The Red Sox are good at hitting baseballs. In addition, they are good at turning those baseballs into runs.
Also good is the Sox stance atop the American League East at 80 wins, two-games up on Toronto as of the morning of September 12th. Their ability to deliver on offense is crucial as their pitching has been rather ordinary, even despite an out-of-the-ground year from 20-game-winner Rick Porcello. Ace David Price has been his typically fine self and the Sox have even found a gem in knuckleballer Steven Wright. Still, their lead in the AL East has come almost purely from their ability at the plate.
Cataloging a series of team rankings, the Red Sox can be found at the top of most, from simple runs and on base percentage plus slugging (.OPS) to the wildly abbreviated wOBA and wRC+. Perhaps most astounding is their collected OFF, or offensive runs above average, a combined measure of how dominant an offense is based on their pure hitting ability and baserunning prowess.
For context, an average team OFF is found at the neutral number of zero, while an outstanding offensive team can reach as high as 45 to 50, evidenced by the NL-leading Chicago Cubs posting an OFF of 41.1. The Red Sox OFF checks in at 100.5.
Up and down the lineup, the explanation for the Sox’ success is perplexing. 23-year-olds do not typically perform as Mookie Betts has in 2016. At .315/.356/.547, Betts is right in the mix for the American League MVP. Throw in his 30 homers, 101 RBI, and 107 runs, and he’s drawing comparisons to some of the all-time greats at their younger ages.
At 23 years old, Willie Mays hit 41 home runs and 110 RBI, tallying a nice .345 batting average at the dish, as well. At 22, Stan Musial only powered 13 homers, but notched an easy .357 average for the season. Both men took home the MVP in 1954 and 1943 respectively.
Contrast the young brilliance of Betts with the finely aged bat of David Ortiz. At 40, Ortiz’s numbers are shockingly similar to Betts’, with Ortiz hitting .316 with 31 bombs and 107 driven in. He has 45 doubles, seven more than Betts, and has even swiped two bases despite the ailing lower body that will force him to retire at the end of the season. Ortiz’s numbers are even more impressive when compared to Betts, given his 104 fewer plate appearances in 2016.
The age disparity is reflected all throughout the Red Sox lineup. Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez, both 32, have enjoyed exceptional years, with Pedroia sitting second in the league in hitting and Ramirez having drilled 22 homers for the first time since 2012, all while learning to play first base for the first time this season.
Juxtapose those two old-timers with the sprightly 23 year-old Xander Bogaerts and 26 year-old Jackie Bradley Jr. Bogaerts is hitting a cool .298 and ranks seventh in the AL in runs, while JBJ boasts a top-20 .OPS in the AL after busting out with 23 home runs.
Whatever your age, if you’re a Red Sox hitter, you’re contributing to by far the league’s best offense. Those wild abbreviations used above detail such dominance. Weighted On-Base Average, or wOBA, gives value to all forms of reaching base with powerful hits registering higher on the scale than smaller reaches such as a walk or single.
The Red Sox’ wOBA sits at .349, nearly 20 points higher than the next closest AL team. Weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, works in tandem with wOBA, this time incorporating park environment and situational effects to a hitter’s ability to create runs. On a scale, wRC+ places an average team near 100, with each ascending number representing a percentage point better than the number below. The Red Sox’ wRC+ comes in at 113, once again good for best in the league.
If the Red Sox can continue to pile up offensive statistics that are unapproachable in the AL, all they would need is competent pitching to compete for the pennant, an accomplishment of which Red Sox fans have quickly grown accustomed.