The Red Sox are better than their bottom line. They’re a good team masked by a mediocre 17-15 record.
No one could rightly suggest the Sox have played a brand of baseball that’s inspiring, or mesmerizing, aside from the days Chris Sale pitches. Third base has been an awful cartoon.
Still, whether the early results are reflective of the team’s outlook for another five months is a different question.
What results are you looking at?
The Sox have the second-highest batting average in the majors, .276. Their on-base percentage is .345. Even their slugging percentage is creeping up now, to 11th place, at .411. Don’t let the 16th-best runs-per-game average, 4.53, fool you.
Wait. Just wait. Last year’s 93-win team -- and the similarities between a middling start to this season and last -- should give you pause.
The 2016 Sox weren’t wire-to-wire runaways, and struggled through some serious starting pitching trouble in the first half. (Thus leading us into the Drew Pomeranz era.)
In April, in fact, the team looked wholly ho-hum. May was the first time you could start to buy in, with an 18-10 record. But the Sox didn’t actually separate themselves until September, when they went 19-8.
Remember the projections entering this year? The belief was the Sox would have better pitching and a drop-off in hitting, while nonetheless continuing on as one of the best hitting clubs.
That’s exactly what’s happened.
Through 32 games a year ago, the Sox were 19-13 and tied for first place. That’s a two-game difference in the won-loss record from how they woke up on May 10, 2016.
Their overall ERA today is eighth, at 3.76. They had a 4.22 ERA through 32 games last season, the 19th-best mark.
Last season through 32 games they already led the majors in average (.284) and slugging percentage (.463), while they were third in OBP (.345). That translated to 5.31 runs per game, third most.
The greatest difference between this year and last for the Sox, besides David Freaking Ortiz?
They’re already five games out in the American League East. But hot starts for the Orioles and the Yankees don't somehow preclude the Sox from their own success. A division title may be harder to win this year, but the Sox aren't all of a sudden mediocre because their competition improved.
The O’s have won six in a row now, a team bound to compete but also bound to cool. The Sox, meanwhile, are bound to score more runs -- and ultimately win more games.