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Red Sox At The Break On Top
Posted By "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek On Jul 15 2011 @ 2:32 pm In Boston Red Sox | 7 Comments
I apologize for disappearing the last TWO months. The Bruins fully redirected my focus this spring. Not in my wildest dreams did I expect to be sitting at an ice rink deep into June. I was fortunate to attend Game 7 vs. Montreal, Game 4 vs. Philly, Game 2 vs. Tampa Bay and Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I got into Game 6 FREE, by being my outgoing self and talking to a stranger next to me at a bar who had an extra ticket! Add a couple team “send-offs”, a “welcome back” to our bearded men, and one of the largest attended parades in Title Town’s history, I am FINALLY over my Bruins hangover.
With that said, Boston is back to focusing on our beloved Red Sox. It’s hard to believe they were a “back burner” team in this town but it really happened. In fact, I would say 85% of Red Sox fans don’t even know that Josh Beckett threw a complete game 1-hitter against Tampa Bay June 15th, improving his stellar ERA to 1.86. Why? Because the Bruins were captivating all of New England with their Game 7 win in the Stanley Cup Finals that night. Tough night for Beckett to go unnoticed!
One thing that didn’t go unnoticed was the ugly 2-10 start the Red Sox got off to in the early spring. They went from the worst record in baseball (April 15th), to currently the 2nd best record (55-35) in MLB and best in the American League. Ever since the Bruins began their playoff run, the Sox began to turn things around. April 14th they were 2-9 and by the time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the Sox turned that losing record into the best in the AL (40-27). They proved undoubtedly, they have the best offense in the league going 38-18 in that time span, batting .281 with an ERA of 3.51. Thank you Bruins for getting them on track! They have become the team we all expected them to be and it has been fun to watch. In the month of June there were 6 games in which they scored 10+ runs. Currently they are riding a 6 game winning streak, winning their last 10 out of 11, with only one loss in the month of July. Their longest streak this season (since April 2009), was 9 games and during that stretch, they won 14 of 16 and outscored opponents 83-36! They are 28-17 at home and 21-8 during day games. Maybe they don’t need lights at Fenway?
First 12 Games of Season Last 78 Games
2-10 Record 53-25
.224 Average .285
9 Home Runs 98
3.8 Runs/Game 5.6
6.79 ERA 3.47
If you have read my blogs in the past, you know I like TEAM stats because it is a true reflection of how they stack up against the other 30 teams in the league. As you read through these categories, the team leaders are obvious. You will quickly see two glaring themes forming.
Adrian Gonzalez leads the majors with 128 hits and set a new Red Sox record for number of hits before the All-Star break. Gonzalez is everything Boston hoped he would be. He is an absolute beast at the plate, making each at bat look effortless. Rumor is he might be the reason David Ortiz has been so consistent this season, exchanging tips and strategies.
Jacoby Ellsbury is right behind Gonzo with 114 (5th MLB/3rd AL). July 5th, Ellsbury got his 500th career hit in 432 games. Only two Red Sox outfielders reached 500 hits quicker. Ted Williams needed 385 games and Dom DiMaggio 428. Ellsbury has been very impressive this year with 12, 3-hit games.
The Sox have gone on some big offensive tears as a team. An astounding 44 times this season, they have notched 10 hits or more in a game. Twelve times they have recorded more than 14 hits and on May 20th vs Cleveland, they had a whooping 20 hits in the books. When it comes to the 2011 Red Sox, hitting is contagious.
Doubles (195) 1st in MLB
Move over Dustin Pedroia, there’s a new “double king” in town. Gonzo leads the majors (29). We knew he was going to have fun playing at Fenway, but didn’t think it would be so easy for him. NO…BIG…DEAL! Youkilis and Ellsbury both have 26 (tied-4th MLB/tied-3rd AL).
They have catching up to do to the Yankees (125), but between Gonzalez (17), Ortiz (19) and Youkilis (13), they have hit more than the entire San Diego Padres (48). Yowza!
