May review: Rosy outlook

Two months gone, and now it’s getting serious. The Red Sox, at 37-19, enjoy a 10 game lead on the Blue Jays and 12 1/2 games on the Yankees. The Sox were 20-8 for the month of May, even better than their 16-8 record from April. Even with their recent 1-4 “slide”, the team is relatively healthy and playing good baseball for the most part.

The outlook is good, as history teaches us (1978 notwithstanding) that teams almost never recover from a double-digit games behind deficit after Memorial Day. It would take a tremendous effort by any of our divisional rivals, coupled with some devastating injuries on our side, for this to fall apart at this point. It’s best to remain cautiously optimistic at this point, as anything can happen in baseball.

The month of May brought the pitching staff down to earth a little bit, as batters began to hit their strides and some nagging injuries began to bother our pitchers. But the team still enjoyed a 4.07 ERA for the month, spot starts and all. Opponents are hitting better against our staff, but the other numbers (K/9, HR/9, BB/9, etc.) remain fairly consistent. That’s a good sign.

The offense has been much better, and even though the home run numbers are not there yet, both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are rounding into form. The lineup has been buoyed by two unlikely heroes lately, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. I have problems with the top two slots in the order, as both Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp have struggled. Lugo is a notorious streak hitter, though, so let’s hope he gets on one of those before too long. J.D. Drew has been struggling at the plate (.171/.315/.237) when he’s not sitting. Still, we have averaged a healthy 5.54 runs per game (up from 5.21/game in April), the team batting average was .289 (up from .262 in April), and perhaps more importantly, outscored our opponents by a 155-117 margin in the 28 May contests.

Top performers for May
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B
Youkilis rode a recently-ended 23-game hit streak (and 9-game multi-hit streak) to an amazing .402/.447/.679 line for the month. He was tied for HRs in May with 6, and also led the team with 19 XBH and 22 RBI for the month, prompting Terry Francona to hit him fifth a lot recently.

Dustin Pedroia, 2B
The young Pedroia shook off a terrible April, and is on a hot streak second only to his teammate over at first base. .415/.472/.600 is pretty darn good for a second baseman many had written off. As I have mentioned before, Pedroia has never hit below .300 at any minor league level, so the boy knows how to hit, though he may not look the smoothest doing it.

Mike Lowell, 3B
Lowell has had some embarrassing hiccups in the field this year, but he’s still very good with the glove, and his bat is more than earning his keep at the moment. The gray-haired veteran hit .343/.400/.596, stroking 6 HR and driving in 21 runs on the month. He was tied with Alex Rodriguez pretty recently for RBI, so he’s hitting the ball pretty darn well.

Josh Beckett, SP
Beckett missed a couple of starts with a blister on his throwing hand, but he has come back and continued to pitch well. In four starts he averaged about 6 1/3 innings and posted a 3-0 record, striking out 26 in 25 innings and walking just six. Again, the key number? 1 HR surrendered in May.

Hideki Okajima, RP
The scoreless streak is over, but Okajima continues to be a reliable arm for us. He’s so reliable that when Papelbon is tired, they’ve gone to him three times to close out games. He also recorded 5 holds in 12 outings, so that’s pretty good.

Julio Lugo, SS
The new shortstop with the big contract is playing like the old one. His line for May was .209/.241/.336, though his surprising 21 RBI show that he is at least grounding out and hitting fly balls to bring people home. But we need more from our leadoff hitter.

Coco Crisp, CF
Well, time is dragging on here, and it’s becoming obvious that for whatever reason, Coco is not going to be the same player he was when the Red Sox acquired him two years ago. Seven stolen bases can’t make up for a .224/.303/.308 performance. People will be calling for a trade soon. Actually, some already are.

J.D. Drew, RF
He hasn’t had to go on the DL yet, but Drew has missed a smattering of games in May, and hasn’t been missed very much. His hot bat of April quickly cooled off, and he’s hitting miserably now. There have been some recent signs of a recovery, but he still doesn’t seem to be at 100% yet.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP
Dice-K seemed to just get over the throwing from the stretch problem when he hit a rough patch. Battling illness and fatigue, he posted a 5.22 ERA for the month, and his K/9 ratio dropped from 10.36 to 6.81. He also allowed a staff high 6 HR for the month. These are signs that he is not throwing the ball very well. Still, he went 4-1 for the month, and we fully expect him to recover and pitch well for us down the stretch.

Joel Pineiro, RP
By my count, Pineiro had 4 bad outings out of 8 in May, not exactly what you’re looking for on a contending team’s bullpen. Especially as he’s getting paid $4 million, we need to see some consistency soon, or he should be shipped off for whatever we can get.

Don’t forget
Lefty Jon Lester pitched seven shutout innings in his last start for AAA Pawtucket. He only needed 87 pitches to make it through the game, and is expected to make one more rehab start before joining the big club, hopefully for good.

Mike Timlin continues to work his way back to health. With Okajima holding down the fort, he hasn’t had to hurry, and it will be a big boost to get him back sometime this month.


2 Responses to May review: Rosy outlook

  1. nonsense729 says:

    Go Sox! Bullpen and starting rotation have been shaky the last week, so have to keep an eye out for any more problems (ie Okajima and Paps each giving up a run to the Yankees on Sunday)

  2. donchoi says:

    Hey, I know what you mean. I am a little concerned with Paps, but the Yankees still have a pretty good lineup. I’d rather the runs come in a game like that than a close one late in the pennant race.

    The rotation will be fine. Tavarez will be out of the five slot soon (hello Jon Lester!), and Dice-K and Wake will rebound.

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