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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Red Sox doubling their pleasure at a record pace


Another double for Gonzo?

Ever since Fenway Park was constructed with its quirky configurations, a big part of the Red Sox offense has consisted of two-base hits that slam off the 37-foot Green Monster in left field or bounce around in the assorted nooks and crannies of the center-field triangle and right- and left-field corners.

From Earl Webb's mind-boggling 67 doubles in 1931 -- still a MLB record -- to the AL-best 54 turned in by MVP Dustin Pedroia in 2008, Sox hitters have often led all American League batters in the category. They routinely place among the best; last year Jacoby Ellsbury (46) and Adrian Gonzalez (45) were right behind top man Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers.

This season, however, is unlike anything even the Red Sox have done before.

Through the first 42 games of the season, the Sox have hit 116 doubles -- an average of nearly three per game. The next-closest team in the American League, the Royals, has 90, and the AL leader-board looks like a Boston lineup card once you get past the leadoff man:


Cano, New York, 16; 
Gonzalez, Boston, 15;
Ortiz, Boston, 15;
Pedroia, Boston, 14; 
Sweeney, Boston, 14;
Aviles, Boston, 13;

 ...and, just a little further down the charts...


Saltalamacchia, Boston, 10;
Ross, Boston, 9

Pedroia follows through on a two-base hit.

To put this into historic perspective, the most doubles the Red Sox have ever hit as a team in one year was a MLB-record-tying 373, accomplished in both the magical 2004 season and the largely-forgettable 1997 campaign. The 2003 near-miss club had 371, the only other Boston team to top 360. (The 1930 St. Louis Cardinals are the other club to hit 373.)

Do some quick math, and you see just how amazing a two-bag pace the current Sox are on. They've played roughly a quarter of the season; were they to keep hitting doubles at their current rate, they would finish with well over 450 and shatter the old team and MLB record.

This blistering early clip has helped the Red Sox recover from a terrible start to reach .500 at 21-21. Imagine where they would be without all the doubles?

Boston has hit 54 home runs and four triples as a team, numbers that put the Sox well behind the American League team leaders in each category. Clearly, the double has been the club's more important offensive weapon. Even with vastly improved starting pitching the past few weeks, the Red Sox team ERA is still a woeful 4.63. 28th out of 30 teams. Boston often needs all the runs it can get. 

Could Earl Webb's record ever be eclipsed?

Will six Red Sox batters wind up with 50+ doubles, as the current leaderboard suggests? It's doubtful, but it will certainly be fun to see if Boston keeps doubling its pleasure as the temperatures heat up and big boppers Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis return to the lineup. 


Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at amazon.com and his Red Sox reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com/. You can reach him at saulwizz@gmail.com or @saulwizz.

2 comments:

  1. I'm the grandson of Earl Webb..enjoyed your story.
    Mike Ford

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Mike. I think your granddad's record is going to safe for a while longer.

      Best,
      Saul

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