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April Showers, Bring Red Sox May Power

Posted By "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek On Jun 2 2010 @ 2:23 pm In Boston Red Sox | 2 Comments

Brace yourself for a long one folks. It has been way too long since my last blog. May is in the books and Red Sox Nation is feeling good. The Red Sox have done a complete 180 in the month of May. They are not out of the woods yet but they are on the right path. We don’t need to be reminded of how disappointing April was, but let’s do it anyway.

April: 11-12, 103 runs, .259 avg, 27 HR, .262 Opp Avg

May: 18-11, 166 runs, .273 avg, 42 HR, .237 Opp Avg

They won 8 of their last 10 games and came out on top during a challenging stretch in their schedule.  They played 11 games on the road, with a 2-game pit stop at home in the middle. On paper, one would think the Sox didn’t have a chance considering their shaky performances and that their opponents were playoff contenders. The Sox rose to the challenge and finished 9-4. They were 1-2 in Detroit and they split a 2-game mini series in NY. They swept the Twins in a 2-game mini series at Fenway and it was back on the road to Philly where they came up big winning the series 2-1. It was important for the Sox to come out of that one unscathed, considering the beat down the Flyers put on the Bruins weeks ago. The Sox then traveled to Tampa Bay where they became the first  team this year to sweep the Rays. They really turned a corner in this series and jumped 3 games in the standings.

Rays vs Red Sox series:

Sox: 19 Runs, .271 AVG, 5 HR, 1.33 ERA

Rays: 4 Runs, .077 AVG,   1 HR, 6.33 ERA

I know plenty members of Red Sox Nation hit the panic button last month. As we all know, baseball is a long season with many ups and downs. Right now, the Sox are on the upswing. The pitching has been solid, the bullpen has been effective and the bats continue to be the strength of this year’s team. If you’re still not sold, take a look at this comparison from last year:

52 Games into the Season:

2009: 51 Games, 29-22 Record, .5 Games Back, 267 Runs, .274 AVG, 4.46 ERA

2010: 52 Games, 29-23 Record, 5.0 Games Back, 269 Runs, .267 AVG, 4.43 ERA

So…After 52 games, they are at the same point they were last year. The only difference is they have some work to do in the standings. So for all you “fair weather” fans, the “What have you done for me lately?” fans, or the fans that jump ship the first sign of a storm (ie: Giving up on David Ortiz)…RELAX! If you stick with your team during the good AND bad: a.) You won’t look like a dimwit when they prove you wrong, and b.) it makes it worth it when it comes time to celebrate their accomplishments throughout the season. Do you want to be a doubter the whole season or a believer?

What has been the key to this May turn around?

A consistent combination of offense, defense and solid pitching. One thing that has been the most consistent is the offense. During the offseason everyone was so concerned about whether the Red Sox would have enough offense. I touched upon this at the end of my blog titled Red Sox Avoid Complete Embarrassment on Mother’s Day [1] at the beginning of May. Here is an update in the team stat standings.

2010 Season Totals (after 53 games)

Home Runs: 70 (tied for 2nd in league)
Doubles118 (2nd in league)
Hits: 496 (4th in league)
Runs: 278 (3rd in league)
RBIs: 268 (3rd in league)
Total Bases: 834 (3rd in the league)
Slugging Percentage: .452
(3rd in league)
On Base + Slugging Percentage (OPS): .798
(3rd in the league)

The Sox continue to improve in these categories and maintain their top 5 status. So what is the difference between April and May? That thing we call Run Prevention. At the end of April the Red Sox run differential was –16. Currently it is at +23 and increasing. They are clearly improving in that category, thanks to the defense and pitching staff deciding to finally show up a month into the season.

Defense:

The Sox have allowed 57 stolen bases, (the worst in the league) BUT 38 of those came in the first 19 games of the season. They cut their stolen bases in half  in the following 33 games. I heard recently they have been practicing and working on holding runners. Clay Buchholz in particular, has been working on his speed of delivery. Victor Martinez has been working on his throws and the speed of release which in turn has improved his accuracy. I can tell you I witnessed first hand their improvement.

