Are the Red Sox a team of illusionist? Was the early going of April and especially May just an example of baseball prestidigitation or misdirection? Merely a way of having the audience and other teams focuses elsewhere while the real trick begins in June?
The Red Sox of May were 10-19 and that wayward group of bindlestiffs went 14-14 in June. Despite a 12-10 April the cracks, Grand Canyon in scope, were clear with a slash line of .245/.332/.379. In May it deteriorated to .237/.301/.361. In June a resuscitation happened and a patient presumed to have flat lined had a spark of life with a .277/.329/.441.
The hitting is now what was expected. Some of the “Big Bats” such as Mike Napoli and David Ortiz has been inconsistent or Lethargic compared to earlier history. Others, such as newcomer Pablo Sandoval apparently have a strike zone that is anywhere the ball is tossed.
Did I leave out our staff? A rotation and a group of relievers that certainly do not cause sleepless nights among the opposition. I’m sure Toronto looks ahead and sees “Boston” and images of home runs and RBI dance in their heads. Batting practice within a game. A joy to a statistically hungry player looking to pad some nice numbers for a contract kiss.
Go traditional and the ERA was 5.04 in April, 4.12 in May and now 4.05 in June. The WAR went a similar route from 1.3, 1.0 to 3.8 – second best in the AL in June. The pitching numbers show improvement and even Clay Buchholz is garnering support for Ace status.
The carry-over into July is also taking place as that June trend just may have established a blending of improved hitting and pitching, so is there any hope?
Emotional investment in a flawed product is certainly not advisable and this product is flawed. But a lifeline exists and it is not even on the team.
The AL East is a possible EPA hazardous waste site. A Chernobyl of baseball. Each franchise sits on a Love Canal. The inherent weakness of each team is exposed on a daily basis. The Red Sox young players have accelerated their learning curve, management has some cash to toss around for the ripe plucking of baseball fruit and the team has players who cannot possibly sink any lower. That means – edge Boston.
Napoli, if he is not tarred and feathered, has some decent second half numbers. Ortiz is a career .285 hitter in the second half. The same applies to Shane Victorino if he ever extracts himself from the DL. Sandoval is a .300 hitter in the second half and so is Hanley Ramirez. Maybe Alejandro De Aza is a spark that ignites them? So one could point to the veterans actually living up to expectations or at least a good facsimile. Please, no more retrogression!
The real strength is the younger players such as Mookie Betts and the potential All-Star – if he was in Kansas City – Xander Bogaerts. Rare indeed have I seen a player take such quantum leaps in defensive development. Brock Holt, at age 27-years-old, can join the list. The sudden emergence of Eduardo Rodriguez has become a stabilizing factor. Will it encourage management to have a further exodus from Pawtucket for rotation support?
The pitching improvement, sans Rodriguez, can be traced to the rotation blood lines and especially Buchholz and Wade Miley. One extraction, Joe Kelly, has already commenced with Justin Masterson, a truly horrid return to Boston, now given a second chance to resurrect his dimming free agent windfall. A second low point, Rick Porcello, teeters on a stay in the bullpen. One or two more starts may decide his fate and that of Brian Johnson – who is inextricably tied to Porcello’s performances.
And that bullpen! Junichi Tazawa is headed for 70+ games and Koji Uehara is always a concern. Alexi Ogando apparently has assumed a set-up role and Craig Breslow is consigned to mop up duty. Matt Barnes is spotty at best, so you may see the dismissed Kelly return for duty out of the bullpen.
The Red Sox are in a precarious position of pulling the plug on life support for 2015 or moving forward with open checkbook and hoping that the sudden burst of hope is not an illusion.
I practice patience with baseball and this team needs a July to show if it is an illusion or just one heck of a collective slump.
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