This week at BP Boston I continued my season-long analysis of the Red Sox’s offense. I consider myself more of a pitching and defense entusiast, so it is somewhat odd that I have been writing about offense so often this year. In any case, in this week’s article I focused on something that is often overlooked: variation in run scoring. So often we only talk about a team’s average runs scored per game, which is a fine measure of an offense’s output but doesn’t capture the whole story. The extent to which a team varies around that average is also interesting. For example, if a team averages 6 runs per game by scoring 11 runs in half of their games and 1 run in the other half they, despite that strong average offensive output, are probably going to be a .500ish team. Forcing their pitchers to shutout opponents half the time is an unreasonable request and so they are going to lose almost all of those 1-run scored nights. Compare that situation with another team that averages 6 runs per game but does it by scoring 7 runs in half of their games and 5 runs in the other half of their games, and I suspect you will find this 7-or-5 (low variance team) would be considerably better than the .500 mark and the 11-or-1 (high variance) team. Of course this depends on the team’s pitching and defense, but, as noted, the 11-or-1 team is making life difficult for their pitchers while the 7-or-5 team is giving their pitchers some leeway night-in and night-out. This example, while neatly contrived, demonstrates how only looking at a team’s average runs per game can miss an aspect of the offense’s quality.
With the importance of variability in run scoring in mind, I looked into the variability in the Red Sox’s offense and found that they have been more of a high-variance group. They average a good-not-great 4.65 runs per game, but due to their variable ways it is difficult to know what the offense is going to do night-to-night. Knock-around the trade deadline’s would-be prized starting pitcher, or get shutdown by an unheralded rookie with an ERA of 5.52 making his seventh career start. Those are cherry-picked examples for sure, but they demonstrate the idea. The Red Sox’s offense has been a bit of a roller-coaster. They just have not hit that run of consistent strong output that we have been waiting for all season. Hopefully it comes in the next few weeks.
Read the rest of my thoughts on the variability of the Red Sox’s offense at BP Boston: Variations on a Team