This week I covered a lot of Red Sox stuff. (And I received some great feedback from people, so maybe more baseball-related stats things will be forthcoming.) But, since it is Friday, I wanted to keep today late. So over breakfast I worked on a flowchart to help you choose whom to root for in the playoffs now that Boston, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Washington, and Cleveland have all been eliminated.
To be fair, my second choice was good old Terry Francona and the Indians (like last year). But, the Evil Empire is returning.
Following on yesterday’s post about the Red Sox offence, I wanted to follow up and look into their power numbers. So here we have a smaller scale graphic. Nothing too fancy, but the data backs what my eyes saw all year. A definite power drain up and down the Red Sox lineup in 2017.
Like I said yesterday, the Red Sox season is over. And the coverage on offseason needs began in the morning papers. But I wanted to follow up on the data from yesterday and delve a bit more deeply into the offence.
Yes, we know it was roughly league average across the team. And we know it took a hit with David Ortiz’s retirement at the end of last year. But what happened? Well, I took those same OPS+ numbers for the starting nine and compared 2017 to 2016. I then looked further back to see how those same players performed throughout their careers (admittedly I skipped Hanley Ramirez’s 2 plate appearances in 2005.)
You should take a look at the full graphic, but the short version, pretty much everyone had an off year. And when everyone has an off year, it is a pretty safe bet the team will have an off year.
Well the 2017 season ended yesterday afternoon for my Boston Red Sox as we lost 5–4 to the Houston Astros and they took Game 4 of the ALDS. So this morning we will surely see the critiques and hot takes on what to do to improve the team begin to make the internet rounds.
But before we get into all of that, I wanted to take a look at the 2017 season from a data perspective. At least, the regular season. After all, we can see how Sale in Game 1 and Kimbrel in Game 4 just had poorly timed bad days. But what about the other 162 games? After all, we will need to win a lot of them if we want to make it back to the playoffs in 2018.
I just pulled a couple quick stats from Baseball Reference. Now we can quibble about which stats are best another time, but from my experience the more sabremetric datapoints are lost on a general audience. So here we are using OPS, basically a hitter’s average combined with his power/slugging ability, and ERA, the amount of runs a pitcher can be expected to allow every nine innings. I also threw in defensive runs saved above average, i.e. is the player saving more runs than an average player.
You can read the graphic for the details, but the takeaway is that Boston, we need not panic. The 2017 Red Sox were a good team. Far from perfect—here is looking at you lack of middle-of-the-order power—but a solid lineup, good rotation, good defence, and a fantastic bullpen. How can we add without subtracting too much?
But to be honest, it never really went anywhere. As you know, your humble author visited Boston this past weekend and got to see two games of his Red Sox against Tampa Bay. Tampa, of course, is not the rivalry to which I am referring, but things were heated back in the days when Maddon managed Tampa.
No, I am of course talking about the Red Sox–Yankees rivalry. Two weeks ago FiveThirtyEight posted an article about the rivalry and how it has returned. Admittedly, they meant not from the perspective of bitter hatred for all things Yankees, but rather that the Yankees are attempting to be good again.
This chart from the article is nothing more than a line chart. But I just wanted to point out that the rivalry lives, though in my mind it never really went away.
Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.
Last week the Red Sox’s season came to an end after being swept by the Cleveland Indians and with the sweep so too ended David Ortiz’s career. He is one of the best Red Sox hitters of all time, but Ted Williams was the best. And so last week FiveThirtyEight ran a piece on how one manager from the Cleveland Indians—hence the relevance, right?—beat Ted Williams by “inventing” what we all know in baseball as the shift.
The below photo comes from the game and shows what we baseball fans now think of as routine was at the time almost brand new. (Although to be fair, the shift in this case left only one fielder on the left side of the field—the left fielder. Typically today both the shortstop and left fielder both remain.) Anyway, for those baseball fans, the article is worth a quick read.
Credit for the piece goes to an unknown photographer ca. 1946.
Last week Jackie Bradley Jr., the starting centerfielder for the Boston Red Sox, saw his hit-streak end at 29 games. For those of you who do not follow baseball, that means he hit the ball and reached first base safely without causing an out for 29 games in a row. Quite a feat. Anyway, because it is a feat, the story gets covered and in this case, by the Boston Globe.
They wrote several articles on Bradley and the hit streak, but this one included a small, interactive graphic that mapped out his hits. Because a streak exists over time, the component includes a slider to show how the hits have progressed.
Worth keeping in mind that this was merely a sidebar graphic, not a large and fully immersive piece. The piece itself features only a few tables detailing baseball data comparisons, but it exists in a new design layout from the Globe featuring bigger, glossier photographs. Not all graphics need to be the biggest element on the page. From a pacing perspective, it sometimes helps to have a small graphic placed next to the important text to provide immediate context. Speaking of context…
Overall, a very nice piece.
Credit for the piece goes to the Boston Globe graphics department.
Today’s graphic is not terribly complicated, but it is near and dear to Boston Red Sox fans. This is David Ortiz’s final year as he announced his retirement at the year’s outset. And of so course FiveThirtyEight examined Big Papi’s chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.
Last week FiveThirtyEight posted a nice article about the best pitchers in baseball. Turns out Pedro Martinez rates pretty highly among them. The late 90s and early 00s were great for Red Sox pitching.
Credit for the piece goes to Neil Paine and Jay Boice.
Today marks the final start of the year for Rich Hill of the Boston Red Sox. It’s also only his fourth start of the year. He was signed as depth as attrition left an empty spot in the rotation. In his three starts, however, he has given up only three runs in 23 innings while striking out 30 and walking only two. How does he do it? Over at Baseball Prospectus they took a look at Hill’s curveball and the deception he generates from his arm slot and the location of his fastball. They show this by a comparison graphic. I’ve added the names of the two players, but otherwise the graphic is unaltered.
If I am lucky, I can catch this last Hill start at the pub tonight.