You Down with OPS?
6:20: For the last few weeks I
have been prefacing or punctuating my conversations with fellow citizens of Red
Sox Nation with the question, "How the hell are we still in first place?"
Sadly, it seems only a matter of
time - hours perhaps - before I will no longer be able to take solace in that
odd shelter of rhetorical incredulity.
Why are the Sox sliding? Why do
they stand a 50-50 chance of losing games in which they allow three runs? Could
it be because night in and night out the majority of their lineup is comprised
of below-average hitters? No, this is not the classic Hench pessimistic
hyperbole. Just the facts.
First, let's all just agree that
on-base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS) is the best statistical
measure of offensive value. It may have a nouveau feel to it in its fashionable
infancy, but this stat is built to last.
The American League average OPS
is .746. With Manny belly-flopping in the minors, the Sox regularly field a
lineup with five or six guys below the league OPS average. Rickey Henderson
(.720), Trot Nixon (.735), Jason Varitek (.730), Jose Offerman (.653), Tony
Clark (.563, wow!) and Carlos Baerga (.718) are all looking up at the league
average. When over half your lineup is below average it helps explain why you've
lost four games in interleague play in which you've allowed three or fewer runs.
as you no doubt have noticed, one of our handful of hitters who is actually
above the league-average OPS, Brian Daubach (.821), is completely lost at the
plate. After whiffing four times the night before, Dauby comes in against Trevor
Hoffman and takes two 89-mile-an-hour fastballs right down the middle before
dutifully fanning on the changeup that must have been in his head when he went
to the bat rack.
This leaves us with Nomar
(.892), Shea (.856) and Johnny Damon (.851) to carry the entire load. Imagine
how awesome Nomar might be if he ever got to swing at 2-0 or 3-1 pitches. As it
is, he almost always puts the first pitch in play or waves feebly at it with a
three-quarter swing as he realizes it's in the dirt.
Now let's look at the Actual
Best Team Money Can Buy. Avert your eyes if you scare easy. Jason Giambi, yeah,
the same guy Yankee fans booed in April, leads the league in OPS at 1.035.
Alfonso Soriano (.930), Robin Ventura (.910) and Bernie Williams (.902) are all
in the top 13. Jorge Posada (.843), Derek Jeter (.801), Nick Johnson (.770) and
John Vander Wal (.753) are all above average. That's four elite hitters, six in
the top 40 and eight above average. No wonder the apoplexy in the Bronx over
Rondell White's slow start. They better get Cliff Floyd or Vlad Guerrero right
Looking at these horribly
unbalanced numbers, the obvious question now is, "How the hell were we in first
place for so long?" Hardball