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The Red Sox Against Aces And Rookies

Sam Deduno: rookie-made-ace. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE
Sam Deduno: rookie-made-ace. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Every time the Red Sox have an embarrassing loss like Thursday's, there's a "same old story" feel to it. A no-name rookie comes up against one of the hardest hitting teams in the major leagues, and because these are the Red Sox, and not any normal team, they may as well be facing an ace.

Except not, because this perceived failure against rookies is made all-the-more frustrating by the feeling that this team excels at taking scalps off of aces. If you can beat the best, why can't you beat the worst?

How much of this is reality, though, and how much just a matter of the more unusual results standing out? I went through the first 106 games of the season, and separated out the no-name rookies, and the aces to see how the Sox did against each group.

First, a disclaimer: there is obviously a certain amount of subjectivity to this. No two people seem to have the same definition of ace, and even the distinction between a no-name rookie and a breakout player can be a difficult one to make. Tommy Milone, for instance, hasn't pitched a ton, and didn't have a big reputation heading into the season, but he's done extremely well so far, making it hard to criticize the Sox for being like the rest of the league in getting beaten by him.

On the other side of things, only a select few qualify as aces. The Justin Verlanders, Stephen Strasburgs, and David Prices of the world. No, just being the best on a team doesn't count.

The findings, in simple, compact form:

Aces 3.47 1.18 10.1 2.6 0.7
Rookies 5.07 1.32 4.7 1.8 1.9

This from 12 games against aces and 14 against rookies.

While it goes against the perception, it really shouldn't be any great surprise that the Red Sox do, in fact, his rookies a lot better than aces. They don't walk as much, but that's likely to do with rookies giving them more to hit and the lineup not feeling the need to work counts and get them out of the game with long at bats when lots of runs will work just as well.

So where does this feeling come from? Partially from the aforementioned tendency to take more note of results that flout expectations. But also maybe from how those numbers came about. Because while the Red Sox certainly hit rookies better, that 5.07 ERA is mostly the result of the big games being really big.

Against the aces, the Sox managed more than three runs just three times, picking up five twice and six once in a combined 19 innings.

Against the rookies? Five twice, seven twice, eight once in 23.2 innings.

Meanwhile, the aces shut the Sox down (scoring at most one run) just four times while the rookies managed five. The rookies had more games to do it in, but that's just about the same rate. So while it's not true that the Sox make aces look like rookies and rookies look like aces, this does seem to reinforce the idea of an inconsistent feast-or-famine offense, where the success and failure of the opposing pitchers is perhaps more to do with whether the offense is on or not than whether they're locked in or not.

Either way, I'll take Pedro Hernandez over Felix any day.