A Monster is Loose in the American League: the 2011 Red Sox Line-up

redsoxlogo2When the Boston Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a seven year $142 million contract at the Baseball Winter meetings in Florida this week, it capped a series of off-season moves that could trigger a historic year of offense for the Red Sox. The additions of Crawford and former Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez are the final pieces of what should be a phenomenal offensive machine that, if all the parts remain healthy, is set to savage American League pitching throughout the 2011 MLB season.

When I think of devastating modern era line-ups, I always recall the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, who were 3 RBIs short of having five 100+ RBI hitters in their everyday batting order; 1st baseman Cecil Cooper had 121 RBI, shortstop Robin Yount knocked in 114 runners, center fielder Gorman Thomas drove in 112 RBI, and left fielder Ben Oglivie finished with 102 RBI. Catcher Ted Simmons came close, knocking in 97 runners of his own.

That 1982 Brewers team scored 891 total runs, but they pale in comparison to a couple of recent Yankee teams, and the powerhouse Yankees of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The 2007 Yankees scored 968 runs, and featured 3 hitters with 100+ RBI (Alex Rodriguez 156, Hideki Matsui 103, and Bobby Abreu 101; plus Robinson Cano had 97 RBI and Jorge Posada finished with 90). The year prior New York scored 930 runs, but take a look at these spectacular run crunching Yankee teams from the infamous murderer’s row and beyond:

1927 – 975 runs (Lou Gehrig had 174 RBI).
1930 – 1,062 runs
1931 – 1,067 runs
1932 – 1,002 runs
1933 – 927 runs
1936 – 1,065 runs (with five 100+ RBI hitters: Lou Gehrig 152; Joe DiMaggio 125; Tony Lazzeri 109; Bill Dickey 107; George Selkirk 107) 
1937 – 979 runs
1938 – 966 runs
1939 – 967 runs

While the 2011 Boston Red Sox offense could score a boatload of runs and still not touch those 1930s Yankee juggernauts, they have the ability to challenge them. The top three run producing teams in 2010 were New York at 859, Boston at 818, and Tampa at 802. The Red Sox had a number of key hitters injured or out of the line-up for long periods of time last season and still couldn’t be stopped at the plate.

To score runs at that level, three elements have to be present in a team’s everyday batting order: 1) run scorers–outstanding extra base hitters who also hit for average; 2) run producers–outstanding hitters who hit with power; and 3) high on base percentages from every hitter in the line-up. In 2010, the Sox finished second among all MLB teams with 591 extra base hits, they were tied in 5th place with 587 walks, 2nd place with a .339 OBP, and 2nd in baseball with 211 home runs.

To compare, home runs were a key component of the San Francisco Giants’ and Texas Rangers’ attacks, and both teams hit 162 homers in 2010.

Here’s what Boston’s everyday line-up will be featuring in 2011:

Adrian Gonzalez (1B) had three 100+ RBI seasons, and one 99 RBI season with San Diego in one of the worst hitters’ parks in baseball. Carl Crawford (LF) scored 100+ runs three times, and also produced 96 and 93 run seasons. David Oritz (DH) produced six 100+ RBI seasons, and one 99 RBI season; Ortiz knocked in 101 runs in 2010. Kevin Youkilis (3B) and J. D. Drew (RF) have both put up 100+ RBI years, and Dustin Pedroia (2B) was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2008; he scored 118 runs and 115 runs in consecutive seasons, and had 213 hits in 2008. In the last three years, shortstop Marco Scutaro scored 76, 100, and 92 runs respectively, with an average of 70 RBI a year during the same period. 

Will the Boston Red Sox score over 900 runs in 2011, or perhaps make a run at 1,000 runs scored? As of this week, all the pieces are in place for a wild and historic 2011 season from the newly rearmed powerhouse of the American League East.

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