Nation Station: April can be a cruel month

Nation Station: April can be a cruel month
April 4, 2011, 3:33 pm
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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.