Gosh the Red Sox are good! Have you noticed that? The are! They’ve even got a division title to prove it, and let’s try to talk as little as possible about the game surrounding that division win thank you. The thing that makes the Red Sox really good is their offense. They’ve scored a lot of runs; 869 in fact, and that’s 108 more than the next best team that doesn’t play in a ridiculous mile-high stadium that turns everything into home runs including the popcorn.
Kid: One box of popcorn, please.
Vendor: Four dollars, kid.
Announcer: It’s gone!
Crowd: [looks bewildered]
So 108 runs more than second place is pretty incredible when you think about it, or even when you don’t. It calls to mind the other three World Series winning teams of recent vintage. The Red Sox led the league in runs scored in 2013, were tied for third in 2007, and first again in 2004. So you can see that a top offense has been a commonality between the Red Sox championship-winning clubs. But is this 2016 offense better? Let’s see how they all stack up! We’ll go position by position to see which team is the best, then total up the scores at the end.
2004: Jason Varitek
2007: Jason Varitek
2013: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
2016: Sandy Leon
The best offensive season here might be Saltalamacchia’s 2013, wherein he hit 14 homers and appeared, not un-Leon-like, out of a fog of irrelevance to become a championship-caliber starter at catcher. Still, Salty’s defense was never very good, a fact that ended up getting him replaced during the World Series by David Ross. Varitek had one of his best seasons both offensively and defensively in 2004, so I’ll give it to ’04 Varitek.
This one is David Ortiz, David Ortiz, David Ortiz, and of course, David Ortiz. Ortiz had his best year in 2007 by OPS+ (171) but he’s not far off as he currently sits at 161. This season Ortiz stands as one of the best hitters in baseball, ranking first, second, third, or whatever depending on the stat you pick. Regardless he’s never far from the top.
2004: Kevin Millar
2007: Kevin Youkilis
2013: Mike Napoli
2016: Hanley Ramirez
The similarities are pretty remarkable here. Aside from Millar, all are converted from other positions. Youkilis from third, Hanley from shortstop with a stop in left field, and Napoli from catcher. Also, all had very consistently good offensive seasons, about 20 percent above average. Hanley’s actually had the best offense of the bunch, but weighing the combination of offense, defense, and total sweat output, the winner has to be Youkilis.
2004: Mark Bellhorn
2007: Dustin Pedroia
2013: Dustin Pedroia
2016: Dustin Pedroia
Again, remarkable similarities in offensive output from all these seasons, all falling in the 10-15 percent above average range. Bellhorn was a great Theo Epstein find, as he came from nowhere and gave the Sox a great offensive season at a position at which they had nothing (Pedroia had just been drafted out of Arizona State months before). Still Bellhorn wasn’t much with the glove. Given the similarities in offensive seasons, I’ll give this to the 2013 squad based on beard quality.
2004: Nomar Garciaparra/Orlando Cabrera
2007: Julio Lugo
2013: Stephen Drew
2016: Xander Bogaerts
Garciaparra was done as a regular shortstop even if Boston didn’t know it at the time and Cabrera, while a good fielder, wasn’t much over an above average hitter. Lugo was the one regular on the 2007 team who wasn’t actively helping the team win, so they’re out. That leaves Bogaerts whose fall in the second half has dropped his season numbers well below the more defensively stout Drew. It sounds strange to say, but I think Stephen Drew is the answer here. [Editor’s note: wrong and bad opinion]
2004: Bill Mueller
2007: Mike Lowell
2013: Will Middlebrooks
2016: Travis Shaw
I remember Mueller winning the batting title hitting ninth for the 2004 squad, and he did put together a great slash line, but offense was so bonkers during that era that it wasn’t really that far out of the ordinary. Middlebrooks and Shaw are both weak links in their teams, so the answer here is Lowell, who put together a season in 2007 every bit as good as his teammate Manny Ramirez did. Not bad for a throw-in on the Josh Beckett deal.
2004: Manny Ramirez/Johnny Damon/Gabe Kepler (Trot Nixon was injured a lot that season)
2007: Manny Ramirez/Coco Crisp/J.D. Drew
2013: Jonny Gomes/Jacoby Ellsbury/Shane Victorino
The current outfield probably comes in second in this group, even if you add Benintendi, which you can’t because Holt has played the most there. The 2004 group had a prime year Manny who basically hit .300/.400/.600 with 43 homers. Damon was good if not great and Nixon was an above average player when he was healthy while Kepler looked a lot better than he played. Still, even with Kepler in there, Manny was just SO good.
Totaling it up, the 2007 team is the winner with wins at DH, first base, and third base. Oddly the 2016 team didn’t win anywhere. Or maybe that isn’t odd. We are comparing it to three World Series winners. Still though, the current team is the league leader in runs scored so maybe I did this wrong, I don’t know. Or maybe what this points to is the tremendous balance that the 2016 offense features. There isn’t anyone who stands out tremendously with the exception of David Ortiz who has been on all the other teams as well. Beyond him, Betts is the standout, but I got seduced by Manny.
Perhaps that’s the point though. The 2016 Red Sox offense is both very good and very deep. There really isn’t an easy out when Travis Shaw is hitting well and when he’s not, well, eight good hitters is pretty impressive for one lineup. Maybe that will serve them better in the playoffs than it did here.
Photo by Winslow Towson/USA Today Sports Images