Okay, maybe the word "doldrums" isn't fair, because this team isn't boring. They tend to win in spectacular fashion (hitting big, late-inning game-opening hits, or utterly steamrollering the other team from early on), or lose equally spectacularly (massive pitching collapses, or the complete inability to hit). So it's more of a rollercoaster -- one day they seem unstoppable, the next day truly pathetic. Problem is, it's equal parts of both: they're five games above .500...same as they were on May 6th. Playing .500 ball for over a month now. Pretty annoying, and worrisome.
Okay, now this is where everyone (including myself, when I'm feeling optimistic) says, "Well, the Sox were a .500 team May through July of last year, and that turned out well, right?" It's a very comforting thought...but the more I think about it, the more I think the analogy's a bad one...
- last year, after 57 games, we were 11 games above .500, thanks to a 15-6 April. This last April, Sox went only 11-10.
- Home-away splits can't account for the difference -- sure, we've played 31 games on the road this year. But last year by this point we'd played 30.
- BA and and OBP are similar to where they were last year, but SLG is 30 points lower.
- Pitching is markedly worse than it was a year ago, with team ERA almost a full point higher (bullpen ERA being a significantly worse change than that), BAA almost 30 points higher, and pretty much every other category (K's, BB's, WHIP, etc) worse as well.
Maybe much of these differences can be traced to vastly improved Baltimore and Toronto teams. But that shouldn't make anyone feel any better...all it means is that it's now tougher to make the playoffs -- so playing exactly the same as last year isn't good enough.
Another big difference is injuries/underperformance by key players. Particularly Manny, Schilling, and Foulke. Manny will act like Manny eventually. But Schilling and Foulke seem to me to be bigger question marks. In addition, it's worth mentioning that last year's team didn't just miraculously start playing better in August...the huge late-season surge was at least in part due to a fairly massive trade, which worked out exactly as planned. Can it happen again?
None of this is to say that this year's Sox are in a huge amount of trouble -- my point is just that anyone trying to feel better about this season by pointing to the team's performance from this time last year is badly mistaken.