Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz and Nine Reasons They Will Win the 2011 World Series
In the finale of their three-game series at Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox beat up on the Milwaukee Brewers, winning 12-3. The victory gave them a 43-28 record, the best in the American League and a far cry from that dismal 2-10 start.
They are 13-3 in the month of June and have the Major Leagues' most potent offense. Were it not for their embarrassing start their lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East would be much greater than the 1.5 games it is presently.
They have fought their way back into playoff and title contention with a combination of great hitting and great pitching. Boston has scored six or more runs 10 times in its last 15 games. The starting pitcher in each of their last three games has gone at least three innings–the first time the team has managed that in 15 years.
Finally, the Red Sox are living up to their preseason billing as favorites to win the American League Pennant. Here are nine reasons they will not only do that, but go one step further and win their third title in eight years.
Josh Beckett is Back
Josh Beckett has a 1.86 earned run average. He has a 218 ERA+. He is allowing just 5.4 hits per nine innings. In all three categories, he leads the Major Leagues.
It has been a phenomenal season for the Red Sox hurler, who has not only rediscovered his previous form, he has surpassed it. If the season ended today, he would have career-bests in ERA, WHIP (0.924), ERA+, H/9, HR/9 (0.4) and winning percentage (.750; he is 6-2).
The 31-year-old is in the first year of a four-year, $68 million extension he signed in April 2010 and he is proving to be worth every penny the Sox are paying him.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is Playing Better
After batting .216 in April and .220 in May, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has really stepped it up at the plate and is hitting at a .333 clip in June. He has also already hit more doubles and triples than in either of the first two months of the season and is grounding into 75 percent fewer double plays.
He is still sporting a just-below-average 99 wRC+ but for a catcher, his production is great and the Red Sox will take any offense they can get from behind the dish.
Jacoby Ellsbury had a horrific 2010 season which saw him play just 18 games (down from 153 the season before) and steal only seven bases (down from a franchise-record 70).
Healthy again, Ellsbury has emerged as an early forerunner for Comeback Player of the Year.
He is hitting .312, which is good for third on the team and has slugged eight home runs, which ranks fourth. Ellsbury has also quelled any fears his injured ribs would hold him back from stealing bases; he is first in the American League and third in all of baseball with 24 steals.
The Red Sox gave up quite a lot to land Adrian Gonzalez in the offseason, sending three highly-touted prospects to the San Diego Padres. He has most definitely been worth it.
After collecting another two hits in last night's 12-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers (his seventh multi-hit game in his last 10), Gonzalez is now batting .348–best in the Major Leagues. He is hitting a sick .419 in the month of June.
He also leads the Majors with 64 runs batted in and is 13th in home runs, with 15.
Kevin Youkilis is Not Hitting
Kevin Youkilis missed a sizable chunk of 2010 with a thumb injury that required surgery towards the end of the year. It might be recovered enough to play again but it certainly looks like it is bothering him.
He has 11 home runs but is batting just .261. When he starts swinging the bat like he can, this offense is only going to get better.
Dustin Pedroia, JD Drew, Carl Crawford
Dustin Pedroia, JD Drew and offseason acquisition Carl Crawford are in similar situations: none of them is playing like we expect.
Pedroia is batting just .269 but even that is better than Drew, who is hitting .230, and Crawford, who was at .243 when he went on the disabled list.
Crawford has been a disappointment despite his three walk-off hits earlier in the season. He has a wOBA of only .291 and has stolen just eight bases, a third of the number fellow speedster Jacoby Ellsbury has managed.
Just like with Kevin Youkilis, when these guys turn it on, this lineup will be even better.
David Ortiz is not playing like people thought he would, either. He is playing better.
After achingly slow starts in 2009 and 2010–which called people to say Big Papi was done–Ortiz has rebounded spectacularly in 2011. He leads the team and is seventh in all of baseball with 17 home runs. He has 46 RBI and the second-best average of his career, with a .320 mark.
The only season in which he managed a better BA was in 2007, when he hit .332, and we all know what happened that year.
One of the Red Sox's biggest offseason question marks, Jonathan Papelbon has been closer to being the shutdown ninth inning guy they need him to be if they are to make a run deep into the playoffs.
His ERA is sky-high at a career-worst 4.18 but his FIP is just 1.84. He has also given up just two home runs and is striking out 12.54 batters per nine innings–the second-best mark of his career.
General Manager Theo Epstein tried to instill a defensive mindset prior to the 2010 season with the acquisitions of Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre. It did not quite work out the way he had planned, with Cameron missing most of the season with an abdominal injury and Scutaro struggling with a variety of minor niggles.
This season, it has worked out much better. Adrian Gonzalez might be the best defensive first baseman in the American League and Kevin Youkilis is more than capable in his new home at third. Scutaro is healthy again, as is Dustin Pedroia, and left fielder Carl Crawford is phenomenal with the glove.
"Defense wins championships" is a mantra usually associated with football, but it does hold some truth in baseball. It will not be the biggest reason the Sox win the World Series but it will be an important factor.