Thursday, July 12, 2012

.500 at the Break: Can they make a run at the AL East title?

As the second half of the Major League Baseball season kicks off on Friday the Red Sox stand at the utterly unremarkable record of 43-43.  That means there are 76 games remaining in the season, 18 games before the July 31st Non-waiver trade deadline.

Already reportedly over the luxury tax threshold, the Red Sox are not in a real position to take on salary at the trade deadline and may in fact be looking to trade salary to try to sneak under the luxury tax threshold. But how do the Red Sox determine whether or not they should be buyers or sellers, and what do they do in either case?  

Our first in a series of posts will look at the competition for the AL East Division Title.

The Red Sox currently stand tied for 4th place in the AL East with the Blue Jays, and trail the division leading Yankees by 9.5 games.  The Yankees are 52-33 and have 77 games remaining.  If the Yankees simply play slightly above .500 the rest of the way going 39-38, that would leave them with a record of 91-71 . If the Yankees play .450 ball, they end up 35-42 in the final 77 and end with a record of 87-75 .

If the Red Sox play .500 (38-38) the rest of the season they end up at 81-81.  In order to have a shot at first place what would the Sox have to play like?  To get to 90 wins they would need to play .618, 91 wins .632, 92 wins .645, 93 wins .658, 94 wins .671, and 95 wins .684.

Lets look at half season splits to see how well the Red Sox have performed in a half season over the past decade.

  • 2002: First Half .612 Second Half .532
  • 2003: First Half .591 Second Half .580
  • 2004: First Half .558 Second Half .658
  • 2005: First Half .563 Second Half .613
  • 2006: First Half .616 Second Half .434
  • 2007: First Half .609 Second  Half .573
  • 2008: First Half .588 Second Half .585
  • 2009: First Half .614 Second Half .554
  • 2010: First Half .580 Second Half .514
  • 2011: First Half .611 Second Half .486

The .500 winning percentage is the worst half season start the Red Sox have had in the past decade.  It is also the third worst half season in the past decade trailing only the second half of '06 and the second half of '11.

It is also interesting to note that the incredible .658 winning percentage in the second half of '04 looks like an extreme outlier, just as the second half in '11 is.  Also there is a pronounced better performance by the Red Sox in the first half over the past decade, only twice have they exceeded their first half winning percentage in the second half of the season.

This season the Red Sox should receive some reenforcements after the All-Star break, with Ellsbury, Crawford, Pedroia, and Buchholz all nearing returns. That being said there is enough question regarding the chance of recurrence of injuries that it is far from a lock that these players  will be able to remain healthy enough to provide the Red Sox a significant increase in performance in the second half.

As a reasonable best case scenario the Red Sox could be in the winning percentage range between .610-.615, leaving them at a best case of  at 89 to 90 wins maximum.  This means that in order to catch the Yankees, the Red Sox would need to win at a rate they are capable of but have only done in two second halves in the last decade and would at the same time need the Yankees to win at a .500 or lower rate to be in danger of being caught.  I would also note that in order to win the division the Red Sox would have to post a second half winning percentage over .100 points higher than their first half winning percentage, a feat only accomplished once in the past decade in the magical season of 2004.

Cool Standing's estimates the Red Sox chance of winning the division at 9.5% with the Yankees at 75.7% chance of winning the AL East, while Baseball Prospectus has the Red Sox with only a 2.4% chance to win the division and has the Yankees at 93.7%.

Did I mention the Orioles and Rays both have better records than the Red Sox and the Blue Jays are tied with the Red Sox?  

All this adds up to the pretty clear understanding that the division is a lost cause at this point, much like Bobby Jenks' career with the Red Sox. 

Up Next: The Wild Cards

SOURCE: was used for season splits. 

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