Outside of Michael Pineda’s pine tar, the Boston Red Sox’ offensive struggles have been the worst kept secret in Major League Baseball in 2014. The scuffling Sox have managed to plate more than three runners just once in their last 11 games, failing to take advantage of a number of quality starts from a pitching staff buoyed by the recent additions of Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa. Boston is 4-7 over that stretch, and at eight games under .500 on the season, it hasn’t been pretty for the defending world champions.
The problems have been systemic. At the outset of the season, prognosticators (myself included) assumed the Red Sox would be in the competitive mix if everyone did what they did last year. It never works that way in sports. Further, with key subtractions from the roster, there were high expectations for young players. Maybe not to the level of their predecessors, but the depth of the team would prevent regression, right? Wrong.
Looking at the Boston lineup, only four regulars appear as a reasonable facsimile of expectations entering the campaign: David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and A.J. Pierzynski. This isn’t to say their individual performances have been necessarily “great.” Ortiz’s power numbers have been there, but his average has taken a tumble. Napoli missed time due to injury. Pierzynski is second on the team in RBIs, but that total isn’t even in the top-40 in the AL. And Gomes would never be the lead singer of The High Ceilings.
Here’s a six-pack of Red Sox who would be having excellent seasons if this was golf and below par was the objective. If Boston wants to have a chance in 2014, these guys need to hit. If not, as the team has with Grady Sizemore and, most recently, Chris Capuano, heads will likely roll.
Dustin Pedroia (.265/4/27)
Pedroia is a superstar and superstars are expected to anchor the lineup. Instead, he has been like an anchor as the team’s production has sunk. Entering the season, it was expected Pedroia would be recovered from a wrist injury that sapped his power in 2013. He’s on pace for 47 doubles but still isn’t squaring up to the ball consistently and with his trademark authority.
Shane Victorino (.242/1/10)
Victorino’s absence from the 2-hole due to injury has made waves throughout the batting order. He’s only logged 91 at-bats this season, and even when he’s been active, he’s gotten on base just 27.6% of the time. The Sox need more for $13 million.
Xander Bogaerts (.260/6/19)
Victorino’s replacement in the 2-hole has gotten on base just fine, but hasn’t done much else. You’d expect more than 19 RBI at this point from a guy hitting second on a supposed contender. Remember, the kid’s just 21 years old, but with so many holes in the lineup, a heap of pressure rests on his shoulders.
Jackie Bradley (.211/1/24)
Bradley was projected as Jacoby Ellsbury’s replacement in center field, then was usurped by Sizemore in spring training. February and March isn’t always the best barometer; Sizemore is now with Philadelphia while Bradley remains but has failed to contribute offensively in his second season with the club. As Mikey Adams says, if this guy could hit .250 and play stellar defense, we’d be okay with that. But .211?
Daniel Nava (.210/2/4)
In 2013, Nava was a revelation, hitting .303 with a .385 on-base percentage. He’d probably like to forget April 2014, when he faltered badly following an unsuccessful stint in the leadoff position. Since returning to the fold, Nava has started to hit and his average is back up above the Mendoza line. But is it too little, too late?
Stephen Drew (.133/0/1)
It’s just a 45 at-bat sample size, but whoever thought the newly-bespectacled shortstop would be the salve for the Red Sox wounded lineup was drinking the cuckoo juice. Drew is showing seven months of rust as he attempts to handle Major League pitching after a long holdout and many fans wonder if his presence, even at the height of his abilities, is that much of a difference-maker.. At this point, some are clamoring for Brock Holt at third, Bogaerts back to shortstop and Drew playing somewhere east of the moon.