Red Sox Need Runs And Pitching, Not Home Runs


Seriously, are we still in the 1990s? ‘Chicks dig the long ball’ is getting really old.

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Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote in a recent article that the Boston Red Sox do not have enough power to compete with the rest of the American League East, let alone the league itself. While that may be true, his point about the necessity to compete for home runs alongside the Toronto Blue Jays seems a bit old-fashioned.

Cafardo asks and answers his own point by saying, “How important is it to have power? Eight of the 10 playoff teams were in the top 12 in home runs. The only two off the reservation were the Pirates (23d in homers) and the Cardinals (25th). Both made quick exits and need to address power this offseason.”

And yet, as we sit here and breathe, the Kansas City Royals are up two games to none against the Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. The Royals are notorious for not relying on home runs to win games, as they spread hits all around the ball parks, home and away. Toronto led all MLB teams in home runs (232) and runs scored (891), while the Royals were seventh in runs scored (724) and 24th in home runs (139). In fact, Kansas City was nine spots behind Boston for homers and three spots for runs.

Despite not having any competitive ‘power’, the Red Sox scored 748 runs, putting them in fourth place, just behind the New York Yankees (764) and the Texas Rangers (751). Those same Rangers almost swept the juggernaut Blue Jays out of the playoffs.

And, it’s not like the Red Sox don’t have any power at all. Designated hitter David Ortiz was ranked 12th overall in both majors for hitting 37 home runs, 10 behind the leader Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles. Ortiz was ninth if you only factor in the American League. That’s the same league where Boston’s Xander Bogaerts was ranked second in batting average (.320), just behind former Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. In fact, the Red Sox were one of only three A.L. team to have more than one player in the top 20, with Mookie Betts ranked 14th (.291). None of those teams were the Blue Jays.

If that doesn’t way Mr. Cafardo, he should consider this last statistic: the Red Sox, the team lacking so much power, was seventh in the majors in slugging percentage (.415), behind the Blue Jays by .042 points. Does he really mean to say that margin of difference is the big reason why the Red Sox were in last place in the division? Even if one was to argue that it didn’t help matters, not allowing for a home run to solve a game’s deficit in 15 or more games to tie the Blue Jays’ record, it is hardly the main reason.

Another person in particular also disagrees with that previous assessment. His name is Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations:

"“I think we have enough power […] It depends on how the lineup shakes out. Personally, I like guys who can drive the ball into the gaps or hit the ball out of the ballpark. David [Ortiz] is a power guy. Hanley [Ramirez] can do what I’m talking about. We don’t strike out in abundance. Our strikeouts are down compared to most clubs in the league. We’re very similar to Kansas City — not a power club. Key is how many runs you can score, and I think we can score a lot of runs without a lot of home runs. That means your young players have to keep improving.”"

Dombrowski is correct. Putting up runs, either by short ball or long ball, helps a starting pitcher immensely. The Red Sox were scoring runs; however, they couldn’t stop many teams early in the season from scoring more than they did. When the pitching staff played well, the Red Sox found ways to win. When Boston was down by four or six runs by the third inning, a comeback seemed hopeless.

Of course home runs would be lovely; every team wishes that a home run could wipe out any hole that they dug for themselves. That’s sometimes just not possible, especially when there may not be enough players on base when the home runs happened. The more that the table is set, the more RBIs will be cashed in, by a home run or by a single. Let’s try not to live in the ’90s so much and figure out more solid ways to improve the club. The days of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa ruling the yards are over.

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