Red Sox offense falls into a slump

Jul 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) during the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) during the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

A Boston Red Sox offense that looked like world beaters in the first two months of the season has suddenly turned mediocre.

What happened to the offense? The Boston Red Sox have spent most of the season making up for their lack of pitching by thumping opponents with the best lineup in baseball. It’s a strategy that had vaulted them to the top of the division, but the plan is beginning to crumble as the bats in their lineup cool off.

The Red Sox have lost six of their last nine games to fall a game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. Surprisingly the pitching has been relatively solid for the most part during this stretch, it’s the lack of offense that has done this team in.

After leading the league in virtually every offensive category through the first two months, Boston has fallen to the middle of the pack in June. The Red Sox are 9th in the league with 84 runs scored this month, for an average of 4.6 runs per game. While many teams would envy that type of run production, it pales in comparison to the 5.6 per game the Red Sox have averaged through 70 games this season.

There are several factors contributing to this slump, but a power outage is the most notable. The Red Sox are 9th in the league with a .757 OPS this month and 11th with 19 home runs.

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The team is almost fortunate that injuries to their left fielders have pushed Chris Young into full-time duty, considering his five home runs lead the team this month, as well as trump the combined total that Brock Holt and Blake Swihart produced in that role all season. His presence provides some additional pop in the lineup at a time that the Red Sox are starved for it.

Young isn’t the only one pulling their own weight this month. The top of the lineup has been their usual productive selves, with Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz all putting up numbers in June that are similar to their season slash lines. It’s the bottom half of the lineup that has fallen flat.

Jackie Bradley earned Player of the Month honors in May, a month highlighted by his 29-game hitting streak. Since the streak ended, Bradley’s production has fallen into a tailspin. He’s hitting .207 over his last 16 games, bringing back painful reminders of the player we saw in years past before he became a proven major league bat. Bradley has always been a streaky hitter, so there is reason to believe he’ll pull out of it. On the bright side, while the hits may be few and far between, 9 of the 12 he has collected this month have gone for extra bases. He’s still slugging .500 for the month, while adding 4 doubles, 2 triples and 3 homers.

Travis Shaw is starting to pull out of a prolonged slump, with hits in 6 of his last 8 games, but he’s still only hitting .210 this month with a .564 OPS. Lefties remain a mystery to the third baseman, as his batting average against left-handed pitching has fallen to .188 this season, increasing the speculation that he could be moved into a platoon role.

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We know that the Red Sox didn’t turn to Christian Vazquez for his bat, but if he keeps struggling to keep his batting average above the Mendoza Line then we may need to start seeing more of Sandy Leon – at least until his batting average drops below .600.

Injuries have thinned the Red Sox bench, forcing them to rely on the likes of Marco Hernandez and Deven Marrero. We shouldn’t expect too much from them at the plate, but if the rest of the lineup was rolling then sticking them at the bottom of the order wouldn’t hurt much. When the offense is scuffling, those holes at the bottom of the order become more apparent.

The award for most disappointing hitter in the Red Sox lineup this month has to go to Hanley Ramirez. The first baseman is 12 for his last 67 (.179) at the plate with a brutal .541 OPS. Ramirez has gone deep only once in his last 36 games, but that one blast was a monster shot over the left field wall that proved there is still some pop left in his bat.

"“Get ready,” Ramirez playfully warned after crushing that homer a week ago. “Get your ticket. First class, whatever, coach. It’s about to get hot.”"

Where is this power surge that Ramirez predicted? If his production in the past week since those comments is what we are going to get, I want a refund on that ticket.

Red Sox fans are just happy that Ramirez’s transition to first base hasn’t been the disaster that left field was for him last year, but we can’t give him a pass at the plate. The $88 million man is supposed to be a middle of the order bat providing protection behind Ortiz. If Ramirez continues on a pace to set career-lows in slugging (.377) and OPS (.710), it won’t be long before opposing teams realize they have little reason to give Big Papi anything to hit.

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When the lineup is clicking the way it was earlier this year, the Red Sox have a lineup capable of beating anyone in baseball. We haven’t seen that type of production up and down the lineup over the last few weeks, but we know they are capable of turning it around at any time.

Let’s just hope they do it in time before the Red Sox fall further behind the competition in a tightly contested division.