Red Sox Chasing A Historic Offense

The Red Sox have been doing enough of this in 2011 to start wondering if their offense is historically relevant.

Last week we discussed how the Boston Red Sox were fielding one of the top defensive teams in the league for the first time in a few years, and how that was helping them climb the standings and assert themselves atop the American League. Defense is just a part of the game, though, and not only do these Sox know how to use their gloves, but they know how to hit -- arguably better than any team in nearly 40 years. 

As is usual with Boston, though, they aren't alone in this chase. The New York Yankees are right alongside them in this endeavor.

It's difficult to gauge offenses historically by looking at either runs scored or a team's OPS+, as those numbers don't give the proper context outside of the season in question. True Average is more reliable in this sense, as it is always relative to the performance of the league itself, and can be compared across teams, leagues, and even seasons. 

Right now, the Boston Red Sox are leading the majors in True Average at .289, thanks to a team line of .274/.347/.445 (the AL average is currently .254/.322/.396). The Yankees are right there with them -- so close that the Red Sox lead by decimal points you can't even see unless we go out more than three digits -- but the two teams are 12 points ahead of the third-place Tigers. That's as far ahead of third place as the Tigers are off the 11th-ranked White Sox. Offense may be down in the majors this year, but it certainly isn't in Boston or New York.

That .289 mark is the equal of the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, a team that hit 216 homers and put together a .279/.335/.455 line en route to winning the American League East. It's also equal with the 1998 Yankees True Average: they won 114 games and the AL East, 22 games ahead of a Red Sox club that won 92 games themselves.

Those Brewer and Yankee squads are tops in the era of the Designated Hitter in the American League, meaning that, 71 and 70 games in, respectively, the Sox and Yanks are looking like they could unseat those clubs to become the top-ranked offensive juggernauts of the DH era. 

Boston got off to a poor start offensively, posting a TAv of just .257 during their 2-10 start, but they have picked things up with a True Average of .295 since. If they can stick closer to that pace than their inauspicious beginning -- and there is no reason to think they can't, given that the entire lineup (Dustin Pedroia, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Jed Lowrie) hasn't hit like it is capable of yet, a fact that could offset any dip in the production of say, David Ortiz, who is hitting like it's the mid-2000s all over again -- then they will surpass those historic Brewer and Yankee campaigns. 

When this kind of context is added, it makes swallowing that 2-10 start even more difficult, as you wonder just where they could have ended up had it not happened, but at the same time, it helps lessen the burden of stress from here on out. This team can flat out hit (and field... and pitch... and run), and their current standing alongside some of the AL's most powerful historical offenses backs that up.

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