Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, June 20, 2011

Red Sox Surging Despite Lack of Offense From Three Key Players



The red hot Red Sox are on a roll. The team has won 13 of its last 15 games.

After a listless April that resulted in a 10-15 record, the Red Sox proceeded to right the ship and post a 19-10 record in May.

And the streaking Sox are now 13-3 in June, finally looking like the team everyone was expecting after a rather eventful offseason.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Sox' resurgence is that two of their stalwarts, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, are hitting well below their career averages.

Youkilis, a career .291 hitter, is batting just .261 well into June.

The good news is that Youkilis has a .382 OBP (career .393) and, after hitting safely in eight of his last 10 games with 14 RBIs, is on an upswing.

Meanwhile, Pedroia, a career .301 hitter, is hitting just .269. However, his .377 OBP is seven points above his career average.

In the midst of his own upswing, Pedroia is 22 of 60 (.367) with nine extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in 15 games this month. The second baseman has hit in 12 of his last 13 games and is batting .392 with two homers in that span.

Both players missed significant time due to injuries last year, and that may have affected their play earlier this season. Pedroia played in just 75 games last year, while Youkilis appeared in only 102.

Pedroia's injury was more worrisome, since he still has screws holding his left ankle together. Given his self-professed "violent swing," which results in significant force being placed on that left foot every time he takes a cut, it's easy to ascribe Pedroia's early struggles to his surgically repaired ankle.

Perhaps the ankle is more fully healed now. Additionally, Pedroia is finally getting over the right knee bruise he sustained on May 16 while fielding a ball against Baltimore.

But the early struggles of Youkilis and Pedroia aren't the only disappointments thus far, nor are they the only things making the Sox' resurgence all the more surprising.

Carl Crawford, the $142 million man, is playing well below expectations.

Crawford, a career .294 hitter, is batting just .243 this year. And his .275 OBP, which is 59 points below his career average, is keeping the speedy Crawford off the base paths. As a result, he is not the base-stealing threat the Red Sox were anticipating.

Crawford averaged 45 steals over nine previous seasons, yet has just eight so far this year. For perspective, Dustin Pedroia — the guy with the bad ankle and knee — already has 13 thefts this year.

The truth is, the Sox' new left fielder really hasn't excelled in any facet of the game so far this season. Case in point; Crawford has just 21 extra-base hits.

So, when you consider the under-performance of these three Red Sox players — and we're talking about three former All Stars who were expected to help carry the club — the team's turnaround and sustained drive are all the more amazing.

Even with Youkilis, Pedroia and Crawford all performing well below their career averages, the Red Sox are still first in batting, OBP, hits, runs, RBI and total bases among AL teams. And they are second in slugging, behind the Yankees.

Should the under-performing trio all continue to improve and rise to their career-levels, the Red Sox will be a juggernaut.

Youkilis, Pedroia and Crawford represent one-third of the Red Sox' starting lineup and are three of the better players in the game today.

Considering that the Sox are still managing to win consistently despite the trio's sub-par play, should they ever perform to their full potential, Boston will surely be the team to beat in October.

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