May 5, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) slides safely to second for a stolen base as Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) is unable to handle the ball in the eighth inning at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Sox Can’t Run From Stats. Against Good Teams They’re a .500 Club.

Over the course of a 162 game baseball season teams cannot run from their stats. The body of evidence simply mounts and as the season grinds on the Sabermetrics gurus rub their hands with glee in anticipation of the outcome.

Of course, stats are not absolute. They can’t account to for key injuries down the stretch, a late season hot streak or a team that simply chokes under the pressure. Patterns do, however, present themselves early and often. After just a little over a month, one pattern is becoming clear – the Red Sox are not anywhere near as good against quality baseball teams. Today’s three-game sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers underscored the ugly realities of their weakness, a stat that is just starting to emerge as a pattern.

The Red Sox are still in first place with a .645 winning percentage, tied for first place in MLB with the Rangers. So what’s not to like? As one of BSI’s astute fans commented the other day, Boston has a hard time beating quality teams. It got me thinking and I decided to put his assertion to the test.

Sure enough, the Sox are a pedestrian .500 team against teams with a .500 or better record.

They have lost series to the Orioles (.581), Royals (.630) and Rangers (.645) while winning series against .500 or better teams New York (.601), Cleveland (.500) and Oakland (.563). Predictably they have beaten up on the Blue Jays (.344), Rays (.448) and Astros (.258). Bottom line: Boston currently wins at almost 150 percentage points less against good teams, currently a 9-9 record.

With those stats in mind, May will be a pivotal month in which the Sox will need to make hay against .500 or less teams. Of the remaining 25 games in May against the Twins, Blues Jays, Rays, White Sox, Indians, Phillies and Yankees, only New York has a record above .500. Boston has one game against the Bombers on the 31st. The other 24 are all big opportunities.

It’s time for the Sox to break out their winning surfboard if they want to ride the statistical wave.

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Tags: Boston Red Sox

  • Aidan Flynn

    As a “sabermetric” enthusiast, I should point out that eighteen games really isn’t a big enough sample size to definitively dictate that the Sox struggle against .500 teams. While that certainly has been true up to this point, it doesn’t mean that they can’t hang with the big boys over the course of a year. As time progresses and sample sizes increase, so to does the true picture of a team.

    Even if this does become a trend, is there a whole lot wrong with being .500 against good teams and dominant against poor teams? It would provide a really good shot at a playoff berth and I think it would be more of an issue if a team didn’t have strong front of the rotation starters that would prevent deep runs in October. But the Sox have a really good 1-2 in Lester and Buchholz that are capable of shutting out good teams. For me, this is a non-issue at this point and time.

    • Michael Macaulay-Birks

      I agree, the sox record so far is “found money” to me….I expected the sox to be at best a little over .500 after the first month…(of course I thought the Jays would be well over .500 but that’s another story)… I like this team, and I do think they’ll continue to win against all but the best teams, and who knows, maybe we’ll steal a few from the few teams who are clearly better at this point.

      • stephenepeterson

        And that’s what make baseball the most curious and debatable of sports. As the body of evidence piles up and our hunches are revealed by the raw numbers the conversation just gets juicer.

  • stephenepeterson

    Agreed on all points Aidan. What concerns me is that Boston likely won’t keep kicking the stuffing of the lower echelon teams (currently an .846 winning percentage). The poor teams are bound to get better.

    • Aidan Flynn

      You’re correct as well. Nice piece.

  • John Fahrer

    Back in 2010, they had a terrible record against bad teams. Had they been a .500 club against those teams, they would’ve won the AL East.

    I’m sure those numbers will improve. If not, they should be fine if they can keep dominated the teams they’re supposed to beat.