed to keep playing hard to accomplish that. The "yay" as in first place is meaningless in early august, but very meaningul at the end of september.

- pf

the gm at work said...

PF,

People probably do read that comment differently than I do, and that's fine, because they're probably right. I guess I'd just be pissed off being in second place at any point. Just like I wasn't really too thrilled about the 2-10 start.

Another element making the East/wild card stuff interesting is the Texas/Detroit battle. Detroit took a half-game lead over Texas this week. I think the general consensus is that the Red Sox would rather face Detroit because they have played so poorly against Texas over the past several years now. If Detroit starts building a sizeable lead over Texas, I'd expect the Red Sox to pretty much punt the rest of the season and coast into the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

PF,

I also read Pedroia's comments as you did. I think the thing about Pedroia is that if you are going to portray yourself as this tough gritty guy that's really competitive and always gets his uniform dirty, then in order to be consistent you need to at least pretend to care about beating the Yankees in a series. Guess what Dustin- fans that watch on TV and go to the games care about you beating the Yankees and being in first place, even if it is August.