Still the Best
The Boston Red Sox were the best team in the American League prior to the moves made this weekend. Furthermore, had the Red Sox stood pat while the rest of league traded as it did, the Sox would still be on top.
The Red Sox did not stand pat. The team grabbed Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners, ideally shoring up the only Sox weakness, the starting rotation.
All trades considered, the Red Sox are still on top and are a good bet to take the pennant. The following slides enumerate the reasons.
The Boston Red Sox play in Major League Baseball’s toughest division. Their schedule is packed to the gills with good teams. Despite this, the Red Sox have the best record in the American League.
When assessing the Red Sox strength, the Red Sox opponents’ strength must be considered. The American League East, excluding the Red Sox, has a combined winning percent of .509.
No other division in the AL has a winning record after the exclusion of the first place team. The Red Sox are building the best record in the AL while facing the strongest opposition.
If only one reason is available to defend the strength of the Red Sox, this is it. No other team is comparable.
Alternating with my general arguments for the Boston Red Sox hegemony are individual dismissals of their American League challengers.
The Texas Rangers might have been the most gainfully active contender leading up to the trade deadline. The Rangers plugged the holes that most needed plugging, the ones in their run-hemorrhaging bullpen.
Adams is having one of the best relief-pitching seasons of anyone this year, with an ERA of 1.13 and a walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of .73. Uehara ‘s season is similarly awesome. His ERA and WHIP are 1.69 and .69, respectively.
They are not enough to push the Rangers past the Red Sox. Stopping a few more runs late only slightly narrows the gap between the Rangers and the Red Sox. The Red Sox don’t allow many more runs than the Rangers right now.
These additions to the Rangers won’t push the Texans into the runs-scored-minus-runs-allowed territory occupied by the Red Sox.
The Boston Red Sox out-score all teams in Major League Baseball.
The only teams that score at all close to Red-Sockian levels are the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. Oddly enough, the Yankees and Rangers both pitch about as well as the Red Sox.
Given these facts it should come as no surprise that the Yankees and Rangers are the second and third best teams in the AL, respectively.
The Texas Rangers have already been dismissed. The Yankees are next up for a direct dress down.
Aside from the Rangers and Yankees, the Red Sox out-score their opposition by so much that the degree to which the Red Sox are inferior pitching-wise does not matter.
The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics don’t strike fear into the hearts of Bostonians, no matter how good that West Coast pitching is.
This comparison is the elephant in the room. The New York Yankees are a very good team. The Boston Red Sox are not much better.
In fact, I am not sure the Red Sox are better. I do think the Red Sox will win more games than the Yankees between now and the end of the season. This is not the same as better, but for most people, it is a reasonable proxy.
The Red Sox will win more games than the Yankees from here on out partly because the Red Sox have seven more home games than the Yankees. Both the Red Sox and Yankees play better at home.
The Red Sox seven-game home-field edge should push them even further ahead of the Yankees in the standings.
Finally, the Red Sox were more active at the trade deadline than the Yankees. Erstwhile, Seattle Mariner Erik Bedard shuttled east to Boston where he should improve the Red Sox starting rotation assuming he maintains some semblance of health.
The American League Central houses mediocre teams. The one exception is the Kansas City Royals and they are bad.
Since redundancy is my modus operandi here I might as well dismiss the division in two fell swoops. The best team in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers, has won nine fewer games than the Boston Red Sox.
Also, every team in the division has allowed more runs than it has scored!
One team in this division will be lucky enough to play in the postseason. Possibly none will be good enough to score more runs than they allow by season end.
I include the Tampa Bay Rays in the list for individual comparison out of respect for their accomplishments of recent years. A 2008 World Series appearance and a 2010 division title keep the Rays firmly in the threat-to-win pile.
The Rays are just not very good this season. They are good, just not good enough.
The Rays aren’t scoring runs like they hoped to at the beginning of the season. High hopes for Manny Ramirez were dashed early. Subpar performances from B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria have also hurt.
While the Rays out-pitch the Red Sox by a small amount, the Red Sox out-hit the Rays by a large amount.
The Boston Red Sox lead the American League in on-base percent (OBP) and slugging percent (SLG). These factors contribute heavily to run scoring. I mention them mainly to underline the nature of the Red Sox run scoring. The Red Sox aren’t scoring lucky runs.
Teams with a .354 OBP and a .458 SLG score many, many runs. The Red Sox own these figures. These figures mean the Red Sox are not getting lucky. Teams that achieve these statistics through 100-plus games are likely to maintain them for the rest of the season.
Expect the Red Sox hitting machine to keep chugging.
I single out the Los Angeles Angels because they resemble the Tampa Bay Rays. Both teams have been playoff threats if not playoff participants multiple times in the past few years. Both teams pitch well.
Given the similarities I feel it only fair to mention the Angels in isolation.
The Angels, like the Rays, out-pitch the Red Sox. The Angels’ hitting is so far behind the Red Sox hitting that the pitching advantage doesn’t matter.
The Angels' declining offense isn't surprising like that of the Rays. A few good Angel hitters are just getting old and worse, namely Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu.
The Boston Red Sox are not challenged by any other team not already mentioned. The remaining teams are the bottom half of the AL West and the bottom two teams of the AL East.
None of those four teams are thought to be better than the Red Sox by any informed fan.
The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners out-pitch Boston by a little but are so far behind on offense there is no comparison and little competition between either of these teams and the Red Sox.
The Red Sox dominate the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles both from the mound and from the plate. Anyway, the Red Sox already have two teams putting up a fight for the AL East crown.
It is only reasonable and even probable that the other two teams in the division are bad.
The Boston Red Sox pitching which I mention only in passing is important. The pitching keeps opponents sufficiently at bay for the Boston batters to do their damage effectively.
Should Erik Bedard return to the form he flashed earlier this year, the National League might need to get worried. The Red Sox then will be more than just a classic American League ball-bashing team.
In short, the Red Sox are better than every team right now (as shown in the team-against-team comparisons), and they will likely maintain if not improve upon their excellence for the remainder of the year.