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.

First impressions: Yankees power their way past Price, Red Sox

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First impressions: Yankees power their way past Price, Red Sox

NEW YORK -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees.

 

* As the postseason gets closer, David Price needs to do a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Price gave up three homers Tuesday night -- a two-run shoot to rookie sensation Gary Sanchez in the first; a solo shot to Didi Gregorius in the sixth; and another two-run belt in the seventh to Tyler Austin.

That's six homers in the last three outings and 29 for the season. It's also the sixth time this season that he's given up multiple homers in the same start, with the three on Tuesday representing a season-high.

Prior to this year, Price had never allowed more than 25 homers in a season. Last season, splitting time between the cavernous Comerica Park in Detroit and the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, he yielded just 17.

Worse, twice Tuesday the homers came at inauspicious times. In the sixth, the Sox had just closed to within one at 3-2; in the seventh, the Sox had worked t tie the game at 4-4.

 

* For all of the offensive brilliance shown by Mookie Betts, it's easy to forget how good he's been in right field.

Anyone who plays in the same outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr. runs the risk of having his defensive play overshadowed and that's likely the case with Betts.

He's played a Gold Glove-caliber right field, showing good range and instincts -- especially for someone who never played the outfield professionally until about 2 1/2 years ago.

And while Bradley has the stronger arm, Betts has 14 assists, including one Tuesday night.

That took place on a ball in which Betts was initially fooled. With one on, Chase Headley lined a ball to right that Betts seemed to lose in the lights. He went to his knees, fighting the lights, and managed to reach back to make the catch, sprawling. He then had the presence of mind to set himself and fire a throw to first, doubling up Starlin Castro for a mind-blowing double play.

 

* Expanded rosters make a mockery of the game.

In the eighth inning, Joe Girardi and John Farrell combined to burn through six players for one plate appearance.

Righty Blake Parker was set to face Aaron Hill, but Farrell had lefty Travis Shaw announced. Girardi then countered by bringing in lefty Richard Bleier to face Shaw.

Of course, Farrell countered by having righty Chris Young hit for Shaw. Young reached on a fielder's choice, and because Young can't play third, Farrell had insert Deven Marrero at third in the bottom of the inning.

Four position players and two pitchers in one spot. That couldn't be done in any other month during the season.

So why is it allowed in September?

 

Pomeranz scratched from last start, could pitch out of bullpen in playoffs

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Pomeranz scratched from last start, could pitch out of bullpen in playoffs

NEW YORK -- With the postseason just over a week away, it didn't appear that Drew Pomeranz was going to be part of the Red Sox' starting rotation.

On Tuesday, that became official.

Pomeranz was scratched from his last scheduled start of the regular season Thursday with some soreness in his forearm. Henry Owens will take his turn against the Yankees.

"He's come out of this last start (in Tampa Bay) a little bit more sore,'' said John Farrell. "There's been a need for additinal recovery time (and there's also) the total number of innings pitched. There's a number of factors.

"The forearm area is where he's experiencing some discomfort. He needs a few extra days. So combined with his career high in innings pitched (169.1), we're backing him out of his last start.''

Farrell emphasized that Pomeranz hadn't been shut down for the season, but did say that if the lefty pitched again, it would be out of the bullpen.

"We need to get him back on a mound,'' Farrell said, "hopefully by the end of the week to determine what role he'll have in the bullpen going forward.''

The fact that the Red Sox were a win -- or a Toronto loss -- away from clinching the division and have the luxury of being careful didn't have an impact on the decision to hold him out.

"You always put the player's health at the forefront,'' said Farrell. "Is this increased risk with the higher number of innings, or additional needed recovery time? You factor those in. This is independent of the standings.''

Pomeranz appeared to have been squeezed out of playoff rotation, with the four spots going to Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz.

In 13 starts, Pomeranz was 3-5 with a 4.68 ERA with the Red Sox after being obtained in a July trade with San Diego.

Two weeks ago, the Padres were disciplined for not fully disclosing all the necessary medical information with the Red Sox leading up to the deal, with GM A.J. Preller suspended for 30 days without pay.

It's unclear whether this injury is at all related to info the Padres withheld from the Red Sox.

"I can't really comment on that,'' Farrell said. "I do know what the player needs is some additional time. What's attached to that previously, I really don't have the specifics.''