Red Sox

Nation STATion: Up for the count


Nation STATion: Up for the count

By Bill Chuck

How may times have you heard the importance of getting that first pitch over? Plenty, right? Getting ahead on the count is a very important part of effective pitching and on certain counts it is ultimately the difference between success and failure.

Let me give you some stats about the count for Sox pitchers this season.

Heres the big picture: When Sox pitchers are ahead on the count this season, batters are hitting .190 with a .494 OPS, when the batter is ahead on the count, they hit about 100 points higher, .291, with an OPS that is over 400 points higher, .942.

First pitch
Batters are hitting .305 against Sox pitchers on the first pitch this season and they have given up 19 homers on that pitch, more than on any other. Wake has given up five homers on the pitch and Andrew Miller has given up three. Batters are hitting .150 against Daniel Bards first pitch, but they are hitting .300 against Jonathan Papelbons. But check this out, batters are hitting 1-for-26 (.038) against Alfredo Aceves first pitch.
Sox batters, known for their patience, are hitting .340 but have only homered nine times on that pitch. Tek has hit three of those homers and is 13-for-23 when putting balls in play on the first pitch, good for a .525 average. Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .444 on first pitches, but Carl Crawford is only hitting .231 on the initial pitch.

1-0 vs. 0-1
Okay, so what exactly does it mean for the pitcher to get that first pitch over?
Sox pitchers hold their opponents to a .283 average when balls are put in play on an 0-1 count. But batters hit .341 on 1-0 counts. However they give up 13 homers on 0-1 and 15 homers on 1-0. When the count is 1-0 for John Lackey, batters hit .406 and when hes ahead at 0-1 they hit a lot worse, but a still not great, .317. When the count is 1-0 for Jon Lester, batters hit .326 and 0-1 the difference isnt that significance as they hit .294. Batters hit .278 off Beckett but on 0-1, batters only hit .205 off him.
Sox batters love the 1-0 count carrying a .405 batting average and have hit 24 homers, the most of any count. On a 1-0 count Jarrod Saltalamacchia has gone 10-for-14, hitting .714 with two homers and a 2.143 OPS. Gonzo is hitting .458 with six homers and a 1.398 OPS, David Ortiz is hitting .448 with four homers and a 1.379 OPS, and Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .520 with four homers a 1340 OPS. Even Carl Crawford is hitting .409 on 1-0.
But on 0-1, Sox batters are hitting 100 points less at .305 despite Jason Varitek going 5-for-7. Big Papi is hitting .344 with a .938 OPS. Carl Crawford is hitting .370, Gonzo is hitting .356 and even J.D. Drew is at .308. So, whos struggling on 0-1? Youk is only hitting .171 and Jacoby is hitting .235.

The 1-1 pitch
If there is any key pitch in an at bat, this is it. In my conversation with former Mets, A's, Brewers pitching coach, Rick Peterson, this is the pitch he told me was the most critical in the count.

The difference between what happens on a 1-2 pitch and a 2-1 pitch is astounding.
Against the 1-1 count this season, Sox opponents are hitting .304 with a .461 slugging percentage and a .774 OPS.
Against the 2-1 count this season, Sox opponents are hitting .327 with a .542 slugging percentage and a .875 OPS. For example: Jon Lester: .410.7181.143.
Against the 1-2 count this season, Sox opponents are hitting .168 with a .249 slugging percentage and a .427 OPS. For example: Jon Lester: .092.171.286.
The difference for all Sox between 2-1 and 1-2 is 160 points in batting average, 300 points in slugging and 450 points in OPS. For Jon Lester its about 420 points in batting average and 900 points in OPS. (You have permission to say, Wow!)

Lets take a look at how Sox batters do on the 1-2 pitch vs. 2-1 pitch:
Against the 1-1 count this season, overall Sox batters are hitting .363 with a .562 slugging percentage and a .923 OPS.
Against the 2-1 count this season, Sox batters are hitting .356 with a .559 slugging percentage and a .920 OPS. For example: Kevin Youkilis: .5481.1291.692.
Against the 1-2 count this season, Sox batters are hitting .195 with a .323 slugging percentage and a .520 OPS. For example: Kevin Youkilis: .181.333.528
The overall difference for Sox batters between 2-1 and 1-2 is 160 points in batting average, 235 points in slugging and 400 points in OPS. For Youk, its 360 points in batting average and about 1170 point in OPS (all together now, Wow!)

Its incredible the difference that one pitch can make. The next game you watch, start paying attention to the first three pitches of each at-bat and you can be an armchair pitching coach knowing the numbers will back you up.

The stats in this column reflect action through 823.

