One month and 26 games into the season, the Boston Red Sox have exceeded expectations and sit atop the AL East with an 18-8 record and a healthy (for the early going) two-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees.
This really seems too good to be true. Who would have thought that the ragtag bunch brought in by GM Ben Cherington would do this well, almost like a real-life version of Major League.
While the Sox have been playing a faster, cleaner brand of baseball, there are a few apprehensive indicators that their record may be boosted by a combination of timely performances more than anything else.
Starting pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are 9-0, and the Sox are 10-1 in games the pair has started. Going off that statistic, the Sox are 8-7 when the other three pitchers in their rotation start. Essentially, then, when the top two starters are on the mound, the Sox have played at a .909 clip and at a .533 clip in every other game.
Should Lester and Buchholz come back to earth and resume their usual form, then the Sox may be headed for a decline unless the other 60% of their rotation can step up and support the team. Tuesday’s game versus the Blue Jays proved one thing: that Lester is not infallible, and while he may be a great pitcher by many standards, he can have a bad month or two.
Lester acknowledges that he had a bad night, but the question is whether or not this could be a trend over the next few starts or a mere bump in the road.
“It was one of those nights from Pitch One. I wasn’t able to repeat … I had to grind it out. I never felt good,” Lester said.
The next indicator is the timely hitting for the Sox. Since coming off of the DL, David Ortiz is hitting .500 with three home runs and 15 RBI’s in just nine games. Add Mike Carp’s unsustainable .458 average along with Will Middlebrooks' power surge and you get a month in which a few hitters have been having very good months at the same time. While there are nine guys in each lineup and when one hitter cools off another invariably heats up, the Sox are playing at a time when nearly everyone is contributing at a high level, which just will not last all season.
It is hard to dispute the success of the Sox this season; they are playing incredibly well and have seen many good performances from several key players. With 26 games in the books, you can’t say that it is entirely luck for them to be where they are, but it is pretty hard to realistically project these results over a whole season.