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.

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

This isn’t your average young and hungry player on the brink of the big leagues.

Yoan Moncada, the ex-Red Sox prospect who was one of the principal pieces in the trade for Chris Sale, ate 85 Twinkies in a week, his agent told ESPN The Magazine

David Hastings, Moncada's agent, clarified to CSNNE that this was a one-time thing when Moncada first arrived in the U.S. Moncada had never had Twinkies before, Hastings said, so he was like "a kid in a candy store."

He's still in great shape. Moncada had a huge spring training with the White Sox after a disappointing major-league debut with Boston in September. 

The 21-year-old third baseman has been optioned out of big-league camp, so he’s slated to start the year in Triple-A. But he hit .317 with a .391 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage and 3 home runs in 41 at-bats — some of the best numbers anywhere.

Moncada took a $31.5 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, money that the Sox turned into Sale. Moncada, meanwhile, didn’t exactly invest every cent.

Twinkies weren’t his only indulgence. 

More from the story: 

Moncada had money to spend on drones, video games, toys and clothes. He sometimes spent $1,500 or more during nights out, David says. After he purchased the second $200,000 car, Josefa [Hastings, David’s wife] tried to talk some sense into him.

Hastings reinforced to CSNNE that the message to Moncada was to invest in things that appreciate in value.

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

The Red Sox need to let their lineup sort itself out a bit, and really, need to see how one core player in particular fares: Xander Bogaerts. 
 
Until then, Red Sox manager John Farrell should try to alternate right- and left-handed hitters as much as possible against right-handed pitching
 
If Thursday’s Grapefruit League lineup indeed winds up as a preview for the regular season, Farrell’s on the right track.
 
1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
2. Andrew Benintendi LF
3. Mookie Betts RF
4. Hanley Ramirez DH
5. Mitch Moreland 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B
9. Blake Swihart C
 
Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez should be at catcher normally, rather than Swihart. (If Leon shows he can in fact hit again, the Sox could also decide to put Jackie Bradley Jr. in the nine-hole.)
 
"Maybe a first look at our lineup," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. "I'm not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We've kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we're all looking forward to these last remaining games."
 
Betts is the best all-around producer the Red Sox have. He should be in the three-hole, despite chatter than Andrew Benintendi might be a fit.
 
But Bogaerts’ success will determine a lot of the flexibility available to Farrell. (Yes, everybody has to be healthy for the above statement to be true. And remember, lineups are important, but probably not as important as we’ve all been raised to believe). 

If Bogaerts plays like he did in the first half, when he batted .329 en route to an All-Star appearance, he could easily slide into the three-hole, and push Betts into the second or fourth spot. Or even leadoff.
 
If Bogaerts is the .253 hitter he was after the All-Star break, well, the second half of the lineup is where he belongs. 
 
Bogaerts is, ultimately, better than he showed as both he and the season wore down. But let him establish himself in a groove before you start loading up the top of the lineup with right-handed hitters, thereby giving opposing managers a clear path for righty relievers.
 
(The Red Sox could pinch hit Chris Young at any time, but you’re usually not taking out one of your best players just for a platoon advantage.)
 
And from another perspective, you almost need Bogaerts in the second half of the lineup. Because what else is there?
 
Say the Sox load all four right-handed hitters at the top.
 
1. Pedroia
2. Bogaerts
3. Betts
4. Ramirez 
 
That’s awesome. Then what? Benintendi and cross your fingers? Benintendi seems as sure a thing as any sophomore — well, technically a rookie — can be. But still.
 
This is where Moreland and Sandoval represent other X-factors. All spring, there’s been talk of how Fenway Park and a use-all-fields approach will benefit Moreland. That may be so — but to what extent? How much better can he reasonably be? The Sox are internally encouraged.
 
As it stands now, however, there’s no obvious choice to protect Ramirez, considering Moreland is coming off a season where he had a .293 on-base percentage against righties.
 
And with Sandoval, whether he’s anything more than a wet napkin vs. left-handed pitching is to be seen. There’s reason to believe he can handle right-handed pitchers at least adequately, so he'll get the start — but he could be the first guy pinch hit for nightly.