Moneyball I is of course sabermetrics and the growth of new and often better ways of measuring player effectiveness. The Sox still pay Bill James, one of the gurus of sabermetrics, so we know the FO uses them a lot.
But is there a moneyball II and is it as much about psychological makeup as about numbers?
Last night after the game John Farrell commented that this team is coming together very quickly and you can see it on the bench. Peter Abraham, Nick Cafardo, and others have commented that Napoli, Victorino, and Gomes--I maybe have the players wrong, so feel free to correct me-- were acquired as much for their personalities as for their skills.
We were also told Becket in particular, but maybe Gonzalez and Crawford as well, was traded because he was a negative influence on the team. Gonzalez, I hasten to add, was almost certainly not a negative influence, but maybe he wasn't much of a positive one either. Crawford simply didn't play enough. What we know for sure is that the 2011 team inexplicably collapsed in September 2011, and was dead last in the AL East in 2012 despite a large salary base and I am sure an extensive use of sabermetrics.
The 2004 Sox sometimes called themselves the dirt dogs, and they won in part because of they way they fit together and contributed, especially at bat, throughout the lineup. Numbers and talent still count, of course, and the Sox in 2004 had two prodigious hitters in Ramirez and Ortiz, with a strong supporting cast, and some pretty good pitchers, especially Curt Schilling.
This team right now is vastly different from the 2012 version--a new RF, new LF, new SS, new 1B, and new DH (for now). And third baseman Middlebrooks has only played half a season in Boston. Despite shedding a lot of salary last year, the Sox still have a large salary base and have to worry about the luxury tax. Ben Cherington did not have carte blanche in the offseason.
So far, so good. Just 4 games, but all 4 are on the road and within a tough division. The pitching so far has been way better than 2012--starters and bullpen. Lester could have been better, Dempster was so-so and lost, and Doubront got hit hard (but escaped with 3 runs in 5 innings), but all four starters went at least 5 innings in their debuts. The bullpen has been superb, especially last night. I think the pitchers may be buoyed by the knowledge they have a pretty good defense behind them--speed in the outfield and great skills at 3 or the 4 infield positions. Hitting has been timely. Victorino's poor ST is now meaningless. Finally, a couple of dingers last night. Iglesias has been mildly spectacular batting 9th. Pettitte beat us because good pitching always beats good hitting. So it isn't all about psychology. You do need the skills.