I was putting together the American League Division Series previews and, for the first time this year, looked closely into the Boston Red Sox offense.
And then I had to, for my own curiosity, delve into the Orioles’ offense, for the sake of comparison.
The Red Sox led the major leagues in runs scored this season with 853 -- that’s 108 more runs scored than the Orioles. Yet the Orioles led the majors in homers with 212, which is 34 more than Boston.
Due to all their doubles (and triples) at Fenway Park, the Red Sox led the Orioles in total bases, but only by about 100. The Orioles hit into 32 fewer double plays than the Red Sox and the clubs had about the same amount of sacrifice hits/flies.
The Red Sox hit 17 points higher in batting average and 12 points higher with runners in scoring position. The Orioles weren’t as bad, comparatively, with runners in scoring position as you would expect. Their .266 RISP average was sixth of 15 teams in the AL and eighth in the majors. Boston had a .278 RISP average, third best in the majors and second in the AL.
The Orioles, believe it or not, also struck out 183 times fewer than the Red Sox in 238 fewer plate appearances.
So where is the major discrepancy in numbers that would, at least partially, explain why the Red Sox scored so many more runs?
Boston was tops in the majors with a .349 on-base percentage this season; the Orioles were 19th with a .313 on-base percentage.
Is that a big deal?
Well, consider that eight of the 10 teams that made the playoffs were in the Top 10 in OBP this year (Atlanta, 13th, and Pittsburgh, 17th, were the ones that weren’t; Texas, which finished tied for the second AL wild-card spot but doesn’t count as a playoff team, was 10th overall).
Boston’s high OBP had a lot to do with its patience at the plate. The Red Sox walked 581 times this season, third highest in the majors. The Orioles drew 416 walks, third fewest in the majors.
Individually speaking, the Red Sox had 12 players with 200 or more at-bats and 11 of them had an on-base percentage .330 or higher. Eight had OBPs higher than .350.
The Orioles had nine players with 200 or more at-bats. Only one, Chris Davis with a .370 mark, had an OBP over .330.
Here’s another one, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau: Red Sox hitters saw 25,667 pitches this year compared to 23,393 for the Orioles. That means, on average, the Red Sox made opposing hurlers throw 14 more pitches per game than what the Orioles saw in 2013. Doesn’t seem like a big difference; maybe it isn’t.
You can do anything with statistics and they never tell the whole story. But I think it is pretty obvious the Orioles need to find two or more players who have a track record of getting on base at a .350 clip or better next year to go with the potential home runs in the lineup.
It’s something Dan Duquette said would be a priority during his reign. Now is time to see it.