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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are the 2004 Boston Red Sox Overrated?

 The 2004 Red Sox will never be forgotten. They are easily the most loved team in the history of the Boston Red Sox, but are they really the best?

I conducted a poll and the 04 Sox received over 28% of the vote edging out the 1978 edition by about 7%. The shocking thing is that the 2007 champs only received 6% of the vote.

It is amazing how our perception changes over time. Seven years later and the 2004 Boston Red Sox are thought of as unbeatable when truth be told they were a very average team for most of the season.
Please save the hate mail. I do not think they were an "average" team but they did have more flaws than we care to remember. The 2004 Red Sox will always be special to me. They are by far my favorite Red Sox team, although I sure did love that 1999 team with Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra.

Many Red Sox teams have brought me to tears but the 2004 team finally brought the good tears out of me. It is impossible to put into words the emotions so many Red Sox fans felt in October of 2004. Personally, I cried, laughed, screamed, and yelled in sheer and utter delight!! I felt this sense of vindication. It was amazing! No matter how many times the Red Sox win it all again in my lifetime it will never come close to making me feel how I felt in 2004. Those emotions will always be there for me and the memory of them will last a lifetime.

I started a tradition on Opening Day of 2005. I break out my DVD of Reverse of the Curse and watch the last chapter. I always find myself fighting back tears when the graveyard scene comes up and I mean ALWAYS. No matter how many times I watch it those emotions and that feeling from 2004 are there.
My newest tradition is to watch ESPN's Four Days in October on every October 20th. The preview clip below will give you chills.


I more than understand the appeal, the connection, the emotion and the love for this team and what they accomplished in 2004. However, it doesn't change the fact that they did have flaws, flaws that disappeared over the last eight games of the 2004 postseason and that is all we tend to remember.
Derek Lowe is the best example of our forgotten, if not, selective memory. Lowe had a pretty bad 2004  regular season, so bad that he was not supposed to even make a start in the playoffs. However, circumstances and destiny put the ball in his hand three times in the postseason and he was virtually unhittable. When we think of Derek Lowe we think of those three starts, we don't think of all the rest of those starts in 2004 that led to his balooning ERA of 5.42

It is hard to compare teams from different eras, but it isn't hard to compare teams that are just three seasons apart. The 2007 Red Sox were also World Champions. They may have won two fewer games than the 2004 Red Sox but they did win the division and their Pythagorean record was actually 101-61, a full five games better than in 2004. Was the 2007 team better than the 2004 Red Sox? I think so and the numbers below don't lie.

Before you take a look at the numbers I want to explain a few things:
The only actual stat I used to compare the teams was WAR. My readers who are more traditional in the way they evaluate players and teams probably just threw up in their mouth. I understand the opposing view when it comes to sabermetrics but I truly believe that WAR is currently the best way to measure the value of a player. If you are not familiar with WAR it simply means WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT player. So if you have a rating of 3.4 it means that in that season you helped to earn your team 3.4 more wins than would the "average" ballplayer. The average ballplayer would have a WAR of 0.

I broke down the comparisons by lineup, pitching and bench. For lineups I went by most games played. This is why Pokey Reese is the shortstop for the 2004 team. Injuries and being traded cut down on Nomar's games played while Cabrera getting to the team late made it impossible for him to get more games in at shortstop than Pokey. This was also the issue in RF in 2004 as Trot Nixon missed most of the season due to various injuries making Gabe Kapler the rightfielder of the 2004 World Champions. Our perception though is of Trot Nixon as the every day rightfielder in 2004 simply because of his long tenure with the Red Sox and the fact he had the game winning RBI in Game 4 of the World Series that year.
The pitching staffs are comprised of the ten pitchers who threw the most innings in their respective seasons.
The bench is everyone else that contributed in the 2004 and 2007 seasons.
Here is the breakdown:

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2004 Red Sox
WAR 2007 Red Sox WAR
C- Varitek 4.1 C- Varitek 3
1B- Millar 2 1B- Youkilis 4.3
2B- Bellhorn 3.5 2B- Pedroia 4.3
SS- Reese 1.6 SS- Lugo 0.4
3B- Mueller 1 3B- Lowell 5.1
LF- Ramirez 3.8 LF- Ramirez 1.4
CF- Damon 4.4 CF- Crisp 4.1
RF- Kapler 0.1 RF- Drew 2.7
DH- Ortiz 4.3 DH- Ortiz 6
TOTALS 24.8 31.3
Pitchers Pitchers
Schilling 6.4 Matsuzaka 3.2
Martinez 4.8 Beckett 4.7
Wakefield 0.8 Wakefield 1.4
Lowe -1.1 Schilling 3
Arroyo 2.4 Tavarez -0.5
Foulke 3.4 Lester 0.6
Timlin 1.1 Papelbon 2.8
Embree 0.4 Okajima 2.6
Williamson 1 Timlin 0.7
Leskanic 0.7 Snyder 0.1
TOTALS 19.2 18.6
BENCH 2.5 5.5
Overall 46.5 55.4

As you can see it is not really close. This did surprise me. After thinking about both teams I did have it in my mind that the 2007 team was better but the numbers prove it emphatically. The biggest gap comes through in the everyday lineup. The 2004 Red Sox lineup did score more runs but the 2007 lineup was better all around. Remember, WAR also puts a measure on defense. Notice Derek Lowe and his negative number,very different from the postseason Derek Lowe we think about when it comes to 2004.

The question is could the 2007 Red Sox really beat the 2004 Red Sox in a best of seven when those idiots have things clicking? We will never know the answer to that, but based on the season as a whole and overall roster construction the 2007 Red Sox team is the better team. Are the 2004 Red Sox overrated? Their overall talent is definitely overrated but what they accomplished can never be called overrated. Separating the two is hard to do and only becomes more difficult as time goes by. The 2004 Red Sox will only get better while the 2007 Red Sox will tend to be forgotten. That is the way history is but the truth remains even if we don't want to admit it.

You can follow me on twitter @ThePeskyPole6


1 comment:

  1. There is a monumental difference between replacement players and average players.

    Replacement players are players you can get off the scrapheap for a league minimum salary, by trading away a player to be named later, or by calling up a minor leaguer. Call them scrubs, AAAA players, fringe players. AlldDecidedly below average, who hurt the team the more they play. Replacement players have no real value, because they're easily replaceable.

    If average players are worth 0 WAR, then half the players in the league would have a negative WAR, thus averaging out to zero. This just isn't true. Average players are worth 1-3 WAR.

    Think about ... a team filled with average players should, by definition, win an average number of games, or have a .500 record.

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