After the disastrous 2012 season there were many holes for the Red Sox to fill on their roster as well as addressing the overall culture within the club. Although they may have overspent for a few players in the offseason, their needs and a new attitude were all addressed.
Many of those players, and a new sense of team unity within the clubhouse have played a major role in the sensational start to the 2013 season. After the first month the Red Sox sit atop the American League standings, and with a 17-7 record going into Sunday, Boston holds the best record in baseball.
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“We’ve had a very good offensive approach, even on the nights where we’ve only scored a few runs we’ve done a very good job of chasing the starting pitcher to get into the middle of the bullpen,” said manager John Farrell. “Our starting pitching has been very consistent and I think we’ve played very well defensively. There’s still room to improve in areas, but the fact is we have three areas of the game that are operating pretty well right now."
The pitching has been outstanding led by Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz (combined 9-0), but also has seen a great start from newly acquired veteran Ryan Dempster. Despite his 1-2 record, he’s pitched well, owning a 3.30 ERA in five starts. Even more surprising has been his strikeout totals. After his 10-strikeout performance Friday night he now ranks second in all of baseball with 43 on the year – pretty impressive considering his fastball barely touches 90 MPH.
“I don’t know, I think maybe fastball command,” said Dempster when asked the reason for his high strikeout total. “When you put your fastball where you want you end up by getting ahead of the count. Strikeouts are overrated; I am just trying to get ahead in the count. I’ll take them however I can get them.”
Offensively, going into Sunday, the team averages 5.08 runs per game, which is in the top three in the American league. The newly acquired players have played a significant role in the production as 42.5 percent of the RBIs (51-of-120) have been from players not on the roster last year.
Mike Napoli has led that charge, leading the majors with 27 RBIs, 18 extra-base hits and 13 doubles. The extra-base hits and doubles are all-time records for the Red Sox in the month of April. Despite being out the past few days with a lower back injury, Shane Victorino has gotten off to a fast start hitting safely in 13 of his first 19 games and hitting .292 with 8 RBIs.
Although other newcomers such as David Ross and Jonny Gomes haven’t put up numbers like Napoli and Victorino, they still play a valuable role with the new team chemistry in place.
“I think guys look forward to coming to the ballpark,” Farrell said. “Not because of what the game might have in store that night, but I think guys genuinely like being around one another here, and want to work along side one another."
There is no denying the new attitude within the clubhouse has played some role in the first month of the season, coming off a year in which they won just 11 games in April and never spent a day the entire season in first place.
Follow Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84