Pedroia cleared to start running, progressing well


Pedroia cleared to start running, progressing well

Dustin Pedroia has been cleared to run following October surgery on his right knee.

“It’s been pretty much what they thought it would be,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Thursday. “This is always the time they had told me. So you start running at this point, but that’s just running. So you’re not cutting, you’re not doing all things. We still have two and a half months until opening day. 

“I cant say he would never be ready, but we’re not pushing him for that. I think it’s more important he follows step by step. So you run, then cut, then you pick up the pace. But he’s made very positive strides. But that’s why he’s not going to be there this weekend, with the big crowds and all the treatment he has it’s probably not good for him in case someone would run into him accidentally. But he’s making good strides.”

Pedroia told WEEI this month that he’s eyeing Opening Day. Dombrowski said at Alex Cora’s introductory press conference in November that the Red Sox were targeting May. 

“We think Pedey is going to be back in May at some point right now if you listen to what the doctor has to say," Dombrowski said.

  • Dombrowski expects Mookie Betts and the Sox will wind up at a hearing, as assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran also said. The team made clear that if filing numbers were exchanged, a hearing would follow. That’s called a “file and go” approach, or “file and trial” or “file to go.” The Sox don’t employ the approach universally — they exchanged numbers with Drew Pomeranz before settling last year — but it is the approach they’re taking with Betts. A panel of arbitrators will decide if he makes $10.5 million, as Betts filed for, or $7.5 million, as the Red Sox filed for (barring an unexpected settlement before then).



Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 2017 injuries should not be overlooked


Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 2017 injuries should not be overlooked

It’s well known that Xander Bogaerts was playing hurt for much of 2017. All players in a 162-game season work through multiple injuries, nicks, strains and sometimes worse.

But it has probably gone too far under the radar that Jackie Bradley Jr. was not physically himself last season.

MORE - Sox aren't avoiding Martinez because Harper, Machado loom

One of the reasons to believe Bradley can rebound in 2017 — and a reason to advocate keeping a cost-controlled player who is both comfortable in Boston and immensely talented — is renewed health.

Bradley suffered a right knee sprain in April that put him in a brace through May. He sprained his left thumb in August.

A baseball source with direct knowledge of Bradley’s situation emphasized his injuries did affect him. Bradley, like many players, on Thursday did not want to discuss the extent of his health.

“Y’all know I’m never gonna say anything about that. It’s just not who I am,” Bradley told NBC Sports Boston before accepting the defensive player of the year award at the 79th annual Boston baseball writers awards dinner. “But as a player, you just have to deal. You’re injured. But I felt at the time that I could still help the team out. So I was in a brace. I think once I got it off, it actually was feeling pretty good.

It didn’t linger all year, Bradley said.

“It felt pretty good until the thumb happened,” Bradley said. “But it’s one of those things where nobody’s ever really 100 percent. You grind, and you make the best with what’s due.”

Bradley slashed .245/.323/.402 in 2017 with 17 home runs. That's down from a .267/.349/.486 line with 26 home runs in 2016.

One of the things Bradley wants to do more of in 2018 is steal bases. He stole eight last season after a career-high nine the year before. In the minors, he stole 24 bases in one season (2012, between High-A and Double-A).

“I’ve always wanted to run more and I’m glad he’s going to give me the opportunity to be able to do that more often,” Bradley said of new manager Alex Cora. “I’ve always felt like I can run. I feel like I’ve gotten stronger every year. I’ve been pretty successful on the base paths but I guess certain times situations did not dictate it in the past. The red light was something more of a thing they wanted to do with certain people at bat instead of taking the next base.”

Asked if he considered how his health would play into stealing, Bradley noted the reward available.

“I’ve never gotten hurt stealing,” Bradley said. “I’m not saying there’s not a possibility, obviously there’s a possibility. Guys who steal a ton of bags can attest to that. Jacoby [Ellsbury], Billy [Hamilton], stuff like that. There is risk/reward. But, I feel like the reward outweighs the risk in most cases. I just want to be in scoring position. That’s what I want to be in. I want to help.” Bradley acknowledged that he heard about the trade rumors this offseason.

"Yeah that’s one of those things where you do see it,” Bradley said. “You definitely have family members who are constantly talking to you about it. You know, ‘Well, what if this, what if that?’ 

“Well, what if this what if that? What will be, will be. That has always been my mindset. It’s something that I can’t really control. You know, so, I’m just not going to worry about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m perfectly fine. I feel like I’m in a great situation. I feel like I have great teammates. I’m glad to be around them. And like I said, I understand if it did happen, then it’s something that I’ll have to live with.”

Bradley said he and his teammates have not discussed how long they will (or won’t) be together.