It’s been a curious season…to say the least. While I know I remain in the minority in claiming that thus far this season, Coco has been the team’s MVP — and as far as I’m concerned, it’s really not even that close — there are likely a much higher number of folks who share my sentiment that Hideki “Darkman” Okajima and Mike “Don’t Call it a Comeback” Lowell are the next two most valuable members of the Crimson Hose. (Why Okie and not Paps? Well, Papelbon was expected to dominate; Okie has saved the bullpen time and time again, and more than a few times has enabled JP to be in a position to get that save in the ninth. As for Lowell, well, he’s picked up an oddly anemic offense.)
But the fact that I consider a center fielder who was almost booed out of Boston a linchpin of the team doesn’t begin to describe the oddities we’re witnessing.To show you just how weird, here’s a quick pop quiz:
Who’s been he worst offensive player on the Sox since the All-Star break?
Nope, you guessed wrong.
And wrong again.
And wrong again.
The correct answer? Kevin Youkilis, who’s put up a .210 BA and a .653 OPS. The only other regular player that comes close to this level of ineptitude has been V-Tek, weighing in at .229 and .669. Here’s the rest of the starting nine (post AS-break only):
So what does this mean? Well, for one thing, it might mean that Youk — who’s been striking out and swinging at bad pitches more than I’ve seen in the past — was talking to himself more than Dustin when he warned of the exhausting rigors of a baseball season. (Seriously, can you imagine wind-up Pedroia ever running out of gas?)
It also shows something interesting about the nature of baseball fandom. My purely unscientific poll shows that some large majority of Sox fans view Julio as the biggest drag on the offense, followed by Coco and Drew; in fact, Lugo is handily topping Tek and Drew in a lot of offensive categories — including RBIs — and is only two ribbies behind Youk (61 to 63) even though he’s hit in the 1 or 9 spots 93 percent of the time; Tek, meanwhile, has gotten 81 percent of his ABs in the 7 spot; Youk has had 85 percent of his in the 2 or 5; and Drew has somehow racked up 73 percent in the five hole.
The moral of the story? If you’re gonna suck, do it in the latter half of the season. By that time, your numbers have been seared into folks brains, and your season-long averages won’t ever look truly atrocious. Maybe next year, Julio. Maybe next year.