Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, April 19, 2010

Red Sox Offense Living Up To Pre-Season Doubts

The Red Sox were booed as they left the field today. They've suffered five straight losses, including a sweep by the Rays, and now they're six games out of first.

The Sox are now 4-9 this season. You have to go back to 1996 to find a Red Sox team that got off to worse start after 13 games than the current edition.

Of specific concern, the Sox are 1-6 against the Yankees and Rays this season, with all games played at Fenway. The Boston locals are currently facing their worst home start since the 1932 team started 1-9 at home.

Boston has scored just 17 runs over their last 65 innings. They left five runners in scoring position today, are 0-for-30 in that department over the last five games, and 12-for-91 (.103) over the last 12 games.

Over the last five games, the team has struck out 35 times, while walking 19 times. Collectively, the Sox are hitting .249, have an OBP of .313, and are averaging 3.8 runs a game.

This afternoon, David Ortiz went 0-3, and is now batting .158. JD Drew has just two hits, to go along with 12 strike outs, in his last 23 at-bats and is now batting .146. Kevin Youkilis went 0-4 and is now bating .217. Victor Martinez has grounded into six double plays and is now batting 212.

This, folks, was supposed to be the heart of the Red Sox order.

Bill Hall and his .091 average will not come off the bench and save this offense. And after a rocket-like start, Jeremy Hermida has rapidly fallen back to earth, bringing his .219 batting average with him.

And I haven't even mentioned the horrible defensive lapses of a team supposedly built on a foundation of defense. But that's another story, for another day. There's too much to focus on regarding the offense alone, at present.

The conventional wisdom coming into this season was that the Red Sox lacked the offensive fire power to win the AL East, much less the World Series. Just 13 games into the season, the Red Sox have done little to dispute that. Their 5'7" second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, leads the club with five long balls and 13 RBI.

That's a very bad sign.

Many fans and analysts doubted the Red Sox power potential from the outset, and, in fact, the offense in general. Consequently, they also believe that the Sox will eventually have to upgrade the offense via trade. San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been the most discussed target, and perhaps the most desired, by Red Sox fans and local media.

However, watching Tampa first baseman Carlos Pena this weekend was a sad reminder of what the Red Sox once had, and what could have been.

The Sox had Pena on the roster for 18 games in 2006, after he was released by Detroit. In that span, Pena batted .273. Yet, the Sox didn't think they had a place for him with Kevin Youkilis at first, Mike Lowell at third, and David Ortiz at DH.

So Pena left as a free agent.

Imagine if the Sox had held on to the local boy when they had him four years ago, at the age of 28. They would've had a young, power-hitting first baseman/DH, with Youkilis seamlessly shifting back to third. Then, perhaps, we wouldn't be talking about the need for offense, or a big trade potentially involving Adrian Gonzalez, or any other slugger for that matter.

Under that scenario, Boston would already have a young 40-home run hitter on its roster without having to trade for one this summer.

Letting Pena walk ended up being a big mistake for the Sox; Pena hit 46, 31, and 39 homers in successive seasons for Tampa, as well as driving in at least 100 runs each year. He finished second in the AL in homers and slugging in 2007, the year after the Sox had him. What's more, Pena won a Gold Glove in 2008.

Yes, Pena is just a career .248 hitter with a .356 OBP, but he sure would help the Red Sox a lot right now, as well as over the past two years.

At this point, it seems a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox will seek some offensive help before the season gets away from them. But acquiring any big-name slugger will be costly in terms of prospects. That's what makes giving up on Pena so quickly so lamentable right now.

Indeed, it's quite early in the 2010 season, and there are still a whopping 149 games to go. The Yankees started slowly last year, were five games out as of June 23, and had lost all eight games against the Red Sox at that point.

Things worked out well for the Yanks in the end. But right now, the way the Sox offense looks, it's tough to imagine the same happy ending for them.

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