When watching baseball, I often like to compare a team’s chemistry and success to a car engine. As a team gains momentum, they pick up power and work toward maximizing the potential of the unit. Down the stretch of the 2009 season and into the playoffs, the New York Yankees had their motor running with near perfect strength and power, leading the World Series title. In contrast, the 2010 version of the Red Sox looks like they are running on a lawn-mower engine, if that. After dropping three games to division foe Tampa Bay Rays this weekend, the 4-8 need a serious jump-start if they want to contend with the big boys in the AL East.
This weekend was filled with rain and messy conditions for the first three games of the series, including the suspension of game one in the bottom of the 9th, but that doesn’t excuse the Sox from playing poorly. Right now, they are struggling in all aspects of he game: defense, offense, starting and relief pitching. Going into this season, the two certainties were the team’s defense strength and starting pitching strength. The defense has committed nine errors in 12 games this season and has had at least one error in 50% of their games this season, including a three-error game against the Minnesota Twins.
Unfortunately, with the exception of John Lackey, the pitching staff have been as inconsistent and poor as the defense in most all cases. The starters are a combined 3-4 while the bullpen is a horrible 1-4 this season. The worst of the starters this year has been Jon Lester, who is 0-2 with an era of 8.44. He has allowed 15 ER in 16 innings and has walked nine. In the ‘pen, Ramon Ramirez has an even 9.00 era, allowing five ERs in five innings and has walked two and struck out two. Every member of the Sox bullpen has allowed at least one earned run this season, and in total, the ‘pen has allowed 17 ER in 12 games, which is awful.
When you pile on top the Sox inability to score runs many nights, it has led to an ugly season so far. The team is sputtering like a 1986 Yugo that hasn’t had an oil change in 20 years. The Sox only offense spark this season has come from the shortest man on the field, Dustin Pedroia, who has single-handedly kept many games close this season. The problem on offense rests in the middle of the lineup with guys who have left countless men in scoring position and unlike in the past, have not been able to get the clutch hit the Sox so desperately need. For those who were watching over the weekend, there is hope that Ortiz is coming out of his slump, but he’s not the only one who needs to pick up the pace if the Sox want to compete in 2010.
The Sox player struggling the most right now is J.D. Drew. Between his .132 batting average and Ortiz’s .171 batting average, the middle of the Sox lineup has been terrible. Then throw in Victor Martinez’s .224 batting average and his rally killing, league leading five grounded-into-double-plays, a good chunk of the Sox lineup has been poor at best. In all, seven of the 13 offensive players are hitting below .250 on the year, which is a recipe for poor offense and a terrible record. The Sox are getting closer to pushing the panic button, as the Rays and Yankees continue to pull away and the friendly confines of Fenway have turned into death valley. The Sox have an abysmal 1-5 record in the shadow of the monster this season.
With all the chat of needing a big bat this off-season and the chatter surrounding a trade for Adrian Gonzalez, no one would have expected the poor output on all facets of the game. If I were Theo, I would make a move to the minors and bring up a high energy guy like Josh Reddick to try and light a fire under the current Sox squad. They look flat and unfocused, so maybe a fresh face in the clubhouse would mix-up the chemistry and bit and re-focus the club. Eventually I expect the Sox to turn the season around and get back to their winning ways, but if it doesn’t happen soon, they may be in trouble. Both the Yankees and Rays will probably be 90+ win teams, leaving the Sox in a position of needing to match or raise their win total in order to make the playoffs.
With the final game of a four-game series against the Rays Monday morning, the Sox can use the 11am start and their best pitcher thus far John Lackey to their advantage and begin the season turn-around ASAP. The Sox will then host the Texas Rangers for three and then welcome the only team with a worse record in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles into Fenway for three more. These seven games are crucial for the Sox in their effort to reclaim home-field advantage and get pointed in the right direction to compete for the division. If they continue to struggle over the next seven days, this could be a long season for fans in Boston.
Topics: Adrian Gonzalez, AL East, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Errors, J.D. Drew, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Josh Reddick, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Ramon Ramirez, Slump, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Victor Martinez