Is Speed Integral to the Sox Offense?

Under former manager John Farrell, the 2017 Red Sox won 93 games and the American League East for the second straight year. They unfortunately quickly erased themselves from the ’17 history books with another expedient exit out of the divisional series at the hands of the Houston Astros.

John Farrell, Rubin Amaro Jr., and Brian ‘the windmill’ Butterfield have been replaced by a new manager, who’s joined by Tom Goodwin as the new first base coach, as well as the recently promoted Carlos Febles across the diamond. The trio brought with them a wild philosophy: be aggressive on the paths, but stop running into outs.

Under Farrell, the Sox proved to be over aggressive on the base paths. After swiping a total of 106 bags (trumping the Major League average of 84) and only being caught 31 times, the team posted a 77% success rate. However, their aggressiveness came with a major downfall, as Boston runners were gunned down 81 times; by far the most in baseball.

In addition to the poor success rate the Red Sox were victim of a few poor baserunning statistics:

  • 2nd in MLB – Outs at Second Base
  • 1st in MLB – Outs at Third Base
  • 1st in MLB – Outs at Home

While the Red Sox were indeed hellbent on taking the extra base whenever possible, a lot of blame can be placed on Brian Butterfield, who sent more and more runners to the plate (29) which resulted in the team getting thrown out far too much for the liking of Sox fans.

There were fair amounts of success, such as Mookie Betts’ walk off against the Cardinals. Jackie Bradley was clearly out at the plate, but Butterfield sent the runner anyhow, but Yadier Molina dropped the ball. Despite the decent success rate, nobody likes those high numbers.

Perhaps if Butterfield had held runners who were not so fleet of foot, such as Moreland, Leon and Vazquez, the Sox wouldn’t have had to play as many one run or extra-inning games. Their 15-3 record in extras was awesome, but lethargy takes its toll over 162.

Baseball has evolved over the last 140 years, much like every other sport does over the span of their existence. The game has strayed away from small ball, which was an integral part of Mike Scioscia’s Angel clubs that won the 2002 World Series, followed by six division titles in seven years.

So while speed is an overlooked tool that adds a dimension to the game, can Boston rely on it in 2018 if the lineup fails to procure power?

Because as it stands, the Yankees are the favorite to win the East, and it definitely wasn’t speed that brought them to the brink of the World Series.

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