Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bright spots

It has been a rough start to the season. Ever since the 0-6 start, Sox fans have been repeatedly bludgeoned with "No team with a record of X-Y has ever made the playoffs." It's been an ugly, ugly start, but there are some things to be legitimately hopeful about.

First, Josh Beckett has looked spectacular. His start against the Yankees on Sunday night, with the team desperate for a win, was incredible. His game score was 88, well above the previous high for his career. His K/9 is the highest of his career, albeit in a small sample size, and the new cutter appears to be finally working for him after being blamed for his gaudy home run totals in 2010. Since Beckett is locked up for another four years, a return to form is a great sign for 2011 and the overall performance of the Red Sox down the road, too.

Dustin Pedroia appears to be showing no ill effects from breaking his foot last summer. Considering the fact that he still has screws in his foot, which will be removed this offseason, that is pretty impressive. Pedroia currently has a line of .320/.421/.540, and did the bulk of the damage on the season against the Yankees. He had three hits in each of the three games of the series, going 9/15, with three doubles and a home run. When the team desperately needed to win, he put them on his back. Last year only two players (Hanley Ramirez and Robinson Cano) had three consecutive games with three hits.

In case you're wondering, the record holder for consecutive three hit games is George Brett, who had six consecutive three hit games in May of 1976, while going 18 of 26. I think Rod Carew, who is tied for second at five, had a more impressive run. In early June of 1975 Rod Carew went 15 for 18 with six walks and three strikeouts. During the streak he was up 24 times, and hit more home runs (4), than he made outs (3). Despite a triple slash line of .833/.875/.1.556 from Carew, the Twins managed to go 0-5. All of this information is from the Baseball Reference blog, found here.

Finally, Papelbon seems to have returned to form. I always felt the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated this offseason. Coming in to the season his K rate was above 10 K/9 IP for three consecutive years. The pitcher everyone expected to replace him, Daniel Bard, actually struck out fewer batters and walked more in 2010, but because Papelbon was a bit unlucky, stranding only 66% of the baserunners he allowed, while Bard stranded 86% (MLB average = 75%), Bard's ERA was nearly two full runs lower.

There are some definite concerns (Lackey, Matsuzaka) and some under-performers who should turn it around (Gonzalez, Crawford, Youkilis) that have led to the 3-10 record, but there are also some reasons to be hopeful.

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