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Losing Your Red Sox?
2004-11-11 01:04
by Mike Carminati

The champion Red Sox may be a much different team in 2005. They have sixteen players who are free agents this offseason. The Red Sox retained a potential seventeenth, Bill Mueller, by picking up his option. Throw in Nomar Garciaparra and Jimmy Anderson, who departed midseason, and the Sox could lose 18 players from their 2004 roster before 2005. Fenway could become the Land of Lost Sox.

Here are the free agents:

Ellis Burks, dh (retired)

Orlando Cabrera, ss

Ricky Gutierrez, 2b

Gabe Kapler, of

David McCarty, 1b

Doug Mirabelli, c

Pokey Reese, 2b

Jason Varitek, c

Terry Adams, rhp

Pedro Astacio, rhp

Curt Leskanic, rhp

Derek Lowe, rhp

Pedro Martinez, rhp

Ramiro Mendoza, rhp

Mike Myers, lhp

Scott Williamson, rhp

That's basically two members of the rotation, two starting position players (plus Reese who was a starter for significant portion of the season), some key bench players, most of their middle relievers, and both of their catchers. But is such high turnover unusual for a champion? And does it mean anything?

I ran a query on all of the World Series champs and took a look at three factors: 1) The percentage of players from their World Series-winning season retained in the following season, 2) the percentage of at-bats in the World Series-winning season for the players retained (including pitchers), and 3) the percentage of innings pitched in the World Series-winning season by the pitchers retained.

For the sake of brevity (yeah, right), I will list the top 15 based on an average of the three factors above:

TmYrLg% AB% IP# Players# Retained% RetainedAvg %
New York Giants1888NL99.14%95.72%201890.00%94.95%
Pittsburgh Pirates1925NL97.97%100.00%282485.71%94.56%
New York Yankees1939AL98.55%98.62%272385.19%94.12%
Baltimore Orioles1966AL98.48%92.75%342985.29%92.17%
Boston Red Sox1916AL98.21%94.11%292482.76%91.69%
Pittsburgh Pirates1971NL99.45%92.06%352982.86%91.46%
New York Yankees1923AL95.32%94.15%252184.00%91.16%
New York Giants1905NL98.39%97.23%211676.19%90.60%
Pittsburgh Pirates1960NL99.06%93.73%372875.68%89.49%
Detroit Tigers1935AL98.51%95.28%272074.07%89.29%
New York Yankees1936AL95.94%93.21%282278.57%89.24%
Chicago White Sox1917AL98.91%91.25%262076.92%89.03%
Philadelphia Athletics1913AL97.68%97.09%362672.22%89.00%
Los Angeles Dodgers1965NL93.00%97.76%332575.76%88.84%
Chicago Cubs1907NL96.95%89.85%241979.17%88.66%

And the bottom 15:

TmYrLg% AB% IP# Players# Retained% RetainedAvg %
New York Giants1889NL14.62%32.58%20315.00%20.73%
Florida Marlins1997NL62.93%23.12%432148.84%44.96%
Toronto Blue Jays1992AL54.64%58.80%401947.50%53.65%
New York Yankees1943AL52.67%69.02%261453.85%58.51%
Detroit Tigers1945AL67.51%72.27%371643.24%61.01%
New York Yankees2000AL81.71%59.67%462145.65%62.34%
Boston Red Sox1918AL74.81%81.82%321031.25%62.63%
Oakland Athletics1972AL65.38%83.58%472042.55%63.84%
Florida Marlins2003NL69.78%68.24%402460.00%66.01%
New York Yankees1996AL80.51%68.56%482654.17%67.75%
St. Louis Cardinals1942NL71.30%76.55%321856.25%68.03%
New York Yankees1947AL89.47%60.48%392358.97%69.64%
St. Louis Cardinals1964NL89.87%66.57%382155.26%70.57%
St. Louis Cardinals1934NL90.66%69.50%311754.84%71.67%
Oakland Athletics1989AL73.60%78.55%412663.41%71.85%

You have to hand it to the Giants. Going from the highest retention to the lowest in one year is pretty hard. It helps to have a former player, John Montgomery Ward, take most of your players to a new rival league (the Players National League) that had a team also named the New York Giants in the year (1890) the players bolted en masse on the advice of their union.

The next team, the 1925 Pirates, lost just four players, none of whom were pitchers: Al Niehaus (64 at-bats), Fresco Thompson (37), Jewel Ens (5), Mule Haas (3).

Of course, the Marlins are the poster children for high turnover after winning a World Series.

The 2004 Red Sox, should they lose all 16 free agents, would retain just 33 of 51 players (64.71%) with 69.04% of their 2004 at-bats and 62.56% of their 2004 innings pitched. That averages to 65.44%, or the ninth largest turnover for a World Series team. (By the way, 51 players is the greatest number employed by a World Series winner in baseball history.)

But you'll note that a lot of the teams with high turnover are very recent. How would the Red Sox turnover compare to recent trends? Here are the averages by decade and overall for the above factors as well as the winning percentage in the year following the World Series for all Series champions:

By Decades%AB%IP%RetainedAvg %PCT Yr+1

So the Red Sox would have more turnover than even recent teams. But what does it mean? Does high turnover imply that a team will be less successful in the subsequent season?

Well, I ran the numbers and the two correlate very slightly (coefficient of .2433). It seems that the teams with highest and the lowest turnover have the highest likelihood of stumbling the year after winning a World Series. The teams with modest turnover seem to do the best. Perhaps moderation is the best approach. The disparate approaches of the 2002 Angels (low turnover) and the 2003 Marlins (high) are enough to tell us that.

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