Chase Utley: One of the Best Ever

If you are reading this, there is a remarkably decent chance that you are a somewhat invested baseball fan. As a baseball fan, you probably ...

The Red Sox will Rebound

 It is a little odd that, heading into a season, a big market team like the Red Sox can be so underrated by the general public. Maybe it has something to do with the high expectations for the franchise. If the team is expected to be dominant, and the reality is that they are not a "sure" thing, then they will become underrated. Let's say the Red Sox as a franchise are expected, by the public, to be good enough to win 90+ games every year. If they are projected to do so, then people are happy. But let's say, instead of being "projected" to win 90 games, they are "projected" to win just 81 games. (I'm putting "projected" in quotes, because I'm not talking about actual projection system, I'm talking about the general talent of the team.)

If they are around an 81 win team, as they seem to be this season, they are publicly perceived as one of the worst teams in baseball. It's actually shocking how quickly they get dismissed. Even their own fans are incredibly negative, and they should be the ones that are paying the most attention! The Red Sox are not some elite team that should be penciled in to make a title run. However, they are a very solid team that should be getting a little more attention than they currently have been given. 

The 2020 Red Sox went 24-36 and finished with the fourth worst record in the MLB. Their pythagorean win loss wasn't much better, as they scored 292 runs and allowed 351 runs, good for a 25-35 pythagorean expectation. So, how can they be good? Well, for one, it was only 60 games, and for another, they really weren't that bad. 

Red Sox position players were 10th in the MLB in offensive+defensive runs in 2020. This might not sound too remarkable, but a top 10 overall offensive+defensive team really isn't too shabby. I know what you might be thinking: "Well, if they were so good at offense, then why did they lose so many games? This article sucks!" That is a great question. They lost so many games because they were 2nd last in the MLB in park and league adjusted ERA, just ahead of the Tigers. Pitching is pretty important, I will admit. So why did they allow so many runs? The answer is simple: their opponents crossed home plate an ample amount of times.

To get to an actual point, the Red Sox were 2nd last in ERA but they were actually last in Field Independent Pitching, a stat that combines strikeouts, walks, and home runs, three stats that pitchers can control, into an estimated ERA. This helps confirm that the pitching staff wasn't a victim of their defense, they just were not productive. HOWEVER, they weren't THAT bad, either. It is proven that a pitcher cannot control their home run/flyball rate. The Red Sox as a team ranked last in home run/flyball rate. When you look at xFIP, which replaces actual home runs estimated home runs based in the league average home run/flyball rate and the team's flyball rate, they were 20th in the MLB. So you take the 10th best position player group and the 20th best pitching group and you get a pretty respectable team.

Obviously, past results don't actually have any impact on the future. They can add predictive value, but it is more prudent to evaluate the individual players as a sum of a hole. Teams change every year, and so have the Red Sox. They signed Garrett Richards, a decent starter, to shore up the rotation. Chris Sale could be coming back around midseason, and he is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. They traded for Adam Ottavino, who is not fantastic but is a minor upgrade over who they already had. On the offensive side they signed low end power hitters like Hunter Renfroe and Enrique Hernandez, traded for Franchy Cordero, who has insane power, and also picked up Marwin Gonzalez, who is a good depth piece. Chaim Bloom knows what he is doing.

When we take the projections of the Red Sox roster on FanGraphs, their median outcome is a projected 85-77 record. They are given a 33.7% chance to make the playoffs as they currently sit. The reality is that they are not a terrible team and management has given them a good chance all things considered. Speaking of management, Alex Cora is back. Maybe he will teach them how to be dirty cheaters en route to a guaranteed ring. In all seriousness, Cora is a great manager and the Sox should be on their way to a good future with the people they have in charge. This article was kind of dry but if you read all the way, good for you. 

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