Sunday, October 28, 2018

Best Red Sox Team Ever?

Update:  I watched the final game over at my son's house. (We have not had a TV for 40 years.) The networks always produce a wide variety of statistics along the way.  One seems important in this context.  The Red Sox beat two 100-win teams to get to the World Series.

I have enough history of traumatic disappointment with the Red Sox to have avoided even breathing such words out loud until now.  Up 3-1 in the World series, with their best two pitchers scheduled for the next two games used to be a recipe for just one more creative way to punish us. The embarrassment of riches in all Boston sports teams since 2001 has moved me somewhat, but I remain cautious. My two older sons and their generation share some of it, but John-Adrian and Chris came from Romania in 2001 as teenagers, and had no interest in American sports at first. Chris never developed any, and as he now lives in Norway, is unlikely to. Kyle was born in 1996 and has known nothing but all of his teams nearly always being in contention.

This team won 108 regular-season games, the most ever by a Sox team, even stretching back to those repeated champions of a century ago who had such players as Babe Ruth and Tris Speaker. They had an enormous run-differential, which is a rough measure of dominance. They are now 10-2 in the post season, a rare percentage since divisional playoffs started. Back in the days that the National League and American League regular-season winners went straight to the World Series, back when New York teams could even more easily buy the best players and club everyone else silly**, there were some 4-0 sweeps of that single playoff series, but since then, very few.* The magical 2004 team went 11-3 in the playoffs, just for reference.

It is always interesting to see how such great teams are assembled. The current crew has two stunning hitters and many pretty good ones, though their catchers can't hit. Jackie Bradley Jr was terrible at the plate over the first half of the season, hitting as poorly at .`180 at one point, kept in the lineup mostly on hope and his exceptional glove.  This paid off, as he was the 21st best hitter in the league the second half of the season. There were two expensive and two very expensive pitchers.  Half a dozen bargains (less than $1M), young position players and older relievers.

So we'll see.

*Possible greatest-ever teams in bold. 1969 Mets 7-1; 1970 Orioles 7-1; 1976 Reds 7-0; 1984 Tigers 7-1; 1989 Athletics 8-1; 1998 Yankees 11-2; 1999 Yankees 11-1; 2005 White Sox 11-1

**There was one Boston Beaneaters team in 1892, and the 1907 Chicago Cubs team that might be included in the discussion of greatest teams ever from the pre-divisional years, and a 1915 Red Sox team that is at least in the discussion, but other than that it's all Yankees, in 1927, 1932, 1939, 1950***, and 1961.

***Led by William and Mary's Vic Raschi, who was 21-8. He won 98 games in 5 seasons at that stage.


james said...

After the Cubs clawed defeat from the jaws of victory, and the fallback Brewers fell by the wayside, the radio has been strangely quiet in our home.

RichardJohnson said...

This team won 108 regular-season games, the most ever by a Sox team, even stretching back to those repeated champions of a century ago who had such players as Babe Ruth and Tris Speaker.

Correct, but as 162-game seasons didn't begin until 1961, we are not comparing apples to apples. Winning percentage would be the best way of comparing. By winning percentage, the 2018 team is only fourth-best.

Season Wins Losses Pct.
1912 105 47 0.69
1946 104 50 0.675
1915 101 50 0.668
2018 108 54 0.667

That the 1946 team lost in the series, in spite of an outstanding season record, would indicate to me that Ted's elbow injury lost the series.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I concur with 1946. He hurt it in an exhibition game, no less.

I think win percentage is a fair point, though when they are that close I don't consider them determinative. Run differential and postseason dominance also matter to me. Plus, I believe that players have improved slightly, year over year, for a variety of reasons.

You might find this older post of mine interesting.