Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Nobody questioned the Red Sox lineup coming into the 2014 season. Even after losing Jacoby Ellsbury in free agency and factoring in the likely regression of players like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox still have one of the deepest and overall best lineups in the league. However, like the team that led the league in runs scored in the 2013 season, the 2014 Red Sox were expected to gain run production from high on-base percentage and timely hitting (the Red Sox were first in the league with a .349 on-base percentage) rather than pure power (though the Red Sox’ 178 home runs did come sixth in the league). However, the exact opposite has been true to start the 2014 season as the Red Sox have been crushing the ball through the first four games of the year.
The Red Sox have been getting power from likely sources– home runs from their regular #3, #4, and #5 hitters (David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, and Grady Sizemore) as well as bottom-of-the-order power threat Will Middlebrooks. With all of those regular sources producing as expected (in an admittedly tiny sample size), the real optimism comes from those who are yet to go deep this year.
Dustin Pedroia is due for a power increase, as a thumb injury likely sapped some of his home run power last season, and could be expected to go deep 15 or more times this year. Shane Victorino has started the season on the disabled list, but also can be expected to finish somewhere in that 15 home run range. Also falling in that range could be rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts, new acquisition A.J. Pierzynski, and perhaps Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes.
Obviously, home run production is not the most important statistic to measure offensive potency (in fact, it is often quite overrated). However, knowing that the Red Sox have a lineup capable of impressive power production is reassuring. If the Red Sox are able to hit for similar (or greater) power than they did last season, then that would be a huge step towards maintaining the production that made them the best lineup in baseball. Four games is a minuscule sample size, of course, but it does seem that the Red Sox may again be one of the most powerful lineups in baseball, and that’s a welcome sight.