Boston Red Sox, with Carl Crawford, Building Through Math and Science

Matthew Torino December 9, 2010 0

Sports aren't the topic we're most obviously concerned with on a website that's subheading is Tech News and Reviews but what the Boston Red Sox are doing should at least be mentioned: after signing Carl Crawford to a monstrous 7 year, $142 million deal, they are essentially building a lineup of robots and emotionless beings that are only build to play baseball. It hasn't worked out that well so far, but maybe after adding Crawford, they can put their math based baseball team over the top. 


The Red Sox under Moneyball-based GM Theo Epstein have been building the team through scientific formulas to calculate statistics more accurately through nearly the last decade. Even the most basic stats concern math such as batting average, hits divided by at bats, but newer stats such as on base percentage and on base + slugging, have introduced newly formed mathematical equations into the antiquated baseball universe. 

By adding Carl Crawford, arguably the best player on a two time playoff bound and one time American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays team, the Red Sox have added one of the best defensive outfielders in the game according to more mathematical equations like Ultimate Zone Rating and plus/minus stats. Hardly any baseball fans have any idea what these mean but Crawford ranks among the top outfielders in these stats that take away human error and bias while only taking into account what is actually on the field. Great catches that stand out in the human mind are removed and every single play, no matter how pedestrian is factored in. Maybe Crawford doesn't make as many great catches because he gets great jumps on balls and doesn't have to dive. Who knows? But through stats and scientific formulas like these, biases can be factored out. 

Crawford set career highs in his home run (19) and RBI (90) stats last year and the Red Sox have determined that his stats in the other formulas that they've determined equate to wins such as slugging, on base percentage and UZR all will help them gain a few more wins in the standings just by adding one player. Crawford set his own personal career high in Wins Above Replacement last year according to Fangraphs at 6.9 which means he equates to almost 7 more wins than the perfectly average player at his position. The Red Sox, by using their formulas, not all of which are available to the public, are trying to add players that will have high WARs so the team will gain more wins. They may not seem to give the team any value, like J.D. Drew, but actually can add a few. 

So far, the Red Sox have won 2 World Series titles under the Epstein/Lucchino regime but only now have they got a team barren of idiots and full of the on base automatons that they've craved. Gone are Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar and in are Adrian Gonzalez and J.D. Drew. They're an emotionless team that hasn't done anything over the last few years and even had the bright idea of adding Mike Cameron, who anyone with eyes could see couldn't hit. They thought his fielding stats would make up for it but they didn't. They had the same failure with gems like Marco Scutaro. 

The 2009 New York Yankees ended their automaton regime by bringing in lively players like Nick Swisher, CC Sabathia and Franciso Cervelli and they went on to have their best season in nearly a decade and win the title. They still factored in math and scientific formulas but took emotion into account as well. The Red Sox are just adding highly priced players who on paper and in formulas should blend together very well. I don't want to sound like Joe Morgan here, but emotion and clutch ability should factor in a little bit and the Red Sox aren't doing that. The Yankees are making a run at the most clutch playoff pitcher this side of Josh Beckett in Cliff Lee because they must believe in it a little bit. Maybe the Red Sox are smarter than all of us. After all they did almost hire Billy Beane a few years ago.

Maybe they're just overlooking the human element. Or maybe I'm really Joe Morgan and telling kids to get off my lawn. Maybe neither science nor emotion is superior. Baseball will be a microcosm of this maybe. Or maybe not. I guess we'll find out in 2011. 

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