How the Boston Red Sox are 12-10 While Playing One and Done Baseball
A couple of weeks back ESPN debuted their new 30 for 30 featuring John Calipari called “One and Not Done.” It detailed the basketball coach’s journey from UMass-Amherst to Memphis to Kentucky and how he has successfully navigated the new “one and done” NCAA philosophy. Whatever your opinions about the man and the coach are, the best new recruiters and coaches in college basketball are the ones that can take high school talent and convince them to come and play for a year before spinning their “amateur” success into NBA millions. They take the “one and done” players and turn them into stars. The Boston Red Sox have seemingly adopted this strategy on the offensive end and applied to it Major League Baseball with middling success.
After a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night, the Boston Red Sox now stand at 12-10 on the season. The manner in which the Red Sox won that game though was a microcosm for their season up to this point. Drew Pomeranz (who has actually been fairly decent to begin the year after a rough start to his BoSox career when he was traded midway through last season) gave up a solo shot in the top of the first inning to put the Red Sox down 1-0. The Sox got a rare blast from Andrew Benintendi (his second, team’s 12th) to tie the game 1-1 before plating four more runs to take a 5-1 lead (Mitch Moreland threw another double in there for his 12th of the season).
Pomeranz also kept the Cubs at bay through six innings, allowing just two runs as the Sox held a 5-2 lead. The bullpen would give up a pair in the seventh to make it a one run game before the Cubs put two men on with one out in the eighth inning, which set the table for Fernando Abad. Abad has been the forgotten man in the Sox bullpen and with good reason. Since being acquired at the end of last season, every time Abad has taken the mound for the Red Sox it has driven the Fenway Faithful to try and take a spoon to their frontal lobe. However, last night he struck out both men he faced and turned the ball over to Craig Kimbrel who gobbled up his eighth save of the season and sealed the 5-4 victory.
As mentioned in the article from yesterday, the Red Sox have been hitting this season, but they have been unable to do much beyond scratch some singles. In the 5-4 win it was actually more of the same. The Red Sox collected 13 hits, but just three of those went for extra bases and all came in the first inning (the Benintendi homer, the Moreland double and another double by Mookie Betts).
Where the offense is really troubling this year is in how little success they have had in multiple innings. The Red Sox tattooed Jake Arrieta in the first inning for the five runs, but that is all they would get. It marked the eighth time in 22 games this season where the Red Sox offense has been held to scoring in just one offensive inning. Granted, half of those came in the teams first four games of the year, but the issue has reappeared as of late. In their last five games the Red Sox have scored in just one inning on three separate occasions.
The problem is actually worse than it appears. The above eight games does not take into account any contests where the Red Sox have not scored any runs at all. So far this year the Red Sox have been shutout three times. In other words, the Red Sox have been held to one scoring inning or fewer in exactly HALF of their games this season (11). The shutout woes are also a newer trend. Including a 3-0 whitewashing at the hands of Francisco Liriano (yes, THAT Francisco Liriano) on April 19th, the Red Sox have been shutout a total of three times in their last eight games. Their offensive production has also been limited to two or fewer frames in a total of 15 of their 22 outings.
The Sky is Not Falling
What the Red Sox have been doing exceedingly well is that when they are scoring, they are doing so in bunches. The Red Sox as a team have scored in a total of 41 innings this season and in 13 of those they have plated three or more runs. When the Red Sox are getting to pitchers, they are really making them pay. Yes, the inverse is true in that if pitchers can limit the damage the Red Sox are probably in trouble, but so far when the BoSox are scoring, they are scoring in bunches.
The other aspect where the Red Sox are excelling is late in games. The bullpen has been wonderful this year, blowing just two games out of a possible ten (a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to the Tigers where the Sox scored five in the eighth to take a one-run lead before blowing it, and a 4-1 ten inning victory where a ninth inning solo bomb tied it before three runs in the tenth gave them the win). The bullpen has pretty much been in lockdown this season while the offense, especially late in games, has been something to behold.
The trend started early in the season when Sandy Leon blasted a three run tater to walk-off 3-0 in 12 innings. Since then the Red Sox have scored 34 of their 80 runs on the year in the seventh inning or later (a total of 83 runs with 37 of those seventh inning or later). This is a team that is playing real well late in games and has shown a penchant for clawing back and coming up in the clutch. Scoring in bunches and scoring late in games with a bullpen that snuffs out rallies is a sure fire way to produce wins.
It might seem like the Red Sox have turned into a team primarily consisting of singles hitters that can only score in one inning a game, and the stats would agree with that assessment. However, despite an offense that is running more hot and cold than a faucet with a broken governor, the Red Sox still sit at 12-10 on the year and are winning games in the hardest of fashions. Right now they are doing everything the hard way, but just imagine how good this team can be when they start making things easier. Plus, as any true Red Sox fan knows, the boys of Fenway never really get going into the mercury rises above 80, at which point expect the offense to heat up as well.