Red Sox don’t need home runs to be an elite scoring team

Apr 29, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) hits a single against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) hits a single against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox are back to being among the top run scoring teams in the league despite a lineup that is still struggling to hit home runs.

It’s not about how many home runs you hit, it’s about how many runs you drive home. That’s the philosophy that the 2017 Boston Red Sox live by and it seems to be working.

The Red Sox have been tearing the cover off the ball this month, rising to fifth in the American League in runs scored this season. Only a Rockies team with the luxury of playing in the thin air of Colorado has outscored them in the month of May. Boston has averaged 5.8 runs per game this month. For comparison sake, the Red Sox lineup that led the majors in runs scored last season averaged 5.4 runs.

The Red Sox are back to being among the elite offenses in baseball, yet they are doing it without the benefit of the long ball. Boston still ranks dead last in the league with a mere 38 home runs, well behind the 14th ranked Seattle Mariners (48). Even during their torrid month of May they still have not been hitting the ball out of the park with regularity, as only Seattle has bashed fewer homers this month.

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During their current three-game win streak, Boston has put up 32 runs despite tallying only one homer. That came in Sunday’s 12-3 win in Oakland, a two-run shot by Mitch Moreland that extended Boston’s narrow lead at the time yet ultimately proved unnecessary. The Red Sox torched the Texas Rangers for nine runs on 12 hits last night despite only one of those hits going for extra bases – a ground rule double that cost Xander Bogaerts an RBI when Dustin Pedroia was forced to hold at third base once the ball bounced into the stands.

Mookie Betts leads the team with 7 home runs, which ties him with guys like Tim Beckham and Kevin Pillar for 33rd in the league.

When Boston rolls with Christian Vazquez behind the plate he joins Bogaerts and Deven Marrero in the lineup, giving them three hitters who have yet to homer this season.

What the Red Sox lineup lacks in home run power they make up for virtually everywhere else. Boston leads the league with a collective .271 batting average and they rank second with a .342 OBP. While they may not be clearing the fences, they have made a habit of peppering the Green Monster for extra-base hits. Moreland’s 16 doubles are tied for the most in the majors and the team’s 87 doubles lead the league.

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Timely hitting is a key factor in being able to score runs. Boston is among the elite in that category, hitting .284 with runners in scoring position. That has been vital to their success given that all those doubles they crank out puts them in that situation fairly often. Boston is even relying on the speed element more so than in recent years, ranking fifth in the league with 26 steals. Just another way to put runners in scoring position for a team that thrives in those situations.

Fans dig the long ball, but being able to blast homers doesn’t necessarily translate to having a great offense. Take the Oakland A’s for example. They are second in the league with 68 home runs, yet next to last in runs scored. How is that possible? It’s because they also struggle to put runners on base ahead of those home run hitters.

When other teams zig, the Red Sox zag. While some teams are willing to pay top dollar for free agent sluggers who can pile up home runs, Boston has focused on finding great hitters. The lineup is loaded with hitters who can get on base and don’t strike out often.

There’s more than one way to score runs. While a home run can be the quickest way to hang a crooked number on the scoreboard it’s not always the most efficient. Boston proved last year that you can have the best offense in baseball despite being only middle of the pack in home runs.

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The history of teams finishing near the bottom of the league in homers is daunting, so picking up the pace a bit to approach mediocre in that department would be beneficial in the long run. However, the Red Sox don’t need to hit a ton of home runs to be a great offense. The firepower in this lineup should be plenty to make Boston a contender.