Gonzo leads the majors with 214, which means two things: He is doing his job and so are the men behind him. The Red Sox are 41-10 when scoring first this season and I attribute most of their success to first time, well deserving, 2011 All-Star (and AL Player of the Week of June 6th), Ellsbury. He set out this season to prove doubters wrong. People unfairly questioned his toughness last year when he went down with brutal rib injuries. While I defended his injury and the recovery process from my own personal experience, I too, was guilty of questioning him post-recovery, when things became a bit too dramatic within the clubhouse. Maybe it is exactly what he needed in the tough media market of Boston. As a result, he has developed a thick skin and has taken the high road dealing with his troubles last year. He has never been more focused about his job. His job is to get on base, and that is exactly what he has done, becoming one of the most dangerous lead off hitters in the league with 175 total bases (5th MLB). He is playing centerfield better than before, getting after more balls. Since being nominated for the All-Star game he has hit .467 (14-30), 2 home runs, 8 RBIs, 7 extra base hits, and 2 stolen bases. How’s that for reassuring fans they made the right decision? Sounds to me like he should have been a starter.
The Texas Rangers are a distant 2nd with 457. The top three run scorers on the Sox: Gonzalez (64, 3rd AL), Ellsbury (62), Pedroia (59) have scored almost 200 runs. Followed by Ortiz (52) and Youk (52). I attribute the run scoring to Ellsbury setting the table for everyone else, batting .316 and leads the AL in stolen bases (28, 3rd MLB). When you are ranked 5th in MLB in hits (114) like he is, and you have Dustin, Gonzo, Youk and Big Papi following in the lineup, you are going to score runs. Especially when Gonzo and Ortiz are each approaching 20 home runs. Hits = On Base = Runs, which they have produced an abundance of, outscoring opponents 482-371 and averaging 5.36 runs per game. At one point in the year, the Red Sox scored 209 runs in 29 games. It was the most since 1950.
Someone needs to drive in all those runs and they can thank Gonzalez (league leading 77) and Youk (63) for that.
Batting Average (.278) 1st in MLB
Guess who! You got! Gonzalez is tied for best batting average in the big leagues at .354. Highest batting average, most RBI’s…Looks like we have a Triple Crown candidate amongst us. Ellsbury .316 (5th MLB), Ortiz .304 (10th MLB/5th AL), Youkilis .285 (26th), and Pedroia .284 (27th), also play a huge role in this league leading average. Pedroia headed into the break with a 12-game hitting streak, batting .354, with 5HRs (4 in his last 6 games), 10 RBIs, and 14 Runs. That is pretty remarkable considering he was hitting .235 back in May. It appears the Laser Show is back in business. Between Gonzo, Youk and Ellsbury they are collectively hitting an impressive .325.
Gonzo’s OBP is .414 (5th MLB/3rd AL), Youk .399 (9th MLB/4th AL), Dustin .395 (5th AL), and Papi .391 (7th AL). We know Youk has alway been an “on base” machine, him being “The Greek God of Walks” an all, but considering the struggles Dustin had early on, it’s nice to see him as one of the leaders. He must have took a page out of Youk’s book because he is 4th in the league in walks.
Gonzalez is slugging .591 (3rd MLB/2nd AL). Papi is slugging .574 (7th MLB/4th AL).
Gonzalez’ OPS is 1.006 (3rd MLB/2nd AL). Papi’s is .956 (7th MLB/4th AL).
Gonzalez leads the majors (49) and his partner in crime, Big Papi, has 43 (5th MLB/3rd AL).
Walks (345) 1st in MLB
Dustin is 4th in the big leagues with 63 and 3rd in the AL.
The Red Sox are tied for 1st with the least amount of errors (44) and highest fielding percentage of .987.
I suppose it would have been a lot easier to write that the Red Sox lead in almost every offensive category except two. That would have been too easy.
Would you believe that slacker, Adrian Gonzalez is leading the team in this category too? He has grounded into 20 double plays. Either he is striving to lead in every category or he actually is human after all. He is on record pace to pass to Jim Rice’s major league record of 36 in 1984. He better watch out. That’s one record he doesn’t want in the books.
Besides the Sox beat up pitching staff, in my opinion, this is one of the biggest problems the Sox have faced. They are averaging 7.6 runners left on base a game. They have stranded 10 or more runners 22 times this season. In fact, the game in which they left 16 men on base (a season high), Josh Beckett threw 8 innings of shutout ball and only surrendered 2 hits. You know your team is in trouble when your pitcher is pitching the best of his career, and you can’t do anything to help.
Things have improved since the ugliness in April/May but the common theme during those months was stranding runners and getting both the pitching staff and the offense to be successful AT THE SAME TIME. One day, the pitching was lights out and there would be no run support. Then the next day the bats came alive but the pitching staff never showed up. Now that they have righted the ship, if they continue to get production from both sides, not strand those runners, and most importantly stay healthy, I will be sitting at Fenway late October and hopefully seeing my 2nd parade in the calendar year. Bottom line, they say pitching wins world series, but if you can’t drive in runs where does that leave you?
