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Perception vs Statistics - and Other Random Boston Sports Takes

All sports have their statistics, but no sport relies more heavily on statistics than baseball.  Sometimes perceptions get in the way of facts, and we have to look to the stats for the true story.  With that in mind, let’s further explore two perceptions for which the stats paint a different picture than what you might think about the Red Sox; the performance of the bullpen, and the debate of J.D. Martinez vs. Giancarlo Stanton.  And for good measure, I throw in a few random thoughts on the Boston sports scene.

The Bullpen

One of the perceived glaring weaknesses in the first quarter of the 2018 Red Sox season has been the volatility of the bullpen.  The tone was set with a blown four run lead in the eighth inning on Opening Day, and the performance has been shaky at best since that first game. 

Surprisingly, the perception of Red Sox fans is not supported by the relievers’ statistics.  Red Sox relievers rank in the upper half of the MLB in almost all major categories. 

The Yankees are believed to have the strongest bullpen in the majors.  Following are the Red Sox rankings in key reliever statistics, with the Yankee rankings in parenthesis. 

ERA – 10th (8th)
WHIP – 7th (5th)
K – 8th (1st)
K/9 innings – 6th (1st)
BB – 26th (20th)
BB/9 innings – 25th (28th)
Blown Saves – T-16th (T-6th)
HR allowed – T-8th (21st)

While the Yankee bullpen dominate in strikeouts, which is no surprise given the stable of power arms they possess, the Red Sox compare favorably in all other categories.

If the Red Sox can find a consistent arm on which to rely in the eighth inning, the rest of the bullpen roles should fall into place.  But that’s a big “if” right now.  No one has stepped up to claim the role.  Red Sox fans are hoping that Tyler Thornburg can be that guy when he returns from the disabled list, especially now that Carson Smith is potentially lost for the season.  (Note to Carson – next time throw the glove with your left arm!).

J.D. Martinez vs. Giancarlo Stanton

The Red Sox signing of J.D. Martinez has been viewed as the Red Sox counterpunch to the Yankees’ offseason acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton.  While Stanton brought star power to the Bronx, many lauded Martinez as being as good as, if not better than Stanton offensively over the past few seasons.  With each having played 41 games so far this season (going into Thursday’s games), Martinez leads Stanton in all major offensive categories.


So far, Martinez and the Red Sox are the hands down winner of the offseason slugger acquisition contest.  Martinez’s batting average is not only nearly 90 points better than Stanton’s, it is equal to Stanton’s on base percentage.  Martinez’s .344 average is currently second in the American League, behind only Mookie Betts, and his 1.039 OPS ranks fourth in the league behind Betts, Manny Machado and Mike Trout.  Stanton’s .860 OPS is only good for 23rd in the league among qualified batters.

Other Random Thoughts

Celtics/NBA Playoffs

With the Celtics holding a surprising 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Lebrons in the Eastern Conference Finals, the NBA and ABC/ESPN must be cringing at the thought of the Celtics advancing to the NBA Finals.  The NBA, above all other major sports leagues, markets their game around the league’s superstars.  The Celtics not only lack a superstar, the casual basketball outside of New England would be hard pressed to name more than a couple of players on the Celtics’ roster. 

The possibility of a Lebron-less Finals must have the league’s marketing executives awake at night with cold sweats.  It will be very interesting to watch which way the calls go in the next two games to be played in Cleveland.  If there’s a huge disparity in free throw attempts in the Cavs favor, one has to speculate the league is trying to steer its marquee player to another Finals appearance.

Jonny Gomes

Much has been tweeted about the broadcasting style of Jonny Gomes.  Some find him colorful and entertaining, most find him infuriating.  Count me in the latter category.  What I want from an analyst is for them to tell me something that I don’t already know.  Point out a subtle nuance of the game that I can’t see on TV that may have influenced a play.  Jonny’s incessant yammering and overuse of the term “right there” brings nothing to the game.  I don’t need to be told that “Mookie hit the ball hard right there” or that “Xander made a nice play right there”.  I just saw that on TV, Jonny.  Tell me something I can’t see.

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 

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