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Aggressive running key to Red Sox success

Posted by David Sabino  June 26, 2013 09:21 AM

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The Red Sox kicked off off a nine-game homestand with an impressive offensive outburst against the Rockies, racking up 11 runs and a season-high 20 hits in an 11-4 win. The explosion raised their major league-leading runs total to 505, an average of 5.13 runs per game, also tops in the bigs. The game was a microcosm of a new-look to this offense: Although they didn’t hit a home run, they managed to manufacture runs using speed. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2013 Red Sox are the American League’s most aggressive team on the basepaths.

Boston leads the league with 20 triples, the 20th coming in the fourth inning on Stephen Drew’s fourth of the season. By contrast, that’s already four more triples as a team than last season’s squad managed in 162 games in setting a new low water mark in Red Sox history. The last time that the Sox paced the league in three-baggers was 1972 when 17 different batters had at least one, paced by the “speedy” Carlton Fisk whose nine tied Oakland’s Joe Rudi for tops in the AL. In more than 11 decades they’ve led the AL in triples just eight times total (1903, ‘04, ‘08, ‘13, ‘14, ‘34, ‘40, ‘72), under three names (the Americans, Pilgrims and Red Sox)

These Sox also steal bases. Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia each successfully stole against Rox catcher Willin Rosario, adding to Boston’s AL-high total of 62 (32 of which have been contributed by AL-leader Jacoby Ellsbury). That’s nearly two-thirds of the way to last season’s team total of 97 swipes from Bobby Valentine’s team, and already more than Boston managed to steal in 48 other entire seasons. Incredibly, since 1901 when the AL was founded, the Red Sox have led the league in stolen bases exactly once, in 1935, when Billy Werber (29) and Mel Almada (20) stole more than half of the team’s 91 bags.

The victory over Colorado also marked the 11th time this season that the Red Sox both tripled and stole a base in a game, the most such games in the majors this season, and something they did just seven times all of last season. And while offensive stats are nice in themselves, what’s even better is that the team is turning that aggressiveness on the basepaths into winning, going 8-3 when both of those things happen. Since 1976 when the Mariners and Blue Jays entered the AL, only five teams have led the AL in both triples and stolen bases, the 1979, 1980, and 2002 Royals, the 1984 Blue Jays and 1986 Indians.

Last but not least, John Farrell’s team takes the extra base. Among the AL’s top eight players who have scored the most runs from second base on a single, three—Daniel Nava (10), Shane Victorino (10) and Mike Napoli (!, 9)‚—are Red Sox. While that might not seem like a lot, it is when you realize that only three Red Sox—Dustin Pedroia (17), Mike Aviles (12) and Nava (9)— managed to score as many as nine such runs all of last season, a vivid indicator of the differences between a team in first place and a team in last.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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