Here's a look at the last six World Series winners and how they pulled it off:
1) In 2004 the Red Sox were one of the most balanced teams in baseball. Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe lead the third best rotation in the AL (4.18 ERA) and combined to go 8-2 with a 3.26 ERA in the postseason. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez both hit over .300 with 40+ homers and 130+ RBI, while the rest of the starting nine all hit above .280 and played solid defense.
That enabled them to pull off the greatest comeback in baseball history against the 103-win Yankees, but it was the pitching that dominated in the World Series. The offense carried Wake and Arroyo to an 11-9 victory in Game 1 and then Schilling (6 IP, 1 R) beat Morris, Pedro (7 IP, 0ER) beat Suppan and Lowe (7 IP, 0ER) beat Marquis.
2) In 2005, it was the opposite. Manny and Big Papi were otherworldly, each logging 40+ homers and 140+ RBI, and the Sox lead the league in OPB (.357), AVG (.281) and runs (910). But the pitching staff ranked 24th with a 4.74 team ERA. Pedro was gone, Schilling was hurt and Wake was the ace at 16-12 with a 4.15 ERA. Matt Clement, Bronson Arroyo and David Wells rounded out the rotation and Keith Foulke was a mess.
The result was a 95-67 tie with the Yankees in the AL East and a first round shellacking at the hands of the eventual WS champion White Sox. Jose Contreras held the Sox to two runs through seven while Matt Clement got pounded for eight run through 3 1/3 in Game 1. In Game 2, Mark Beurhle out-pitched David Wells, who gave up 5 runs (2 earned) thanks to a Tony Graffanino (who?) error. And the bullpen coughed up Game 3 after Manny and Ortiz combined for the 3 homers (the Sox hasd 7 hits total).
The Chi Sox beat the Red Sox and won the World Series with the AL's best rotation (Garland, Beurhle, F. Garcia and Contreras), a top five defense (.985 F%) and a mediocre offense that ranked 17th in AVG (.262), 13th in runs scored (741) and 22nd in OBP (.322).
Pitching beat hitting.
3) In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central with an 83-78 record. They had a middle of the road offense (781 runs, .269 BA) and an average trio of starters in Chris Carpenter (15-8, 3.09), Jason Marquis (14-16, 6.02), Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12).
So how the hell did the win the World Series?
Carpenter, Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Anthony Reyes combined to go 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA throughout the playoffs in 2006. They even overcame losing closer Jason Isringhausen thanks to Adam Wainwright's 4 saves, 0.00 ERA and 15:2 K:BB ratio through 9+ postseason innings.
In the World Series specifically, the Tigers had a better offense and solid pitching of their own, but Reyes beat Justin Verlander with an 8-inning performance in Game 1. Carpenter went 8 to beat Robertson in Game 3. The bullpen won a 5-4 Game 4. And Weaver went 8 to beat Verlander in Game 5.
4) In 2007, Josh Beckett was unstoppable and the Red Sox were balanced enough to do the rest. The offense was not as powerful as it had been in previous years, but the Sox posted the AL's best team ERA that season at 3.87 and were one of only two teams to finish the regular season under 4.00 (Padres @ 3.70 were the other).
Josh Beckett won 20 games that year and he and Curt Schilling were undefeated in the playoffs, combining to go 7-0 with a 2.00 ERA. Beckett was god-like, fanning 35 and walking only two while posting a 1.20 ERA and a .178 BAA himself. He out dueled C.C. Sabathia twice the 7-game ALDS and made easy work of the Rockies in Game 1 of the World Series. Schilling was also superb, bouncing back from a poor outing in Game 2 to force a Game 7 with seven quality innings and the win in Game 6.
There are two important notes from this season:
a) The Red Sox has three solid starters in Beckett, Schilling and Matsuzaka and got a win from Lester in the WS. The offense ranked well in AVG (.279, 6th), OPS (.806, 2nd) and runs (867, 4th)... but they were 18th in homers with 166. Sounds alot like the projected numbers for the 2010 squad, no?
b) Beckett and Schilling showed us how important clutch pitching can be in the playoffs. And Sabathia (8.80 ERA), Fausto Carmona (7.20) and Jake Westbrook (5.60) showed us how damaging poor pitching can be in the postseason. Paul Byrd was the best Cleveland starter in the 2007 playoffs with a 2-0 record and a 3.60 ERA.
5) In 2008 the Phillies won the World Series on a Beckett-like performance from Cole Hammels, who went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA through the playoffs, including two World Series victories. The Phillies, ranked 6thin the MLB with a 3.88 ERA, faced a unique challenge in that they had to beat the Dodgers (3.68, 2nd) and Rays (3.82, 3rd) to win it all that year.
