ST PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 15: Infielder Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated by Adrian Gonzalez #28, David Ortiz #34 and Dustin Pedroia #15 after his three run home run in the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on June 15, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
This probably isn't the first time that you've read about the ease with which the Boston Red Sox have scored runs this season. They currently top the majors in on-base percentage, slugging, wOBA and wRAA; from reading that, you'd assume that LeBron James has a harder time scoring gear from Nike than these guys have scoring runs in any given game.
And yet, their margins in each of those stats is tiny; just one point apiece in OBP and wOBA, less than ten points in slugging and less than 15 runs in wRAA. That's why people have acknowledged this as a great offense, but one that likely won't go down in history as a marker of unique offensive excellence.
That's the funny thing, though; those people who don't think that this Red Sox offense is doing something unique would be, quite frankly, pretty wrong. Sure, the Red Sox aren't blowing other offenses out of the water historically; they're not even blowing other 2011 teams out of the water this season. But they likely wouldn't be anywhere near first in any of those categories (let alone the standings) if it weren't for Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz.
Boston may not be boasted a historically great offensive this season, but it does appear that they're boasting a historically great quintet of hitters. At the moment, the Red Sox are on pace to do something that only the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Whales have accomplished. If you can't tell from those team names, it's been a while.
The Red Sox are thriving on offense this season, no doubt. They're doing so well that you'd almost forget the cast of characters that we've seen struggle for Boston this season: Mike Cameron, Darnell McDonald, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford have all had 100-plus plate appearances with the Red Sox this season while posting numbers that range from positive horrible (Cameron) to merely slightly below-average (Varitek).
But when you see how many sub-par players the Red Sox have been trotting out there on their way to having the best offense in the game, it really does make you realize just how good Boston's upper crust is. Back in early July, Dan Szymborski wrote a piece for ESPN.com about Detroit's remarkably top-heavy lineup, noting that it could be one of the most top-heavy ever. But even the Tigers don't boast five hitters as good as Boston's top-five.
Detroit's five best hitters, Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez, Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila, have combined to be 104.6 runs above average offensively this season. That's an incredible figure on its own, for sure; last season, only two TEAMS combined to post more than 104.6 runs above average just on offense. Then again, look at what Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz and Ellsbury are doing: this season, they're a combined 156.6 runs above average just on offense.
And even from a historical perspective, that quintet of Boston hitters is doing something that we've never really seen before. Right now, all five of those guys are posting OPS+ marks of 130 or better, with Gonzalez and Ortiz above even 150. In history, only TWO teams ever have had five hitters to post OPS+ marks at 130 or higher. Back in 1953, the Brooklyn Dodgers saw Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo all go off for big seasons, and before that you have to go back to the 1915 Chicago Whales to see another instance of five full-time players on one team hitting this well.
So there you have it. The Red Sox are on pace to do something that only two teams have ever accomplished, and one of those instances is by a team whose existence probably isn't known to most fans. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a "Whale" of an accomplishment to me.