Nation STATion: Chemistry equation

559838.jpg

Nation STATion: Chemistry equation

This season Nation STATion has focused on the numbers in and around the Red Sox. We have so much more information now than ever before. I heard Bill James say that while we have more stats and knowledge, what we still dont know about the game is huge, we are like a small island of information in the middle of the ocean.

One area that we cant seem to use numbers to get a handle is team chemistry. There are those who assert that team chemistry is a myth, kind of like global warming and evolution. They state that winning teams have great team chemistry, while losing teams dont and that only proves that teams get along better when they win. While that may be true, invariably that looks at the results and attributes characteristics in retrospect.

I expect more from smart businessmen. I expect guys like Reed Hastings and Theo Epstein to understand the role relationships play in the success of an organization. If you cant find what team Hastings is affiliated with, youre looking in the wrong place. Hasting is the CEO of Netflix and it was his idea to divide its movie rental service into two businesses, one offering streaming movies over the Internet, the other offering DVDs in the mail. Subscribers revolted and hundreds of thousands dropped the service and the stock plummeted. Hastings forgot about the chemistry his company had with its customers who didnt give a second thought to the Netflix monthly charge on their credit card until the relationship was disrupted.

Theo did the same thing with the Red Sox a year ago. Faced with a team that finished in third place in 2010, he and others in charge forgot that faced with daunting injuries, the Sox in 2010 were like the Little Engine that could. They battled and battled until they had nothing left to give. A far cry from the 2011 team, wouldnt you agree?

Theo, like Hastings, looked at the numbers and figured he could make it work. He could make NESN more relevant and the team more successful by bringing in BIG NAMES, even though the team he had did not need the names, they needed pitching and health.

Theo had two team leaders in the two veterans: Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez. Check through any article you want from Texas and Detroit and they will support that contention. But Theo was determined to get Adrian Gonzalez over the offseason and there is no way you can convince me that the Sox would have not been a better team in 2011 with:

Kevin Youkilis at first
Adrian Beltre at third
Victor Martinez at DH, catcher, and first

And without . . .

Acquiring Adrian Gonzalez
Re-signing David Ortiz
Signing Carl Crawford

Then . . .

The Sox would have had the prospects to trade for Doug Fister instead of him going to Detroit and Boston settling for Erik Bedard.
The Sox would be in the mix to get Gonzo, Albert Pujols, or Prince Fielder this offseason.

Before the start of the 2010 season, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times interviewed Bill James and he specifically asked James about the Sox and the issue of team chemistry. This is part of James response:

I know that we spend an immense amount of time worrying about it," James said. "I think the average person has a hard time relating to it, in part because: a) the amounts of money involved are so phenomenal that people think that with that much money you have no problems. And b) it's a game. It's fun to play baseball. That's what people think. I think most people can understand that if you have 210 work days, and 230, and you had to travel with the people that you work with, there would be a really, really low tolerance for eccentric behavior in the workplace. You may have co-workers that you don't exactly get along with, but that's what weekends are for and you only deal with them seven or eight hours a day. In baseball, there really ain't no weekends, and you have to be around those people a really great amount of time. And if they grate on your nerves, it gets to be a really long season.

James added that when he is asked in a public forum is, can the people who work with you make you less productive or more productive? He responds:

Baseball would be a quite remarkable activity if it was the one place in the world where your co-workers didn't have any impact on how productive you were. But in fact, baseball is a high-stress occupation and those sort of stress-inducing activities have a sort of, just have a huge impact on how the team functions, I think.

Despite understanding this, if there is a consistent foible in Theos player personnel decisions, its that he always opts for the less dynamic personality and he sees that as a strength. For example:

Dice-K remained a loner amongst his fellow pitchers, so much so that it went beyond the language barrier.
J.D. Drew is so disengaged that if he didnt keep hobbling off the field you wouldnt even notice him.
David Ortiz has a great personality but he seems self-centered, plus as a DH, hes not on the field.
The Captain did not play regularly and always seemed more cerebral than emotional.
Adrian Gonzalez is a deeply religious man who looks to outer sources for his strength and seemed somewhat overwhelmed with the hubbub in the Hub after playing in near anonymity in San Diego.
Carl Crawford played in the AL East, but while Tampa has a warmer climate, he seemed to have trouble with the constant heat of attention in Boston. He never seemed to have fun.
It appears as if Kevin Youkilis shows more annoying characteristics than leadership skills.
Marco Scutaro has always been viewed as a placeholder for the next shortstop whether it be Jed Lowrie or Jose Iglesias.

That left it to the kids and while I would be quite content with 25 Dustin Pedroias, he was regarded as Titos boy and could only do so much. Jacoby Ellsbury still was estranged from the team as a result of his miserable 2010 experience and carried little weight despite carrying the team with his bat.

One veteran the Sox management looked to was Josh Beckett and he proved to be more of a good ol' boy than team leader. Jonathan Papelbon, who has grown up with the Sox, was out in the bullpen only to be used when a game was in hand. Tim Wakefield seemed absorbed with his 200th win. Jon Lester was a follower not a leader, and John Lackey was falling apart physically and psychologically.

So, now Terry and Theo are gone and it will be up to Ben and Larry to put together a team and find a leader. I can tell you that it wont be found on a spreadsheet or in a mathematical formula. At least, as of today there are no numbers for leadership. There just is a need for it on this team every bit as much as they need starting pitching and a right-handed bat an without all three this team will struggle in 2012.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

usatsi_9355232.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

usatsi_9355096.jpg

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar