Red Sox

Red Sox

For the first three weeks of the season, the Red Sox were the most offensively proficient team in the American League.
     
They led the league in runs scored -- which wasn't terribly surprising -- and stolen bases -- which was.
     
But they were dead last in homers.
     
Now, as the fifth week of the season gets underway, the homers are starting to pile up. It's as if, suddenly, someone turned the power back on.
     
On Sunday night, as the Red Sox salvaged a game in their weekend series with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox belted four homers -- two from David ortiz and one each from Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts.
     
It marked the ninth straight game -- and 12th time in the last 13 games -- in which the Sox homered at least once.
     
Even at 40 and on the brink of retirement, David Ortiz unsurprisingly leads the Red Sox in homers with nine, setting him on a pace to eclipse last year's total of 37.
     
A season ago, Ortiz was the only Red Sox hitter to top 20 homers, though Hanley Ramirez (19) and Mookie Betts (18) came very close. Now, with less than a quarter of the season played, Ortiz, Betts (four homers) and Dustin Pedroia (five) are on schedule to top that plateau.
     
Even with their recent power surge, the Red Sox rank only in the middle of the pack in the American League. Their 32 homers in 31 games place them seventh among the A.L.'s 15 teams.
     
The 32 homers are exactly in line with the league average.
     
Perhaps it's not surprising that the homers are starting to come for the Red Sox, as the weather warms up -- at least a little -- and hitters get into more of a regular season rhythm.
     
And the Sox are hardly one-dimensional offensively, even with their recent jump in homers. They lead the league in virtually every category -- from doubles and triples to total bases and slugging percentage.
     
Most importantly, they lead the league where it counts the most -- in runs scored.
     
It would seem, too, that there's more to come when it comes to the power department.
     
Hanley Ramirez belted two homers in as many games in Chicago, suggesting that he's ready to break out. Travis Shaw, who grabbed the Red Sox attention when he hit 14 homers in a little over two months last season, has hit just three but should be capable of more.
     
Jackie Bradley Jr. has three, but has demonstrated an ability to drive the ball more this spring, with 10 extra-base hits in his last 18 hits. And Bogaerts snapped a homerless stretch of 82 when he hit one Sunday night.
     
Even as the home runs increase, the Red Sox have shown that they have a more diversified offense. Though their base-stealing opportunities have slowed in the last week, the Sox still rank third in steals among A.L. clubs and their percentage (92.5%) is far and away the best in the league.
     
How the Red Sox score their runs, of course, is less important than actually scoring them, and the Sox remain a balanced, doubles-centric attack.
     
Fenway Park, for all its reputation as a home run haven, is actually, as John Farrell noted recently, a doubles park first and foremost. The Red Sox, too, are a doubles team -- they have 73, an average of about 2.5 per game, while only one other A.L. team has more than 58.
     
The ability to string together long innings, sending seven or eight hitters to the plate, remains the best approach, since it's easier to conssitently score that way. Relying on home runs -- as too many Red Sox teams seemingly did for too many years -- is not a smart stratgey, especially if it comes at the expense of a more well-rounded approach.
     
(As an example of the latter, the Yankees are 1-8 in games in which they don't homer. That sort of all-or-nothing offensive strategy doomed the Yanks the last two seasons when, as now, the team leaned too heavily on the long ball to win games).
     
But the ability to score multiple runs with one swing of the bat remains a useful weapon, one the Red Sox have re-discovered in the last two weeks.