True Story: (John, back me up on this one). We were at the game this past Saturday. Buchholz was pitching. I noticed him trying to hold the runner at first which prompted one of my “Red Sox Rants” to my friend. I told him word for word what I mentioned above, regarding Buchholz and Martinez. No sooner did I finish my sentence, and the runner took off for second. Guess what was waiting for him? A perfect throw, catch and tag! He was OUTTA THERE! Talk about perfect timing. For that slightest moment, I actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about. We laughed in disbelief and had a “Did I just say that?” kind of moment. Keep up the hard work Clay and V-Mart, it’s paying off!

In a season in which the team was built around run prevention, 29 errors in 53 games isn’t exactly what they bargained for. But even the errors are diminishing, going from 19 errors in April to only 10 in May. And their fielding percentage is tied for 6th in the league at .986. Not bad considering in April, they were compared to little leaguers on a daily basis. Errorless ball for the Red Sox, was about as likely as it is to hit the Jordan’s Furniture sign in center field. It just wasn’t happening. Now that they are playing better defense and holding runners on base, they are preventing runs and it shows in their record.

Pitching:

The starters have been the biggest difference with a 16-8 record in May and a 4.44 ERA. On paper, the Sox have one of the best pitching staffs in the league. Based on performance in April, it’s not even close. Now that we have another month notched into the season the pitching has become a different story. If I had to rank the most effective pitchers thus far it would be based on one key word, consistency.

1. Clay Buchholz: Who would have thought I’d be ranking Buchholz at the top of the list? He’s not our ace, but in my eyes he has been the most reliable ALL season. It takes a lot for me to say that because I have never been completely confident in him, actually… has anyone? He currently leads the team with 7 wins at 7-3 AND leads the team in ERA at 2.73. In his last 5 starts, he is 4-0, has a 1.95 ERA, and 40 Ks.

2. Jon Lester: The only reason he is not at the top is because of his shaky start. But in his last 8 starts he has been lights out. He is 6-0, with 56.2 innings pitched, a 1.44 ERA, 29 hits, 23/63 BB/K ratio, and has an OPP AVG of .150. And get this…He is leading the American League in strikeouts at 77. He is 6-2 on the year and has an ERA of 2.97.

3. Daisuke Matsuzaka (I realize the word consistency and Dice K shouldn’t be used in the same sentence. So for the sake of him, let’s switch the word to most effective.) Dice K has clearly had his shining moments this year, coming 4 outs away from throwing a no-hitter but he has also had plenty of mishaps. We all know Dice K’s story. He pitches extremely well in each outing until his dreadful bad inning. Take a look at his “bad” innings…er…I mean outings thus far.

5/1 BAL     6 hits, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K,  (5th inning)
5/6 LAA    2 hits, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, (6th inning)
5/17 NYY  5 hits, 5 ER, 1BB,  1 K, (1st inning)
5/27 KC     1 hit,   3 ER, 5 BB (career high), 0 K, (5th inning) This was the game following his near no-hitter. It was the most walks given up by a Red Sox pitcher in one inning since 2002.

The interesting part about Dice K is, 18 of the 22 earned runs he has allowed have happened in only 4 innings of work!!! If you remove those 4 innings from the big picture, out of 34.1 innings pitched he’s only given up 4 runs. So we have a classic “glass full/glass empty” scenario.

4. Beckett/Lackey/Wakefield: Not much to say other that Beckett is hurt and when he wasn’t, he wasn’t very effective. Lackey has been consistently good at being ineffective but since he is a veteran I think we will see better results over the course of the season. Wakefield is Wakefield. He is trying to adjust to his new role of “last resort”. Once everyone is completely healthy, I personally like him in the middle reliever role because it would really mess with the batters. If we could get him to pitch through the line-up, then when Bard and/or Papelbon enters, they wouldn’t know what hit them. Imagine going from Lester, to Wakefield, to Bard, and then Papelbon? Talk about baffling!

