Red Sox: Is there a cure for second half malady?

Aug 3, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) reacts after striking out against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) reacts after striking out against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Red Sox offense is in a second half funk, but don’t fret since better days will come.

The Boston Red Sox are on the precipice of disaster and that cataclysmic event is starting to formalize after a home stand that was sub .500 (4-5) and a road trip that was also sub .500 (5-6). Collectively the team has been sluggish and that is not the nice and acceptable sluggish as in providing a bevy of runs. But sluggish can be approached – the hitting kind.

The Red Sox have been an offensive juggernaut this season and lead the American League in numerous categories and it is not even close. The team has a .283 batting average, notched 598 runs, slugging at a .465 average and On Base Percentage is .350.

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Even metrics shows a disparity in comparison with other American League teams. The fWAR is 23.7 and I am sure the ever popular bWAR is similar, but wRC+ is well ahead of their brethren at 114 as is wOBA at .349 and BABIP at .322. Then comes the disclaimer. However, the Red Sox continue to score less on the road – no surprise – than at home – almost a full run differential.

Since the All-Star break the above figures have taken a precipitous drop and a glance at either traditional or metrics will clearly show the hitting machine is in dire need of a tune-up, oil change and some type of invigoration to reverse the trend.

A very quick glance at second half contributions shows that collectively a good portion of the lineup has taken an extended vacation after the All-Star session with David Ortiz in the very throes of an extended slump hitting a un Papi like .216 since the break. A few others have taken a similar plunge with Travis Shaw at .237, Jackie Bradley at .253 and Xander Bogaerts at .276.

The malady apparently has infiltrated most of the lineup and the above is a representative selection while a few others – very few – have certainly decided to go into a second half sprint and most notably is Mookie Betts. Betts – awarded the American League Player of The Month Award – has hit .341 from the break on with five home runs and 15 RBI. Betts is making a solid run at Most Valuable Player.

The pitching staff has or had been the recipient of the offensive generosity that contributed to masking a less than outstanding staff performance prior to the break. The second half the staff have improved notably on their performance with my special benchmark of BB/9 dropping from 3.29 to 2.71.

The remaining figures have also seen a positive indication as staff ERA is at a second half pace of 3.60 compared 4.43 in the first half segment. FIP is 3.76 down from 4.22 and xFIP is almost a match at 4.23 and 4.22.

Now what?

The pattern has been established in the second half and the main culprit in finger-pointing is the malfunction of the offense. The pitching has improved a tad, but not enough to compensate for the sudden barren offense.

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What I notice as has just about anyone who follows the team is the offense is the poster child for baseball inconsistency. Nine runs quickly followed by no runs as happened in Los Angeles is frustrating, especially when it happens against journeymen and not Clayton Kershaw.

Of course, the pitching does have more than a fair share of blame and most notably is the continued misfiring of David Price. Another lead taken and then given back. The bullpen is also the mark of inconsistency where a stellar performance is followed by a dud.

A Prediction.

I am a baseball Kreskin – the noted mentalist – and I am probably as accurate, but I will wander on after a several paragraph set-up.

The offense is in a slump and it is as simple as that. Hitting tends to feed off itself and so far the prime motivators in the center of the lineup are on a diet. This happens and it eventually works its way out. I fully expect some moderate mashing improvement as the doldrums start to dissipate.

I expect the pitching to continue down the path of moderate second half redemption – this is not the Cleveland Indians staff of 1954, but they are competent enough to keep the team in the hunt in a rather stagnate division.

The Red Sox are one run away from locking up a playoff spot and that is not a single run, but a run as in a prolonged winning streak. The recent sub .500 post All-Star debacle needs to be followed by one where you are looking at a nice 13-5 march since they have the talent to do it. Maybe Andrew Benintendi will light a fire? If not, this season will join many others in the closet of disappointment.

The division itself is up for grabs as each and every contender has holes followed by bigger holes.  Tampa is long gone and the Yankees have essentially surrendered and that means a three team race.

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I expect a nice finish where the team will have a lead that will enable them to set their pitching rotation for the playoffs. No one and done playoff game.

Source: FanGraphs