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These Red Sox compare favorably to the 2001 Mariners and 1998 Yankees

This deep dive into team statistics show me that this team has all the tools to be a historically great juggernaut.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

With 88 wins over their first 124 games of 2018 the Red Sox have put themselves in some rare company with a chance to do something special. The team is currently on pace for around 115 wins which would put them in the discussion of greatest regular season team ever. They even have a chance of breaking the all-time wins record.

The other two modern teams that are often discussed when looking at historic greatness are the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1998 New York Yankees. The Mariners won a Major League record 116 games during that season and eventually fell to the Yankees in the ALCS. The 1998 Yankees recorded 114 wins, but unlike the Mariners they finished the job and won the World Series. I wanted to look and see how our 2018 Red Sox compared to these historically great juggernauts.

Comparing Juggernauts

Stat 2018 Red Sox 2001 Mariners 1998 Yankees
Stat 2018 Red Sox 2001 Mariners 1998 Yankees
wRC+ 114 (1st) 116 (1st) 116 (1st)
BA .270 (1st) .288 (2nd) .288 (3rd)
OBP .339 (2nd) .360 (1st) .364 (1st)
SLG .464 (1st) .445 (7th) .460 (5th)
ISO .194 (2nd) .157 (18th) .172 (9th)
Batter WAR 25.1 (1st) 44.4 (1st) 36.1 (2nd)
ERA 3.49 (2nd) 3.54 (1st) 3.82 (6th)
BAA .230 (5th) .232 (1st) .247 (13th)
Starter ERA 3.56 (5th) 3.77 (3rd) 3.85 (6th)
Reliever ERA 3.36 (6th) 3.04 (1st) 3.76 (6th)
K/9 9.63 (3rd) 6.46 (20th) 6.67 (14th)
DEF 17th 5th 20th
Errors 58 (6th) 83 (1st) 98 (4th)
Pitcher WAR 18.3 (2nd) 18.9 (8th) 21.2 (3rd)
DRA 3.92 (7th) 4.54 (9th) 4.15 (4th)

Above is a chart compiling most of the key statistics that give us a good idea of how the teams performed that year relative to rest of the league. Baseball has changed a lot of the past 20 or so seasons so I included rank in the league as well as statistics to account for changes in the run scoring environment. The offensive stat wRC+ accounts for historic changes and can be compared across eras. The statistic DRA compares a host of different park factors and other contextual factors to give a more accurate depiction of pitching success than ERA. It is based on the same scale.

Looking at the offenses of each team all of them were tops in the league in wRC+ meaning they were essentially the best offenses that year. The Red Sox rank first or second in every category where the Mariners really fall short in the power department ranking just 18th in isolated power and seventh in slugging. The Yankees were more balanced, however their 9th ranked ISO suggests a lack of stand out power as well. This is the clearest area where the Red Sox have the edge. The Red Sox offense is deep and versatile with the ability to get on base, hit for average, and then kill you with extra base power. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are far and away the best offensive players on either of the other clubs.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Clear Edge: Red Sox

Pitching is much closer than offense, especially between the Mariners and the Red Sox. The Red Sox rank second in team ERA where the Mariners ranked first in 2001. The starting pitching for the two clubs is pretty comparable, but the Mariners bullpen is the real separator as it was far and away the best that year. Interestingly enough DRA likes the Yankees pitching more than either team relative to the competition. During the 1998 season—the Yankees ranked 4th in baseball. Traditional metrics favor the Mariners, however, smarter statistics like DRA favor the Yankees. The Red Sox are interesting because they have a better DRA than both clubs and for their year they have a better league rank than the Mariners with much better traditional stats than the Yankees. The Sox also crush both clubs in terms of strikeouts, but the pitching environment is so much more strikeout heavy in 2018. The Red Sox have the best starter of either club in Chris Sale. This one is nearly to close to call.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Very Slight Edge: Red Sox due to being balanced and to Seattle getting a lot of help from its defense.

Defensively is where the Mariners really shined. During that magical 2001 season the team finished with the fewest errors in baseball while finishing top five in baseball in advanced defensive metrics. This team had some real athletes like Mike Cameron and Ichiro Suzuki to go along with fellow Gold Glovers Brett Boone and John Olerud. By contrast the Yankees had only one consistently excellent fielder in Bernie Williams. The other gold glove winners on that team were one offs or players that never deserved one in the first place *cough* Derek Jeter *cough*. The Red Sox have sublime defenders in Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. who together with Andrew Benintendi form the best defensive outfield of the group. The inconsistency in the infield is what hurts them.

Clear Edge: Mariners

Teams that win in October almost always have stand out star players. In recent years players like George Springer, Madison Bumgarner, Corey Kluber, David Ortiz, and Hideki Matsui bring to mind some incredible post season performances. Star power matters in the post season. Using fWAR I looked at the top three players on each team during these seasons. For the Yankees it was Jeter, Paul O’Neill, and David Cone who combined for 16.7 fWAR. Jeter led the way at 6.2 and Cone was the ace of the staff. For Seattle the trio of Boone, Suzuki, and Cameron combined for 19.3 with Boone having an incredible 7.8 fWAR season. The Red Sox trio of Betts, Sale, and Martinez are ALREADY at 19.1 through 123 games. Betts leads the way at 7.9 with a real chance to eclipse the mythical 10.0 fWAR mark. Sale leads all pitchers in this comparison at 6.0 having his best season ever and Martinez is already at 5.2 which puts him on pass to surpass the Yankees top man in Jeter.

Clear Edge: Red Sox

While there is still much work to be done for this team to be considered an all-time great I can confidently say that the 2018 Red Sox compare favorably to these two juggernauts through this point in the year The Sox really have no holes right noe. The team mashes, they can pitch, and now with the addition of Kinsler the defense looks a whole lot better. The post season performance of the 2016 and 2017 versions of the Red Sox left a hell of a lot to be desired. As a result, it’s been a common refrain that the playoffs will determine how people feel about this team. I think it’s worth noting that those teams had very young stars, no J.D. Martinez, and no Alex Cora to lead the way. This team has the tools to win in the post season and the gutsy performances they have shown in the regular season give me every indication they are ready to dominate.