A Tale of Two Seasons

The Boston Red Sox, as we all know, started the season a franchise-worst 2-10. Since then, they are 8-1 to pull one game shy of .500 and just a half-game out of second place in the AL East. Finishing April with a winning record now seems possible — even probable, given the five remaining games are against the Orioles and Mariners.

Individually, the turnaround is no less stark for several key members of the 2011 Sox:

Player (OPS change) April 1-15 April 16-24
J.D. Drew (+.361) .258/.343/.290, 35 PA, 1 XBH, 9 K .304/.429/.565, 28 PA, 3 XBH, 8 K
Carl Crawford (+.318) .137/.185/.157, 54 PA, 1 XBH, 9 K .226/.273/.387, 34 PA, 3 XBH, 5 K
Jarrod Salty (+.299) .138/.219/.172, 32 PA, 1 XBH, 13K .286/.333/.357, 15 PA, 1 XBH, 2 K
J. Ellsbury (+.235) .195/.250/.366, 44 PA, 3 XBH, 9 K .250/.351/.500, 37 PA, 4 XBH, 12K
Kevin Youkilis (+.144) .200/.451/.371, 51 PA, 4 XBH, 10K .250/.323/.643, 31 PA, 5 XBH, 11K
M. Scutaro (+.073) .188/.297/.250, 37 PA, 2 XBH, 2 K .267/.353/.267, 17 PA, 0 XBH, 1 K
Ad. Gonzalez (+.051) .244/.346/.400, 52 PA, 4 XBH, 4 K .325/.372/.425, 43 PA, 4 XBH, 11K
Jed Lowrie (+.038) .471/.526/.588, 19 PA, 2 XBH, 1 K .412/.417/.735, 36 PA, 5 XBH, 5 K

The only Sox regulars whose OPS has declined since April 15 are David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, who were not coincidentally the only members of the lineup to hit consistently over the first two weeks of the season.

It's only been the last few games, however, in which the Sox' offense has actually looked good, as opposed to mediocre or inconsistent. The hot streak has unquestionably been borne by the starting pitchers, who are in the midst of a stretch of dominance the Red Sox haven't seen since 1967:

Pitcher (ERA change) April 1-15 April 16-24
John Lackey (-14.94) 8.2 IP, 15.58/2.42/1.365, 4 BB, 5 K 14 IP, 0.64/0.86/.488, 2 BB, 9 K
D. Matsuzaka (-12.86) 7 IP, 12.86/2.71/1.235, 5 BB, 4 K 15 IP, 0.00/0.40/.160, 4 BB, 12 K
Clay Buchholz (-3.72) 10 IP, 7.20/1.80/1.175, 5 BB, 5 K 10.1 IP, 3.48/1.74/.767, 9 BB, 5 K
Jon Lester (-2.98) 19.1 IP, 3.72/1.14/.679, 6 BB, 17 K 12 IP, 0.75/1.25/.615, 5 BB, 13 K
Josh Beckett (-0.28) 13 IP, 2.08/0.92/.482, 5 BB, 14 K 15 IP, 1.80/0.67/.405, 4 BB, 14 K

Slash stats are ERA/WHIP/OPS against. Buchholz has allowed fewer hits and replaced them with walks, which has helped lower his ERA, but he's still allowing too many baserunners. The amazing improvements from Lackey and Matsuzaka make him the weakest link in the rotation at this point. Look at those slash stats for Daisuke over his last two starts: 0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP and a .160 OPS against. Six baserunners in 15 innings. 

As we've said several times over the years, no team is as bad as they look when they're in a losing streak — nor as good as they look when they're winning. The true Red Sox are somewhere between 2-10 and 8-1, but they're much closer to the version we've seen over the past nine games than the one we saw over the first 12.

5 comments… add one

  • “…As we’ve said several times over the years, no team is as bad as they look when they’re in a losing streak — nor as good as they look when they’re winning….”
    well said, whoever said it…yeah, this current hot streak won’t last, just like the cold streak didn’t…especially on the pitching side…the last 9 or so games the starters have been ridiculously on fire…as you say paul, expect something somewhere in between…hopefully a little more like the 2-10 team ;)

    dc April 25, 2011, 11:55 am
  • I’m honestly not surprised by the recent performance of the Sox with the exception of Matsuzaka, who I don’t recall being this dominant even when he pitched well in previous years (wasn’t he the guy who – even in his stronger stretches – always loaded the bases and somehow wriggled out??). Having said that, it is amazing to see so many individual players going from mediocre or even terrible to strong-to-superb. Indeed a tale of two seasons as you say Paul, encapsulated within the month of April.

    IronHorse (YF) April 25, 2011, 12:00 pm
  • Crazy year. We did say it would take something historic to get everything back on track, and we’re thankful it has happened so soon!
    Still, five back in the loss column: when will the Yankees start sucking!?!?!?!?

    SF April 25, 2011, 12:47 pm
  • “…I’m honestly not surprised by the recent performance of the Sox with the exception of Matsuzaka…”
    can’t agree totally about the first part of that statement…yes the hitting was bound to get better [crawful, i’m talking to you], but the pitching?…it’s good but not this good…it’s somewhere in between…matsuzaka? yeah, he’s got more suck in him…we’ll see it…
    “…when will the Yankees start sucking!?!?!?!?…”
    scary thing is, the yanks aren’t playing that great overall [with a few individual exceptions], despite winning games…it’s like i said the other day, for the sox recovery to be complete, they need the teams in front of them to cooperate with slumps of their own…

    dc April 25, 2011, 1:01 pm
  • Matsuzaka has always flirted with dominance but never showed it for more than a start or two at a time. His performance against the Angels was the best of his career by game score, but even in 2010, he had the following performances:
    May 11: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 K
    May 22: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 5 K
    June 7: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K
    July 19: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K
    Aug. 5: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K
    Sept. 26: 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K
    That’s six dominant starts, essentially all seven innings or longer, with two or fewer runs, more strikeouts than walks and five hits or fewer — the same number Justin Verlander, David Price, Ricky Romero, Tim Lincecum and Clay Buchholz had. The problem, of course, is how Matsuzaka did in the rest of his starts…
    In fact, I did a couple Play Index reports, and they show that Matsuzaka was clearly the worst pitcher in 2010 to post at least six such starts:
    http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/yXHVD
    His 4.69 ERA was 0.54 worse than the runner up, Barry Zito, and more than double the ERA of the list’s leader, Felix Hernandez.
    That unfairly penalizes Daisuke to a degree. His performance is the minimum requirement in both the type of start and the number of starts needed to qualify. So dropping it down to six innings or more (rather than 6.2) and cutting off at five such starts or more, he is no longer the very bottom, but he’s 67th of 73 qualifying pitchers, ahead of the likes of Jamie Moyer, Javier Vasquez and Jeremy Bonderman.
    http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/IwzVa
    (You can compare the quality of Daisuke’s qualifying starts with the pitchers around him at this report: http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/gCN3r)
    So his overall suckitude in 2010 overshadowed the handful of dominant starts he produced. He was pretty much unique in his ability to throw a gem every month or so and be immensely frustrating the rest of the time.
    http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/IwzVa

    Paul SF April 25, 2011, 1:19 pm

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