Some Surprising Starts for the Boston Red Sox
Although the 2008 baseball season is only 17 games old, there has been a surprising start for Coco Crisp, while others such as J.D. Drew, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis have simply picked up from where they left off at the end of 2007.
The question is, however, will these fast starts continue, or will these players come back to earth?
Red Sox fans begged and pleaded for the team to trade Crisp after a season where he batted .268 and slumped in the post-season, where he bat .182 with no home runs and two RBI.
All of this went on as Jacoby Ellsbury performed very well in place of Crisp and for much less money. However, the Red Sox cannot seem to find a taker for Crisp and continue to platoon him with Ellsbury in center field in an attempt to increase his trade value.
Thus far, Crisp has not disappointed as he has batted .325 while playing his typical stellar defense.
The only question is, will it continue? If the past two years are any indication, then the answer is no.
Expect Crisp's average to fall back to .265 or so as he batted .264 in 2006 and .268 in 2007.
The pressure to perform after signing a five-year contract totaling $70 million can be intense, especially in a city like Boston. When you don't perform, the fans will let you know.
This is how last year began for J.D. Drew. Struggling in a new league and with some medical issues involving his son, Drew was not the player baseball fans had come to know.
All this began to change in the second half of last year.
After hitting .258 in the first half of last year, Drew batted .286 in the second half, which is close to his career batting average of .285.
However, Drew picked up the pace when it mattered most. During the Red Sox push to win the World Series, Drew batted .314 with 11 RBI and one huge Game 6 grand slam in the ALCS.
With Drew batting .362 with three home runs and 12 RBI this year, Red Sox fans have had little to complain about.
However, expect Drew to cool off a little bit as the season goes on. A batting average of .310 with 15-20 home runs and 80-95 RBI sounds about right for him.
It's April. That must mean Kevin Youkilis is batting .350.
This has pretty much been the way it goes for Youkilis. In the two seasons he has been a regular in the Red Sox lineup, he starts off hot and cools off considerably in the second half.
In 2006, he batted .297 in the first half, but only .258 in the second half. 2007 was more of the same. After batting .328 in the first half, among the league leaders, Youkilis only managed to bat .238 in the second half.
Like Drew, however, Youkilis was also a big catalyst in the playoffs as he batted .388 with four homeruns and 10 RBI. This provided Red Sox fans with the belief that 2008 may be the year that Youkilis finally breaks through in the second half.
As it stands right now, Youkilis is fourth in the American League batting .371, and he has added a homerun and 11 RBI. I think Youkilis will cool off as the season goes on as history is an indication, but I don't expect him to tail off as much as he has in previous years.
One other thing about Youkilis is that although his offense continues to improve, his defense remains as solid as ever.
Whether it is at first base, where he won a Gold Glove in 2007 and has not committed an error in over a year, or at third base, where he fills in for an injured Mike Lowell, he has pleased Red Sox fans as much on defense as on offense.
At this point last year, Dustin Pedroia was a rookie batting .182 with Red Sox fans calling for Alex Cora to start at second base.
If they had read Seth Mnookin's "Feeding the Monster," Red Sox fans would know that this is what would happen since Red Sox general manager warned that Pedoia will come to the big leagues and struggle.
From April on, Pedroia was tremendous as he went on to win Rookie of the Year. He failed to hit .300 in only one month after April when he hit .299 in July.
After hitting .318 in the first half, Pedroia hit .317 in the second half. Pedroia continues to prove that he can hit in the major leagues with a .329 average over the first 17 games.
Expect Pedroia to be a consistent .320 or so hitter for the rest of the year.
These fast starts have been welcome signs for Red Sox fans as they have helped the team overcome the loss of the injured Mike Lowell and the slumping David Ortiz. If they can continue these fast starts, there will be no reason the Red Sox can't win their second straight American League East division crown.
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