In 1967 the Boston Red Sox lived the ‘Impossible Dream’, going from last to first in one season. 40 years later, the Sox made a Possible Dream come true; fielding a solid team and winning the World Series. With many New England sports teams looking good this season, can they all make their "Possible Dreams" come true?

 

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jim Lonborg vs. Josh Beckett: Part One

Herein lies the first time I've had an existential crisis comparing two players on the '67 and '07 teams.

In their histories, both are one-time all stars who have led unlikely teams to the World Series. Unlike Lonborg, Beckett sealed the deal on game 7 for his team. Lonborg generally threw a few more innings on average than Beckett each season, tossing 273.3 in '67 (versus Beckett's projected 190-ish in '07).

The impact that '67 Jim Lonborg had on his team was tremendous. He started a staggering 39 games, winning 22 and losing only 9. His aforementioned 273.3 innings (with a 3.16 era) meant much less work for the bullpen. Obviously, Lonborg won the Cy Young.

'07 Beckett might be on pace to throw half as many innings as Lonborg, but he has shown vast improvement over last year. He's fixed his mechanics and learned to deal with blisters- I mean avulsions. His era came down from a 5.01 to a 3.29 in his second season adjusting to the American League. Like '67 Lonborg, he's leading the AL in wins.

Look for the exciting conclusion tomorrow, when we throw down some league adjusted stats and see what Beckett and Lonborg might have been like on the same team.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mike Andrews vs. Dustin Pedroia

I suppose the cheapest way to start an article comparing Mike Andrews and Dustin Pedroia would be to point out the 6 inches of difference in height, but because I think more baseball fans are concerned with results and numbers than genetics there’s got to be a better way to compare the two players who manned the right side of the middle infield.

First the obvious, both players were in their first full major league seasons at age 23 after following up an underwhelming September call-up from the previous year. Both started low in the order; Andrews hitting 7th and 8th primarily for the first 40 games before shifting to the top of the order. Pedroia took a little longer, approximatlely 50 games and some platooning with Alex Cora before moving to the two-hole. Andrews got to the top of the order faster because of a .321 start in April and May, whereas Pedroia almost got run out of town with a .182 average.

As the season went on both players gave you exactly what youd expect from the position, lots of slap singles, a low strikeout to walk rate, and sparse power (though Pedroia gets the edge for his ability to hit doubles)

Percentage of hits for singles:
Andrews -78.5% of all hits
Pedroia – 73.5%

Stikeout to Walk Rate:
Andrews - 1.16:1
Pedroia – 0.78 :1

Isolated Power [Slg% - Avg]:
Andrews: .089
Pedroia .116.

As expected from young players, both struggled with power pitchers (pitchers who strike-out or walk more than 28% of batters) as compared to their numbers against finesse pitchers (pitchers who’s rate is lower than 24%)

(rates are AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS)

Power
Andrews: .236/ .302/ .358/ .660
Pedroia: .257/ .339/ .448/ .787

Finesse
Andrews: .317/ .405/ .410/ .815
Pedroia: .375/ .432/ .480/ .912

Defensively Pedroia has better range than Andrews had in 1967 (4.92 vs 4.66) but comparing against other second basemen of their time, Andrews was actually an above average 2b (4.66 vs 4.19 league average) where Pedroia is a tick behind league average (4.92 vs 4.98). I suppose 40 years of nutrition and medical advancement should produce better athletes, but I’d give Andrews the edge defensively as he never had those advantages.

Offensively however as we’ve already started to see, there’s no comparing the two. Pedroia’s average is 61 points higher and ranks 6th in the league. Pedroia’s OPS is 139 points higher (A very respectable .837 vs a typical light hitting second basemen’s .698)

Defenders of the ’67 squad are right to point out that the game was a lot different back then, and that offensive numbers weren’t anything like they are now. However even when we adjust Andrews’ and Pedroia’s numbers to the same team (The 2006 Red Sox – obtained from baseball-reference.com) Pedroia still comes out ahead - and still by a large margin)

Translated stats to 2006 Red Sox
Andrews: .283/ .370/ .380/ .750
Pedroia: .326/ .398/ .442/ .840

I’m sticking with the new Pedro. Hopefully like Andrews he’ll get picked as an All-Star two years from now as well. At this rate it may not even take two years.

Edge: Pedroia (2007)

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Sparky Lyle vs Hideki Okajima

Ok, so Hideki Okajima hasn't been having the best week ever. He's still put up some solid numbers this season. He'll be going up against '67 rookie hurler Sparky Lyle.

