Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best

More than two decades after playing his last game for the Boston Red Sox, Wade Boggs had his number retired at Fenway Park last night. The ceremony felt long overdue, as Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters in franchise history.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best…

Fans and media tend to overrate hitters who drive runs while underrating those who score themBoggs Was One of Boston's Best. He was destined to be under-appreciated, then, for Boggs was one of Boston’s best table-setters, an on-base machine who often put himself in scoring position via doubles (he clubbed 578 for his career). Batting in front of prolific RBI men such as Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, Boggs averaged 100 runs scored per 162 games and twice led the majors.

Everyone knew Boggs was a tremendous hitter, but few understood his true worth as a ballplayer. His gaudy OBPs and plus defense at the hot corner (which wasn’t recognized until later, when he won back-to-back Gold Gloves in his late 30s) made him incredibly valuable. Baseball-Reference defines an MVP-caliber season as one where a player accrues at least eight wins above replacement, which Boggs did every year from 1985 to 1989, yet never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting. Moneyball was still two decades away, and nobody had WAR to tell them he was the American League’s top position player in 1986, 1987, and 1988.

That might not have been the case had he played elsewhere, however. He was helped immensely by Fenway Park, whose Green Monster allowed him to wait back on pitches until the last possible second, at which point he would flick his wrists and stroke another double or single off the wall in left. Nobody did this better than Boggs, who holds the highest Fenway average of all-time at .369. He was most proficient at this before the EMC Club–then called the 600 Club—was erected in 1989, altering the wind currents within the park and making it much less favorable for hitters. It’s no coincidence that Boggs never won another batting title after 1988.

…And Baseball’s Best

Age and the 600 Club caused Boggs to tail off a bit in the early ’90s, but his final year in Boston—1992—was the worst of his career. He slumped to .259/.353/.358 as the Sox sunk to last place. His contract was up and Lou Gorman, Boston’s general manager at the time, let the 34-year-old walk, even though he was just one year removed from a .332/.421/.460 campaign worth 6.4 bWAR.

That proved to be a terrible mistake, as Boggs found a second wind with Boston’s arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. Boggs batted .313/.396/.407 in his five years in pinstripes, making four All-Star teams and helping the Bombers to a championship in 1996—10 years after his previous World Series bid ended in agony. Following his New York stint he returned home to finish out his playing days in Tampa Bay, where he ended his career on a high note by batting .301 and notching his 3,000th hit on his 118th, and final, home run.

Boggs retired in 1999 as one of the five best third basemen in baseball history. His .328 lifetime average is the second-highest of anyone who debuted after World War II, while his .415 OBP ranks fifth among players who have debuted since 1945 and appeared in at least 2,000 games. He was an eight-time Silver Slugger winner, a five-time batting champion, and an All-Star every year from 1985 to 1996. His most impressive accomplishment, however, was batting .401 over a 162-game span from June 9th, 1985 to June 6th, 1986.

Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters—perhaps second only to Ted Williams—and top third baseman. It’s a good thing he was finally recognized for it.

Boggs Better Than Gwynn?

Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn both debuted in 1982, won multiple batting titles, and joined the 3,000 hit club in 1999. They were perennial All-Stars, multi-Gold Glove winners, and first-ballot Hall of Famers. They played 2,440 games in careers that perfectly paralleled each other. But was Boggs better than Gwynn? Boggs Better Than Gwynn?

By looking at the numbers it’s almost impossible to tell. See below:

Boggs 1,513 R 3,010 H 578 2B 118 HR 1,014 RBI .328/.415/.443 (132 wRC+) 1,412 BB 745 K
Gwynn 1,383 R 3,141 H 543 2B 135 HR 1,138 RBI .338/.388/.459 (132 wRC+) 790 BB 434 K

As you can see, it’s a virtual wash. Boggs scored more runs, but Gwynn knocked in more. Boggs stroked a few more doubles, while Gwynn socked a few more homers. Boggs walked twice as often, but also struck out twice as much. Boggs got on base more, but Gwynn had more hits and greater power.

Was Boggs better than Gwynn by advanced metrics? Once again it’s really close:

Boggs: .302 true AVG .381 wOBA 1,750 runs created 479.7 batting runs
Gwynn: .300 true AVG .370 wOBA 1,636 runs created 437.7 batting runs

Boggs comes out on top, barely. His edge in adjusted batting runs is roughly two per season, while his advantage in runs created is about four per year. You’re splitting hairs at that point, albeit in Boggs’s favor.

