Friday, May 27, 2011

First, at Last

Fifty-one games into the season, the Red Sox have arrived, at least temporarily at the top of the AL East with an 18-7 May. Not that anyone is counting out the Yankees, who lead the AL in runs scored with 250 in 48 games.

In the past three games, the Sox have pounded opposing pitchers to the tunes of a .372 average with 34 runs. But the pitching has been as much of a story, with quality starts from Jon Lester, Alfredo Aceves, and Tim Wakefield. The Sox have moved into second in runs scored behind their outburst on the road.

It would be silly to claim that Jacoby Ellsbury is the best centerfielder in the AL, but not unreasonable to note that he's the second best behind Curtis Granderson, who should be the consensus All-Star centerfielder.

Is it too soon to wonder about Red Sox representatives to the All-Star game? You'd have to say that Adrian Gonzalez is a lock, but statistically, see the following:

David Ortiz has been having an excellent season, with fewer RBI, since A-Gon is clearing the bases before him. And Kevin Youkilis, after a slow start has assumed his customary status among the top ten in OPS and has been driving in runs consistently.

No salty dog here.
Jarod Saltalamacchia has enjoyed a productive May with an OPS of almost .900. Of course, we don't expect him to be a .900 OPS player, but he certainly is showing while the Sox brain trust pursued him like a dog on a bone for years.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Watching the Red Sox amidst the mercurial season, I have a lot of questions.

  • Has David Ortiz lost a LOT of weight? He looks a lot thinner to me?
  • Is Lester just in a funk? He doesn't seem to have much command of his complementary pitches, especially the once-devastating cutter.
  • Carl Crawford takes a lot of heat, but he's won games with his legs and his bat, although his numbers aren't good. It's about productivity in the end. 
  • Can the Papelbon resurgence be maintained? Getting command of his splitter would be huge. 
  • How many BAD contracts will MLB be prepared to take?
  • Can a guy like Derek Jeter play his way out of a first ballot Hall of Fame vote if he has three bad seasons, or does an icon get a free pass no matter?
  • How does a mediocre player like Jose Bautista become Ted Williams, with a ridiculous OBP over .500 and SLG over .800?
  • I was just going to say Saltalamacchia has been going pretty good. Yard!
  • Marco Scutaro, we barely knew ya.
  • Is the Tribe for real, or is it just scenes from "Major League"?
  • Does any rivalry come close to the Cardinals-Reds now?
  • Is the Matsuzaka (elbow)-Okajima (ineffectiveness) era over?
  • Who would you compare Adrian Gonzalez to offensively? I don't remember anyone who hits as much to the opposite field. Roberto Clemente?
  • Who would have thought? Matt Albers. 
  • The "fog game" the other night reminded me of Oil Can Boyd in Cleveland. "They shouldn't build a ballpark next to the ocean."
  • Last night we had the 7-2 forceout. Don't expect to see that for awhile. Like for-ever.
  • It's good to see Jerry Remy in the booth, but I thought Zaun had a ton of potential. 

Sunday, May 08, 2011


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.