There’s little shame in losing two out of three games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Along with the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros, the Dodgers are currently the gold standard of all MLB organizations.

If you want to understand the difference in play between L.A. and a team like the Boston Red Sox, who would need a miracle in the final five weeks of the season to achieve bronze-standard status, please indulge me by participating in the following exercise.

Pop Quiz, hot shot. Phones down, no cheating.

Where would you guess the 80-49 Los Angeles Dodgers rank among in MLB team ERA?

Got your answer?

Ok. Now, where would you guess the Dodgers rank in team batting average?

All set?

Now for the next section of the quiz.

Same questions, different team.

Where do you think the Boston Red Sox rank in MLB team ERA and batting average?

I’ll have the answers for you in a minute.


The Numbers

Throwing a baseball 90 mph plus (with movement) past the best hitters in the world into a target the size of a dinner plate is incredibly difficult. It’s almost as difficult as it is to hit a ball that’s traveling 90 mph plus (with movement) that’s been thrown by the best pitchers in the world. These are arguably the two toughest athletic feats to accomplish in professional sports. They are also the primary actions that Major League Baseball players have to excel at in order to have any success on an individual or team level.

Pretty simple, right? If you pitch well and hit well, you will be good. If you pitch and hit better than virtually every other team in the league, you will be one of the best teams in the league.

It’s not rocket surgery. Hell, it’s not even brain science.

Now, onto the answers to our quiz.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 32 games over .500 and hold a 12 game lead for first place in the NL West, are 17th in MLB with a 4.20 ERA. In terms of hitting, they rank 10th in baseball with a collective batting average of .255.

Not what you were expecting? Well, if the 81-49 Dodgers are at the middle of the pack in pitching and hitting, the 69-63 Red Sox must be at the bottom of the barrel in both, right?

The Boston Red Sox rank 18th in the league in pitching, with a team ERA of 4.45. They are exactly one spot below the Dodgers, with an ERA difference of 0.25 between the two teams.

Ok. If the Dodgers have essentially pitched to the same level as the Red Sox have this season, then they must be making up the difference in quality between the two teams by blowing Boston out of the water in hitting. After all, the mighty Dodgers have dual-MVP candidates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman at the top of their lineup, with stud catcher Will Smith and long ball specialist Max Muncy following right behind them.

The numbers don’t lie, so let’s take a look.

The Boston Red Sox, with a team batting average of .265, rank third in all of baseball in hitting.

That’s right. The slow starts of Rafael Devers and Triston Casas, the lame second halves of Alex Verdugo and Masataka Yoshida, the feeble outputs of Boston Kiké Hernandez, Yu Chang, and Connor Wong … all that slop in this season’s Red Sox lineup has resulted in MLB’s third highest batting average, .010 points higher than that of the wrecking crew in the Dodgers lineup.

The Red Sox have pitched just about as well as the Dodgers have this season, and they have hit significantly better than the boys in blue.

So how in God’s name are the Dodgers so much better at winning baseball games than the Boston Red Sox are?



Let’s make one thing clear right now. This is not my way of massaging the stats to try and say the Dodgers are no better than the Red Sox and have somehow lucked their way into a position where they can back into a landslide division win. In fact, it’s quite to the contrary.

The Dodgers are an incredible team that is leaps and bounds better than the Red Sox. What is particularly impressive is the fact that the Dodgers have been so good without standing out statistically on either side of the ball.

Their pitching has struggled this season in comparison to the past decade due to an abundance of injuries in 2023, with four starting pitchers currently on the Injured List and Tony Gonsolin now officially out for the year. They have filled critical spots on their pitching staff by picking up guys like Lance Lynn and former Red Sox punching bag Ryan Brasier, who have resurrected their careers on the West Coast. However, even with guys like Lynn and Brasier miraculously salvaging their seasons in L.A., the pitching staff has not stifled the opposition to any startling degree.