Sparky Lyle made his Major League Debut on July 4th, 1967. Lyle came out of nowhere and solidified the Sox bullpen, pitching them out of many tight situations. After the Impossible Dream year, Lyle's dominance led him to the top of the Sox bullpen. After being traded to New York in 1972, Sparky would build his reputation as one of the best relievers of the 70's. That year, he saved an AL record 35 games. Sparky would be selected to the All-Star team 3 times and lead his teams to the World Series twice as well. In 1977 he won the American League Cy Young award, but was "replaced" when new Yankees reliever Goose Gossage outshined him.

Hideki Okajima is also in his rookie year with the Sox, but he has a bit more professional baseball experience. Okajima is a 12 year veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball (the Japanese Major League level), having been selected to 3 all-star games and being a part of 3 Japan Series winning teams (2 with the Yomiuri Giants, one with the Nippon Ham Fighters). At age 31, free agent Okajima signed a $2.5 million deal with the Sox, eyed as being a probable 7th inning option.

Both Okajima and Lyle spent their first years with the Sox in many set-up and spot-closing roles. Lyle also had sporadic long relief outings. Okajima has quite a few innings on Lyle, who joined the team about three months into the season.

In 27 appearances, Sparky threw 43 1/3 innings, posted a 2.28 era, with 5 saves and 42 strikeouts, with a solid 1.085 WHIP.

In a projected 68 appearances, Okajima should throw around 72 innings, with a 1.26 era, with 5 saves and 60 strikeouts, and a .825 WHIP.

Outside the stat lines: on four different occasions in '67, Lyle would toss over 3 innings on the way to a Sox win, two of those in extra innings. Okajima has only thrown more that 2 innings 3 times this season. Okajima, on the other hand, went 19 appearances (20 ip) between giving up his first and second earned runs. Lyle was a bit more liberal giving up runs.

Both players had some of their best stuff against the toughest competition. Okajima and Lyle each excelled against solid Detroit teams, and kept their division rival Yankees in check.

Though Lyle has the better strikeouts per nine (Sparky has an impressize 8.73 k/9, to Hideki's 7.39 k/9), Okajima leads Lyle in the rest of the stat categories. I don't want to belittle what Sparky Lyle did for the '67 Sox, but Okajima's early season dominance was an integral part of the '07 team's stellar April/June run. Without that run, the Sox would not have had their large lead to work with (which is even more important in light of the Sox's recent lean streak).

edge: Okajima

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

George Scott vs. Kevin Yo(ouuuuu)ukilis

2007 is technically All-Star-snubee Kevin Youkilis' fourth year in the majors, but it's only his second full season. Fancy that. Perfect time to compare him to one George 'Boomer' Scott who, in 1967, was in his second season as the Red Sox first-baseman. The oh-so-sweetest part about this head-to-head comparison is not just seeing how close their numbers are '67 vs '07, but rather the realization of what Kevin could be. Granted, Scott was only 23 years old in 1967 - five years younger than Youkilis is now.

Could his numbers could be matched by his modern-day successor? Veteran fans might shake a stick at the notion.

Scott was an All-Star in his inaugural year ('66), finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. He mashed in 27 long-balls and drove in 90. Pretty impressive. Actually - extremely impressive. But it only takes a glance to see a major flaw in his game: On-base percentage (OBP). Scott's OBP was surprisingly low for someone with such average BB/K figures, but not so surprising when you scope out the .268 career batting average (.245 in '66). Your classic swing-for-the-fences kinda guy (minus the Adam Dunn strikeout totals). But a guy with Scott's kind of eye - a guy who, only four years earlier was awarded the Eastern League Triple Crown - couldn't bat .245 forever, right?

'67 brought a more balanced batter. The power was still there. Despite not reaching the 20HR plateau (19), Scott still posted a beefy .465 slugging percentage and drove in 80+ runs. The equalizer in Boomer 2.0 was the eyes as he raised his batting average by over 50 points (.303) from the previous year.

As of today, "Youkie" (thanks Tito) is batting .303 and is in line to launch 18-19 over the wall [stats]. Sound familiar?

Of course, saying Youkilis will have a career as outstanding as Scott's is a roll of the dice, but he'll certainly get on base far more frequently.

Boomer gets the edge. (1967)

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Joe Foy vs. Mike Lowell

It's only two and a half weeks since the 2007 MLB All-Star Game and '07 Mike Lowell already has surpassed '67 Joe Foy in almost every major batting category imaginable, save for runs.

Foy never had the kind of career Mike Lowell is having. He never hit over 30 home runs. He was never an All-Star. He never drove in over 100 base-runners. In fact, "Iron Mike" hit more home runs during the '03-'04 seasons (59) than Foy did in his entire career (58HR over 6 seasons). Aside from the fact that they both have patrolled the left sector of Fenway's infield, there really is not that much in common between the two. However, after much hair-pulling and head scratching, we've found that they do share one pseudo-similarity after all: On-base percentage... sort of.

