Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Red Sox Facing Bad Breaks, Playing Bad Baseball

Coming into this season, there were many concerns — even some predictions — that the Red Sox wouldn't have the offense to prevail in the AL East, much less win the Pennant.

So far, those concerns appear valid. In the first 17 games of this season, the Sox have scored two or fewer runs seven times, including two shut outs.

David Ortiz's struggles have continued, which hasn't come as a surprise to many. What is surprising is that the heart of the Sox order has also struggled so far. No one could have predicted that so many of the Sox premier hitters would look positively anemic in April.

Consider the following:

Victor Martinez: 262, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Kevin Youkilis: .234, 2 HR, 7 RBI
JD Drew: .158, 2 HR, 7 RBI

Diminutive second baseman Dustin Pedroia leads the club with five homers, more than twice as many as anyone else.

The 2010 Red Sox were supposedly built on a foundation of pitching and defense, but so far you'd never know it.

The Red Sox have the second hIghest starter's ERA in the AL (5.31), behind only the White Sox (5.67). The Tigers (5.30) and the Royals (4.87) trail the Red Sox. Given the Red Sox talented young staff, that was definitely not supposed to be the case.

And the Red Sox came into tonight's game with the ninth ranked defense in the AL, having made 12 errors in 17 games. Errors aside, the Red Sox defense has not looked sharp. Sox fielders have often looked tentative and awkward.

The Sox have allowed the most stolen bases in the AL – by a long shot. Boston has allowed 37 steals, more than twice as many as the next closest team, the Tigers, with 17. The Yankees and Indians (15 apiece) are tied for third. What's stunning is that Red Sox catchers have caught only two of the 39 runners attempting to steal this season.

So much for pitching and defense.

With all of this in mind, it's easy to see why the Red Sox came into tonight's game at 7-10, five games out of first place. After spending $170 million on payroll (so far) this season, this is not what the Red Sox thought they were buying.

However, there is at least one encouraging sign as of late; the Sox have won their last three one-run games.

Without question, the best Sox top hitters will eventually come around; it's just a matter of time. Though it's questionable whether Ortiz will ever regain his prior form (Andruw Jones should give us hope), better things can reasonably be expected from Pedroia, Youkilis, Martinez, and Drew.

Further, the Red Sox have been significantly bitten by the injury bug. Tonight's starting outfield is comprised by Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, and Darnell McDonald.

Mike Cameron is on the DL with an abdominal injury known as a sports hernia. It's too soon to tell, but the injury could eventually require surgery. Though the natural suspicion is that the injury is age related (Cameron is 37), younger players such as Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton, and Michael Young have also dealt with the same injury.

The Red Sox haven't yet gotten to witness all that Cameron can offer offensively or defensively, since he's only played in 11 games and had 30 at-bats.

But perhaps the biggest blow to the Red Sox is the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury due to cracked ribs. The injury was the result of a collision with Bill Hall, who was playing short, and should have never happened. If the two players had played together longer and communicated better, they would have avoided each other. Neither player had a sense of the other's tendencies, and the collision appeared completely avoidable.

As a result, the Red Sox have been without their leadoff hitter, which has led to a reshuffling of the lineup and poor results. Ellsbury was batting .333 when he went on the DL.

With any luck, both Ellsbury and Cameron will return soon, and the Red Sox will be able to field the team they envisioned and assembled earlier this spring.

Until then, they have to hope they don't dig themselves a hole so deep they can't get out of it. So far this season, the Sox haven't been able to put together a winning streak longer than two games.

If that doesn't change in a hurry, the Sox may find themselves looking up at the Yankees and Rays in the standings all season long.

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