Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No Pitching + No Power = No Championship

Where, you might be asking, has the Red Sox offense gone?

Aside from an offensive explosion in Game 2 (resulting in nine runs), the Red Sox scored an anemic total of three combined runs in Games 1 & 3 of the ALCS. It's not an isolated circumstance.

In four games against the Angels in the ALDS, the Red Sox batted a mere .250 and hit just three home runs.

There is no oomph, no punch, and no power in the Sox lineup. When a 5'5", 150-pound second baseman is your deep-ball threat, you have issues.

But, you ask, this is the super-slugging Boston Red Sox, isn't it? No, this isn't the same team we've become used to for so many years.

Jason Varitek has looked old and washed up at the plate all season. When he steps into the batter's box, he now amounts to an almost certain out. The Captain my call a good game and be a master of preparation, but he is a disaster offensively. This year, Varitek couldn't even bat his weight (.220) and only drove in a meager 43 runs -- both career lows with a minimum of 250 at-bats.

David Ortiz, adoringly known as "Big Papi" for his big blasts and clutch hits, just looks plain big these days. However, his bat has looked small for the better part of two years. Ortiz has been hobbled by injuries, and probably excess weight. In seven post-season games this fall, Ortiz has come up short, hitting no home runs and just one RBI. At this point, he doesn't appear to be a hitter that opposing pitchers fear or respect.

And there is no Mike Lowell to spike the offense. So where will the runs come from? Sean Casey (0 HR, 17 RBI), Coco Crisp (7, 41) , Mark Kotsay (6, 49), Jed Lowrie (2, 46), and Jacoby Ellsbury (9, 47) are not exactly offensive juggernauts. The five players combined for a grand total of 24 homers and 200 RBI this season. That's one more homer than Ortiz had in an off year, and fewer RBI than the combination of Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis.

The Sox had exactly one player with at least 100 RBI this year -- Youkilis (115). They did not have a single player who hit 30 homers, though Youkilis hit 29. Manny Ramirez, who didn't even play for the Sox over the season's final two months, finished third with 20 homers. JD Drew was injured at season's end and fell into offensive oblivion.

The point is, this team lacks power and punch, and it should be no surprise that they've struggled to find offense in the post-season.

And if a team can't score runs, it has to rely on dominant pitching. But in Games 2 & 3 of this series, the Sox starting pitching has been anything but dominant.

Josh Beckett's regular season struggles have continued, and he is winless in two starts this post-season. The big Texan has a mind-boggling 11.57 ERA, surrendering 18 hits and 12 runs in just 9.1 innings. And Jon Lester, after looking un-hittable in the ALDS (two starts, 14 innings, no earned runs), suddenly looked quite mortal, getting touched for five runs (2 HR) on eight hits in 5.2 innings of Game 3.

The Sox averaged 4.5 runs per game in the ALDS, and if they could get that sort of output in the ALCS, they could win the series with excellent pitching performances. As the old axiom goes, pitching and defense win championships.

But Beckett looks like a number four starter (at best) and is probably still affected by the injuries that plagued him all year. He certainly is not the same pitcher that built a reputation as one of the best big-game pitchers in recent history (6-2, 2.85).

In the absence of that greatness, Lester needs to be perfect; there is no room for error. Yet that obviously wasn't the case on Monday.

So now the Sox put their hopes in Tim Wakefield for Game 4. How does that make you feel? Are you any more confident now?

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.

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