As of today, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball. If you look at their Win Probability numbers, their batting has contributed 4.38 wins, their starting pitchers 1.54 wins and their bullpen 4.08 wins. The bullpen which was considered a big question mark to begin the season has surprisingly been just as valuable as their offense, much in thanks to Boston’s lesser known Japanese import, Hideki Okajima.
For the past two seasons, David Ortiz has racked up more WPA than any other player in baseball by adding an incredible 17 wins to his team. About one-third of the way into this current season, Ortiz has accumulated a mere 1 win, but still leads all Red Sox batters in WPA.
Last season, David Ortiz had 15 hits worth more than .2 wins, not to mention a pair of home runs worth .78 wins and .90 wins. This season he has no hits over the .2 wins mark. That’s not to say he’s not having an excellent season. When you take the context out of his wins using WPA/LI he’s 3rd in baseball with 1.93 wins, but the hits just haven’t been as timely as last season. The huge disparity between his WPA and WPA/LI gives him the 5th worst “Clutch” with -.88 wins.
So who has been getting the big hits for the Red Sox if their previously “clutch” star hasn’t? Let’s take a look:
On May 13th, newcomer Julio Lugo was the catalyst for the biggest play of the season. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, down by 1 and the bases loaded, Lugo singled in the tying run while Erik Hinske scored on an error. The whole thing was worth .718 wins and capped off an incredible 9th inning rally (including a Jason Varitek double worth .343 wins) that overcame a 5 run deficit. At the start of the inning the Sox had a mere .9% chance of winning the game.
In a classic Yankees-Red Sox battle on April 20th, Coco Crisp tripled in two runs to tie the game at 6-6 off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. This triple was worth .472 wins. Immediately following Crisp’s triple, Alex Cora singled allowing Crisp to score the go ahead and final run of the game. In contrast Cora’s hit was worth .123 wins.
On April 26th, Orioles closer Chris Ray (who also gave up the hit to Lugo on May 13th) gave up a grand slam to Wily Mo Pena which put the Sox up by 3 to win the game. Down by 1 at the time, the home run was worth .43 wins.
Alex Cora on April 19th, in the top of the 9th with 1 out, tripled, allowing Julio Lugo to score the go-ahead run. While not quite as big as Crisp’s triple on the 20th, this one was still worth .373 wins.
Erik Hinske’s two run blast in the 7th inning of a tie game back on May 17th rounds out the top 5 most important Red Sox hits so far this season. Manny Ramirez owns the next two biggest which were both worth juts over .3 wins.
David Ortiz is no where to be seen on this list with his biggest hit worth .197 which came on April 25th in the 7th inning of a tie game. In the 9th inning or later in a game, Ortiz is actually a -.213 wins while in 2006 he was 2.34 wins; far and away the most in baseball.
I’m sure as the season goes on, things will start to even out and there will be some big hits here and there, but fortunately for the Red Sox, they haven’t exactly needed Ortiz to be the savior he’s been the past two seasons.
David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.