4-29-2011: April wrapup, the team


With two games left in April, the Red Sox find themselves at 11-13 on the young season, 4 games back of the Yankees, and right on the heels of Tampa Bay and Toronto in the standings. Thanks to a terrible 2-10 start, our Sox have not yet been on the right side of .500, though things seem to be evening out now. With these two games against the lowly Mariners and Felix Hernandez not due up until game 3, I have hope that we can finish the month above the .500 line.

Time to take stock of what we’ve seen so far, and separate the real from the illusion. Today we’ll look at the overall team performance, and in a later post we’ll look at individual players.

Offense

This lineup got a lot of positive reviews before the season even began, with some calling it possibly the best Boston lineup ever. I thought these expectations were overblown, but 4.3 runs a game and a .318 team wOBA is not what anyone had in mind. This lineup has actually been below average, which is mind-blowing. While they haven’t pounded fastballs much worse than anyone else, the Sox as a club have really struggled against hard breaking stuff (sliders and cutters).

Still, there are encouraging signs. The Sox own the highest walk rate in the AL at 10.9%, and their plate discipline remains intact (3.97 pitches per plate appearance). Surely their .244 team batting average can’t last, right?

The baserunning has been a disappointment, with some strange and costly plays early and the supposedly lethal combination of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford is not living up to expectations. Once they start getting on base, watch out.

Pitching & Defense

The rotation followed a horrendous start with some of the best sustained success in baseball history by a staff. Once you even it out, they’ve allowed 106 runs and are about average in nearly every category. The crazy number of home runs surrendered early on has gotten under control, and I expect that to even out to about league average or better.

Red Sox starters have allowed the fewest number of liners, at just 16.1% on the year, and we have been very efficient at converting batted balls into outs (.259 BABIP against). The bullpen has done a pretty good job overall, with 7.6 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9, good for an xFIP of 4.05 (3rd in the AL). As a group, they throw hard (4th highest avg fastball velocity in the league) and they throw strikes (48.8%, 5th in the AL).

The defense has been a plus on the whole, as I mentioned here, and they currently rank as the 4th best defense in the league. The outfield was disappointing early, but they really seem to be turning it on lately.

The Sox are 1-4 in one-run games thus far, and that has really hurt the team’s overall record.

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