But then, Boggs spent much of his playing days in hitter’s parks—nobody took greater advantage of Fenway—whereas Gwynn spent his entire career in Qualcomm Stadium—the Petco Park of its time. Accordingly, when you neutralize their numbers, Gwynn’s get better while Boggs’s get worse:

Boggs .321/.407/.435 (.842 OPS) 1,664 runs created
Gwynn .340/.391/.461 (.852 OPS) 1,735 runs created

Now it’s flipped, as it’s Gwynn who holds the slight edge. Had Gwynn played in Fenway, he probably hits .350 for his career. Meanwhile, had Boggs spent his whole career in San Diego, he wouldn’t have come close to batting .328.

Boggs could hit anywhere—he batted .302/.387/.395 on the road—but that would have been a bad season for him. It also pales in comparison to what he did at home (.354/.443/.495). Most hitters benefit from their home parks, but not to the same degree that Boggs did (unless they play in Coors Field).

Gwynn, on the other hand, hit nearly as well on the road as he did at home. His .334/.384/.451 road averages are nearly identical to his .343/.393/.466 home record. Gwynn would have been a .330 hitter no matter which team he played for, but Boggs might have batted closer to .300.

Was Boggs better than Gwynn? After taking their environments into account, it appears Gwynn was the superior batsman.

Robby Scott Looking Impressive So Far for Sea Dogs

Robby Scott Portland Sea Dogs

Robby Scott continued his hot start to the season against the Trenton Thunder on Sunday afternoon at Hadlock Field; tossing two innings of relief and allowing just a single unearned on one hit, while striking out two.

Scott has not allowed a run in four of his five appearances this season, including four shutout innings against the New Britain Rock Cats last Tuesday, only the second start of his professional career.Robby Scott Portland Sea Dogs

So far this season Scott is 0-0, with a 2.70 ERA and nine strikeouts in 10 innings.

The 25-year old Miami, FL native is coming off a strong 2014 campaign in which he owned a 8-2 record to go with a 1.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts.

Those numbers were good for a trip to the 2014 Mid-Season All-Star Game for the Eastern League. Scott was also voted to the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Star team in October.

“Between being in the All-Star game last year in the Eastern League and then having the opportunity to play in the All-Star game in the Fall League was awesome, two opportunities, two accolades that I will remember when my playing career is over,” Scott told Yawkey Way Report.

“It’s one of those things where you get to reward yourself for something for your efforts, for the work you put in throughout your time. It’s not the last time I want to be on an All-Star team, and hopefully can be on an All-Star team at [every] level.”

Despite a shortened off-season because of the Arizona Fall League, Scott felt no ill effects during Spring Training this year.

“I [actually] felt better, just because I didn’t have that extended period of time off. My arm felt a lot better getting ready to go for Spring Training because I didn’t have that extra month and a half off, so I felt actually a lot better the first time I started throwing,” Scott said.

Robby Scott also realizes that with his recent string of success, his promotion could be just a phone call away.

“That’s what it’s all about, seeing guys have that opportunity. You got to be able to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed and be ready for that opportunity when your name is called, and hopefully that opportunity comes,” he said.

“A year ago now Mookie Betts was in this locker room. Now seeing him doing what he’s been doing [for the Red Sox] it’s been awesome. It’s exciting for us and exciting for the entire organization.”

Mookie Betts’ Attitude As Good As His Play

mookie betts

As each Spring Training game passes, Mookie Betts is leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind that he should be the Red Sox’ starting center fielder come April 6th.

Betts contributed another impressive performance on Monday, going 2-3 with a double, triple, and a run scored against the New York Mets at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, FLMookie Betts. In seven Spring Training games thus far, Betts is hitting an astounding .435/.435/.739, good for a 1.174 OPS.

Equally as impressive as his on-the-field performance, has been his attitude and the way he conducts himself off of it.

Betts began last season on a hot streak as the Portland Sea Dogs’ second baseman, but with the Red Sox middle infield seemingly full for years to come, the Red Sox had Betts begin to transition to center field, where they could take advantage of his immense talent.

“It’s had its ups and downs,” Betts said in an interview with Ron Borges of BostonHerald.com. “It definitely hasn’t been as easy as I thought. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover and you have to move around with each hitter and with different counts. There’s so much involved getting ready for each pitch.”

“When the first fly came out it was like ‘Oh bleep.’ That’s pretty much exactly how I felt. But after I got the first couple under my belt I felt comfortable.”

Although the transition has not come without its difficulties, Betts seems willing to do whatever it takes to earn a spot on the big league roster.

“The only thing I can do now is fulfill what they need,” Betts shared with Borges. “I 100 percent look at it like they think I’m a good enough athlete to do it, not like they don’t think I can play the infield. Plus, we got a guy at second base who’s pretty good so I couldn’t play there.”

“My dream wasn’t to play second base. The dream is to make it to the big leagues. I can’t say it didn’t happen as I wanted because I’m in the big leagues.”

