Now playing under National League rules, Red Sox manager John Farrell has opted to start David Ortiz at first base over Mike Napoli, at least in Game 3 of the World Series. While Napoli has hit well for the Red Sox throughout the post-season, Ortiz has out-done him, homering in the first two games against the Cardinals, to boot. Ortiz certainly lacks the defensive skill set to be reliable at first base, but the hope is that he’ll outhit his deficiencies with the glove.
Farrell did express consternation with the correct way to utilize Napoli off the bench:
Though the thought of Napoli as a “defensive” replacement seems odd, advanced defensive statistics graded him well:
Additionally, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Napoli took grounders at third base, creating speculation that Farrell is getting creative with ways to get both bats in the lineup.
And people think the DH is great. The endless lineup strategy is exhilarating!
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis is providing analysis of the World Series to the L.A. Times. In a column posted yesterday prior to Game 2, he wrote about how Red Sox manager John Farrell is trusting his gut over the numbers in a short series lasting between five and seven games. The Red Sox are one of the teams most overtly reliant on analytics, which made Farrell’s decision to start Jonny Gomes in left field against two tough right-handed starters, as opposed to the left-handed Daniel Nava.
Ellis writes that it is Gomes’ playoff experience and energy, rather than proficiency against right-handers, that Farrell wanted in the first two games of the World Series against the Cardinals:
These immeasurable factors of chemistry are loathed by sabermetricians, who tend to scoff at these claims. Undeniable even by the most stubborn supporter of these new metrics is that in the postseason, the Red Sox are 1-3 when Nava starts games and 7-0 when Gomes does, heading into Game 2. To players, managers and fans, that is the only stat that matters in October.
They are 7-1 now, of course, as the Sox lost Game 2 by a 4-2 margin. Gomes is hitless in seven trips to the plate in World Series play. Farrell announced earlier that Nava would be starting Game 3 against Cardinals starter Joe Kelly.
As a self-described “sabermetrician”, I have two thoughts on this: Ellis is relying on a very small sample size, of course. Four starts for Nava and eight starts for Gomes is representative of very little. Secondly, while it is curious for Farrell to abandon the very tactics that helped bring his team to where it is today, it is unlikely to make any noticeable difference in a short series. Nava’s proficiency against right-handers, or Gomes’ deficiency against them, won’t be the sole reason why the Red Sox succeed or fail once you account for myriad other factors, plus the ever-present effect of randomness, even more stark within a smaller sample. In the big picture, there’s nothing wrong with Farrell trusting his gut, but it does set him up to be the fall guy if things don’t work out.
We’ve been over this before, but…
Jonny Gomes against RHP in 2013: .258/.341/.404 in 151 AB
Jonny Gomes against RHP career: .225/.310/.423 in 1,863 AB
Daniel Nava against RHP in 2013: .322/.411/.484 in 339 AB
Daniel Nava against RHP career: .292/.390/.443 in 657 AB
John Farrell knows these numbers. He played Nava over Gomes against right-handers all year as the Red Sox went about producing the American League’s best record. Yet something changed in October. It’s certainly nothing that Gomes has done in the batter’s box: his 0-for-4 in Thursday’s Game 2 loss left him 5-for-32 with two doubles and two RBI in the postseason.
But Farrell likes Gomes’ presence. He likes Gomes’ beard (who doesn’t?). He likes the way Gomes spies that willing reporter and manages to give a postgame interview every night.
And Farrell rode Gomes as a good-luck charm. Gomes even had Timmy McCarver singling him out as a “winner” tonight. The Red Sox were 7-0 when Gomes had started in the postseason, which is why he was making his fourth straight start tonight.
Hopefully, the spell is broken now, because lo and behold, the Red Sox might have found a match in a World Series for once. They can’t afford to continue starting the inferior player with the Cardinals throwing nothing but right-handers.
Look, here are all of the players to post higher OBPs against right-handed pitchers than Nava this season: Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. Those are pretty well known guys, right? Some might say it’s good company. Not only should Nava be starting against the Cardinals, but he should be hitting second in place of Shane Victorino. But maybe just work on the whole “getting him in the lineup at all” thing first.