And the offense has not offset the pitching mediocrity by hitting the lights out as a unit despite the fantastic seasons Betts and Freeman have enjoyed and the Brasier-like resurgence of J.D. Martinez. This is a team that opted to give up assets to reacquire Kiké Hernandez. This is a team that has featured Jason Heyward — yes, that Jason Heyward — batting either fifth or sixth in 42 games this year.

They hit well and they pitch okay, but the key to the Dodgers’ 2023 success lies in the under-the-radar intangibles that generally separate good teams from bad teams.

I noted before that pitching and hitting may be the two hardest feats to accomplish in all of sports.

You know what’s not that difficult?

  1. Catching a ball that is hit to you, then throwing that ball to the correct spot so your teammate can catch it.
  2. Exercising good judgement while running from base-to-base.

They Dodgers play excellent defense. They are the sixth best fielding team in baseball, committing only 59 errors in 130 games. Betts, Freeman, Smith, and Miguel Rojas are all exemplary fielders, and everyone else on the diamond can be counted on to make all the routine plays without making any moronic mistakes.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are a different story. They have a lot of talented players at the plate and on the mound, players that can collectively pitch as well and hit better than L.A.’s players. But the Red Sox are far and away the worst defensive team in the league, committing a gross 91 errors in 132 games. 

The Dodgers can also run from here to there without obliviously bungling into embarrassing outs, something we certainly can’t say about Boston. 

The huge gap between these two teams lies in the field and on the bases. Where the Dodgers execute the fundamentals of the game with an expert level of skill, the Red Sox trip over themselves like a bunch of bumbling goofs. The easiest aspects of the game are the hardest parts for this team to accomplish, which has been the most frustrating thing about this incredibly frustrating Red Sox season.



If you told me at the beginning of this season that Alex Verdugo would dramatically improve his offense, reduce his hero ball nonsense, and cut down on his quotient of boneheaded plays (aka Dugies) by a factor of four, I would guess that the Red Sox would be a mid-tier defensive team, perhaps even one of the top ten defenses in baseball.

I would have been wrong in that assessment.

Verdugo, in my estimation the worst perpetrator of Red Sox dumbassery in 2021 and 2022, has been one of the best defensive outfielders in the game this year. The rest of the team, however, is playing like the type of squad that waters their crops with soda.

The Red Sox have committed 32 more errors than the Dodgers and over twice as many as the Arizona Diamondbacks (42), the best fielding team in baseball. Kiké was singlehandedly responsible for about one-sixth of Boston’s errors before he was unloaded to the Dodgers, but he’s far from the only offender.

Devers had actually improved defensively last year, and he committed only one error in April of 2023. He has been as awful as ever with the glove lately though, and his errors have skyrocketed to a team-leading 16.

Triston Casas was expected to significantly reduce Red Sox errors with his defense, which was heralded as very good to excellent during his time in the minor leagues. He has committed six errors so far (third most among American League first basemen), and he’s flubbed or whiffed on many difficult chances that one would expect an above average first baseman to snag. His picking skills have been fine, but his reflexes on batted balls have seemed far stiffer than advertised.

Yoshida’s defense was understood to be poor before he ever arrived Stateside. For a bat like his, particularly what he accomplished in the first half of the season, sub-par defense in left field certainly seemed like a fair trade-off. However, with his body now wearing down from his first ever MLB schedule on the heels of the World Baseball Classic, Yoshida’s negative range seems much more problematic. Poor defense feels even poorer from a guy hitting three grounders per game.

Connor Wong was establishing himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the game early in this rookie campaign, and he has been arguably the best at gunning down base stealers (30%). But even he has committed 10 errors on the season, tied for second most among A.L. catchers.

It’s not just the errors and foul-ups though. It’s the timing of them.

Last week, in the midst of must-win games at Minute Maid Park, the moment clearly got too big for the Red Sox fielders. Reese McGuire committed a catcher’s interference error with two on and nobody out in the very first inning of the series. Devers gloved a one-hopper that should have started an an inning-ending double play, but fell down for no reason and threw the ball wide of second base. Verdugo dropped a shallow pop fly, and poor communication between he and Luis Urias handed the Astros even more extra outs in the same game. Rob Refsnyder fell down while charging a single the very next day.

