Nation Station: April can be a cruel month

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Nation Station: April can be a cruel month

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

The poet T. S. Eliot, despite dying in 1965, still aptly described the Sox first series of the season when he wrote, April is the cruelest month. Yes, the Sox were swept in the first series of their season, and we will see as the season progresses that series wins are a bigger goal than individual games, BUT really the only series loss that matters begins with the word postseason.

While there really was very little positive to speak about in this first series, lets remember that three games lost just means that the Sox have 159 games to recover. So, for those of you planning to jump off the bandwagon, lets remember there are 24 games left in April alone and by this time next week we might be saying, Texas who?

If we consider Daniel Bards Opening Day meltdown an anomaly, from my perspective, the most distressing performance thus far has been John Lackeys Saturday start because history is not as kind to him.

Here are the seven career starts in which Lackey has given up at least eight earned runs.

DateTeam
Opp.
Result

IP
H
R
ER
BB
SOHR
Pit
9.26.08LAATexL 1-12

2.212
10
10
2
1
2
73
4.2.11
Bos
Tex
L 5-12

3.2
10
9
9
2
3
2
86
8.5.03
LAA
Bos
L 9-10

4.0
9
9
9
2
1
2
86
4.19.10
Bos
TB
L 2-8

3.1
9
8
8
1
3
1
79
6.10.09
LAA
TB
L 5-9

5.0
11
9
8
2
2
2
98
6.10.06
LAA
Sea
L 6-12

4.2
9
8
8
3
1
1
93
5.30.04
LAA
Chi
L 2-11

3.0
9
8
8
2
1
1
81

You can see that two have been for Boston, two have been against Texas, and two have been in April.

How the Red Sox have fared in recent Aprils:

Year April Final record 2010 11-12 .478 89-73 .549 2009 14-8 .636 95-67 .586 2008 17-12 .586 95-67 .586 2007 16-8 .667 96-66 .593 2006 14-11 .560 86-76 .531 2005 12-11 .522 95-67 .586 2004 15-6 .714 98-64 .605 2003 18-9 .667 95-67 .586 2002 16-7 .696 93-69 .574 2001 16-9 .640 82-79 .509 Total 149-93 .616 924-695 .571

Unlike Lackey, some Sox players have no trouble with April. Take Kevin Youkilis, who does really well in April (lifetime hitting .313) and especially in May (lifetime hitting .335 with 29 homers). It could be that by the end of the summer, he gets tired from wiping too much sweat from his brow. Last April, Youk hit .270 but had an .831 OPS which is down from his lifetime .931 OPS. He had a monster 2009 April with a 1.203 OPS (OPS is On-base Slugging percentage Ted Williams holds the all-time single season record with a 1.287 OPS in 1941).

Or take the case of Adrian Gonzalez, who is a lifetime .290 April hitter, which is slightly better than his .285 lifetime average. In Gonzalezs first four Aprils, starting in 2004, he hit 11 homers (seven in 2007), but over the last three he slammed 20 homers and drove home 55 Padres while hitting .300. While A-Gon is hitting .385 he only has one double in the extra-base hit category. Then again he does have his second career stolen base.

Carl Crawford had gotten off to such a rocky start that Terry Francona dropped him to the seventh slot in the lineup. He went 2-for-4 Sunday but that simply brought his average up to .182 without a stolen base. Over the first five Aprils of Crawfords career, he only had one season over .270, but the last three Aprils have been better for him. Hes been 90-for-300 for an even .300 with 37 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

If we werent paying so much attention to the new guys, we would admit that our eyes are on David Ortiz this April. We have repeatedly heard about Big Papis poor starts but those are a relatively recent occurrence. In 248 April career games, Ortiz has hit .254 with 49 homers and 171 RBI. The problem is that he had 48 April homers through 2008. His average over the last three Aprils (March games included) is .191 (47-for-246). Then, when you add the six total homers (one over the last two years) and 37 RBI (16 over the last two years), his numbers are just ugly.

However, perhaps not having all the pressure on Ortiz has helped to get him off to one of his best starts in years. The Cookie Monster has a pair of homers (and would have had three had it not been caught in the upper level gusts of the ill-winds over the Rangers Ballpark). Ortiz is hitting a healthy .333.

I would be remiss to not mention Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Lester has been the pitching equivalent of Ortiz in April and in his first start, despite not getting a decision, the lefty did nothing to allay our fears. Lifetime, Lester in April is 3-6, with a 4.95 ERA and a WHIP of 1.495.

Clay Buchholz allowed nine homers all last season and he allowed four on Sunday. In nine prior April starts he allowed four homers and he allowed four on Sunday. In three prior starts against the Rangers he had allowed one homer and he allowed well, you get my point.

April is a long month and the long season consists of six months. T.S. Eliot be damned, lets take a deep breath and head to Cleveland.

Twice weekly during the baseball season, Bill Chuck of billy-ball.com will provide Nation Station, a statistically-based look at the Red Sox. Look for Nation Station each Monday and Thursday at noon.

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."