The Red Sox lead all of baseball in runs per game at 5.21, which is a major reason why they have the best record in baseball and they're closing in on clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2009. One of the biggest causes for their offensive success this season has been their ability to work counts and get opposing pitchers out of games early.
As a team they have seen the most pitches in all of baseball and have the second-most pitches seen per plate appearance. In working the count, Red Sox hitters are able to drive up pitch counts.
"It's one of the main characteristics of who we pursued in the offseason, [players] that have [patience] in their track record," manager John Farrell said earlier in the season. "That is the approach - a lot of deep counts, try to get in the bullpen as early as possible. This goes back to a lot of conversations in the offseason on who we are going to target, and it's playing out."
One of those players signed this offseason, Mike Napoli, has been the epitome of what Farrell and the organization was looking for in terms of plate approach. As of Saturday, Napoli was seeing 4.54 pitches per plate appearance, which leads the American League. Napoli isn’t the only one as Daniel Nava is 12th in the AL with 4.13, and Dustin Pedroia is 16th with 4.05.
Since Aug. 1, opposing starters have a 5.17 ERA and in 18 of the 41 games they have failed to pitch into the sixth inning. As a team the Sox are 27-14 during that time and of the 14 losses, eight of them have seen the opposing pitcher go at least seven complete innings. The players know just how important their patient approach at the plate is.
“I think it’s important,” Napoli said. “We have a lot of guys who get deep into counts and when everyone is working together to do that it works. We’ve been able to do that all year and don’t plan on stopping.”
With this approach, the simple way to combat it is to throw a high number of strikes, forcing Red Sox hitters to swing early in counts, which allows them to pitch deep into games. This certainly deserves monitoring come playoff time, as it will go a long way in determining how deep into October the Sox can go.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84