At first glance, the Boston Red Sox lineup appears just above average. The MVP won’t come from this team unless Papi somehow continues his Barry Bonds-like start to the season. The team’s RBI leader, Mike Napoli, signed a one-year deal in the offseason because nobody wanted to risk signing him for more than that. Dustin Pedroia has yet to hit a homer. It’s May 5th. And of the regular starters since this season’s beginning, Daniel Nava has the highest OPS at .891, a guy thought to be a utility outfielder.
Yet the Red Sox lead the majors in extra-base-hits with 106. They are third in the MLB in steals with 23, third in the majors with 114 walks, and are fifth in total runs with 149. They rank third in the league in OBP with .347, slugging percentage at .443, and OPS at .790. The sox created the bulk of these numbers without their best hitter David Ortiz, perhaps the best hitter in the majors (Big Papi’s ridiculous numbers through 13 games: .440 batting average, .473 OBP, 1.313 OPS, 8 2B, 4 HR, 17 RBI).
Boston also leads the majors in team batting average on balls put into play at a .329 clip. Some might say that number will come down, as it could be an indication of a good luck trend to begin the season and is not sustainable. Don’t be so quick to judge, though.
Aside from Ortiz’s scorching .440 start at the plate, no every day starter is over .300 on the season for the Red Sox; Dustin Pedroia comes closest at .294, followed by Nava and Ellsbury at .286 and .279. Mike Carp is 13 for his first 32 at the plate this season, a rate bound to come down at some point, but for now his swing looks smooth and confident, and John Farrell seems to have a knack for putting guys in the right situations at the plate depending on the opposing pitcher.
Furthermore, both Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks have gotten off to horrid starts. Drew has a .182 average, and Middlebrooks is not much better with his .195 clip. Given the Red Sox patented patient approach in the batter’s box, their average on balls in play should remain at the top of the league, for as a team they tend to swing at the good pitches and let the bad ones go. In a season the Red Sox were thought to be built around defense and (finger’s crossed) pitching, their lineup, yet again, will be one of the three best in the majors.