Everyone's an expert on the Red Sox. We all think we know as much as Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, and we have our eyes to prove it. If a guy is struggling, then we know his production going forward.
After about twenty percent of the season, what do we know? Do we know that Dustin Pedroia will hit .240 or that Carl Crawford .225, and Jason Varitek .150?
In my column about managed expectations I wrote:
Statistical randomness. This can work in either direction for the Red Sox and for their opposition. For example, Mark Belanger was a career .228 hitter, who hit .287 in 1969. Dwight Evans, a .272 career hitter, hit .242 or less three times during his career. Guys have bad years. Even Teddy Ballgame hit .254 in 1959, admittedly at age 40 with 331 at bats. Also, outcomes in close games can also make a huge difference.
The sample size of the season is still limited, but the Red Sox statistically have looked much more like a middle of the road team than an excellent one. That doesn't mean things can't change, and indeed after a 2-10 start, the Sox are now 14-8.
The positives have been improved pitching, and unexpected good work from Matt Albers. Within the everyday lineup, Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford have started a resurgence, Jacoby Ellsbury has a seventeen game hitting streak, and A-Gone has three homers in his last six games. Conversely, Jason Varitek looks more like Dean Chance at the plate than a major league hitter, J.D. Drew continues to have a lot of tough at bats, and Dustin Pedroia has scuffled mightily.
None of this is rocket science. The Sox could go on a ten game winning streak or a losing streak of biblical proportions. It doesn't take Jeanne Dixon to know that either. The bottom line is that the team hasn't reached any degree of consistency, having beaten some top pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, and Dan Haren, yet struggled against lesser luminaries. I expect the Sox to do better against some of these young pitchers whom they haven't seen before. But I do wonder if a slow start will end up compromising their division expectations. Such is the curse of unmanaged expectations.