Baseball season officially has begun in Boston.
The Red Sox — understandably — have played second fiddle to the Bruins over the last few weeks. The B’s looked like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders until being knocked off by the Montreal Canadiens in Wednesday night’s Game 7 at TD Garden, and it’s probably difficult for some fans to devote too much time to early season baseball amid the intensity of playoff hockey.
Well, everything is about to change. The Red Sox have taken center stage.
Sure, plenty of Boston sports fans still kept tabs on the Red Sox despite the Bruins’ playoff run. Let’s agree on that. But perhaps there just hasn’t been enough hours in the day to fully immerse yourself in the Red Sox’s 2014 World Series defense. That’s where we come in.
While it’s impossible to go over every single facet of the Red Sox’s first quarter of the season, it’s absolutely possible to present you with some need-to-know knowledge. After all, you need to be able to hold your own at the local watering hole this weekend.
Below are some quick facts that should catch you up to speed on the Red Sox’s first 40 games, in which Boston recorded a .500 record (20-20).
— The Red Sox finished April at 13-14 — a far cry from last season, when Boston went an MLB-best 18-8.
The Red Sox, who are 7-6 in May, enter their weekend series against the Detroit Tigers just three games behind their 2013 pace, though. Most importantly, they’re right in the thick of things in a congested American League East.
— The Red Sox are 10-11 at home and 10-9 on the road.
— The Red Sox’s offense hasn’t been quite as dynamic as last season’s unit. That’s reflected in the overall numbers (through 40 games), seen below.
2013: .265 average, 4.8 runs per game, 44 home runs
2014: .247 average, 4.3 runs per game, 33 home runs
Boston’s offensive approach — built on driving up pitch counts and generating baserunners — hasn’t changed all that much.
The Red Sox, who have worked 166 walks, entered Thursday’s game averaging 4.08 pitches per plate appearance, the second-most in baseball behind the Minnesota Twins (4.16).
— The Red Sox’s two biggest Achilles’ heels have been their defense and baserunning — two underrated aspects of last year’s championship squad.
Jacoby Ellsbury’s departure has been felt, with the Red Sox stealing only 11 bases — versus 28 at this time last season — and, more importantly, being far less successful in their stolen-base attempts.
— The Red Sox’s pitching has been solid, even with the numbers slightly behind last year’s pace. The starters’ numbers are below.
2013: 19-11, 241 innings, 3.73 ERA, 245 strikeouts, 91 walks, 22 quality starts
2014: 14-13, 240 2/3 innings, 4.07 ERA, 221 strikeouts, 81 walks, 27 quality starts
Boston’s 27 quality starts rank second in the American League behind Oakland’s 28.
— The Red Sox’s bullpen owns an impressive 3.19 ERA (44 earned runs in 124 1/3 innings). The relief corps’ biggest strength has been minimizing damage by way of stranding inherited runners.
Koji Uehara, as you might have guessed, has been lights-out.
— Now, that you (hopefully) have a decent overview of what the Red Sox have accomplished as a team, here are some superlatives to further prepare you for your head-first plunge into Boston’s title defense.
Best offensive player: David Ortiz, DH (.303/.393/.586, 11 home runs, 25 RBIs)
No surprise here. Mike Napoli also has had a good season, but Ortiz is heating up and carrying the Red Sox’s offense right now. He leads the club in every major statistical category, per usual.
Best pitcher: Jon Lester, LHP (4-4, 2.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, six quality starts)
Lester has been ace-like, which will only make his looming contract negotiations with the Red Sox that much more interesting.
Most disappointing offensive player: Will Middlebrooks, 3B (.203/.313/.333, two home runs, nine RBIs)
Middlebrooks has been limited to 20 games because of a calf injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. But even when healthy, he still hasn’t taken that next step.
Most disappointing pitcher: Clay Buchholz (2-3, 6.17 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, four quality starts)
Buchholz has given up 10 hits or more in three starts this season. By comparison, he only surrendered 10 hits in a game three times from 2009 through 2013.
Buchholz has long been viewed as a potential ace. Now, the Red Sox will take just a consistence force.
Biggest surprise: Daniel Nava’s demotion to Triple-A
There isn’t anything too crazy from an individual statistical standpoint — either positively or negatively — aside from Buchholz’s struggles. Therefore, let’s go with the guy who no longer is on the roster.
Nava hit just .149 (10-for-67) with a .240 on-base percentage in 17 games before being shipped to Triple-A Pawtucket.