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2014 Boston Gameday HQ

The St. Louis Cardinals have come to symbolize clutch, with their impressive 21st century resume: eight 90-plus win seasons; four pennants; two World Series championships (2011 and 2006). However, the best statistic that shows the Cards’ heart is batting average with runners in scoring position: an MLB-record .330. If the seven Redbirds who had an on-base average of .339-plus duplicate these feats in 2014, we will be witnessing a new Killing-Me-Softly remix of Murderers Row. This team hit only 125 homers (ranking 13th in the National League), yet led the NL in runs scored (783). If losing begets winning, then Houston Astros fans are wondering when their team will call up pitcher Mark Appel (No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft), shortstop Carlos Correa (No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft) and outfielder George Springer (No. 11 pick in the 2011 draft). After all, those are the highly-valued consolation prizes given to baseball’s biggest losers, and nobody lost 324 games in a three-year span as the Houston Astros did in 2013 (51-11), 2012 (55-107) and 2011 (56-106). If the Astros are going to climb out of the cellar in their American League West home of one year and counting, it’s probably going to coincide with a call-up of one or more of these transformative prospects. No statistic nowadays carries more weight in baseball than Wins Above Replacement (WAR), the advanced metric that encapsulates everything good and bad about a player (hitting, fielding, pitching, you name it) and tells you how many victories he is worth, in comparison to a replacement player. So when two-year phenom Mike Trout posted a 9.2 WAR score last year—besting Clayton Kershaw (8.4) and Carlos Gomez (8.4) in 2013—or a 10.9 WAR score in 2012—beating out Robinson Cano (8.5)—the smart baseball crowd unofficially crowned a 22-year-old Los Angeles Angel as its new king. Granted, he finished second each year in the American League MVP voting to superstar Miguel Cabrera, but chalk that up to the old-guard community who is not quite ready to give up the vote on numbers they don’t fully understand. Check out the blogs, online sites and many fantasy drafts and you’ll see all touting Trout and WAR above all else. In fact, go to Baseball-Reference, and you’ll see WAR—and its various incarnations—atop every other statistic on its Overall Records page. There is a secret recipe to putting up a team-collective .795 OPS, which stands for On-base average Plus Slugging percentage. The Boston Red Sox discovered that very secret to dominating offense some time ago: field a lineup with five or more hitters who could get on base at a .350- plus clip, while also having a slugging percentage of .450-plus. If a majority of your hitters are getting on base and logging extra-base hits, the runs will come in bunches. Most recently, it was the key to Boston’s 2011 hat-trick feat of leading the MLB in runs (875), on-base average (.349), slugging percentage (.461) en route to an .810 OPS, with five regulars registering .350/.450 seasons. After a 2012 retool, the 2013 BoSox repeated that hat-trick OPS feat again with an MLB-leading 853 runs, .349 on-base average and .446 slugging percentage, en route to that .795 OPS and a 2013 World Series championship. Couldn’t have been done without the stellar seasons of David Ortiz (.395/.564), Mike Napoli (.360/.482), Shane Victorino (.351/.451), not to mention Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia posting .800-plus OPS scores as well. The days of starters pitching shutouts may be gone, which all the more means we must celebrate the team shutout and teams like the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers who amassed an MLB-leading 22 team shutouts. Yes, Clayton Kershaw (two shutouts) might not get the opportunity to close out games like scoreless-streaker Orel Hershiser (eight shutouts) did for the 1988 World Series champion Dodgers, but that doesn’t mean Kershaw along with Hyun-jin Ryu (one shutout), Zack Greinke (one shutout) and the relievers’ accomplishments are much less, say, than the 1988 Dodger crew, who put up a pretty impressive 24 team shutouts that year. Advanced Metrics DUANE BURLESON/GETTY IMAGES


2014 Boston Gameday HQ
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