With the season in the books and the stove not quite hot, it's a good time to look back at the key contributors for the 2009 Red Sox. What went right, and what went wrong? Who had a better year than you think? What's up with David Ortiz? Let's start out by checking in on the position players.
What's the difference between an MVP season and a very good season? Could it be as simple as the first pitch? Certainly not, but the numbers are interesting. In 2009, Pedroia swung at the first pitch 7 percent of the time (the second-lowest rate in MLB) compared with 15 percent in his 2008 MVP season. Pedroia's production in at-bats ending on the first pitch makes those numbers even more interesting. In 2008, Pedroia hit .306 with 2 HRs and 8 doubles on the first pitch. This season, that fell to .167 with just four total hits. Take away his one-pitch at-bats from each of the past two seasons and Pedroia's home run, double and RBI totals are nearly identical. However, his increased patience also had its benefits. With 24 more walks in 2009, his .371 on-base percentage nearly equaled the .376 OBP in 2008 despite his hitting 30 points lower.
Let's just ignore the first two months of the season when looking at David Ortiz. Since June 6, he led the AL in home runs and tied for the lead in RBIs. But was Ortiz ever really back to the old Big Papi? Of the 27 home runs he hit from June on, only six came with runners in scoring position. From June on, he hit just .250 with runners in scoring position and .216 in the seventh inning or later. In 2007 and 2008, he hit .362 and .336, respectively, with RISP. The bigger concern, and part of the reason some are clamoring for a platoon at DH, was Ortiz's performance against lefties. Even when he was at his best starting in June, Ortiz hit just .214 with a .779 OPS vs. lefties.
When healthy -- or at least healthy enough to play -- Mike Lowell had a productive offensive season. His .811 OPS ranked fourth among AL third basemen. However, late in games, Lowell did not produce on the level to which fans have grown accustomed. In close games in the seventh inning or later, Lowell hit just .175 -- after hitting .391 in those situations last season. The more pressing issue appears to be fielding. According to fangraphs.com, Lowell's -10.6 ultimate zone rating was the worst among all AL third basemen. If his future in Boston is at DH, Lowell did a fine job in brief auditions. Coming into the year, he was a .148 hitter in 27 career at-bats at DH. In 2009, he hit .355 at DH.
J.D. Drew was arguably the best offensive player in the majors over the last two months of the season. From Aug. 9 until the end of the season, he hit .367 with 12 home runs in 42 games, even crushing lefties at a .385 clip. If not for missing time with groin and shoulder problems, his 1.182 OPS in that time would be considered the best in the majors. You've probably already seen that Drew ranks third among MLB outfielders in OPS in the past two seasons combined. But strangely, he is just 21st in at-bats per RBI in that span. In 2009, he hit .213 with runners in scoring position. However, he had a .399 OBP thanks to one walk per every 4.47 plate appearances with RISP, the fourth-highest rate in the AL.
Over the past five seasons, Red Sox shortstops have a .967 fielding percentage, fifth-worst in the majors. That includes Alex Gonzalez's two stints with the club in which he has a .987 fielding percentage, which on its own would rank first in the majors. Red Sox shortstops other than Gonzalez have a .962 fielding percentage over the past five years, which would be second-worst in the majors.
What can you say about a player of whom nothing was expected? In Nick Green's case, it's pretty simple. In the first half of the season, he solidified an otherwise disastrous situation at shortstop. His numbers were never gaudy, but consider this simple fact: Before the All-Star break, the Red Sox were 42-18 with Green in the starting lineup and 12-16 without him. It all went downhill from there (he hit .167 in the second half), but then again, Green wasn't even supposed to make the team.
When the Red Sox signed Rocco Baldelli in January, no one quite knew what he would bring to the table given the condition that affects his stamina. Would he be able to play on back-to-back days? Well, 27 of the 62 games he played in were the day after another game. Baldelli hit just .185 in the second of back-to-back games, compared with .292 when he had at least one day of rest.
Later this week: A look at the Red Sox pitching staff