That wasn’t the swiftest opening quarter-mile and it sure felt bumpy out of the gate but all things considered, the Red Sox aren’t in a terrible spot as the AL horses begin their run down the back stretch. That said, the time is now for the Sox to pick up the pace and gain some separation over the next two or three furlongs.
Listen, there is no way to dodge the fact that the Sox performed below plan over the first forty games. I mean coming out of Spring Training, no Sox fan would have signed for .500. Maybe 23-17. But not 20-20.
But .500 is where they find themselves and that is because lots and lots of things went wrong over the first seven weeks and just a handful of things went right. To recap … Carl Crawford has contributed nothing, John Lackey has blown up. Two big bullpen additions – Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler – have been flammable. The Laser Show has been closed for business. Drew is slogging his way to the end of his five-year deal. Bard has already run through his annual allowance for bed shits. The situational hitting has been a farce. And the catching has been abhorrent. Charge me with “hyperbole” if you want but those descriptions match the reality.
Now it hasn’t been all bad. And certainly, the entire roster hasn’t performed below plan. For instance, Ellsbury has hit. Beckett is surging. Papelbon has bounced back. Ortiz steered clear of the April holes that swallowed him in 2009 and 2010. Lowrie raked for a while. And Adrian Gonzalez has exploded of late. So it’s not like the Sox have been completely defenseless.
But clearly, there is some upside to be realized. I’m not talking so much about Drew and Salty. Because I think those problems will be with the Sox through the Summer. But Bard has already had four hiccups and he isn’t going to blow sixteen games this season. Moreover, Pedey and Crawford are not sub .700 OPS guys. Youkilis will eventually get a hit with a runner on third and less than two outs. And Lackey is not going to keep giving up seven runs an outing. Perhaps five but not seven.
Against this, Pap may show a crack or two. And a slump could always find Ells or Lowrie. But I am confident that the first quarter was burdened by more self-correcting problems than it was boosted by unusual gains.
And I think it is important to note that as bad as the first quarter went, the Sox have gone 18-10 since starting 2-10. If they continue that pace, they will hit the halfway mark with 45 or 46 wins, which is below expectation but not by much.
So as the season moves into the second quarter, I think it is fair to say the Sox have a reason to be optimistic. Some of the new guys are getting more comfortable, the front-end of the rotation is shaping up nicely, some nice aversions to the mean lurk and Adrian Gonzalez looks like he is the second best player in baseball. If Albers or Jenks can lock down the seventh and the offense can finally figure out a way to knock in some runners from third with less than two outs, I am confident that this team can surge in front down the back stretch.
It might not happen this week as the Sox draw Zach Britton and Justin Verlander. But it feels like this club is about to put on a move. And while they are out slow, that doesn’t mean their splits at the half and three-quarter pole won’t be right in line.