In '67, Foy suffered his career-low OBP. He reached base safely 161 times in 446 attempts - good for an OBP of .325. Not overly impressive. Certainly a dramatic drop from his 1966 rookie campaign in which he boasted a respectable .364 - 39 points above the league average. He would hover in mediocrity for another full season until his fortunes changed. As a member of the 1969 Kansas City Royals, Foy would see his OBP revert to respectability. Respectability falls right in line with Lowell's career OBP at .341 - just a bit lower than Foy's career line (.351).

Just for fun, let's look at some brutal comparisons in the "specialty" categories.

Fielding:
Lowell is a Gold Glove winner. He has a minuscule 81 errors in 10 years. Foy, on the other hand, was an apparent train wreck with the glove: 125 errors. 5 years.

Postseason Batting:
Neither are particularly impressive. However, unless you're Derek Jeter, you're probably not going to have the largest set of data to compare. Anyhow, you've got to give Foy a mulligan on this considering Lowell had over three times the at bats to get his act together.

For what it's worth...
Lowell: .196 AVG in 46 postseason at bats.
Foy: .133 AVG in 15 at bats.

I can't keep this going. This one is too obvious.

Edge: Lowell (2007)

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Yastrzemski vs. Ramirez

In 1967, Yastrzemski was only 6 seasons into his 23 year career with the Red Sox. At that point, he had accumulated a total of 95 home runs and was already the clear-cut lion in the heart of the Sox lineup. It wasn't until '67, however, that he truely broke out, mashing 44 dingers and driving in 121 runs. Yaz batted .326 that year, on his well-documented road to the triple-crown.

Fast-forward forty years.

15 years into his career, Manny Ramirez is showing signs of slowing down. Once a lock for 35/130, the jovial left-fielder is on pace to just barely approach 30/100. Though Ramirez is a perennial late-bloomer, it's hard to ignore his SLG, which is currently nesting about 80 points below his career average. That's not to imply that Manny is not still one of the most feared right-handed bats in all of baseball. He is.

Now, let's compare stats... That's always fun.

These figures are based on career averages ('07 is included for Ramirez) and are purely offensive.

Yastrzemski:
AB: 587
Runs: 89
HR: 22
RBI: 90
AVG: .285
OPS: .841

Ramirez:
AB: 586
Runs: 111
HR: 41
RBI: 134
AVG: .313
OPS: 1.006

Even for a die-hard Sox fan and historian, seeing these numbers side-to-side makes it hard to go with Yastrzemski over Ramirez. Fortunately for me (and my desire to not be exiled from The Nation), we're cherry-picking two specific years.

'67 Yastrzemski:
AB: 579
Runs: 112
HR: 44
RBI: 121
AVG: .326
OPS: 1.040

'07 Ramirez (Pace as of 8/1):
AB: 589
Runs: 99
HR: 28
RBI: 107
AVG: .299
OPS: .911

Hard to argue with a triple-crown season.

Edge: Yastrzemski (1967)

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The Year of "The Possible Dream"

The 1967 Red Sox defied the expectations of nearly everyone. Their inspiring worst-to-first climb created the backbone of what is now referred to as Red Sox Nation. This year, the Red Sox have a solid team and great expectations from the start. The 2007 "Possible Dream" Red Sox are Vegas odds favorites to win the World Series.

With the addition of elite reliever Eric Gagne at the trade deadline, the Sox bolstered what was already the best bullpen in baseball.

This blog will be talking about the '07 Sox, reminiscing about the '67 Sox, and doing special entries comparing players on both teams. Here's the tentative list of who is being compared.

Position Players:

C - Mike Ryan vs. Jason Varitek
1B – George Scott vs. Kevin Youkilis
2B – Mike Andrews vs. Dustin Pedroia
3B – Joe Foy vs. Mike Lowell
SS – Rico Petrocelli vs. Julio Lugo
LF – Carl Yastrzemski vs. Manny Ramirez
CF – Reggie Smith vs. Coco Crisp
RF – *Tony Conigliaro vs. JD Drew
*Ken “Hawk” Harrelson vs. Wily Mo Pena

Pitchers:

Jim Lonborg vs. Curt Schilling
Gary Bell vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka
Lee Stange vs. Josh Beckett
Bucky Brandon vs. Tim Wakefield

John Wyatt vs. Jonathan Papelbon
Jose Santiago vs. Julian Tavarez
Sparky Lyle vs. Hideki Okajima

Feel free to comment and suggest any changes we should make, or other players we should include. With the lack of a DH, we found it hard to give David Ortiz a match on the '67 team. Maybe this should count as a +1 to the '07 team.

Here's to The Possible Dream.

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