Speaking of staying healthy, sixty percent of the Red Sox rotation is on the DL. Yikes! Dice K is out for the year with season ending Tommy John surgery. Clay Buchholz has been out with a back injury and the latest addition to the club is Jon Lester. He suddenly pulled himself from the game after 4.0 innings of no-hit ball. He strained a muscle in his side/back July 5th, but it wasn’t before he moved to 10th on the All-time Red Sox strikeout list (822). Here is a random stat about Lester. He has already matched his season high from last year of hit batsmen (10).
Josh Beckett gave us a scare last week when he twisted his knee slipping on a wet mound. He was schedule to pitch in the All-Star game Wednesday but was a late scratch which I think was a smart move. He is expected to make his next start this Sunday in Tampa. Carl Crawford is expected to return to the Red Sox in the 2nd series after the break. They want to avoid the turf in Tampa Bay as that can be hard on the body.
Daniel Bard is in the midst of the longest active scoreless inning streak in the majors. Hideki Okajima was the last Red Sox pitcher to pitch 20.2 scoreless innings in 2007. Since May 27th he has pitched 19.1 innings of scoreless ball, has given up 6 hits, 4 walks, 20 strikeouts, and has 12 holds. He has 21 holds (2nd MLB, 1st AL) in 42 appearances, a 2.05 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP, with 11 walks and 44 strikeouts. His slider has been super effective, he keeps his pitch count down which had turned him into one of the best setup men in baseball.
He sets up, Jonathan Papelbon who recorded his 200th save in his 359th career appearance. The previous record was held by Mariano Rivera, who did it in 382 appearances. There are only five in history to achieve such a feat in less than 400 games. I have to tip my hat to Paps this season. He has truly transformed himself back to the secure closer he once was. I attribute most of his success to him checking that ridiculous ego he monstered up, once he found out they brought in Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks. While he is “middle of the road” when it comes to save totals (20) he is getting the job done and simply hasn’t had as many opportunities. He isn’t getting consistent work, in fact he has gone up to 10 days without seeing an appearance. The fact is, the Sox are either winning by 10 or losing by one. The most glaring thing that stands out to me this year is his blown save count. It is an astonishing (1)! This is the same guy that blew 8 saves last year (5 of them coming the second half of the season). Bottomline: If Papelbon continues down this path, the second half of the season should be an improvement from the first half.
Speaking of Dan Wheeler (the Rhode Island born pitcher), since coming off the DL May 20, he has made 17 appearances, pitched 18.0 innings, has a 1.50 ERA, has given up 11 hits and struck out 14. During that time, he brought his 11.32 ERA down to 5.08. Kudos to him!
I want to send a special congratulations to Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester for making the 2011 All-Star team. A special shout out to Derek Jeter on his achievement of 3,000 hits. I have always had tremendous respect for him, although it saddened me when he didn’t show up for the All-Star game. Just like Dustin Pedroia, he did not put up all-star numbers this year, but the fans voted him in, therefore he should have respected the fans enough to show up. Given the timing of his special accomplishment, baseball fans all over, including myself, would have enjoyed celebrating his moment in front of America. If a Red Sox fan feels this way, I suspect the rest of America does as well.
Aside from the Sox awful start and their Interleague “road hiccup”, I am very pleased with the performance of everyone and the only real question mark the Sox face going forward is that of their pitching staff. Will they be healthy again? And will John Lackey put an end to this yo-yo of a season and get back to his days when he dominated as an Anaheim Angel? The sooner we get answers to those looming questions, the easier it will be to look down the road ahead.
On June 21st Fenway Park recorded it’s largest attendance in Post World War II history with 38,422. Nothing against The Pad Squad (Padres), who happen to be their opponent that night, but I am not sure what sparked the abundance of fans considering it was a Tuesday night. Any thoughts?
1. Tony LaRussa (1996) 1,367
2. Mike Sciosia (2000) 1,030
3. Ron Gardenhire (2002) 844
4. Terry Francona (2004) notched his 700th win with the Red Sox June 30th (709).
Some not so fun news…Dick Williams passed away last week at the age of 82. He was the Red Sox Manager from 1967-1969. In his three seasons with the Sox his record was 260-217 He managed 6 teams during the 21 years he was in the league. He was known by many to be one of the toughest managers to play for.
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