Years of following the Red Sox (and Major League Baseball for that matter) has come to show me time and time again how valuable the month of August is when gauging whether or not your team has the legs to go the distance.
In the case of the Red Sox, in 2004, the team got hot and went a ridiculous 172-2 during the month of August (maybe a SLIGHT exaggeration), and road the momentum through the Angels, (eventually) the Yankees and then the Cards to break the curse.
In 2005, August was unkind to the Sox, and they crawled to the finish line with the wild card, only to be quickly swept away by the Pale Hose.
In 2006, the wheels fell off completely in August. Injuries to Varitek, Papi, Manny (I guess), Lester (with cancer, none-the-less) Trot, and many others, there were nights when I would not even recognize my own team. They lost ground quickly, and never recovered.
The 2007 team was one of the best assembled, with an amazing fielding percentage, and a healthy Manny Ramirez and Big Papi getting hot at the right time.
the 2008 team was right there, but the Tampa Bay Cinderella story could not be toppled.
SO, where do the Red Sox stand this season? I will offer both my perspective and then the REAL numbers...
My perspective: From the off-season to this point, I have not really cared for the Red Sox moves. They seem pretty out of character for Theo, givin his amazing run of acquiring exceptional talent at the right times. Smoltz was a risk, Penny was (officially now) a risk, and I don't believe I have seen Rocco Baldelli in quite awhile. I really think that the Sox thought they had Teixiera in hand and were left reeling when he shocked the world and went to the bombers. The same thing happened to Kevin Pritchard when the Blazers put all their eggs in one basket for Hedo Turkaglu, only to have him about face and go back on his word. The Blazers eventually recovered well enough to acquire Andre Miller, but I guarantee you in was plan D at best.
As for the trade deadline moves, one of my greatest concerns is acquiring too many guys at once. Chemistry is huge in baseball and I believe that during July and early August, there was simply no chemistry, and run production suffered. One move I absolutely love though is the acquisition of Victor Martinez. He is already versatile to catch, play 1st base, and DH, AND just added another plus by being able to handle Wakefields knuckler.
When you get down to it, I don't think Boston is in bad shape, and here is why...firstly Big Papi is starting to find his groove in a big way, including 2 bombs last night including a walk-off to sweep the White Sox. He is also drawing more walks and overall just playing smarter at the plate. We'll get to this in a moment, but the Sox are putting up MAD runs this month as well thanks to a healthy JD Drew, Jason Bay, Victor Martinez, and the baserunning prowess of my favorite, mr Jacoby Ellsbury.
Pitching? Eh, that I will concede. BUT, with a healthy Wakefield and hopefully rested Dice-K, the combination of Cy Young possibles Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, along with occasional innings from Clay and Dice-K clone, is nothing to sneeze at. This team is starting to click.
But what do the ACTUAL numbers say?
ESPN has a groovy little stats generator that I recommend you all go in and play with to see where your favorite team fares. There is split stats galore and you can dig as deep as you want into the numbers.
For this example I am going to focus specifically on the month of August....
Red Sox Hitting in August (rank for all of MLB)
Runs scored - 144 (3rd)
Hits - 235 (6th)
HR - 45 (1st)
Total Bases - 426 (2nd)
RBI - 133 (3rd)
BA - .272 (12th) ugg...they hit em hard though!
OBP - .355 (6th) patience at the plate
SLG - .494 (2nd) PA-POW!
OPS (for all of you diehards and fantasy ballers) - 848 (2nd)
Not too shabby, and if I could split the month in half, I would venture to guess that some those middle of the road stats are skyrocketing upward.
Now on to the pitching...I am a bit nervous on these...
Wins - 13 (8th)
Losses - 11 (13th best)
ERA - 5.05 (22nd) WHEEEEEE!
SO - 188 (3rd)
Avg - .272 (19th)
RA - 123 (23rd)
One other important stat (in my mind) that I was unable to pull up is fielding percentage. Ya gotta make the plays to get the outs. It feels like the Red Sox have been pretty clean, but then again their are a lot of runs scored this month, so hard to say.
Sooooo, basically here are my thoughts. There is clearly a significant contrast between hitting and pitching. The hitting has been bailing out lousy pitching all month. In order to win it all you have to have the arms to do it. I want to believe that the Red Sox have enough juice in the tank, but the realist in me says not this year. Of course there is still time to right the ship. Need a healthy Wakefield, A healthy Dice-K....a healthy everybody. Then you need the pen to do their job. Billy Wagner? Sounds like another possible Gagne experiment, but what the hell can it hurt at this point. Whatever the case may be, as always, I am with this team to the end.
Go get em, Sox!
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