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.

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Another year, another injury concern for Hanley Ramirez. This time, though, it's a bit more complicated.

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell told the media Monday that Ramirez hadn't played any first base during spring training yet due to discomfort in his right throwing shoulder.

“Well, we’re working through ramping up his throwing program,” Farrell said, via WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. “That has taken a little bit more time than anticipated coming in so we’ve got to kind of take that day to day how much we can increase the intensity with the throwing. He’s just working through some soreness with the throwing.”

As Bradford points out, Ramirez and the Red Sox went through the same process last year. Where it differs this time around is Ramirez's scheduled participation in the World Baseball Classic: He's expected to report to Team Domincan Republic on Friday, which means the Red Sox won't be monitoring his every move on the field (though the two training staffs will be communicating daily, also per Bradford).

Ramirez isn't the only first baseman on the roster, with the Cleveland Indians' Carlos Santana there as well. So will Ramirez be jumping into game action anytime soon?

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. They haven’t told me anything,” Ramirez told WEEI.com “I’m just going to go there and see.”