Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Slowly Gaining Ground

If you are a fan of the Red Sox, the 2014 season thus far has been a work in progress. One that demands almost a zen-like patience as Boston finds their footing and tries to move up the AL East standings.

But they are slowly getting there. After their series with Toronto Boston is now in fourth, 3.5 games back of the Yankees. Coming off of the series with Baltimore last week, this was how they ranked in major team hitting categories:
OPS: 21st
Runs: 20th
Extra-base hits: 23rd
And here is where they stand going into tonight's game against the Rays:
OPS: 16th
Runs: 17th
Extra-base hits: 10th
More importantly, over the past week they have been in the top 10 in all of these categories. And that can get lost in the overall picture. It may be hard to see the improvement, but it is there.

That patience is also necessary when looking at the pitching for Boston. There was a semi-major freakout in the wake of Jon Lester losing 7-1 at Toronto and going to 2-4 on the season. At this point talk-radio became a swamp of people talking about Jon Lester not even deserving a contract extension at all, let alone a big one.

Regarding this guy: Everyone chill the Hell out

But look at this:
Jon Lester: April 2013 (six starts)
ERA: 3.11
IP: 37.2
Earned Runs: 13
K: 33
BB: 12

Jon Lester: April 2014 (six starts)
ERA: 3.10
IP: 40.2
Earned Runs: 14
K: 43
BB: 8

He is the same pitcher. Heck, you could argue Lester is pitching better at this point in 2014 with his much-improved K/BB ratio (2.75 in 2013, 5.375 in 2014)

Oh wait, I forgot about run support. In 2013 the Sox scored 42 runs in Lester's first six starts. In 2014? 13 runs.

And there is your problem. Unless the expectation is that Lester should be throwing shutouts every time he takes the mound (and I am pretty sure it isn't), his record would look more like 5-1 as opposed to 2-4 if he was receiving a similar level of run support.

Deep breaths, everyone.

As hard as it is to see the Yankees in first, keep in mind that they also spent $500M in the off-season to be 15-10 so far. That they have a lineup that is slightly younger than the group at your local VFW hall. That they are sitting on contracts that will burn them in a year or two. And the odds of this lineup being able to stay healthy as the season marches on is questionable.

I believe this is the youngest man in the Yankees' starting lineup

The Yankees are not finishing the season atop the AL East. Mark it now. And relax.

Now, if there is one area to be concerned with, it is Boston's defense. They are ninth in the majors with 20 errors (they lead the AL East in that category). Boston is 21st in fielding percentage (worst in the AL East). Those are bad numbers by any measure and it has been Boston's weakness so far in 2014. If they were playing AL average defense, they'd be two points better on on fielding percentage and have two less errors. That could easily be one or two wins right there. The Sox have to tighten up their defense if they want to be competitive through the rest of 2014.

So Boston fans, we all need to take a collective step back from the edge and relax. It's not even May 1st. If July comes around and the Sox are in last, then we can freak out while forgetting we won a World Series last year when no one expected it. Our third in 10 years which makes us the dominant team of the 21st Century thus far. Yep, we can totally forget about that if we are still in fourth or worse come July.

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