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Nuggetpalooza: The Red Sox and squandered opportunities

08.15.12 at 8:27 am ET

When a team puts a runner (or runners) in scoring position with nobody out, they have an opportunity to change the game in that inning. Top priority becomes to get that runner home. The next thought is turning it into a big inning. When innings like those are squandered without scoring, they are recounted in the postgame as major reasons why the game ended up in the loss column.

On Opening Day in Detroit, the Red SoxDavid Ortiz doubled to lead off the 2nd inning in a still-scoreless game. However, Justin Verlander retired the next three batters, Kevin Youkilis, Cody Ross, and Ryan Sweeney, stranding Ortiz and creating the season’s first “squander” (an inning in which a team puts a runner in scoring position with no outs but fails to score). Of course, over the remainder of April, the Red Sox would score in 27-of-36 such innings (75%), averaging 1.89 runs in such innings for the entire month, third best in the majors:

1.96 – Rockies
1.90 – Blue Jays
1.89 – Red Sox
1.79 – Rangers

In May, Boston put a RISP with no outs in 40 different innings and squandered 14 of those opportunities (35%), averaging just 1.15 runs per chance, the fourth WORST mark in the majors that month:

0.95 – Phillies
1.06 – Padres
1.15 – Red Sox
1.16 – Diamondbacks

During the entire month of May, the Red Sox managed to put a runner in scoring position with no outs in the first inning only once (the fewest in the majors) and squandered that opportunity. What’s more, they had 11 such chances in the 7th or 8th innings in May, and managed only eight runs (with six squanders).

The Red Sox surged again in June, squandering just 25% of their chances (scoring 30-of-40 times) and averaging 1.60 runs per opportunity, 7th best in the league as the White Sox (1.81) and Rockies (1.71) led the way. Over a six game interleague stretch from June 19-24, Boston scored in all 10 innings in which they had a RISP and none out.

Then came July.

The Red Sox had 41 RISP and no outs opportunities in July and squandered a whopping 18 of them (44%), including seven in a row over this stretch:

2 – July 8 against the Yankees (7th and 9th innings)
2 – July 13 at the Rays (7th and 9th innings)
2 – July 14 at the Rays (5th and 8th innings)
1 – July 15 at the Rays (4th inning)

From the 5th inning on during July, Boston had 22 such opportunities, but managed a total of just 17 runs (an average of 0.77). Only the Indians (0.63) had a lower such average.

For the season, the Red Sox have had 171 RISP-and-no-outs innings, second most in the league behind (I was surprised too) the San Francisco Giants (177). But Boston has  squandered 33.9% of those chances, the 9th highest squander rate in the league. Here’s another surprise for you: The highest squander rate in the majors this season belongs to the Yankees, while the lowest, by a large margin, belongs to the White Sox:

23.6% – White Sox
28.0% – Mets
28.3% – Rays
28.4% – Angels
28.6% – Blue Jays

What about the other side of the coin where the opponent puts a runner (or runners) in scoring position with no outs? The Red Sox pitching staff has faced 153 such innings, eighth most in the league, and managed to cause just 26.1% squanders, the fourth lowest/worst percentage in the majors:

24.5% – Tigers
25.3% – Twins
25.6% – Astros
26.1% – Red Sox
26.3% – Marlins

And here are the highest/best squander rates by pitching staffs:

45.5% – A’s
39.8% – White Sox
37.7% – Blue Jays
37.0% – Padres
36.7% – Nationals

Early in the season, when the Sox’ bullpen was historically ineffective, opponents took advantage of RISP and no out innings to put up crooked numbers, averaging 2.1 runs per such inning in April. Since then, they’ve averaged only 1.4. Here are the squander percentages and average runs allowed in RISP and no outs innings by the Red Sox pitcher on the mound at the time:

Jon Lester – 25 such innings, 24% squanders, 1.4 average runs
Clay Buchholz – 20 such innings, 30% squanders, 1.5 average runs (since May 21: 0.7 average runs)
Felix Doubront – 20 such innings, 25% squanders, 1.4 average runs
Josh Beckett – 13 such innings, 15% squanders, 2.2 average runs
Franklin Morales – 11 such innings, 46% squanders, 0.9 average runs

Among individual pitchers, the highest/best squander rate belongs to the Mets’ R.A. Dickey (8 squanders in 15 such innings, 53.3%), while the lowest/worst is 6.7% by Seattle’s Hector Noesi (1 squander in 15 such innings).

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