Offensive Key Players

Offensive Consistency Award goes to Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis.

Adrian Beltre: He has been the most consistent hitter the Sox have had this year. He is 5th in the league, batting .342 and is leading the team with 37 RBIs. Last Tuesday, he went 4-5, with 2HRs, and had a career high 6 RBIs. Since May 19th in 13 games, he is batting .460, with 4 HRs, 16 RBIs and has 8 multi-hit games. In the month of May he had 25 RBIs, and slugged .568.

Kevin Youkilis: In the month of May he batted .329, had 7 HRs, 17 RBIs and 31 BBs, with a .521 OBP and slugged .643. He is 2nd in league with a .449 OBP and is slugging .571. He was 1 hit shy of becoming the first Sox hitter to log 30 hits and 30 walks in one month since Ted Williams in 1954.

Dustin Pedroia: In my eyes, Pedroia can do no wrong. He is in a slump lately but he is just so good I don’t even realize half the time, ya know? Maybe it’s because he plays every game as if it is Game 7 of the World Series. I have NEVER seen anyone play harder than Dustin. For that he gets a pass in my book. Prior to last night’s game he was batting .143 in his last 16 games and was hitless in his last 13 at bats. He finally got a hit last night so hopefully he’ll be back on track soon. He batting.255 on the season, with 8 HRs and 25 RBIs. I am not worried one bit. You know why? Two Words… LASER SHOW.

David Ortiz: I’ll keep this one short. Just stayed tuned for my “I Told You So” blog. If you didn’t read my initial blog titled Big Patience with Big Papi [2] check it out and you’ll see where I stand. Ortiz had one of the best months in his career. Clearly he is back and aside from him, there is no one happier about that than me. I am the proud fan that stood by him. In the month of May he batted .363, with 10 HRs, 27 RBIs, a slugging % of .788, with 10 walks. He has 7 home runs in his last 16 games and has 31 RBIs this season. Glad to have you back Papi!

J.D. Drew: He was leading the team in RBIs at 30 until Beltre and Papi went on a tear. No complaints here. He keeps his mouth shut and gets the job done. He is an excellent fielder and very smart hitter.

Jeremy Hermida: Hermida has been my quiet hero this season. Based on his performance this year, if the Sox have runners on base or 2 outs, Hermida is the man I want at the plate. The strange thing is it doesn’t reflect in his average. He is batting .208, with a.259 OBP, and is slugging .352. However, his OPS is .953 with 2 outs. He has 25 RBIs. 21 of them have come with runners in scoring position (RISP). 15 of them with RISP with 2 outs! His batting average with 2 outs is .327. I guess he only performs under pressure.

Jason Varitek: Varitek has been amazing this year. He is leading the team with an OPS of 1.024. He is batting .286,  slugging .667, with  7 HRs and his OBP is .357. I attribute his turn around to one thing and one thing only. His divorce is final and he is no longer sleeping with Heidi Watney. The question is, who is he sleeping with? Whoever it is, she’s a keeper :)

Victor Martinez: His bat is on fire as of late. In his last 9 games he is batting .500, with 2 HRs, and 7 RBIs. Last night he was 5 for 5 with 4 doubles and 2 RBIs. I like it!

The Red Sox will embark on another 13 game stretch this June except this time on paper we SHOULD win. We have Oakland, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philly. It’s these games I worry about the most. We seem to play down to the level of play, for example: Kansas City.

A shout out to: Kevin Millar, who joined the NESN team last week. It should be fun having him around. Cowboy Up!

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URLs in this post:

[1] Red Sox Avoid Complete Embarrassment on Mother’s Day: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/boston-red-sox/red-sox-avoid-complete-embarrassment-on-mothers-day/

[2] Big Patience with Big Papi: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/boston-red-sox/big-patience-with-big-papi/

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