The Red Sox Offense Can Hit… Just Not Far
After last night’s (April 27th) 3-0 shutout at the hands of Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees, something is very clear about this Red Sox offense; no David Ortiz means a Big (Papi) problem (sorry could not resist). Through the first 21 games, the Red Sox have scored one or fewer runs in six of their first ten losses. In two of their 11 wins, they plated just one run through the first nine innings, both of which had Chris Sale on the mound (a 3-0 win in 12 innings in the second game of the season and a 4-1 victory in ten innings on April 20th). As a team this Red Sox offense can bother opposing pitchers a good deal but, with the absence of David Ortiz, they in no way strike fear into the other team’s twirlers.
This is still the bothersome Red Sox offense of old that brought World Series Championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013. Even after last night’s 3-0 shutout where the Red Sox offense totaled just three hits, they are still fourth in Major League Baseball in hitting with a team .266 batting average. They are still particularly pesky at the dish as well, ranking eighth in baseball with a .331 on base percentage. But where the obvious Big Papi factor shows up is in slugging. The Red Sox, in the top ten in both batting and getting on base, are 25th in the league in slugging to the tune of .368 mark. The Red Sox offense, long known as one of the scariest in baseball, has gone from a terror with David Ortiz patrolling the three-hole to a bunch of Punchin’ Judies without Big Papi.
Barely an eighth into the 2017 season, Mitch Moreland has 11 doubles on the year and is more than a third of the way to eclipsing his highest doubles total of 27, which he set back in 2015 with the Rangers. That is great production from the Red Sox first basemen whom many overlooked when he was signed this past offseason, but he alone has almost a third of the Red Sox’s doubles (36). They are right in the middle of the pack with those 36 two-baggers (13th), but everywhere else they are just woeful. The club has a total of two triples on the year (21st in the league) and has a whopping 11 home runs. Those 11 home runs are dead last in baseball by a margin of four (the San Francisco Giants have 15) and Eric Thames of the Brewers has as many home runs this year… AS THE ENTIRE RED SOX OFFENSE!
The Red Sox are perennially one of the best teams in scoring runs, usually a good pick to lead the league in the category, but this year are towards the bottom having plated just 78 men (tied with the Blue Jays for 26th). Maybe with guys like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. you would expect the Red Sox to try and force the issue a little more, but you would be wrong. Despite the Red Sox offense having all sorts of trouble producing runs, the Red Sox have attempted just 15 stolen bases (having been caught five times, a handful of those on botched hit and runs–those ten stolen bases places them 19th in the league). Not only is the Red Sox offense not hitting, it is not doing anything productive anywhere on the diamond.
They have the third fewest extra base hits in baseball (49) and have done a below average job of trying to grab the extra base once they get on the bags. Making matters worse, after punching through another single and refusing to try and swipe a bag there is one place where the Red Sox offense is at the top of the league rankings… grounding into double plays, where they have endured the third most twin-killings of anybody in the league with 25. If it seems like every night you tune in to watch the Red Sox play and are yelling at the television because they are not scoring runs and their offense is about as exciting as watching an elderly man read a newspaper at Starbucks, you are right. The Red Sox offense cannot do anything except hit singles, and yet they refuse to try and steal any bases after hitting the singles, and compound the issue by waiting around until they hit into a double play.
The Red Sox Offense is Affecting Every Aspect of the Team
Yes, it is only 21 games into the season for the Red Sox and the Red Sox offense, but if there is one theme to the young season it is that teams are not afraid of the Red Sox offense. This has bled over to other parts of the diamond as well and impacted the team as a whole. Teams are so unafraid of what the Red Sox bats can do that Manny Machado can take out the Red Sox nominal leader (and this is an article for another day) without any repercussions. Machado can spike Dustin Pedroia, which been bad form for almost a century now, and yet he and the Baltimore Orioles can come out looking like the better team (even in Ty Cobb’s day spiking was frowned upon–it was expected only if the fielder was blocking the bag–and Pedroia was doing no such thing while stretching outside of the bag on Machado’s spike).
Put David Ortiz in the Red Sox lineup in a situation like that and I highly doubt an offensive “explosion” is limited to six runs, four of which came in one offensive inning. Nor would the offense return with a 3-1 loss and a 3-0 shutout in their next two outings. Pedroia and the Red Sox are searching for an identity on offense and without the Dominican Destroyer anchoring the lineup, that search has resulted in far too many zeroes in the box score and not nearly enough crooked numbers. The scary thought for Red Sox fans is that it might be just 21 games into the season, but there is a chance the Red Sox offense does have an identity; they might be more toothless than a postseason hockey player without a dental plan. If the Red Sox offense cannot turn things around and start slamming home runs, then they are going to have to start forcing the issue and do everything they can to manufacture runs. Start running, start going for the extra base and try to do everything they can to jumpstart the offense. If they do not, this could be a long and boring season for the Red Sox and the Red Sox offense.