Boston Red Sox pitching staff reminiscent of 1916 World Series team


The Red Sox have a chance to repeat a championship of a hundred years ago. Just what type of team was the 1916 Red Sox?

The 1916 Boston Red Sox won the American League pennant with a record of 91-63 that was a slight two games better than the Chicago White Sox.

This was the fifth season that Boston played at Fenway Park with the occasional jaunt over to Braves Field thanks to restrictive Blue Laws. The team was not exactly filling the stands, with an attendance of 496,397 that ranked third in the American League.

You think a machine offense when you combine Fenway Park and the Red Sox. Historically the thoughts filter to Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and a bevy of other noted sluggers who simply provided excessive clout. In 1916 the Red Sox hammered out a grand total of 14 home runs, sixth most in the AL.

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Other batting figures clearly show a team that is not what one dreams of when it comes to hitting prowess. The Red Sox were fourth in average (.248), sixth in runs (548), seventh in OBP (.317) and dead last in steals with a minuscule 13. This was the Dead Ball Era and that 13 steals jumps out, but the statistics regarding steals were poorly kept and generally ignored in many instances.

What is very clear is this team was not an offensive juggernaut, with only Larry Gardner at .308 rising above the .300 plateau. A few names do stir memories since their skills have been passed down through multiple generations of fans. Most notably are Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis. Hooper is entrenched in the Hall of Fame so his talent level is well-recognized.

The team was managed by Bill Carrigan, who also took some time behind the plate hitting .270 in limited action. The 14 home runs had three players share the team lead with a mere three. One player happened to be the ace of the pitching staff – Babe Ruth.

Pitching was the key to the Red Sox championship and Ruth led the way with a 23-12 record as they’re only 20 game winner. Dutch Leonard and ill-fated Carl Mays chipped in with 18 wins apiece and a 22-year-old Herb Pennock went 0-2. Pennock became a Yankee great and entered the Hall of Fame.

In league totals, Boston certainly made an impact with a second place 2.48 ERA, a second place WHIP (1.194), a third place FIP (2.65) and only 463 walks allowed – second to the Chicago White Sox.

The Red Sox moved on to the World Series and easily defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers (Robbins) 4-1 for back-to-back World Series titles and their fourth such honor in the young American League.

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The 2016 edition of the Red Sox shows an offense that lively or dead ball is a team that is downright frightening with a relentless lineup. The team led the American League and baseball in virtually every significant offensive category. Even in steals, this club outdistanced their twentieth-century counterparts.

Pitching is the separator, or is it?

This season Boston’s pitching staff is third among fifteen American League teams in fWAR at 18.7. Earned Run Average is fourth at 4.01. WHIP is fourth best at 1.27. The second half of the season the fWAR is a league best at 11.3, ERA a league best at 3.49, WHIP is, again, best at 1.19 and FIP is also joining the second half parade with a league-best (yawn) 3.73.

Boston starters and the bullpen have improved dramatically in the second half, especially in the last month when Boston banged out 19 wins in September. As good as 1916? Appears so.

Next: David Ortiz, Mookie Betts battle for MVP honors

The true measurement is a championship. Red Sox fans have now adopted the same view of the postseason as Yankees fans have for decades – anything less than a World Series championship is a failure. In 2016 that road is far more demanding than 1916, when playoffs did not exist and the leagues were composed of eight teams apiece.

Time to match 1916.

Sources: Fangraphs/Baseball-reference