Casual fans (and significant others of avid ones like us) tend to remind us it’s so early in the season that it’s hardly worth fretting about our team’s performance here in mid-April. And to some extent, they’re right. Teams go through hot and cold streaks throughout the year and every game counts equally. Still, in the hotly contested American League East, where literally every team is a viable contender, wins matter and losses hurt in the overall March to October.
With an off-day after the club’s first 13 games of the season, I thought we could take a look at we’ve seen from our 2014 Boston Red Sox. What can we learn little more than 8% of the way through the season?
No way around it, a weak start
Even casual fans can’t be impressed with the Red Sox win percentage at this early point in the season. Boston’s 5-8 record is only marginally better than the 4-7 record held by the Royals, the team with the lowest win percentage in the American League. The Cubs, Reds, and Diamondbacks are the only MLB clubs off to a worse start.
Still, we probably can’t take away much from what we’ve seen so far given the early injuries (Breslow, Middlebrooks, Pedroia, Uehara, Victorino) that have kept a consistent Red Sox lineup from appearing on the field.
The Red Sox have used the MLB average of 27 batters over their first 13 games. The Dodgers have used the most (31), the Brewers the least (24). BOS has fielded 26 players (one off the MLB average of 27). The Dodgers have used the most (29), the Brewers the least (24). 13 Red Sox pitchers have made appearances, which is the MLB average. The Dodgers and Indians have used the most (15), the Brewers have used the least (11).
The Red Sox are an abysmal 2-5 at home (only the Diamondback are worse at 1-8), and 3-4 on the road. They’re 0-1 in extra innings, 1-3 in 1-run games, 2-7 vs righty starters (only the Marlins are worse at 1-7), but a strong 3-1 facing lefty starters (only Mariners and Marlins are better at 4-1).
The Red Sox have averaged 3.5 runs scored per game (4th lowest in AL, 6th lowest in MLB). BOS has allowed, on average 4.1 runs by opponents, just under the MLB average of 4.2 runs for all 30 clubs.
And the double plays? We’ve hit a ton. Boston has grounded into 17 double plays, the most in all of baseball. In 7 of the 1st 13 games the Red Sox have hit into a double play.
What we have the least of is 1st inning runs. The Red Sox are the only team in baseball with zero runs scored in the first inning.
So far the club ERA is 3.76, just under the AL average 3.95. That stands in stark contrast to the Athletics and Mariners who’ve managed to keep their club ERAs to 2.17 and 2.79, respectively.
Red Sox pitchers have allowed 15 home runs, 3rd most in AL behind Angels and Yankees (17 each) and Orioles (16). Walks, however, have been kept to a minimum with just 27 allowed (only the Tigers and Giants have less, 24 and 23, respectively), and the club’s 104 strikeouts to date are 5th best in the AL.
On the field
Red Sox fielding percentage is .984, just below the AL average of .985. The Red Sox have committed 8 errors so far, 4th most in the league behind the White Sox (13), Indians and Rangers, (11 each), and Athletics (9). The Orioles have the fewest in all of baseball (3).
With the continual caveats that it’s early in the season, the Red Sox have to be satisfied with the performance of Grady Sizemore who after 13 games leads the club with a .343 batting average going 12-for-35 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs and 5 strikeouts. Sizemore leads the club in on-base percentage and slugging, too. He, AJ Pierzynski, and Mike Napoli are all batting above .300, though Napoli’s 16 strikeouts are already looming large. A dark spot in the lineup has been Daniel Nava, just 6-for-43 (.140) with 10 strikeouts.
On the mound the Red Sox have gotten excellent performances from Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, and John Lackey (despite his meltdown Saturday vs Yankees, a game in which he allowed a career-high 5 home runs). Out of the bullpen, Junichi Tazawa, Chris Capuano, and Koji Uehara have yet to allow an earned run over 16 combined appearances. This weekend former Cardinals closer Edward Mujica showed he can do that for us, too, a key pickup particularly given the recent injury for Uehara. Concerns, naturally, for Clay Buchholz, who looked sharper in his second outing, but still far from dominating, Felix Doubront, who appears to be capable of a meltdown at any moment, and new reliever Burke Badenhop, who owns 9.00 ERA over 4 appearances.
Still, not much lost ground
Last season the Red Sox finished their 13th game on April 16th, a 7-2 win over the Indians in Cleveland. The next day they stood proudly atop the AL East at 9-4, their .692 win percentage 2nd in the AL to the Athletics. On that date the Rays were in last place, already 5.0 games behind Boston.
A year later, it’s the Red Sox in last place for many of the reasons described here, but the good news is that last place now means just 2.0 games behind the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays who are bunched up together for first place in the AL East with just a 7-6 record.
In other words, despite an inauspicious start for the Red Sox in 2014, it hasn’t left us too far behind. The key now is figuring out how to turn things around.