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Why Boston is in First and Toronto is Not: Hitting

We're in first place for a multitude of reasons. High five!
We're in first place for a multitude of reasons. High five!
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

After yesterday's piece looking at the monumental gap in pitching performances between Boston and Toronto, today will focus in on the much smaller gap in their hitting abilities. Based on runs scored the Red Sox are actually the best offense in the entire league, scoring 609 runs so far this season. The Blue Jays rank not far behind in sixth, with 545 runs this year. It's pretty well known that most of Toronto's problems don't come from the offensive side of things and the team is comfortably third best in the American League East based on hitting alone.

As was the case with the pitching comparison yesterday, Boston has had injuries this year, but not even close to the decimation that Toronto's core group of players have faced. Will Middlebrooks has been oft-injured, but was never seen as a key to Boston's playoff chances. On the Blue Jays side of the ledger, extended set backs for Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Reyes have thrust players like Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis into starting roles, which they've failed to impress in. Of the top five most valuable players for Toronto this year, two of them have played in less than two thirds of the team's games. With the same parameters for Boston, four of the top five most valuable players for the team have appeared in over 100 games thus far.

As most Blue Jays fans know, the issue hasn't been star players not performing this year, it's been the lack of any depth at all. When Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes went down, a group of players including Mark DeRosa, Maicer Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki and Emilio Bonifacio stepped in and only Kawasaki provided any positive value to the team. One of the players who plugged the holes most often in Maicer Izturis has actually been the worst player on the team this year according to rWAR, while playing in more than 100 games.

On the Red Sox side, depth is something they don't lack with ten players providing more than one win to the team this year in terms of offensive WAR, although Jose Iglesias has been traded to Detroit (only six players have provided a win on the offensive side for the Blue Jays).

The teams actually match-up very well to show where the gains are made by Boston. The top three of each team are comparable with a corner outfielder, centre fielder, and designated hitter carrying the offensives of both Toronto and Boston by playing at least 100 games and providing immense offensive value. Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz have buoyed the Red Sox, while Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, and Edwin Encarnacion have tried to keep the Blue Jays' head above water in the Al East. (UPDATE: Turns out Colby Rasmus is the next Blue Jays player going on the disabled list so his stretch of consistency will come to an end.) The gap begins to form after the top three have been paired up. Boston still has Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew, and Shane Victorino with on-base percentages north of .330. After Adam Lind and Jose Reyes, the Blue Jays fall off the depth plank into Bonifacio-infested waters.

The Red Sox could actually field a nine man squad of players with an above average OPS+ this season, which Toronto could only dream of:



As was the case yesterday with the pitching, hitting depth has allowed the Red Sox to scale the treacherous slopes of the AL East, while Toronto died from lack of additional supplies at base camp. The injuries to the left side of the Blue Jays' infield certainly haven't helped the team's chances, but these set backs need to be expected and planned for. Having Bonifacio and Izturis fill in for such long stretches of time can't happen if a team has aspirations of playing into the middle of October, which is what Boston looks set to be doing.