By Bill Chuck
This is the time of the year when we watch the game, the scoreboard, and the box scores. As we play out the final month of the season, we move beyond team results and we get involved with the accomplishments of individual players, checking on how close they might be to reaching individual goals and milestones.
There are innumerable numbers that can be crunched in this fun process; here are just nine:
1. We all had high expectations for Adrian Gonzalez when he was acquired last December, and he has exceeded so many of them. Gonzo is on the verge of having 200 hits in a season for the first time in his career. He leads the majors with a career-high 189 hits, already exceeding his 2007 previous high of 182. With 11 more hits, Gonzo will become the twelfth different Sox player to have over 200 hits in a season, a feat that has been accomplished 23 times in Sox history. Wade Boggs did it seven times while he was with the Sox and, much to my surprise, Ted Williams never reached that level in a season.
I want to add another A-Gon watch: Only two Red Sox have ever had at least 20 homers, 100 RBI and 200 hits. Jim Rice did it four times, and Mo Vaughn did it twice. Adrian Gonzalez is trying join them this season. He has 23 homers and 103 RBI, so all he needs are the 200 hits. And only Rice and Vaugh have ever had at least 20 homers, 100 RBI, 200 hits and 100 runs scored for the Sox. Gonzalez has 95 runs scored.
But here is one even better. Gonzo has 41 doubles. No Red Sox player has ever has had at least 20 homers, 100 RBI, 200 hits and 40 doubles.
2. From Larry Lucchino on down, Red Sox Nation entered the season with serious concerns about Bostons catching. The Jarrod Saltalamacchia-Jason Varitek combo has proven to be effective behind, and at, the plate. They lead all AL teams catchers in homers and they trail Atlanta by just four (28 to 24) as Brian McCann has 23 by himself. In addition, this is only the second time in Sox history that they have had two catchers who have hit at least 10 homers in a season: Saltalamacchia has 14 and Varitek has 10. The only other time this happened in Boston history was in 1962 when Jim Pagliaroni hit 11 homers, and Bob Tillman hit 14. Interestingly, the last time this was done in AL was by the 2009 Cleveland Indians who had double figure homers from Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach, two former Sox backstops.
3. With all the good vibes in the column, I must spoil the mood by pointing out that John Lackey is trying to avoid having the worst single season ERA in team history for any Sox pitcher who had at least 20 starts. This ignominious record is currently held by Pedros brother, Ramon Martinez, who had a 6.13 ERA in 27 starts in 2000. Lackeys ERA is now an ugly 6.11.
In addition, Lackey leads the league having hit 18 batters, the Red Sox team record is 20, jointly held by Bronson Arroyo (2004) and Howard Ehmke (1923).
4. Back to positive business. We are going to be hearing a lot about Jonathan Papelbon from here on through what will be a very busy off-season for the Sox. This 2012 free-agent-to-be in 2007 struck out a career-high 84 batters. So far this season, he has struck out 72. He is also seeking a milestone in whiffs. He has 494 strikeouts in his career hoping to reach the 500 mark in a Sox uniform.
5. Jon Lester finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting last year and he wont reach that level this year, but it does not mean he has had a bad season. In fact, with 14 wins he still has a chance to tie his career high in wins that he set last season with 19. In addition, he hopes to have his first sub-3.00 ERA. Its currently 3.05, the lowest of his career. He wants to reach the 200 innings pitched mark for the fourth straight year (he has 165). He also wants to keep his winning percentage over .700. His .708 is the best among all active pitchers with at least 100 decisions. All good, from Jon Lester.
6. Things had been even better from Josh Beckett who has resumed the position as ace of this staff. But as Sean McAdams reports, the Beckett situation could prove very ugly. One of the things that a top pitcher does is go deep into games. In 2009, Beckett had 26 games in which he threw at least six innings. Beckett was on his way to number 23 yesterday before his ankle derailed him. He was also hoping to pitch 200 innings for only the fourth time in his career, hes at 173.2 innings now and I think we all will be relieved when he gets past 174.
Heres a neat one: Beckett has a chance to cut his ERA from last season by more than half. He ended last season with a 5.78 ERA and his ERA now is a career low 2.49. His WHIP is also at a career low 0.985.
7. There were bad vibes all around regarding Jacoby Ellsbury and his sore ribs last year at this time. This year, life for Ellsbury is different as he plays just about every game and is hitting .312. He has also joined an elite club: only 16 times has a Sox centerfielder hit at least 20 homers. While Jacoby Ellsbury has 24, he wont be able to catch Tony Armas 43 of 1984. However, Jacoby still can do something that no member of the Red Sox has ever done. He already has 36 steals and he is trying to become Bostons first-ever 30 homer30 steal player.
8. Dustin Pedroia does it all and I love to watch him play. He already has a career high 18 homers and is on the verge of surpassing his 2008 career high 83 RBI, he has 77. Two more homers this season would make him just the second second baseman in Sox history with at least 20 homers. Bobby Doerr did it three times with a high of 27, which he achieved in 1948 and 1950. Pedey is trying to tie Doerr in another category as well. Doerr, Pete Runnels, and Billy Goodman are the only Sox second basemen who hit over .300 three times each. If the Muddy Chicken maintains his .304 average, it will be his third time as well.
9. David Ortiz is having a stellar season in his contract year and he is trying to win the designated hitter triple crown (lead all DHs in home runs, RBI and batting average). Amongst players who qualify for the batting title and have played at least 50 percent of their games as a DH, Big Papi leads with 28 homers (KCs Billy Butler is second with 18), 89 RBI (Butler is second with 83), and trails only the Tigers Victor Martinez in batting average, .324 to .313.
So those are just nine for you to follow. No, Im not forgetting the most obvious; we all wish and hope that before this season ends that we can join in the celebration as Tim Wakefield wins the 200th game of his career.