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Baseball Red Sox relied ‘too heavily on analytics,’ team owner says

The Boston Red Sox brought in high-priced free agent Pablo Sandoval for five years at $95-million (U.S.) before last season.

Kathy Kmonicek/AP Photo

After their new players added up to another last-place finish, the owner of the Boston Red Sox figured out the team's math was wrong.

"I think we were reliant too heavily on analytics," John Henry said Wednesday.

The Red Sox, with ace sabermetrician Bill James in their front office, have helped lead the majors-wide movement toward using advanced numbers to make decisions.

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Henry reconsidered that strategy after Boston finished last in the AL East for the second straight year, and for the third time in four seasons.

"I spent at least two months looking under the hood and I came to the conclusion we needed to make some changes," Henry said. "One of the things we've done – and I'm fully accountable for this – is we have perhaps overly relied on numbers and there were a whole host of things."

"I was shocked at how bad we were last year," he said.

The Red Sox brought in two high-priced free agents before last season – Pablo Sandoval for five years at $95-million (U.S.) and Hanley Ramirez for four years at $88-million. Both had tremendously disappointing seasons as Boston went 78-84.

Henry said it was not one particular miscalculation the team made last year that bothered him.

"I would say the more I looked from my own perspective, the more I found not to be happy about," he said.

He came to the conclusion that a change in philosophy was needed.

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"We were never as far toward analytics as people thought we were," Henry said. "And even now – I'm an analytics guy – I think we needed more of a balance. I started reaching it last season. I won't go into all of it but there were various aspects of our overall philosophy needed tweaking and we did."

"Baseball is a complex, dynamic, living thing that has to really be nurtured on a daily basis 12 months of the year," he said.

Henry took over the team in 2002 and the Red Sox have won three World Series championships since then, most recently in 2013. Under his reign, Boston has had one of the highest payrolls each year.

"A lot of our advantage was purely financial," Henry said.

Last August, in a signal that his priorities were changing, Henry brought in Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations and general manager Ben Cherington stepped down. Dombrowski was GM of the Marlins when Henry owned the team from January, 1999, until February, 2002.

"Very hands on," Henry said of Dombrowski's management style. "He has made adjustments. It hasn't been a revolution. It's been more of an evolution. But he has a different style than what we're used to here and I think it's melded very well with the front office."

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Boston's off-season moves reflect the organization's change in philosophy, Henry said. But he knows the team needs more than a new philosophy to be successful.

The Red Sox signed lefty David Price to a seven-year, $217-million deal, hoping he can revitalize the rotation. Closer Craig Kimbrel was acquired from San Diego for four young players.

"The biggest thing that has to happen is the players on the field have to perform," Henry said. "We didn't get as much of that last year as we needed."

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