Not to interrupt all things Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and that steroid cheat 3,000 miles to the left ...
Sorry, I apologize. Go Barry!
In any case, while we’ve been obsessing about a number of peripheral matters over the past few days, I’m sure you’ve paid attention to, you know, what the actual teams have been doing on the field. We’re not in this thing only for the “All My Children” aspect of it all, as much fun the daily controversies of the sport can be.
And the Red Sox ... well, we have to ask, are they really this good?
We can repeat the “It’s only (fill in the month)” mantra for so long, and indeed we have yet even to pay tribute to our matronly ancestors, but at what point can we at least feel comfort in the knowledge that what we see is what we get? July? August? Oct. 24?
Following last night’s 9-3 win over the Blue Jays, the Red Sox have played just about 20 percent of their schedule. They're 6-2 for the month, 16-5 since Patriots Day, and have demoralized the Blue Jays to the point this week that jobs may be lost by the weekend. If they keep the current pace, here is how some of the numbers will turn out come the end of September:
Team wins: 110
Josh Beckett: 35-0
Curt Schilling: 20-5
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 15-10
Tim Wakefield: 15-15
David Ortiz: 45 home runs, 140 runs batted in
Kevin Youkilis: 165 hits, 85 walks
Jonathan Papelbon: 50 saves
Mike Lowell: 25 home runs, 125 runs batted in
Pace being what pace is in the long grind of a baseball season, feel free to dream about a 35-win season for Beckett, a 50-save season for Papelbon, or a 125-RBI season for Lowell, who has never had more than 105 in any season. Beyond that, there’s not much that jumps out at you and grabs you as being unrealistic.
Now, just to sober you up with a splash of cold water, here are more projections:
Manny Ramirez: 30 home runs, 80 runs batted in
Lowell: 40 errors.
Coco Crisp: 40 runs batted in
JD Drew: 55 runs batted in ($309,090 per RBI)
Mike Timlin: 10 trips to the disabled list
That’s the “not so good” category in this impressive 22-10 start, and for sure it also includes names such as Julio Lugo and his .228 average, Wily Mo Pena and his Pedro Cerrano swing, and the potential that Joel Pineiro will eventually have to pitch an inning with at least some bit of pressure.
There’s some semblance of “in between” in all of this, of course. Beckett isn’t going to be this era’s Charley Radbourne, nor is Ramirez likely to finish 2007 with less than 100 runs batted in (it would be the first time since 1997). But here are the facts: The Red Sox have a six-game lead in the AL East, largest in all of baseball, and have pitched so well to start the season, they forced a direct competitor to panic into a $28 million (prorated) gamble. The bullpen, largely untested thanks to the starting staff’s ability to go deep into games, has been nonetheless outstanding, its 2.43 ERA the best in the AL over a major league-low 81 1/3 innings of work. And the only noticeable holes the team has shown over the first fifth of the season have been at offensive positions that will be a boatload easier to fix in the coming summer months, than say, needing a No. 3 starter or setup man.
Perhaps the best signal of this team’s out-of-the-gate success is that we have nary heard the names of Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen, barring this past weekend when both prospects were shelled unmercifully at the Triple-A level. By this time a year ago, Delcarmen had already been summoned and sent back to Pawtucket. Both were figured to shine in this year’s bullpen but have instead struggled with Pawtucket. Turns out, they can pitch in relative anonymity because of the job Brendan Donnelly and Hideki Okajima have done in frequent, yet short work.
Barring injury, the pitching could be the best in baseball, and will continue to be as Matsuzaka and Beckett start to “get it,” Wakefield keeps going on a run, and Schilling keeps pitching toward what now looks like a $13 million “oopsie” by Theo Epstein. As long as Papelbon’s shoulder doesn’t flare up or Okajima’s pumpkin doesn’t make an appearance, they’ll keep it up.
It is, however, the bats that have folks concerned, odd for a team that slugged its way to almost 1,000 runs just a few seasons ago. Although, the last two nights probably gave the rest of the AL a little cause for concern as things perked up a bit. Crisp has looked dazzling in the field, but is hitting just .227. Drew has looked every bit the player fans here moaned about signing over the winter, Lugo has been openly pressing at the plate, and openly voicing his frustrations for the closest microphone to the playing field with verbal bombs to accompany his multiple popups. Ramirez is batting just .243, the same average he had on this date two seasons ago, a campaign he finished with a .292 average and 45 home runs.
The Sox have scored 22 runs fewer than the Yankees, but their OPS of .804 is best in all of baseball. On the mound the Red Sox have allowed 103 earned runs to cross the plate; New York 144.
To win 100 games, the Red Sox need to go 78-52 the rest of the way. That’s .600 ball for a team playing nearly .700 ball at the moment. Not out of the question. The Yankees would need to go 84-46 from here on out to reach that mark, a .646 mark.
That’s not out of the question either, I suppose. But if Clemens makes the Yankees’ bullpen nearly 40 games over .500 better than the team that just reached the break-even point last night, then he should add miracle worker to his resume.
Which would be just great for everyone outside of the Bronx to hear about. At least Suzyn Waldman would make it somewhat worthwhile though.
May is a fun month to be a Red Sox fan, with numerous chances for the team to show its mettle with series against the Tigers, Indians, Yankees, and Braves forthcoming. If they get out of May playing the same style and level that they're playing now, only injury can derail things.
Now, go celebrate all things Barry Bonds. Otherwise baseball will force you to do so.