Go Early, Go Often: Fire Brand's Best of April

Tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Rays marks the final game of the first calendar month of the season; and what an April it was. From the panic that set in BWNNH (Before Wake's Near No Hitter) after a 2-6 start, to the exhilaration of winning 12 out of 13 including a le-gen *wait for it* DARY sweep of the New York Yankees AB (Anno Bay - In the Year of Our Bay), April has been all Red Sox fans could ask for.

Who would have thought after the first week of the season that April would end with the Red Sox atop the American League with the league's best winning percentage?

Today we look at the best performances of April, culminating in the Fire Brand Player of the Month award.

Tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays marks the final game of the first calendar month of the season; and what an April it was.  From the panic that set in BWNNH (Before Wake’s Near No Hitter) after a 2-6 start, to the exhilaration of winning 12 out of 13 including a le-gen *wait for it* DARY sweep of the New York Yankees AB (Anno Bay – In the Year of Our Bay), April has been all Red Sox fans could ask for.

Who would have thought after the first week of the season that April would end with the Red Sox atop the American League with the league’s best winning percentage?  
Today we look at the best performances of April, culminating in the Fire Brand Player of the Month award.
If we were to look at the straight performance of each player in comparison of each other to make such an assessment, I think our current poll (which will stay up through the weekend) showcases the best of the best numbers for players in April.
Early returns have Kevin Youkilis’ gaudy numbers trumping both Tim Wakefield’s contribution from the mound and Jason Bay’s late inning heroics.  As Paul and I talked about in this week’s podcast, it’s hard to argue with the collective wisdom on this point.
But to truly nail down the Most Valuable Player of April, I wanted to look a little deeper at the “contribution” of each player to the Red Sox 14-7 record.  With that in mind I wanted to turn to both Win Probability Added and Value Wins to add additional context to the straight numbers.
April Win Probability Added Leaderboard:
1. Jason Bay: 1.79
2. Kevin Youkilis: 1.27
3. Ramon Ramirez: 1.08
4. Tim Wakefield: 1.01
5. Jonathan Papelbon: .98
Win Probability Added gives a lens of players’ performance in the context of the net impact his individual at bats had on the overall outcome of the game.  Players that get “the hit” that turns a game from a loss to a win, will rise to the top over an equally as consistent player who hasn’t shone as brightly in highly leveraged situations.
It should be no surprise that Jason Bay’s overall production complimented by his flair for the dramatic in the past week pushes him to the top of the WPA leaderboard for April and we would expect to see Youk’s name on any leaderboard across baseball given his hot start.  
The name that jumps out at me most off this list, mostly for his exclusion in the conversation to this point was Ramon Ramirez.  In WPA terms, a reliever who consistently gets the job done in highly leveraged situations, with the game on the line, will rise to the top.  Outside of Jonathan Papelbon whose pLI (Leverage Index) this season is 2.70, Ramirez has been used in more critical situations than any other Red Sox reliever with a pLI of 1.80.  His success in those outings, 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA over 12.1 IP, has been a huge part of the Red Sox league leading bullpen.
April Value Wins Leaderboard:
1. Kevin Youkilis: 1.6
2. Jason Bay: 1.0
3. Tim Wakefield: .8
3. Mike Lowell: .8
Value Wins loses the context of leverage in aggregating it’s index, but it adds both fielding and position into the conversation of how much a player’s performance contributes to a team’s wins.
Looking at player’s performance through this lens gives credence to the fact that Youkilis’ Gold Glove ability in the field, when combined with his bat, gives him the clear advantage in the race for Player of the Month.  The other names remain as expected with the appearance of Mike Lowell who’s RBIs haven’t come in highly leveraged situations to make the WPA leaderboad.
April Red Sox Player of the Month: Kevin Youkilis
MLB: APR 24 Red Sox at Yankees
Bay gets the runner up award, but Kevin Youkilis may be the leader for American League Player of the Month and the leader for League MVP around the first turn of a long track.
Can Youk keep up his early season hot streak?  I encourage you to read Brian Joura’s article today at FanGraphs for some good perspective.

Categories: Jason Bay Kevin Youkilis Mike Lowell Ramon Ramirez Tim Wakefield

2 Responses to “Go Early, Go Often: Fire Brand's Best of April” Subscribe

  1. M.A.G. April 30, 2009 at 6:39 AM #

    Good writing Tim. My vote was for Bay, but Youk is certainly a good winner.
    And I agree with you about Ramon Ramirez. He has become a huge part of the bullpen, and he deserves more credit. Trading Coco for him was the best move of the offseason.

  2. Gerry April 30, 2009 at 11:56 AM #

    Wonderful observation when you state the difference between performing in highly leveraged situations vs. those whose performance comes in the normal course of a game. Both are essential to winning,
    Youk's bat and glove have been there day in day out. RRamirez
    has been there day in day out, and so has MDC, (I agree with MAG. I don't think we expected RRami and MDC to stabilize the Pen).
    The Bayman, in May, clearly was Mr. Clutch, nicely replacing his predecessor or Papi in this regard, but he also gained consistency at bat as the month progressed, while demonstrating base-running skills and heretofore surprisingly good defensive abilities.
    IMO, Mike, Ells, JD, Papi and Paps & Masterson fall into this day in day out category, but over two week spans. If they continue, they will all be in the mix for Player of the Month of May Award. Don't you think this discussion perfectly reflects the strength, balance and depth of this team?