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The Boston Red Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers in six games to advance to the World Series. It was an American League Championship Series full of tense moments as the Red Sox only outscored the Tigers by one run (final total score after six games, 19-18 Boston). We take some time now to reflect on the ALCS.
MOTOR CITY BLUES
As our editor Tom Laverty discussed in his detailed overview of the Tigers’ downfall this year, Detroit’s offense did not stack up well against Boston’s speed on the base paths.
But as we’ve mentioned before in our research on base running over the summer, you do not have to be a fast player to be considered a good base runner. Tigers’ sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder were among the league leaders in Bases Taken and other base running categories by midseason. Yes, the Tigers were not the epitome of a speedy team on the base paths and were at a heavy disadvantage in the base running categories against the Red Sox coming into this series.
However, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a similar Ultimate Base Running (UBR) figure as the Tigers, but they had guys like Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, and even Matt Kemp contributing nine or more stolen bases this season.
Ultimately, being a smart base runner is more valuable than speed. In game six, the Tigers were involved in a couple of key base running mishaps, one involving Fielder as he got doubled up at third base in the sixth. The second blunder happened in the seventh when Austin Jackson was picked off at first base after hitting a single. Whether the team is fast or slow on the bases, teams cannot afford crucial mistakes performed by their base runners.
Speaking of Jackson, Laverty also highlighted the lack of steals from the Tigers’ fastest runner, noting that Jackson led the club with only eight steals this season. However, in our overview of Jackson’s season on the basepaths, we learned that manager Jim Leyland‘s decision to limit Jackson’s theft attempts actually made him a much better base runner. Jackson ended the season with a UBR of 6.0–an excellent mark for any player. If anything doomed Jackson as a leadoff man this year, it was the fact that he finished with an underwhelming On-Base Percentage (OBP) of .337. Jackson ranked sixth on the team in OBP. Torii Hunter, a player that Leyland would insert into the leadoff spot in this series, finished with a worse OBP at .334.
Laverty suggests that a more balanced lineup, one that has more speed, is crucial for the Tigers’ success on offense in the future. Speed is a nice a luxury to have, but having more guys who can get on base and possess a better approach at the plate is a more significant necessity. Also, finding a new manager would probably be first on the front office’s to-do list. And having guys that can actually field the ball would also be nice.
REVISITING THE TRADE
In what was arguably the biggest trade of the year, Jose Iglesias went to the Tigers from Boston, while the BoSox landed Jake Peavy. Two teams in the hunt for the playoffs helping each other out, with the Red Sox seemingly getting the better of the deal by bolstering their rotation. In game four of the ALCS, both players would face each other in a crucial game. The results? Iglesias went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Meanwhile, Peavy pitched only three innings, giving up seven earned runs and three walks. Looks like the Tigers didn’t look so bad helping the Red Sox land Peavy after all.
VICTORINO IS MINE
The Red Sox signing of Shane Victorino way back in December of 2012 was met with mixed reviews. On one hand, critics applauded the Sox for signing a proven veteran for such a relative low price. Others, however, were perplexed as to why Boston would spend money on a player that looked to be on the decline. It was also confusing to see the Sox spend money after going out of their way to dump salary during the summer of 2012. The output looked good:
- 15 home runs
- 61 RBI
- 21 stolen bases
But underneath those modest figures is a guy who didn’t take many walks (4.7 percent walk rate) and bad approach at the plate (0.33 BB/K ratio), and yet he still posted the second highest WAR on the team, finished with a respectable OPS of .801, and in terms of advanced statistics, finished as Boston’s best fielder. And he also hit a certain grand slam that sent the Red Sox to the World Series. Not bad for a player that many fans and experts wrote off as damaged goods. At only $39 million, Victorino has proven to be a major player at a bargain price.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Just give it to John Farrell already. Back in July, I had picked Farrell as my midseason pick for AL Manager of the Year. To think where the Red Sox were a year ago today and to see where they are now is astonishing. Farrell was also brought in to fix a damaged pitching staff and has done a great job in doing so. For the majority of the season, the Sox were the best team in the American League and proved it by representing the AL in the upcoming World Series. Farrell’s impact on the team can be clearly seen. Now if there was only a tangible way to reward him for his efforts.
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