I can't deny that the power hitting duo of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley didn't help the Phillies, but it should be noted that if you take out the 10-2 win in Game 4, the Phillies outscored the Rays 14 to 13 in the other four games.
Hammels beat Scott Kazmir 3-2 in Game 1. James Shields beat Brett Myers 4-2 in Game 2. The Phillies bullpen beat the Rays pen in a 5-4 Game 3. Sonnanstine proved to be the weak link, lasting just 4 innings in Game 4. And Hammels and the pen out pitched the Rays in Game 5 to seal the WS victory.
More proof that pitching wins in the playoffs and a lack of pitching can kill you.
6) Finally in 2009, we saw the Yankees out pitch and out hit their opponents thanks to a stacked roster of experienced players. While the Yankees were a juggernaut in 2009, it is important to note that the Angels went toe-to-toe through six games in the ALDS and made quick work of the Red Sox in the ALCS... thanks to pitching.
The Halos posted a 3.74 ERA through the playoffs, but the Yankees were better, posting a 3.26 ERA even after allowing 27 runs in six games with the Phillies in the World Series.
The Angels proved that pitching can get you far, but if you run into equally good pitching in your opponent, you need some offense if you hope to win. This is what scares Red Sox Nation...
Despite the roster changes, the Red Sox will still have a Top 10 offense and could have one of the best rotations in baseball history if everyone performs up to their potential.
But will that get them past the Yankees?The 2004 Red Sox did it with magic. The 2007 Red Sox did it with balance. The 2010 Red Sox could do it with pitching.
With some time to kill before pitchers and catchers report in February, I thought we'd run a few simple, but fun, polls over the new few weeks.
First up... Who will be this year's leader in home runs?
With Jason Bay in New York, the Red Sox don't have a definitive homer run basher on the roster. Big Papi is the most likely candidate, but after last year's first half slump, Ortiz is a question mark for 2010. That said, he hit 16 ding dongs in 248 second-half ABs in 2009... a pace that would have resulted in 32 homers with 500 at-bats.
Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew and Victor Martinez are all capable of hitting 25 or more dingers, but all three players also offer solid OBP numbers, meaning they will take the walk as happily as they would swing for the fences. It's hard to see any of them hitting 30+ and only Drew has accomplished that feat in his career, hitting 31 homers in 2004 with Atlanta.
Mike Cameron might be the "sleeper" here. He hit 30 homers in 2004 and has consistently hvoered around 25 per year when logging more than 400 at-bats. Cameron hit 24 last season with the Brewers and since he won't be expected to hit for average, Tito and the Sox may give him the green light to swing for the fences when the opportunities arise.
Lastly, there's Adrian Beltre. Adrian averaged 25 ding dongs per season with Seattle from 2006 to 2008. He also hit 48 homers with the Dodgers in 2004, but we'll simply consider that an "aberration." If Beltre can hit 25 homers out of the expansive SAFECO Field, he could hit 30 with 81 games at Fenway Park...
Cast your vote on the POLL in the right-hand sidebar and leave your comments below!
WEEI Full Count - If you thought Mike Lowell was destined to play elsehwere in 2010, you forgot to tell Terry Francona. Someone also forgot to tell him that Lowell is 35 (at least for another month)... not 37.
The Red Sox are going to have a tough time showcasing Lowell in Spring Training with Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro learning to play with each other. And with Vladimir Guerrero as the new DH in Texas, there aren't many open spots left for Lowell. It looks like Tito is prepared to keep Lowell in Boston and find ways to use his bat if nothing else.
I still think a Lowell/Ortiz DH platoon would be very effective, but both guys are playing for one more contract after this season... will they be willing to share playing time?
WEEI Full Count - Jeremy Hermida says he's "excited to play real baseball" now that he is a member of the Red Sox.
Some one should tell Josh Johnson that he just signed a 4-year, $39 million deal to play fake baseball...
One If By Land - Pitching Coach John Farrell says Jonatahn Papelbon tweaked his mechanics in the second half of 2009 to get a little more zip back on his fastball and that he will stick with this routine in 2010. The adjustment was small, but Paps saw a big improvement in his numbers:
April 7-July 28: 2.09 ERA, 1.372 WHIP, .670 OPS against
July 29-Oct. 4: 1.44 ERA, 0.920 WHIP, .466 OPS against
Surviving Grady - Denton wants to know how Fenway Park is not ranked higher than 10th on Stadium Journey;s list of best ballparks... me too.
New England Baseball Journal - Do you know why Dustin Pedroia wears the number 15? Who his favorite actor is? What's on his ipod?
