Many Red Sox fans, myself included, did a lot of bitching and moaning this last season. Any of us who read beyond a third-grade level and can handle even rudimentary sabermetric concepts, myself included, should have known better. Did we really believe we were going to finish 10 games over .500, as ESPN predicted? Were we really buying into the fantasy of a 16-games-over prognostication by Tom Verducci?
You gotta be kiddin’ me. With a rotation stacked with the likes of Rick Porcello – at a John Lackey price – , Wade Miley, and Justin Masterson? No way. Those guys aren’t the only reason we should have been the wiser. There were many signs.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M74vEZMHsGo
But here’s the thing. I came to the realization that I’ve been looking at the 2015 Red Sox season all wrong. Why spend all this time spewing (supposedly) humorous vitriol about my favorite team? Why not find the silver linings (paging Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence!) and appreciate what went right about this last season?
Well, for starters we found our first baseman of the immediate future. No, I’m not talking about Travis Shaw, you goons. I’m talking about Hanley Ramirez for crying out loud. For a guy with a career OPS+ of 129, he surely has to bounce back from that polished turd of a 90 OPS+ he delivered us last season. The guy who was once the organization’s shortstop of the future is now their man to welcome opposing baserunners to the first base bag. Sure, we had to trade him to Florida to secure the 2007 Commissioner’s Trophy, but it was developmentally worth it. A possible five-tool, 30-30 player was transformed into a one-dimensional, defensively-inept slugger in just eight short years. Hanley arrives at his new position in swift order to help us forget Mike Napoli. At 32 years old, Hanley should also be ready to leave all those injury woes behind him. I’m dreaming of a 2016 season around .266/.355/.483 with 28 dingers and 79 driven in. Production you can count on.
Okay, so no more worrying about the first base position battle. Phew!
Last offseason, Ben Cheringotn & Co. went out and laid waste to the free-agent market by signing Hanley and Pablo Sandoval, effectively gutting NL West contenders for years to come. Hanley was inked to a four-year, $88 million deal. The never-peckish Pablo was rewarded with a five-year, $95 million gift card to Boston-area Outback Steakhouses.
What’s most important about these moderately-sized contracts is that it helped us to understand a key sabermetric statistic and its 2014 market value. Wins Above Replacement is a measurement that attempts to illuminate a player’s value over a “league average” player, or replacement player. According to this really nifty website I just found, called FanGraphs, the market value of one WAR in the 2014 offseason was around $6-$7 million. I’m not sure they have done the same math as the Red Sox brass in regards to the Hanley and Pablo deals. In the first year as teammates, this Dynamic Duo produced a combined -2.2 WAR. At a cumulative cost of $37.35 million, that means…oh crap, I can’t remember how to do this inversive valuation stuff! Okay, it’s essentially $16.98 million per -1.0 WAR…???
Essentially, the remaining $145.65 million owed to these clowns will serve to pay them to stay off the field and be the highest-paid bench coaches in the entire history and future of the game. And, yes, I realize this negates the 2016 I just envisioned above for Hanley. Deal with it. Concerning these contracts, I think WAR stands for Wizardry As Reality.
Remember when all you heard about the Sox was how atrocious their starting pitching was? Who’s fault was that? Surely it wasn’t Joe Kelly‘s ineffective sinker, nah! Nor was it the 1.3 HR/9 that “Slick” Rick Porcello allowed. Please. Isn’t a 1.356 team WHIP good? Anything under 2.00 must be a sign of success, I’m sure. Wade Miley can’t be held responsible for his 8.62 ERA in April can he? Of course not. That would be former coach Juan Nieves‘s fault.
Up to the point when the Sox fired Nieves, on May 7, the team ERA was a Rockies-esque 4.86 (the starters, alone, leveled up and combined for a 5.54 ERA by that date). Over the next five months, the pitching staff would make immense strides under Carl Willis. By the season’s end, they held a collective 4.31 ERA.
So, what is our logical conclusion? That firing your pitching coach not only shaves a half of a run off the team ERA, but it is undeniably a good move, because the guy in the dugout is surely responsible for all the balls leaving the yard and runs crossing the plate.
Here’s another thing to sweeten up your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. While a final win-loss record of 78-84 may have been disappointing for those who drank the Kool-Aid, it really wasn’t that bad. It’s only the fourth losing record in the last 20 seasons for the Sox. Granted, three of those four losing seasons came in the past four years. Yet, it does appear to be a significant sign of positive change. The Bobby Valentine Era resulted in a 93-loss traipse up the side of Mount Doom, so it couldn’t get any worse than that. I guess, technically it could, but then we’d just be watching the Miami Marlins. Seventy-eight wins is also a seven-game improvement over last year; good things must certainly be on the horizon. Hell, if only they’d gotten the 6 WAR that Hanley and Panda should’ve returned on investment, they would’ve been in contention for a Wild Card spot.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4LSoB9IXF0
Well, I’ve had just about all the silver linings I can take for this week, so back to being a curmudgeon for me!
In all seriousness, let us fine fanatics of the Boston ball club raise a glass to a successful campaign in 2016!
Don’t screw it up guys.