The Bashing BoSox
The Bashing BoSox
The Boston Red Sox are bashing the baseball and show no signs of letting up. The Red Sox have the American League's best offense are running neck-and-neck with the Baltimore Orioles in what promises to be an exciting AL East race this summer, with the Toronto Blue Jays likely to be included as well. Now, how can handicappers translate that into money?
Perhaps the first thing to emphasize is that this is not a Boston offense that's reliant on playing in Fenway Park to win games. Now there's no question the friendly target that is the Green Monster and the short porch of Pesky Pole are going to help offensive stats, but the Red Sox have shown the ability to hit and win games on the road - in fact, they're (+$417) on the moneyline, based on $100 bets in road games, while only a little bit above water at home. That suggests an offense that can play well in all seasons.
Nor is there any hint that that the individual players on hand can't sustain the pace. Consider the following...
*The incomparable David Ortiz is still going strong in his final season. His on-base percentage is .402, his slugging percentage is .688 and he's hit nine home runs. Could Ortiz ride a wave of voter sentiment to his first MVP award? It's possible, but for our purposes here note that while that slugging percentage is very high for anyone, the basic construct of a .400 OBP and .600 slugging percentage is very much in line with Ortiz's career.
*Dustin Pedroia has numbers of a .342 OBP and .478 slugging percentage. This basically tracks his career norms - the odds are the OBP will go up a bit and the slugging down a tad, but for the most part this is Pedroia.
*Brock Holt, the nominal leftfielder who ends up playing most every position on the diamond has a .356 on-base percentage. While this is a career high it also fits the trajectory of a young career that has seen this stat go from .331 in his first full year of 2014 to .349 last year.
*Xander Bogaerts is another rising star, with a .376 OBP and .457 slugging percentage. Bogaerts was arguably the American League's best shortstop in 2015 and continuing that pace thus far in 2016.
These four players are important contributors and will likely end up the season more or less along the lines of where they are today. In a grayer area is Travis Shaw. The third baseman was given the job in a bold move by manager John Farrell after Pablo Sandoval reported to camp overweight. Shaw has vindicated his manager with a .367 OBP/.504 slugging percentage.
The only player on the team likely hitting over his head is centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Known previously as a defensive threat who was trying to just hit well enough to stay in the major leagues, Bradley has unleashed with a slugging percentage of .500, four home runs and including a couple opposite field blasts.
This is highly unlikely to sustain itself, but the possibility of basic improvement from Bradley that lasts is realistic, given this is another young player. Bradley's .353 on-base percentage could be the real thing.
And when you consider the players who aren't performing well, that actually gives more reason for optimism. Hanley Ramirez got off to a slow start, but in the past week or two he's started to come around. His numbers are .331 OBP and .420 slugging and on an upward path back toward his career norms. Ramirez is also hitting the ball the other way with greater frequency and letting the power come as a byproduct, something that can only help as the season goes along. Mookie Betts is also not swinging the bat well and while he's not as sure a bet as Ramirez to get things turned around, Betts did close last season as one of the game's talented young outfielders.
The upshot of this is that even if there's a dropoff from players currently hitting at a high level, the odds are high that Ramirez and/or Betts will pick up the slack.
So is the conclusion from all this to bet the over? It's a reasonable conclusion, given that the pitching has been poor. But oddsmakers have been top of the Red Sox and they're 16-15-1 on the totals line, so no edge has really materialized there. But the team has been a moneymaker on the moneyline, the bats are the reason why and that's not likely to change over the course of the long season.