Red Sox Team Home Run Race Could Yield Sideshow in Final Weeks of Season


August 10, 2011

Barring anything dramatic, no Red Sox player will win the home run crown this year. The club has had 19 such winners in its storied history, but it just doesn't seem to be in the cards in 2011. David Ortiz, with 22, is still 11 behind the leader and would need to leapfrog nearly 10 others to get to the top spot.

What's amazing is that only one team in all of baseball has hit more home runs than Boston, which is boasting one of its more balanced power attacks ever. Ortiz and four others (Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia) are all within seven home runs of one another.

If they care (and they do, regardless of what they say), each of those five guys could make a run for the team crown over the final seven weeks or so. And if anyone else cares, it could develop into a semi-dramatic race, especially if other things like playoff berths are locked up.

Since the designated hitter came aboard in 1973, the average gap between the top Red Sox home run hitter and the fifth-place guy on the team was 18.2. It is seven right now, with Pedroia bringing up the rear of the starry quintet with 15.

In that time, the gap between the top spot and the second position on the team was almost eight home runs. Entering Wednesday, Ortiz has a lead of only three over both Gonzalez and Ellsbury.

The closeness is even more noticeable when compared to recent years. Since the start of last decade, the average gap between the top dog and No. 5 was 22.6 home runs. Most of those years, there were mashers like Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and then the rest.

There have been other seasons with guys bunched at the top of the home run leaderboard, but not many.

Ortiz and Manny finished two home runs apart in both 2004 and 2005, but they were separated from the field early on.

Troy O'Leary edged out Nomar Garciaparra by one in 1999. Eh.

The 1992 team saw Tom Brunansky outpace Mo Vaughn by two home runs, but they produced 15 and 13, respectively, so that was more embarrassing than dramatic.

In 1988, Mike Greenwell's 22 barely beat out Dwight Evans (21) but, again, the team's lack of overall power (10th in the AL) made that a pretty lame race.

Evans beat out Jim Rice by two and Tony Armas by six in 1985, but all others were far back. Rice (39 homers) and Armas (36) had a pretty good competition in 1983, but it was akin to Ortiz-Ramirez in the sense that nobody else was close.

Perhaps the best season for this mini-drama came in 1979, when Rice and Fred Lynn finished tied with 39 and three others had 21 or more.

Still, the separation that season among the top five was beyond what we will probably see in 2011, unless someone gets really hot. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing, but it could present a nice little sideshow if there isn't much to look for in the final weeks of the regular season.

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