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.

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell has been suspended one game because of Saturday night's scream-fest with umpire Bill Miller, when Farrell objected to a balk call made on Fernando Abad that led to an Angels run in the seventh inning.

Farrell is to serve the suspension on Tuesday night. He has also been fined.

Farrell and the umpire couldn't have been much closer to each other's face, and some contact was made.

"There was contact made, yes. I didn't bump him though," Farrell said a day later. "The tip of my finger touched his shirt."

Miller has ejected Farrell three times, more than any other umpire.

"No, honestly I didn't even know that, someone's brought to my attention that it's been the third time," Farrell said Sunday when asked if that history played in. "I don't have a tote board of who's done what and how many times