Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Red Sox bats got hot in August

When you look at the way the Red Sox played in July and the way they played in August, it's easy to start by muttering something about Brad Penny. The Red Sox starting rotation did, after all, post a 5.01 ERA in August -- even worse than its mark of 4.54 in July.

But the Red Sox always have been a team equipped to win games 10-9 as easily as 2-1, and that's why they've created some separation in the wild-card race even though their ace has pitched like a jack. (Does that work? No? Never mind.)

Pitching isn't everything. Some of the key hitters in the Red Sox lineup have come alive at exactly the right time:

The Red Sox in July
Mike Lowell, 1.012 OPS (in 36 at-bats)
Dustin Pedroia, .902
David Ortiz, .845
Kevin Youkilis, .822
Jacoby Ellsbury, .810
Jason Varitek, .736
Jason Bay, .689
J.D. Drew, .677
Nick Green, .472
Victor Martinez, N/A (.530 with Cleveland)
Alex Gonzalez, N/A (.173 in 21 at-bats with Cincinnati)

As a point of reference because OPS is still a stat we're all getting used to: The average American League hitter has an OPS of .761. That means two of the key hitters in the Red Sox lineup were well below average in July, and only one everyday player had an OPS over .850

The Red Sox in August
Jason Bay, 1.097
J.D. Drew, 1.093
Kevin Youkilis, .982
Mike Lowell, .963
Dustin Pedroia, .926
Victor Martinez, .877
David Ortiz, .825
Alez Gonzalez, .815
Jacoby Ellsbury, .748
Nick Green, .576
Jason Varitek, .483

It's not your imagination: Bay and Drew are turning it on at exactly the right time. Bay has hit nine home runs this month and slugged .552 during the team's 10-game homestand, and Drew has slugged exactly 1.000 since Terry Francona dropped him into the eighth spot in the batting order for the first time back on Aug. 20.

As a team, the Red Sox's OPS has jumped from .747 in July to .851 in August -- the team's highest in any month this season. Josh Beckett has a 9,82 ERA in his last three starts, but the Red Sox have won three of those starts.

The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, haven't OPS'ed higher than .800 as a team since May. Imagine that: The Red Sox are fending off the Rangers by outhitting them.

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