According to the rankings in the 2011 Bill James Handbook, the 2010 Boston Red Sox had the third best offense in the American League. The only offense that performed better than Boston was their AL East competition, the New York Yankees (Tampa Bay came in third, not shockingly).
The Sox had more doubles than any other team in the AL, with 358, and they had the second-most home runs with 211 (98 at home, 113 on the road). They had the second most RBIs (782), behind those pesky Yanks, who drove in 823. Perhaps most interestingly, the Red Sox blew all other teams out of the collective water in the total bases category, collecting 2546 total bags, fifty more than the next highest total.
Despite missing the offense of the prodigious Youkilis, the Red Sox had a productive year scoring runs.
So with such an impressive offensive pedigree, how did the Red Sox miss out on the playoffs? The easy answer is, of course, the barrage of injuries suffered by the home nine, but the numbers tell a different story. Obviously, the Red Sox scored more than enough runs to be a playoff-caliber team, and yet somehow they did not manage to get there.
The explanation, according to James, is simple: baseball has two sides, offense and defense, and the Red Sox were pretty terrible at the latter. Remember way back during the 2009-2010 offseason, when Theo promised us a run-prevention machine? Yeah, those claims are pretty laughable, because the Handbook's advanced stats rate the Red Sox defense as the third worst in the American League, only better than the Angels and Royals.
However, most people would agree that the single most important asset to a successful ball club is pitching, and for all of the praise the Boston rotation garnered before the season, it certainly didn't live up to expectations. The Sox pitching staff was the fourth worst in the AL in 2010, better than cellar dwellers Cleveland, Baltimore, and Kansas City. Red Sox pitchers gave up 679 earned runs, had an ERA of 4.20, and gave the most free passes in the league, with 580 walks.
All of these things together led to a dissapointing season. If the once-vaunted rotation had lived up to even one tenth of its potential, we could have had October baseball. But, for whatever reason, they couldn't. The Red Sox offense - which, if you recall, was everyone's #1 worry last offseason - was championship caliber, and the other facets of the team couldn't keep up.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at James' predictions for 2011, and see if the coming season has a happier ending in store... Hopefully it at least has fewer casts, boots, surgeries, and contusions.