Monday, April 28, 2014

Boston's Bats Bouncing Back?

Boston's bats haven't done much in the early going (YawkeyWayReport)
April's almost over and the slow-starting Red Sox are only half a game out of last place in the AL East. It goes without saying that the defending champions have disappointed thus far, primarily because their seemingly stout offense has slumped. It's why they've scored 15 fewer runs than they've allowed despite sporting the fifth-lowest ERA in the American League.

After averaging an MLB-best 5.27 runs per game last year, Boston's barely averaged four runs per game (4.04, to be exact). They've been held to three runs or less nine times already, which accounts for more than one-third of their games. Power has been scarce, as David Ortiz and Mike Napoli are the only players with more than two home runs. On a related note, the Sox have the fifth-lowest OPS in the league thanks to their ugly .241/.329/.379 batting line. 

Boston's been even worse in scoring opportunities, batting just .235/.321/.353 with men on base. With runners in scoring position, those numbers sink to .218/.307/.338. The Red Sox haven’t done themselves any favors by bouncing into 28 double plays--most in baseball. They simply aren't getting timely hits when they need them.

Boston's bats haven't been a total failure--they do rank second in the AL in doubles, fourth in walks, and sixth in home runs and total bases, after all. But as long as the lineup keeps hitting like Mario Mendoza with men on base, it won't be able to match the run-scoring machine that churned out 853 runs last year and paced the sport in a host of other offensive categories. 

To be fair, though, the Red Sox haven't been at full strength. After losing Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew over the winter, Boston began the season without Shane Victorino, who strained his right hamstring in spring training and opened the year on the Disabled List. Slugging third baseman Will Middlebrooks missed three weeks with a calf strain. Dustin Pedroia hurt his wrist in a play at second base, which probably explains why he hasn't hit a home run yet.

As a result, the Red Sox didn't play a game with their intended starting nine until April 25th. Now fully healthy, Boston took two of three from Toronto over the weekend, battering Blue Jays' pitching for 16 runs and 27 hits. With their cold spell hopefully behind them, the Sox look to gain momentum from their eight game homestand starting tomorrow night against the last-place Tampa Bay Rays. Depleted by injuries, Tampa's thin rotation should help Boston's bats get back on track.

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