Five takeaways from Red Sox' 15-10 start
Five takeaways from Red Sox' 15-10 start
By SEAN McADAM
BOSTON -- One month down, five months to go.
The Red Sox sit in first place with a 15-10 mark, but what does that really, you know, mean?
Strength (or lack thereof) of schedule is a relative term
The Red Sox were fortunate to catch Houston as a time when the team was underperforming in a big way. The Astros are in last place in the A.L. West, though few expect them to remain there.
The Sox also got a four-game, home-and-home set with the God-awful Atlanta Braves, who may well be the worst team in either league.
On the other hand, the Sox had seven games with the defending division champion Toronto Blue Jays and one series each against the other three teams in the division.
This month will feature challenging series on the road in Chicago and Kansas City. But the Sox will also host weaker teams like Oakland and Colorado.
Bottom line: In this age of parity, there aren't many - if any -- great teams.
The rotation has largely stabilized - with one notable exception
The Sox are 0-5 in games started by Clay Buchholz and 10-5 in games started by anyone else. That suggests Buchholz has been the team's weak link to date, which seems rather obvious.
Can Buchholz be expected to pitch better? Probably. As poor as he's been, he's healthy and has a history of being streaky. Just as he's had a wretched stretch in the first four weeks, he's equally capable of going on a run like he had from late April through June last season, when he pitched superbly.
And if he doesn't? The Red Sox have options. Both Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly are coming back, and while the latter doesn't inspire nearly as much confidence as the former, the Sox do have some available upgrades over the way Buchholz is currently pitching.
The offense has been good, but could get better
The Red Sox lead the league in runs per game, in slugging percentage, and doubles. Now that Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting from the ninth spot, the Red Sox are getting contributions from top to bottom in the batting order.
But some players haven't taken off. Hanley Ramirez has knocked in 15 runs, but has just one homer in 99 at-bats. In fact, as a team, the Sox haven't hit many homers (just 22 in 25 games) and only two players on the current roster have hit more than three.
As the weather warms up, expect the home runs to pick up as the ball travels better.
The bullpen has been pretty good, and reinforcements are on the way
Not long ago, the Red Sox were the clear leaders in bullpen innings pitched. But as the starting rotation has improved, the workload for the relievers has lessened and, unsurprisingly, the performance of the bullpen has improved. Recently, both Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara were given long stretches of rest.
Carson Smith returns to the active roster Tuesday, giving John Farrell another late-inning, high-leverage weapon. Smith will have to be somewhat limited in his first few weeks, but just having him as an option should enable Farrell to pick his spots with Tazawa and Uehara.
How much have things improved? Not long ago, the Red Sox were counting on Noe Ramirez and making a move to get William Cuevas onto the 40-man roster, simply because they needed a fresh arm.
In another few days, the Red Sox will need to discard a bullpen arm and return to 12 pitchers -- Marco Hernandez was the roster victim Sunday night -- and the decision to option someone will be a tough one. Either Matt Barnes or Heath Hembree will return to Pawtucket, though both have pitched well.
The Sox' run differential suggests they're about where they should be
The Sox sit at 15-10 -- admittedly, a small sample size, but it's all we've got -- and their Pythagorean won-loss record is . . . also 15-10.
What does that mean? Simply that the Sox are about where they should be.
The Pythagorean won-loss record attempts to estimate what a team's real won-loss record should be, based on run differential. The Sox have scored 134 runs and allowed 112, and that plus-22 run differential after 25 games roughly translates to a .600 winning percentage . . . which is what a 15-10 record is.
If their Pythagorean won-loss record was, say, 12-13, that would suggest the Sox' actual won-loss record was fluky. Instead, as noted hardball enthusiast Duane Charles Parcells likes to say, they are what their record says they are: Slightly above average.