Making Too Much of Early Returns

Posted on April 22, 2006 by


In Friday’s Boston Globe one sees a good deal of hand wringing by Bob Ryan about the Red Sox’s lack of run production.  Ryan’s column is but one more example of Boston writers worrying of impending doom in Red Sox nation.  According to these writers, doom is upon Red Sox nation since it now seems quite likely Boston may never score another run this season.   The one saving grace these same columnists claim is that the Red Sox’s pitching and defense is greatly improved.  Unfortunately, the greatly improved pitching and defense is only good enough to keep the Red Sox in a number of close, low-scoring games where the outcome is not determined until the final out.  Though the Red Sox on Friday morning were in first place with an 11-5 record, lady luck is bound to turn her back on this team, and when that happens, close wins will become close losses and Boston’s drive for another title will fall apart.  Of course at 11-5 the Red Sox are only 16 games into a 162 game marathon.  Can we draw conclusions with 10% of the games in the book?  In 2005 after their first 16 games the Red Sox had scored 85 runs.  To this point in 2006 the Red Sox have scored 77 runs, or with a bit of math, just eight runs less.  Per game, this amounts to only a half a run less this season as compared to last.  Is this a trend?  Does it make much difference?  Before I answer, let’s look at the other side of the ledger.  Remember, it is argued that the Red Sox pitching and defense are greatly improved.  Well, the validity of this claim depends upon how you define “greatly”.  In 2005, the Red Sox surrendered only 54 runs in their first 16 games.  So far in 2006 the Red Sox have given up 63 runs.  Okay, that looks like the Red Sox are surrendering more runs this year, although the difference is only a half a run more per game. 

So what do we know?  Relative to last year the Red Sox offense is a bit worse.  Contrary to the claim of Bob Ryan, the pitching and defense are also a bit worse.  So what do should we expect from the Red Sox over the remaining 146 games?  Well, if trends continue Boston might be in trouble.  Then again, drawing inferences from a sample of 16 is a bit risky.  In the end, all I know for sure is that I, and the Boston faithful, don’t really know how the final 146 games will play out.   One thing is sure, 16 games is a bit too early to hit the panic button in a 162 games season.   So Red Sox nation, let’s all try and be just a bit more patient.  – MBS