This article is one in a series that uses the FantasyLabs Tools to build daily fantasy scouting reports for MLB lineups.
Over the offseason, the Boston Red Sox added Chris Sale to what looks like a formidable starting rotation. (Sale: DFS Scouting Report.) But on the offensive side it doesn’t seem likely that Boston will be able to replicate its league-leading 878 runs scored in 2016 after losing David Ortiz to retirement. Still, the cupboards are far from bare, and the Red Sox will still figure to be among MLB’s stronger units. Using our Trends tool, let’s take a look at what the Red Sox offense looked like in 2016 and get a sense of what it could do in 2017.
Here’s how the Red Sox ranked relative to the league at each spot in the batting order using both DraftKings and FanDuel pricing. Ranks are measured in Average Plus/Minus per spot in the order.
DraftKings priced Boston’s bats slightly more aggressively throughout the season, leading to higher ratings at every spot after two in the order on FanDuel. The team rated most highly at clean-up, Ortiz’s most frequent spot in 2016. The Red Sox will likely attempt to plug this massive hole with either Xander Boagaerts, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez. or a combination of the three in 2017. The Red Sox generated great value from the seven spot, which rotated between Brock Holt, Travis Shaw, Chris Young, and Jackie Bradley Jr. throughout the season.
Surprisingly, the Red Sox rated near the bottom of the league in value generated from the second spot. Dustin Pedroia started at this spot 102 times followed by Bogaerts, who finished with 50 starts. Neither Pedroia nor Bogaerts had awful seasons overall, but they were unable to exceed their lofty salary expectations on DK and FD when featured near the top of the Red Sox order in 2016.
Last year the Red Sox led the majors in batting average against left-handed pitching, scoring the ninth-most runs against lefties. Nevertheless, Boston bats fell just shy of neutral value against left-handed pitching in 2016:
Although the Red Sox had no problem stringing together hits against lefties, the popcorn stats were missing. Boston finished 15th in home runs and 13th in doubles against lefties. Of Boston’s best hitters, only Ramirez posted a notable positive Plus/Minus split against lefties last season, adding a full point to his baseline +0.94 DK Plus/Minus.
Boston’s worst values against lefties included some big names:
Although Betts was notably worse against lefties than righties in 2016, his career splits are nearly neutral. Focusing solely on Betts’ 129 at-bats against lefties in 2016 (a relatively small sample in the greater scheme) may be a common mistake among DFSers to begin 2017. Even given his less impressive numbers within the split, Betts was still almost a neutral value overall against lefties.
Many of Boston’s batters thrived on right-handed pitching in 2016, led by Betts, who added the fourth-most overall value against righties on DK in 2016:
The Red Sox last season were among the best stacking options in the game against against right-handed pitching, with three players averaging over one fantasy point per game above salary-implied expectations:
Removing a key fixture in Ortiz will hurt, but Boston should remain tough against righties in 2017.
The Red Sox were a difficult bunch for pitchers to get out last season. Their 1,160 team strikeouts were the third fewest in the majors in 2016, behind only the Angels and Giants. It’s no surprise then that they were excellent against high-strikeout pitchers, tying for the fifth-best Plus/Minus against opposing pitchers who rank in the top quartile of strikeouts.
You may be surprised to learn that in general, batters had a tougher time facing low-K pitchers in 2016, combining for a league-wide -0.13 Plus/Minus in games against opposing pitchers in the bottom quartile of K Percent.
The Red Sox finished close to the middle of the pack against this low-K cohort, posting a collective +0.1 Plus/Minus. The bad news is that this mark was buoyed by Ortiz, who scored 46.2 fantasy points above expectations against these pitchers. The good news is that behind him, Andrew Benintendi added 36.3 fantasy points above expectations in only nine total games on 66 percent Consistency. If Boston is to avoid subpar performance against low-K pitchers in 2017, Benintendi may play a large role.
Against the league’s hardest-throwing pitchers, Boston was surprisingly average, ranking 15th against pitchers with an average velocity of at least 94 miles per hour. In particular, Pedroia struggled (-0.4 Plus/Minus), Betts underwhelmed (0 Plus/Minus), and Bradley Jr. set the pace (+1.1 Plus/Minus).
The Red Sox were second in the MLB against groundball pitchers (GB% of 45 or greater) and 10th against flyball pitchers (FB% of 35 of greater). The most notable outlier here was again JBJ, who posted a +0.6 in the GB group against a -0.2 in the FB group.
Overall, Fenway Park played to the batter’s advantage in 2016 with a 61 Park Factor for righty bats and a 39 Park Factor for lefties. As a team, the Red Sox were much better at home:
Last spring, I studied how different ballparks play in different weather conditions. At the time, I found that Fenway plays significantly more batter-friendly in hot weather (80 degrees and above).
That trend continued in 2016 as Fenway finished as the third-most batter-friendly ballpark both in average and total Plus/Minus:
I also found that batters posted a negative Plus/Minus in games below 70 degrees at Fenway Park, another trend that held true in 2016:
The -0.2 Plus/Minus in games 70 degrees and cooler was exactly league average.
Life After Ortiz
Again, the main challenge for Boston in 2017 will be overcoming Ortiz’s retirement. We can approximate how the Red Sox may fare by looking at their games in National League Parks last season. Due to the loss of the designated hitter spot, Ortiz last season played in only one of these games. In their NL contests without Ortiz, the Red Sox played 0.3 Plus/Minus points below their season average:
Pedroia and Ramirez REALLY struggled in these games, each with Plus/Minus numbers below -1, although the small sample should be noted (nine and 10 games). We saw above how excellent the Red Sox were at clean-up compared to league average. In these games however, they were awful:
Here are the culprits of those horrible numbers:
The DFS question for 2017 is this: While someone’s value this season may theoretically increase with the opportunity to bat fourth, is that enough to overcome the potential team-wide hit the Red Sox figure to take from losing a perennial 30-plus home run hitter?
Most of Boston’s real and fantasy success in 2017 will depend on how the team fills the hole in the middle of the batting order. The Red Sox did not fare well in a limited sample in 2016 without Ortiz, but a new season means a clean slate. As we saw above, Boston’s most situational player was probably Bradley Jr., who led the team in some cohorts and struggled in others (a perfect study subject for our Trends tool!).
Benintendi was great in a limited sample in 2016, but his 2017 production is not certain. Now everybody’s favorite ‘sleeper’, he probably won’t see the same sub-$3,000 pricing that allowed him to smash Plus/Minus in 2016, but he figures to be a key fixture in the Red Sox plans moving forward. Pro subscribers should monitor his early-season ownership via our DFS Ownership Dashboard and experiment with Red Sox stacks in our Player Models.