From the start of the 2011 season through the end of that August, the Red Sox’ .612, winning percentage was the best in the American League and second only to the Phillies in all of baseball.
Then the bottom fell out, as the team went 76-113 (.402) during the period we’ll dub “fried chicken and Valentine,’’ winning at a better clip than than only the Cubs, Rockies, Twins and Astros. Starting with this season, the team shot back up to the top of the standings, winning 60.6 percent of its games while taking the AL East title for the first time since 2007.
Here’s a rundown of the position-by-position output the Red Sox received and a look at some of the individuals who have been part of Boston’s not-so-long-yet-very-strange trip.
2011-12: In 2011 Red Sox catchers (mainly Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek) were responsible for 154 runs (Runs + RBI – HR). This season through 162 games that number stood at 157, not an appreciable difference. However in 2012 with Kelly Shoppach sharing the duties with Salty and Ryan Lavarnway, that number dipped to just 118, a 30.5 percent drop from the previous year.
2013: Home runs from Red Sox catchers fell precipitously from 29 in 2011 and 28 in 2012 to just 19 this season, but better plate coverage and a shorter stroke meant much more productivity from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who raised his batting average 50 points from .222 last season to .272 in 2013 and his BABIP over 100 points from .265 to .370.
2011-12: In the DH era, only Mo Vaughn and Kevin Youkilis had a higher single-season OPS than Adrian Gonzalez’s (.960) in 2011. When he was traded to the Dodgers last season, that left James Loney, who put up just a .574 OPS in 106 plate appearances for Boston.
2013: Only the Orioles (92, mostly from MVP candidate Chris Davis) have more extra base hits than the 76 contributed by Mike Napoli, Mike Carp and Daniel Nava while manning first base.
2011-13: While his power numbers have dipped from the down years, Dustin Pedroia is picking it up in other ways. Although he’s one of seven men to play second base for the Sox this season, Pedroia drove in all 83 runs from the spot, placing him fifth among all teams’ second sackers and behind only Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis in the AL. Meanwhile only the Tigers and Giants struck out less from Pedroia’s defensive position.
2011-13: Stephen Drew is the latest starter in what has been a revolving door in Boston since Nomar Garciaparra roamed Fenway’s infield. Home runs are on par with last season, but the big improvement came in getting on base: Red Sox shortstops (including Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts) have walked nearly as many times in 2013 (65, tops in the majors) as all Red Sox SS in 2011 and 2012 combined (75).
2011-13: With Will Middlebrooks finding himself on the hot seat at the hot corner, John Farrell had to patch together the position all season long and the results were impressive. Not only did the light-hitting likes of Brandon Snyder, Brock Holt, and Jose Iglesias hold their own with the past couple of seasons’ production, Middlebrooks’ bounce-back finish after a prolonged slump and subsequent demotion enabled this group to match last season in slugging, .401 to .400.
2011-12: The Sox’ braintrust reportedly paid Carl Crawford upward of $30 million during his stay in Boston, and to put it simply, it was a disaster for the organization. In nearly two seasons, he played 157 games in left field with 14 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .295 on-base percentage.
2013: With Carl Crawford and his contract gone, the Sox brought in bargains Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, and Mike Carp, who may not scare too many opponents, but collectively they’ve accounted for 98 RBIs with 17 home runs and a .272/.352/.426 slash line at about 20 percent of what Crawford would’ve cost this season.
2011-13: We all realize now that Jacoby Ellsbury’s 34 home runs in 2011 were an anomaly, and his 12 the past two seasons combined are more the norm. However, the catalyst of the Red Sox lineup also was off and running again in 2013, leading the AL in steals with 52 while going over the 90 run mark, something he’s done every season in which he’s played in at least 100 games.
2011-12: Another spot where there’s been constant change. Numbers put up mainly by the J.D. Drew, Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Cameron were easily surpassed in 2012 by Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney (meanwhile Reddick, traded for Andrew Bailey, became a star in Oakland).
2013: Enter Shane Victorino, who bounced back after a rough 2012 personally to provide stability both at the plate and in the outfield, successfully replacing Ross, one of the few bright spots on the ‘12 squad. Victorino, 33, set career bests in batting average (.297), at-bats per RBI (7.74) and average on balls in play (.325).
2012: How much did the Red Sox miss Big Papi in 2012 when he was sidelined for half the season? In his place the likes of Ryan Lavarnway, Pedro Ciriaco, and Mauro Gomez, et al, combined to hit just three home runs and drive in 15 runs.
2013: Not only did David Ortiz bounce back after missing 81 games last season and some of the start of 2013 with an Achilles’ tendon injury, he won the team Triple Crown with his fourth .300-30-100 season, twice as many as any DH in history. As a team, the Red Sox’ slugging percentage from designated hitters places 15th all-time, not bad considering a vast majority of the other teams played during baseball’s “juiced’’ era.
2011-12: The source of turmoil during the September 2011 collapse nose-dived in 2012, saddling themselves with a combined record of 48-73, a major-league high 535 earned runs allowed, plus the worst starters ERA (5.19) and most home runs allowed per game (1.31) for a Red Sox staff in the live-ball era. In 267 innings over 50 starts, the trio of Josh Beckett, Aaron Cook and Daisuke Matsuzaka were 10-29 with a 5.90 ERA.
2013: John Farrell and Juan Nieves pulled off a complete turnaround with the rotation, getting the team starters’ ERA down 1.35 runs per game while getting the wins-loss record to 25 games above .500. Jon Lester reprised his role as staff anchor (15-8, 3.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) and when healthy, Clay Buchhoz (12-1, 1.74 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) was one of the most effective starters in all of baseball.
When looked at in its entirety, the 2013 Sox bullpen doesn’t fare well against its 2011 or 2012 counterpart. But when you zero in on closer Koji Uehara, there’s no comparison. Uehara, arguably the team’s MVP, was 21 of 24 in save opportunities once he supplanted the trio of Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey and (briefly) Junichi Tazawa doing ninth inning duty.
Uehara became the first Red Sox reliever to fan 100 batters since Greg Harris in 1993 and had one of the longest stretches of perfection in big league history, retiring 37 consecutive batters from August 21 to Sept. 17.