I like stats. Don’t you like stats? Let’s talk about stats.
(Not included: Saturday’s game against Houston. The stats sites haven’t updated as of yet, and let’s face it: I’m not good enough at math to calculate these things myself.)
Almost unanimously, one of the key points Sox analysts identified as a key need from the 2013 squad was improved performance from the team’s top-of-rotation starters. With Lester, Buchholz, and Dempster posting a combined 2.18 ERA in the top three spots, it’s safe to say it’s been a successful effort on that front so far.
While Lester faced his first rocky start of the season this past week against Oakland, the Sox’ top three have largely come out unharmed in early going. Continued success will be key to maintaining the team’s momentum going forward.
12.90 – K/9 of Ryan Dempster through five starts.
Building off the previous section, Dempster’s effectiveness has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox so far. Many questioned Dempster’s ability to perform in the American League after his brief, ineffective stint with the Texas Rangers last year, but so far he’s done quite a bit to ease those concerns.
He’s not going to strike out 35.3% of the batters he faces this season, obviously, but I’m on board with the idea that he can handle AL batters.
This one comes with a huge asterisk, because Napoli’s current .393 BABIP well exceeds his career mark of .303, so expecting this to continue is a pipe dream. However, Napoli has played a huge part in the team’s early season success. He currently leads the major leagues in RBIs, which speaks as much to the top of the Sox order as his production in the middle of lineup.
Napoli’s currently striking out 32.3% of the time and walking only 5.1%, both of which sit out of line with his career rates (25.6% and 11.6%, respectively). While I don’t think he’ll continue to be quite this good, some normalization in his stats will reduce the damage of his impending regression. I would expect him to continue to be a productive bat in the middle of the lineup, especially if the top of the order continues to get on base.
He’s also striking out 15.88 batters per 9 innings and has a FIP of 1.67. More on this in a moment.
9.64 – The BB/9 for Joel Hanrahan in his 4.2 innings pitched pre-injury.
While the Sox made an investment in Hanrahan to be the team’s closer, his inability to find the strike zone combined with Bailey’s performance in his absence may well force the team’s hand.
I just don’t see how the team can justify returning Hanrahan to the closer role at this point, unless he magically solves the walk issues that have plagued him since last season. Even then, Bailey is healthy and quite plainly dominant, so unless he gets injured or completely falls apart, he’s the better pitcher. Hanrahan will have to accept a lesser role in the ‘pen, or could be a possible trade chip by the deadline.
11 – Steals by Jacoby Ellsbury in his first 23 games.
I’ve written quite a bit about Jacoby Ellsbury already this year (and will again soon), but suffice to say he’s looking to run a whole lot more this year than the past few. Ellsbury stole 14 bases in 74 games last year and 39 in 158 the year before. If anything, we at least know now he’s fully healthy (for the time being) and we might be in for some gaudy steal totals before the year is done.
3.3% – Walk rate of Will Middlebrooks thus far this season.
There are plenty of things that have gone right with the Sox thus far, but the season has not been without its negatives, and high up on that list is Middlebrooks.
The young third baseman is mired in a pretty extreme slump, with only 16 hits in his first 91 at bats. His biggest criticism coming off a successful rookie season was his plate approach, and, well, so far it’s been worse. The good news is that his .189 BABIP is almost entirely unsustainable, so he should break out soon. It’s pretty clear the plate discipline is every bit as much of a problem as we thought, and will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
.290/.403/.516 – That would be the triple-slash for Daniel Nava through his first 19 games.
We’ve written a ton about Nava here already – and with good reason – so I won’t expand any more on it here. I just enjoy looking at that line. Can you blame me?
.097 – The batting average of Jackie Bradley Jr during his brief 12 game stint in the majors.
Apart from a 15.8% walk rate, Bradley was pretty much a disaster at the plate and finished with a remarkably bad -0.3 fWAR. He just looked overmatched, and now he’s returned to the minors to work out the kinks. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him in the majors this season, but for the time being, playing in the minors will be what’s best for him.
.057 – Dustin Pedroia’s ISO so far this season.
Don’t get me wrong, Pedroia has been excellent so far this year, particularly in getting on base for Ortiz and Napoli. However, he’s done almost all of his damage through singles, as he hasn’t homered and has a slugging percentage of .375. I expect his power will return to normal rates before long, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
He’s probably not batting .500/.520/.875 all season long, but still. That’s ridiculous.
And last but not least, let’s not forget the most important stat of them all…