Small Sample Size Still Telling

It’s May 2, we have the first month in the books and the Red Sox are in first place in the AL East.

That’s great, and it’s great to be five games over .500. Frankly, it’s been a long time.

But it’s too early to truly get excited about this team.

The first month showed the team is vastly improved defensively over last year, quicker on the base paths and much more cohesive in terms of team chemistry. They’re having fun and they’re a fun group to watch. Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedroia have all made cases that they are among, if not at the very top, the best defensive players at their respective positions in the league.

Travis Shaw, JBJ and Betts all swung the bat very well in their respective first months, as did a quietly resurgent Dustin Pedroia and a not-so-quitely consistent Big Papi.

There’s a whole lot to like there.

You can’t ignore the 15-10 record – however, that comes with a major caveat: In 25 games, Boston has won exactly one game against a team with a winning record (a 4-2 victory over Baltimore at home).

That’s not entirely a fair statistic as Boston has also only played one club with a winning record (Baltimore). That’s not to say the Sox aren’t good. They just haven’t had much exposure to good teams yet.

And that makes me nervous.

Also, while Boston dropped only two out of its first eight series, the two series losses were to in-division opponents … at Fenway.

And that too makes me nervous.

Finally, the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about:  The pitching staff on the whole was decidedly not good (with the pleasantly surprising Rick Porcello and the mechanically baffling Steven Wright).

David Price will be fine – and not because he struck out a billion Atlanta Braves. He seemed to draw the bad luck card nearly every time out, pitching in poor weather at three times. It’s not an excuse as much as it is a reason. He doesn’t seem to pitch well in choppy weather.

Craig Kimbrel, on the other hand, won’t. The first month set up the storyline I’ve been pushing since the start of spring training: Carson Smith will be your closer by the close of July. Kimbrel has been solid statistically – the 21 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched is an eye-popper, not to mention the 0.83 WHIP – but he just seems off. Off to the extent where one wonders if he may have a nagging injury that is just waiting to blow up.

This upcoming series on the road against with Chicago, followed another key series in two weeks on the road at Kansas City will be the best early-season determiners where this year’s Red Sox actually stand in the bigger picture.

Other Lessons Learned From the First Month

  • The Yankees are terrible. Among the worst I’ve seen from them in my adult life. Poorly staffed, poorly coached, bad chemistry. I don’t see how they begin putting things back together. Definitely not this year. Probably not next year either.
  • I was way off on a myriad of bold preseason predictions – most notably about John Farrell not lasting the first month. He seems to have solidified his stay, barring complete meltdown, through the end of the season at the very least.
  • I was also way off on picking Atlanta and Houston to win their respective divisions. The only real question at this point is whether or not they can stay out of their division cellars. Almost certainly not in Atlanta’s case. I don’t have much more hope for Houston.
  • I also want to walk back my pick for Toronto as World Series champs. No way.
  • Arizona is shaping up to be every bit the flop they appeared they’d be heading in.
  • The team no one is paying attention to that is actually going to be pretty great: Texas.

We’ll know more by the end of May. Probably a lot more. These Sox look like a playoff team. A good playoff team. They may even be a World Series Contender. But it would sure be nice to see the pitching rotation answer some tough questions in the key series this month.

Time will tell.




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