Nation STATion: The mighty zero

Nation STATion: The mighty zero
July 28, 2011, 6:09 pm
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By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

Fans love the round numbers. If there is a stat with the mighty zero at the end, people seem inordinately more interested than with, lets say, a six at the end. Dont believe me? Let me give you quick example from last nights bashing of the Royals.

Prior to last night, David Ortiz ranked sixth all-time in RBI in a Red Sox uniform with 996. Of course, nobody really made a big deal about it until after he hit his grand slam (his 10th of his career, obviously more significant than his ninth because of the zero) and the four RBI gave him 1,000 Sox RBI. Now after reaching that milestone, Ortiz ranks sixth all-time in RBI in a Red Sox uniform. Yeah, thats the same ranking as before.

Im fine with the fascination with round numbers; it can always provide good fodder for conversation. The mighty zero is not always a good thing, however. For example, you know how many homers now that Big Papi has hit off of righties since June 14? None. With the homer last night off Bruce Chen, hes had three homers since that date, all off lefties.

Obviously the more zeros at the end of a number, the more interesting it seems to people. While we are talking about RBI, you probably didnt know that Jacoby Ellsbury now has 190-career RBI, but Im pretty confident it will be mentioned when he reaches 200.

I find it more interesting to use a stat as a comparative tool as opposed to merely a milestone collector. I love that Kevin Youkilis has 542 RBI. Why? Because that ties him with Hall of Famer Tris Speaker who spent nine years in a Sox uniform during the dead ball era, 1907-15. And even though the game is so different now, Speaker collected his RBI in 1065 games and Youk has done it in 885 games.

Speaking about games, the Sox (64-38) have now played 102 games this season. The zeroes at the hundred game mark were not significant to most fans because it was just one in a series of 162 games. It had no milestone cache.

But once again I liked it because it gave me an easy frame of reference. Let me show you what I mean. At the hundred game mark, the Red Sox were 62-38, an easily figured out, and very impressive, .620 winning percentage. Thats their best record at the 100-game mark this decade:

Last season, the Sox were 56-44.
In 2009, they were 58-42.
In 2008, they were 57-43.
In 2007, they were 61-39.
In 2006, they were 61-39.
In 2005, they were 55-45.
In 2004, they were 55-45.
In 2003, they were 60-40.
In 2002, they were 59-41.
In 2001, they were 57-43.
In 2000, they were 53-47.

To make Theo Epstein happy, the Sox need to reach his pre-season goal of 95 wins. Thats .586 ball and the Sox are now playing at a .627 rate. But using the mighty zero rule, to make the fans really excited, the Sox need to win 100 games. A record of 100-62 is a winning percentage of .617. The current .627 rate will give the Red Sox about 102 wins, a level not achieved in these parts in many years.

In fact, the Sox have achieved triple figures in wins only three times in their existence: 1912, 1915, and 1946 and finished over the .600 winning percentage mark 12 times.

Here are the Sox best records and where this year ranks:

1912: 105-47-2, .691, World Champ
1946: 104-50-2, .675, AL Champ
1915: 101-50-4, .669, World Champ
1903: 91-47-3, .659, World Champ
2011: 64-38, .627, Lead AL East
1949: 96-58-1, .623
1948: 96-59, .619
1904: 95-59-3, .617, AL Champ
1942: 93-59, .612
1950: 94-60, .610
1978: 99-64, .607
2004: 98-64, .605-2nd of 5 World Champ
1977: 97-64, .602

In the three years that they did win 100 games (with only 54 games remaining on the schedule), heres how they stood at the hundred game mark:

In 1912, they were 68-32.
In 1946, they were 70-28-1.
In 1915, they were 62-35-3.

So for all you zero followers, here are some Sox milestones to look towards:

Tek needs seven hits for 1400
The Muddy Chicken (thats Pedey) needs 10 hits for 800 and six doubles for 200
Jacoby needs 11 doubles for 100
DL Drew needs 67 hits to reach 1500 for his career and eight homers for 250
Marco Scutaro is 43 shy of 1000 hits for his career and needs four doubles for 200
Adrian Gonzalez needs 15 homers to reach the 200 mark

While I minimize the import of most milestones, there is one on the horizon that I know we will all celebrate. Tim Wakefield is one win away from 200 career victories. Wake is one of the really great guys in the game, not as reflected in his 199 wins, but by his Roberto Clemente Award for service to the community. I know, Wake will not reach 300 wins and with 185 Sox wins; Im not sure he will get the eight wins he needs to top Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who each had 192 Red Sox wins making them the winningest pitchers in Sox history, so achieving that next win will be a reason to smile for all of baseball.

Ahh, the power of the mighty zero.