Dwight Evans’ Number Should Be Retired Too

I was happy when the Boston Red Sox announced that they would retire Wade Boggs’ jersey number 26 this year. Boggs played in Boston for ten years but departed in 1993 for the  Yankees in New York before finally being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 with 91.9% of the vote on the first ballot. There’s no question as to whether Dwight EvansBoggs’ number should be retired, but it will only be the ninth number ever retired by the Red Sox (excluding Jackie Robinson’s number 42, whose number was universally retired across Major League Baseball in 1997). When you look at the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals have retired twelve numbers, and the New York Yankees have retired eighteen, it makes you wonder if the Red Sox are being too conservative in choosing whose numbers to retire, especially Dwight Evans’ number 24.

The Boston Red Sox have three requirements for a player’s number to be retired: be in the Hall of Fame, have played at least ten years in Boston, and finish their career with the Red Sox (though that rule has been relaxed in recent years). Only five of the current players whose numbers are retired meet these requirements; Johnny Pesky isn’t in the Hall of Fame, while Pedro Martinez didn’t play a full ten years in Boston and, along with Carlton Fisk, finished his career elsewhere. These exceptions should pave the way for Dwight Evans.

Dwight Evans By the Numbers

Let’s take a look at his numbers. While Dwight Evans isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame, his numbers reflect a career worthy of induction. He was a three-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner, led the league at least once in on-base percentage, runs, total bases, home runs, and walks. He ranks in the top 50 all time in games played (2,606), home runs (385), and walks (1,391). Evans also hit four home runs on opening days in his career, including one on the very first pitch of the season. What Evans might best be remembered for is the unbelievable catch he made in right field during Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Evans robbed the Reds’ Joe Morgan of a possible home run, leading the stunned Cincinnati Reds’ manager Sparky Anderson to say, “It was an outstanding catch. The best catch I’ve ever seen.” Given his offensive numbers, his exceptional defensive skills, and his overall dependability, Evans’ number 24 should be retired alongside Boggs’.

The Red Sox should take a closer look at what numbers they are overlooking for retirement, starting with Dwight Evans. He played his heart out every day he wore a Red Sox uniform and the man deserves no less.

Relying Less on Analytics Will Benefit Players Like Bradley Jr.

John Henry’s recent comments about the team’s reliance of analytics came as a shock to many, especially since the team has employed Bill James since 2003, the father of saber metrics who was made famous by the book Moneyball and its subsequent film.
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The Boston Sunday Globe quoted one scout who, after hearing Henry’s declaration said, “Finally, someone who realizes that human beings play the game, not numbers…” While in many cases analytics has proven to be a very useful tool that owners have used to build championship teams, focusing less on the numbers could bode well for players like Jackie Bradley Jr., whose own numbers do not capture his talent and potential.

Many saw Bradley Jr.’s performance in the 2014 and 2015 seasons as promising but inconsistent. But if you set his numbers aside for a minute, you see a 2014 Gold Glove nomination. In fact, Bradley Jr.’s defense led Red Sox great Bill Lee to say in August 2015 that he reminded him of Willie Mays from the waist down. That same month, Bradley Jr. became one of only eight players to accumulate five extra-base hits in one game. In a match against the Seattle Mariners, Bradley Jr. hit two home runs and three doubles in six at bats as the Red Sox won 22-10. So does Bradley Jr.’s 2015 .249 batting average represent his abilities? I think not. Now that the Red Sox are taking a step back from analytics, there will be opportunities for people to focus more on what qualities Bradley Jr. does posses that can’t be categorized using analytics. This step back will be good for other players like Brock Holt and Rusney Castillo, players whose true potential may be unfairly overshadowed by analytics.

Should We Toss Analytics Aside Altogether?

I’m not saying that analytics should be completely discarded. After all, it played a role in the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 after an eighty-six year drought. But focus on numbers, statistics, and projections has done a lot to drain the humanity and excitement out of the game. When I see Bradley Jr. take the field next season, I won’t be thinking about the previous season’s batting average, or what Bill James’ thinks his batting average will be. I’ll be thinking about whether I’ll be lucky enough to see Bradley Jr. make an outstanding defensive play.

Analytics remind me of a story about my time in graduate school. One of my professors told me that the best indication of how well a student will do in graduate school, is to see how well they actually do in graduate school. In other words grades, GPA, and test scores can only do so much to predict how someone will do. Seeing how they actually do in a graduate class is the true indicator of someone’s abilities. With that said, we should follow John Henry’s lead and step back from analytics so that we can focus more on what we see on the field, instead of what we read in a statistical analysis. After all, it’s possible that Bradley Jr.’s performance this upcoming season could blow the lid off any predictions anyone’s made using analytics.

Dustin Pedroia Needs to Step Up His Game

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Dustin Pedroia is considered by some to be the heart and soul of the Red Sox and one of the best second basemen in the game. Although his defense hasn’t faltered, his presence at the plate is hurting the Red Sox’ offense.

Pedey has recently found himself in the third slot in the lineup, which is where he was for most of last season. From a numbers standpoint, he isn’t remotely close to what a number three hitter should be.

His .385 slugging percentage and .739 OPS are both his lowest totals since his brief stint with the Sox in 2006, but the timeliness of his hitting is the most worrisome. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Pedroia is 3-27. Yes, a .111 batting average in the most opportune situations! With runners in scoring position, in general, he is 12-52 with four extra base hits. It’s tough to critique such a well-liked guy in Boston sports, but his long-term deal may have been a mistake considering the downward trend in his hitting.

From 2007-2011, Pedroia posted an OPS above .800 every year. If he keeps it up this year, he will have his third straight year below the .800 mark. His two home runs and 18 RBI are also not good enough and can be partially explained by his poor stats with runners in scoring position. Take away his grand slam against Oakland early in May and he has one home run and 14 RBI in the other 55 games.

In a year where Jacoby Ellsbury’s absence has hurt Boston on the base paths, Pedroia’s declining speed isn’t helping. Not exactly known as a burner, Pedroia has actually been a solid base stealer for the Sox. Excluding his shortened 2010 season, in his last five full seasons, he swiped 20, 20, 26, 20, and 17 bags, respectively. Two months into this season, he has two steals and has been caught four times.

Is Dustin Pedroia still one of Boston’s best players? Of course. He will probably finish in the top two or three in WAR on the team and remain a gold glove candidate. However, don’t expect the team to win consistently if this scrappy second baseman doesn’t start producing.

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