October 23, 2020

Maple Street Press Belts One Onto Lansdowne Street

March 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

My buddy Matt Aber wondered aloud in his recent review of Maple Street Press’ Phillies 2010 Annual if these are the franchise’s “Golden Days,” which made me wonder if these aren’t also the Red Sox’ “Golden Days.”  Perhaps, although it’s going to be tough to top the 16-year stretch from 1903-1918 in which they won six American League pennants and five World Series titles, missing out on a possible sixth only because the snobbish New York Giants refused to play them in 1904, and led the junior circuit with a .553 winning percentage through almost 2,400 games.

The more recent incarnation of the Red Sox has a 12-year run of 10 second-place finishes, two pennants and two championships since 1998, and since Theo Epstein grabbed the GM reins in November 2002, the Sox have averaged 94 wins a year, failing to win at least 90 only once in seven seasons.  According to the 2010 Red Sox Annual, there’s no reason that trend won’t continue.  To borrow a line from comedian John Caparulo, I trust Maple Street Press to tell me all I need to know, and believe me when I say they do.

The Annual starts with a great article—”A New Way To Win”—by friend and colleague Chad Finn, who writes for the Boston Globe and Boston.com, at which he writes his Touching All The Bases blog.  The crux of the article is that the Sox will be focusing more on pitching and defense this year as opposed to the big bopper mentality they espoused in the past, and that the master of defensive metrics, John Dewan, predicts the Sox will be 80-90 runs better defensively in 2010, which should translate into eight or nine more wins than last year, putting them in the 103-104 range.  Were they to reach even 100, it would be only the fourth time in franchise history that the Red Sox reached the century mark.

The following section includes full scouting reports, statistics, and tendencies for the primary players, including spray zones, hit zones, strengths and weaknesses, and how each hitter did on each pitch overall, vs. lefties, and vs. righties.  For example, Jacoby Ellsbury hit most of his fly balls to left field last season, but almost a third of his grounders were pulled to the right side; he hit only .200 on change-ups; but was well above average with a .285 mark when the pitcher was ahead in the count.  Pitchers have reports for pitch zones, strengths and weaknesses, and a more comprehensive scouting report that includes average velocity for each pitch thrown, how often a pitch is thrown depending on the count, and how often a pitch is thrown depending on the handedness of the batter.  Josh Beckett, for example, threw change-ups to right-handed batters only four percent of the time, but to lefties 12%.

What else can be found in this diehard Red Sox fan’s dream of a publication?  I’m so glad you asked.  Statistician and longtime Red Sox fan Pete Palmer projects the Red Sox to win 96 games, led by Dustin Pedroia’s .301 average, David Ortiz’ 26 dingers, Kevin Youkilis’ 98 RBIs, and Beckett’s 16 wins.  The Boston Globe’s Adam Kilgore follows with his “Nine For ’10” article, in which he lists the nine keys to the Red Sox’ season, among them playing better on the road and Ellsbury’s shift to left field from center.  Jeff Kuhn sizes up the rest of the American League; and former Providence Journal editor Art Martone writes about Epstein’s “guiding doctrine of ‘Do the right thing,'” which means being equally committed to player development, fiscal responsibility, and finding new ways to measure a player’s value, and the treatment and avoidance of injuries.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com and U.S.S. Mariner gives a scouting report on former Mariners Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre;  Chuck Korb goes deep into the numbers and analyzes the Red Sox’ overhauled defense heading into 2010; MLB.com’s Ian Browne writes about the Sox’ loaded pitching rotation and likens it to the championship-winning 2007 staff; friend and colleague Bill Nowlin asks the players about their uniform numbers and why they chose them; Steve Mastroyin analyzes the offense and expects the same as Palmer, a 96-win season; and friend and colleague David Laurila interviews veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and up-and-coming outfielder Josh Reddick.

Mark Brown insists that J.D. Drew has been worth the money being paid to him (the numbers are compelling and corroborate Brown’s point, but I still wish Drew would throw a helmet or punch a water cooler or beat up a peanut vendor and show Red Sox Nation he’s really not in a coma); Alex Clapp and Dan Brooks analyze Jonathan Papelbon’s mechanics, pitch clusters, and statistics to show why he finally melted down in the postseason; and Alex Speier of WEEI.com and Baseball America and Brandon McGee break down the minor league system, listing first round draft choices since 2005 as well as the team’s top 20 prospects.

Then the Annual reaches my favorite part—the “Fenway Heroes of Yesteryear” section—which features an article about Pedro Martinez by Boston Herald writer Michael Silverman; a piece about the summer of 1975 by Robert Sullivan; and a touching piece titled “Won For the Good Guys,” written by Shaun Kelly, who started a thread on the Sons of Sam Horn message board, imploring other Sox fans to list members of the team past and present as well as family and friends for whom the Red Sox should win the 2004 ALCS.  By the time the thread was closed a little more than a week later, 5,100 entries were submitted from those who wanted the Sox to win it for sons, grandfathers, teachers, little league coaches, a friend who died in the Vietnam War, and so many others.

My friend, colleague, and fellow NW SABR member Mark Armour caps off the Annual with an excellent but depressing piece about the Red Sox’ misguided efforts to land top white “prospects” with boatloads of money only to fail while teams like the Braves were landing players like Hank Aaron for a mere $10,000, and surrounding him with other African-American players like Bill Bruton, Wes Covington, and Felix Mantilla.  It wasn’t until 1958 when the Red Sox signed future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski that they finally landed a prospect who was worth a damn.  Oh, what might have been.

Maple Street Press’ Red Sox 2010 Annual is chock full of Carmine Hose goodness and a must for any Red Sox fan.

Mike Lynch is the author of Harry Frazee, Ban Johnson and the Feud That Nearly Destroyed the American League and It Ain’t So: A Might-Have-Been History of the White Sox in 1919 and Beyond, and the founder of Seamheads.com.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the book being reviewed by the publisher, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

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