Red Sox

Nation Station: Numbers show no place like Fenway

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Nation Station: Numbers show no place like Fenway

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

How many times have you been on the road for work, or even on vacation, and when you get home you realize how nice it is to be in your own bed? Its not that different for ballplayers. Its good to be home as the Sox proved this weekend. After ending spring training and their first road trip of the season in miserable fashion, they came home to the Nation and took two-of-three from the Yankees.

Fenway is this teams comfort zone. Every major league ballpark has 90 feet between the bases and six feet six inches from the rubber to the plate, but then the similarities end. There was time in the 1970s when new stadiums were built to eliminate those differences. Ballparks like Riverfront in Cincinnati, Busch Memorial in St. Louis and Three Rivers in Pittsburgh were symmetrical, cookie-cutter, multi-purpose. They were dull.

Then in 1992, in Baltimore, Camden Yards, the beautiful baseball-only facility became the official home of the Orioles and changed the face of newly constructed stadiums. It was asymmetrical with natural grass turf and was built with the great ballparks of the 1900s in mind. It brought to mind legendary parks like Brooklyns Ebbets Field, Chicagos Wrigley Field, and, of course, the iconic, the idiosyncratic, and as John Updike so eloquently described a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark Bostons Fenway Park.

If there ever was a team that needed to get home, this season it was the Red Sox. Starting with six straight losses on the road they needed a reassuring endorsement from Theo Epstein, the grit of Dustin Pedroia, and the love of Red Sox Nation as they battled through another poor start from John Lackey to win the home opener. Add to the mix a national audience on Sunday night and the Sox had their first series win of the season.

You think that coming home doesnt matter? Since 2001, the Sox are now 8-3 in their first game at Fenway and have won seven straight home openers. But there are 80 games beyond the home opener that matter. Playing at Fenway is a critical part of the success of the Red Sox and you can judge the overall Sox season in many ways, by their home performance.

Take a look at the Sox at home over the last decade:

RED SOX AT HOME
Year Sox at Fenway AL avg. @ Home Sox Final Record
2010 46-35 .568 45-35 .563 89-73 .549
2009 56-25 .691 46-35 .568 95-67 .586
2008 56-25 .691 45-35 .563 95-67 .586
2007 51-30 .630 44-36 .550 96-66 .593
2006 48-33 .593 45-35 .563 86-76 .531
2005 54-27 .667 43-37 .537 95-67 .586
2004 55-26 .679 44-36 .550 98-64 .605
2003 53-28 .654 43-37 .537 95-67 .586
2002 42-39 .518 43-37 .537 93-69 .574
2001 41-40 .506 42-38 .525 82-79 .509

Since 2003, the Red Sox have been better at home than the league average and have had a better winning percentage at home than the winning percentage of their overall record.

Is this a coincidence? I think not. Following the 2002 season, the Red Sox were purchased and each season the John Henry-Tom Warner-Larry Lucchino triumvirate has made capital improvements to make Fenway a state-of-the-art ballpark both for the fans and the players. Add the fourth musketeer, Theo Epstein, and they have dramatically improved the team by understanding the ballpark.

For those of you who still have the old school perception that Fenway is a homers ballpark, take a look at this:

FENWAY HOMERS AND DOUBLES
Year Homers Doubles Red Sox HomersDoubles
2010 165 345 98189
2009 180 360 114198
2008 133 377 79211
2007 139 347 79191
2006 147 372 83186
2005 170 379 92191
2004 180 382 111218
2003 172 362 111216
2002 135 317 77172
2001 163 304 97166

Fenway is a really more of a doubles ballpark, than a home run park. Heres how the ballpark has fared compared to other parks. Under the new ownership, with the exception of 2007, Fenway has produced the most doubles every year. It has trailed in homers each year to a variety of stadiums.

FENWAY HOMERS AND DOUBLES
Year Homers Doubles
2010 -59 35
2009 -46 44
2008 -81 28
2007 -50 -9
2006 -89 24
2005 -54 51
2004 -75 43
2003 -60 14
2002 -96 -10
2001 -60 -41
Finished second in the league Finished fifth in the league

Why does Fenway lead in doubles but trail in homers? Look at Fenways dimensions:

HEIGHT OF OUTFIELD WALLS
Left Field: 37 feet
Center Field: 17 feet
Bullpens: 5 feet
Right Field: 3-5 feet

LENGTH OF LEFT FIELD WALL
231 feet (228 feet in fair territory)

While there are a number of reasons for doubles such as the wide left-center and right-centerfield gaps, none is more important (and more unique) than the Green Monster. At 310 feet its close enough that fly balls hit to left in Fenway, which are often caught at other ballparks, hit off the wall and go for doubles. In the same respect, hard rising line drives that go for homers to left in other parks, clang off the Monster for a double.

And, who can so frequently take advantage of that ballpark characteristic? Left-handed batters like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and J.D. Drew who go to the opposite field. But thats a visit to NATION STATION for another day.

Until that time, I leave you with the words of the late great commissioner Bart Giamatti, "As I grew up, I knew that as a building (Fenway Park) was on the level of Mount Olympus, the Pyramid at Giza, the nation's capitol, the czar's Winter Palace, and the Louvre except, of course, that it is better than all those inconsequential places."

Theres no place like Fenway.

Delicious stat of the day (so yummy I gain weight thinking about it):
I put away my Stat Hat when it comes to Dustin Pedroia because baseball doesnt track how often a players jersey gets dirty and Bill James hasnt developed a tool as of yet that can measure heart, but Pedey willed this team to their series victory. However, take a look at Pedroias career home and away numbers:
ISplitGGSPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBPSHSFIBBROEBAbiptOPSHome2852751250111120536511122814830610894.329.390.508.8985642412613518.336115Away280274125811141773166132711026610996.284.352.417.76846429131210211.28985Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4112011.
Pedroia has started the same number of games home and away and has virtually the same number of at bats, triples, homers, steals, caught stealing, walks, and whiffs. However, he has hit 40 points better at Fenway, with 50 more doubles, and has hit 46 points higher when putting balls in play. Yum!

From the Chuck Files
There is a lot to be concerned about with the pitching of John Lackey even after picking up an ugly win on Friday. This season he now has a 15.58 ERA, a WHIP of 2.42, batters are hitting .395 against him, and so far batters have swung and missed at only 6.2 of his pitches, by far the worst of his career . . . Going back to last season, Clay Buchholtz is 2-4 in his last eight starts and the Sox are 2-6 in those games . . . Josh Beckett is now 27-14 pitching for the Sox at home. J.D. Drew is hitting .304 but only has two RBI and one double is his only extra-base hit. Hes hitting .111 with runners in scoring position.

Nation Station, Bill Chuck's statistically-based look at the Red Sox appears on CSNNE.com each Monday and Thursday.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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