Also... there's this quote: "It’s 11¼ inches."
Click the link to read more... and get your mind out of the gutter!
Extra Bases is reporting that the Red Sox have avoided arbitration and agreed to terms with reliever Hideki Okajima.
Okajima agreed to a 1-year, non-guaranteed deal worth $2.75 million, with the chance to add $200,00 more through incentives.
Since leaving Japan to sign with Boston in 2007, Okajima has quietly been one of the Red Sox' most effective relievers.
Honestly, I can't think of a single interview or video of Okie Dokie saying anything.. but the Okie Dokie song is awesome.
Okajima may be the polar opposite of Jonathan Papelbon when it comes to the media, but he and Paps have been the best two relievers in Red Sox' bullpen over the past few seasons. Okie struggled down the stretch in 2007 and completetly imploded in June of 2008, but overall, he's been a reliable lefty and set-up man for the Sox.
2009 was his most consistent year. He posted a career-high 68 appearances, a 6-0 record and a 3.39 ERA, while finishing third among qualifying American League pitchers and sixth in the Majors allowing just 16.2 percent (6 of 37) of inherited runners to score... something he has struggled with in the past.
He also tied for fifth in the AL with 24 holds and leads the Major Leagues with 74 since the start of the 2007 campaign.
Bottom Line: Okie Dokie has been solid, but he did allow the most ding dongs of any reliver in 2009 with eight. His ERA, WHIP and BAA have all slowly increased while his K/BB rate has steadily decreased. Okajima can still be an effective RP for the Sox, but Daniel Bard's emergence as the new set-up man seems to be coming at the perfect time.
...Dewan claims that the Sox will be roughly 80-90 runs better defensively in 2010 than they were in 2009. Defensively, the team was about 52 runs worse than the average team in 2009; in 2010, the team now projects to be well above average.
Certainly, that was part of the thinking for the overhaul by the Sox, who now feature former Gold Glove winners at three of the four infield positions [Beltre, Youkilis, Pedroia], another Gold Glove outfielder in Mike Cameron, and two above-average corner outfielders in J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury.
“If you look at our runs allowed the last three, four years, the outlier year was 2007, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence we won the World Series that year,” GM Theo Epstein said at the press conference introducing Adrian Beltre last week. “I think we’ve been able to change the nature of our defense fundamentally, by having several moving parts. We should have a very solid infield defense, I hope, and a very solid outfield defense, and I hope that you look up this time next year and there are pitchers who are having career years, and maybe that’s a reason why.”
Now, if we can just find a way to score 850 runs, we should win 95+ games this year...no comments
Daisuke Matsuzka recently admitted to hiding a leg injury during the 2009 season. He claimed that it forced him to pitch more with his upper body, and that while he could maintain his velocity, he lost some of his command.
Troy from Fire Brand of the AL attempted to prove that theory, but the PitchFX data didn't show much of a change in his control. Instead, it appears that Matsuzaka was simply very lucky in 2008 and not so much in 2009.
His ability to pitch so well was based on three stats that pitchers have not been shown to have control over; BABIP, LOB% and HR/FB. His BABIP was down at .267 and should be near .300, LOB% was at 80.6% and should be near 76% and HR/FB was at 6.1% and should be near 10-11%. It should be noted that there are some reasons these could be different, BABIP has been surppressed by some groundball pitchers, strikeout pitchers can support higher LOB% and pitching in pitchers parks can lower HR/FB.
Matsuzaka like to nibble at the strike zone. He managed to do so effectively in 2008, but it appears that opposing batters figured Dice-K out and adjusted in 2009. Batters increased their contact outside of the zone by 13% in 2009, which tells me they knew Matsuzka was going to nibble at the corners and they learned to reach in or out to hit those pitches.
With a mediocre defense behind him in the first half of 2009, the increased contact rate resulted in 1.37 hits per inning, compared to 0.76 H/IP in 2008 when he posted a 2.90 ERA and won 18 games. Matsuzaka also his BABIP increase from .267 in 2008 to .385 in 2009...
Bottom Line: With an improved defense and a more aggressive approach in 2010, I think Matsuzaka could be an effective pitcher again. But Dice-K has proven that he can be very stubborn and proud... if he refused to make adjustments, he will continue to frustrate us with his inability to get through six full innings and kill the bullpen in the process.no comments
We've got a new POLL up in the sidebar...
The Red Sox have four potential aces in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. All of them have the talent to win 15 to 20 games ,and with the improved defense behind them and an 800-run offense, we could be looking at one of the best rotations in baseball history...
But who will be the ace?
Cast your vote on the right sidebar and leave your comments below!no comments
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.