On June 2, 2013, the Red Sox were 35-23 and led the Orioles by 2 1/2 games in the American League East standings.
On June 2 2014, the Red Sox are 27-29 and trail the Blue Jays by six games, with the Yankees and Orioles also ahead of them in the standings.
A seven-game win streak has gone a long way in erasing the memory of a 10-game losing streak in May, and contributions from players like Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts have instilled fresh hope. But as summer approaches, there’s no denying the Red Sox have their work cut out.
Here’s a then-and-now comparison of some key areas after the first two full months of baseball.
Although his record is only .500, Lester has been dominant in 2014, much like he was in 2013. Looking beyond the W-L figures, his first two months in each of the last two seasons are remarkably similar in categories such as WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings, strikeouts-to-walks ratio, and earned runs allowed.
2013: 6-2, 3.92 – Lester got off to a 4-0 start in April and had his ERA below 2.00 for a stretch. He pitched a complete-game one-hitter vs. Toronto, and went at least five innings in each of his starts. In his six wins, the Red Sox averaged six runs a game.
2014: 6-6, 3.15 – Lester got off to a 2-3 start, but had his ERA down to 2.17 at one point, and he also one-hit the White Sox. In his six wins, the Red Sox averaged 4.8 runs, but in his six losses, the Red Sox were shut out twice and scored only one run twice.
The Red Sox are far behind their 2013 run production with only 231 at this point compared with 286 through June 1 in 2013. The Red Sox are 14th in the majors in scoring in 2014 – a year after leading or remaining close to the top throughout the season.
2013: 7-0, 1.73 – Buchholz won all five of his April starts and lasted a minimum of six innings in each of his 10 starts in April and May.
2014: 2-4, 7.02 – Buchholz has been far from the dominant form he showed a year ago, and he begins June on the disabled list with a hyperextended knee. In the first two months of 2014 he allowed 75 hits. After the same stretch last season, he’d only allowed 49.
Team batting average
The Red Sox stand at .246, which puts them 17th in team average in MLB. A hot start in April of 2013, followed by a solid May, put them at .263 through the first two months last season.
Center field production
This has been one of the biggest individual drop-off areas for the Red Sox. The departure of Jacoby Ellsbury as a free agent to the Yankees was addressed by inserting rising star Jackie Bradley Jr., but he hasn’t come close to Ellsbury’s production. Ellsbury was hitting .268 with a .337 OBP and 21 stolen bases through April and May of 2013. Bradley is batting .204 with a .287 OBP and 4 stolen bases.
Primary catcher production
A.J. Pierzynski has been an offensive upgrade over Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Pierzynski is hitting .288 with 27 RBIs, while Saltalamacchia was only at .253 with 18 RBIs at this point last season. Pierzynski has also been behind the plate for all 11 of John Lackey’s starts, helping the righthander to a 6-3 record.
Opponent batting average
In April of 2013, the Red Sox’ pitching staff led the majors in opponent batting average at .224. By the end of May, it was still only .240. This year, however, opponents are hitting .261 against the Red Sox (.272 vs. Red Sox starters, .239 vs. relievers).
Overall pitching has been constant the past two seasons. The Red Sox, who are at 3.73 and 12th in the league in 2014, had a team ERA of 3.76 on June 2 of 2013.
By June of 2013, there was a feeling something special was brewing on Yawkey Way, even as the city was distracted from baseball by an extended Stanley Cup playoffs run by the Bruins. There were comebacks, walk-offs, a clear idea that GM Ben Cherington’s offseason moves were better than may have first appeared, and beards were becoming vogue.
Flash forward to this year, and it seemed like the luck ran out. The injury bug hit early and often, and it seemed like the other team was the one walking off more frequently. Nothing epitomized the Red Sox’ tough times more than Andrew Miller allowing a pair of walk-offs on May 13 and 15, then costing his team another game when his throwing error gave the Rays a victory in the 15th inning May 24.
But, help has arrived. Stephen Drew, signed in May, is expected to return to take over at shortstop, the position he played throughout the Red Sox’ championship season a year ago. Several prospects have shown positive signs, from Brock Holt playing his way into the utility player job to Garin Cecchini and Alex Hassan making impressive major league debuts.
And, there’s 106 games to play.