For a sport with so many ups, downs, streaks, and slumps, defense and baserunning are the factors that a team needs to rely on as a beacon of consistency throughout the season. A team should never experience slumps in the field or on the bases, yet the Red Sox have maintained staggering inconsistency across virtually every aspect of the game.



The baserunning gaffes have taken center stage as of late, primarily because inexcusable blunders that would get a little leaguer benched have cost them multiple crucial wins during this long do-or-die stretch of games.

The Red Sox had positioned themselves to tie the middle game of that fateful series against Toronto at the beginning of August. But Reese McGuire, representing the tying run on second base with one out, simply assumed that Connor Wong’s deep fly ball to left was a walk-off home run and began trotting home. As we all remember, the ball landed harmlessly into the glove of Kevin Keiermaier, who lobbed it to second to double up McGuire and end the game.

McGuire had yet another costly goof a couple weeks ago in Washington when he was thrown out trying to advance from first to second on a sacrifice fly. That gaffe changed a first-and-third, one-out threat into a man on third with two outs in a game that was only decided by one run.

Wong committed his own inexplicably blunderiffic moment when the Red Sox trailed by two in the eighth this past Friday night. Verdugo’s hard single to right should have loaded the bases to give Devers an opportunity for a game-changing big hit. But Wong kept his eyes on the ball as he tried to advance from first to third, not bothering to peek at the third base coach or Triston Casas, the slow-footed lead runner. Casas was held at third, Wong was caught way off second, and an enormous baserunning meltdown took the bat out of the hands of Boston’s best hitter.

Aren’t catchers supposed to be the smartest guys on the field???

That’s three critical baserunning foul-ups in a single month, two of which arguably resulted in losses and another that very easily could have done the same. A team with playoff aspirations absolutely cannot withstand that type of malfeasance. For all the hate Chaim Bloom and Alex Cora seem to get for the position the Red Sox are in right now, fielding and baserunning breakdowns like these are entirely the fault of the players.


Smarten Up

When NFL teams have a lot of penalties, coverage breakdowns, and confusion on the field, the blame is usually placed on the coaches. That should not be the case with what ails the Red Sox this season.

NFL strategy is a complex machine that constantly changes and evolves from week to week, even quarter to quarter. Plays require the precise synchronization of 11 players. A committee of coaches and referees meets every season to discuss and enact changes to the nuances of the NFL rulebook, which is probably ten times as thick as the MLB rulebook. Multiple penalties could realistically be called every single play, with different infractions periodically cracked down on or overlooked depending on whatever agenda the league may have for each given year.

Pitch clock aside, the rules of baseball have remained mostly unchanged for the past 100 years. Babe Ruth played with the same baseline, strike zone, and ground rules that are in place in 2023. Players are taught from the age of eight when to tag up, when to pick up the base coach, when to use their own judgement, and the like. These are fundamental bedrocks of the game that are no different now than they were when these players were hitting off a tee. It’s not up to Major League coaching staffs to remind these grown men that you should not, under any circumstances, try to tag up from first base if there is any chance whatsoever that you could be tagged out.

Bottom line, Red Sox players need to get their heads out of their rear ends.

Youngsters like Casas, Wong, Jarren Duran, and Wilyer Abreu, who are still strangers to the highest level of baseball in the world, could be forgiven here and there if the game speeds up on them and their nerves cause them to make a mental mistake. But there is no excuse for Devers not fielding his position, McGuire having such a low baseball IQ, or Verdugo dropping a fly ball in a must-win game.

The Red Sox are much better at pitching and hitting than many of their fans expected them to be before this season began. The fact that they are so competent at the hardest aspects of the game and so crappy at the easiest aspects is a sad commentary on the mental acuity of these players. Their stupidity has likely already cost them a spot in the 2023 playoffs. After a full offseason to ponder how so much went wrong, let’s hope they can come back in 2024 and be the kind of team that their talent implies that they should be.

By Luke

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