With an incredible amount of talent and potential on-the-field, and the maturity and wisdom that makes him seem wise beyond his years, Mookie Betts seems ready to take the MLB by storm. If his spring is any indication of what’s to come for the 22-year old Nashville, TN native, we might be seeing a perennial All-Star at Fenway Park for years to come.

Dustin Pedroia: Arrogant, Simply Amazing or Both?

Dustin Pedroia

Who bares the # 15 Red sox jersey? Everyone who knows baseball can answer that question. But just for kicks, the next time you walk into Fenway Park or walk down Yawkey Way, keep an eye on how many Pedroia shirts you see. In retrospect, Dustin Pedroia recently signed a seven year contract for 110 million dollars which would hold his spot on the Boston Red Sox until 2021. He’s that much of a commodity. But do we, as fans, believe this was a wise decision for the Red Sox organization? After all, he’s got a big head and I’m not talking about the one that sits atop his shoulders.

Okay, so he may be the all-star player on the team and God knows where we’d be without him, but do we really need to flaunt it by buying Pedroia paraphernalia? I was pissed when I walked into a gift shop on Yawkey Way not long ago, looking specifically for a Junichi Tazawa shirt. Low and behold they had everyone else –Ortiz, Ellsbury and even Middlebrooks, but no Junichi. Case in point, I was listening to my car radio the other day and the radio broadcaster decided to bring up in conversation random stats about Pedey. Did you know, out of all the Red Sox gear sold, Pedroia’s #15 is the highest selling number in Red Sox Nation? Where is Tazawa in all of this?  I know. Pedroia is  the s*** to most Red Sox fans and he does outperform in almost every game, but is he humble or does he relay a bit of arrogance I am unwilling to overcome?

I don’t know the man personally, but there is an air about him when he takes to the field or the plate that strikes me as egotistical and arrogant to say the least.  Confidence is high, great! But his overconfidence accentuates my feelings of remorse.

It was Pedey’s 30th birthday and the Sox had taken on the Yankees at Fenway.  Pedey was at bat when he fouled off of Adam Warren’s pitch, a swift kick to the shin.  He fell to the ground instantly in pain, but soon after returned to his feet and finished his at bat. Although, the entirety of the game, he had been the only Red Sox player to not land on base, he still remained stellar in the field. That is until he was taken out and replaced by rookie Brock Holt the inning following his injury.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, in a recent interview, mentions the team cannot withstand losing anyone at this point whether it is Pedey, Lester, or Koji. As of right now they have a solid team and everyone is playing their hardest.  It’s not about the man who makes the most plays on the field, or the guy who gets the most hits at bat or who has played the most games.  Pedroia has his days, on point or in the slumps, just as any other player out there. Who’s to say one man can outperform any other?  As the Red Sox draw closer and closer to the playoffs, it’s not Pedroia who will determine whether or not they will make it to the World Series, but instead it’s a unified team with the ability to capture the hearts of all Boston fans.

Better Late than Nava

Daniel Nava

For a guy making only $15 K more than the major-league minimum, and who wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot during Spring Training, Daniel Nava is making quite an impact. After smashing rousing, go-ahead home runs in the home opener and in the Sox’ first game home after the Marathon tragedy, he’s continued to collect big hits all season with a professional approach that’s exemplary of this team’s no-BS style.

Through the Sox’ game on July 11th, in which Nava hit the game-winning single in the top of the 10th, the left fielder was hitting .293 and ranked 3rd and 4th on the club with 10 long balls and 52 RBIs, respectively. Up until a recent cold streak dropped his average below .300, his name was beginning to surface in All-Star talk, at least on local sports radio; Tigers manager Jim Leyland, this year’s AL All-Star manager, said Nava was still one of the toughest omissions from this year’s squad.

Nava’s emergence from that slump solidified his production this year as legit rather than lucky. It was hard for some to believe what they saw from him as he hit well over .300 for the season’s first two months; his pedigree, a player who didn’t even make his college team initially, certainly didn’t scream “MLB slugger.” But after battling back from a wicked skid that dropped his average almost 30 points; Nava has proven that he can hang with the big boys. His batting eye is impeccable, helping him post a .380 OBP. His at-bat during the Sox’ 10-inning win over Seattle was the epitome of his game: 0-5 and facing Todd Wilhemsen’s overpowering fastball, Nava hung tough and stayed within himself. He wasn’t enough of a natural hitter to turn on one of Wilhelmsen’s 98 MPH heaters, so he hung back on a breaking ball and grounded it sharply up the middle to score the eventual winning run. That same diligence has helped his defense improve from a liability to a considerable skill.

Having his first standout season at age 30, Nava is something of a late bloomer. But that he bloomed at all is a testament to his dedication, his attitude, and his love for the game. Hitting major-league pitching is almost genetic; it’s something many great players seem born to do. Nava isn’t among them, but he’s willed his way to the top. Better late than Nava.