Red Sox runs will arrive as the batting average spikes
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox run production is set for a positive bounce with or without home runs. The team batting average was exceptionally low and should improve in 2018 producing more runs.
The Red Sox were last in the American League in home runs in 2017 with 168. I don’t care, and neither should you. What I do care about is runs and the Red Sox were sixth with 785. A factor that could be patient zero in this plague or scoring drought is batting average. The Red Sox were ninth in the AL at .258. In 2014 the team hit just .244 and finished last – the only team figure lower this century.
Sure, the addition of J.D. Martinez would be a plus. The potential of an extra 40+ is exciting and could invigorate the lineup, but if JDM chose to go elsewhere, stay in Arizona or join a monastery in Tibet the Red Sox will not only survive but may prosper – if they boost those run totals.
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The runs figure certainly was skewered a bit with 15 games in which the Red Sox scored 10 or more runs. Is this an excitable condition? Placing it in perspective I would say no. The Rangers finished just ahead of Boston in runs (799), but and 19 games of 10 or more. The Mariners were lagging the Red Sox in runs (750) and had 14 games of 10 or more. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.
I don’t wish to minimize metrics since I am an advocate and do use them. I can certainly flood any article with the alphabet of metrics – wOBA, wRC+, BABIP and so on, but for me, the real key to your 2018 edition of the Boston Red Sox is that batting average. How do you improve it?
In 2016 the Red Sox led the AL with a .282 average and now this is a fall off the cliff in 2017. Yes – I understand David Ortiz wandered away from the campfire to enjoy a well-earned and deserved retirement. The culprits are obvious to one and all – just about anyone and everyone who picked up a bat in 2017.
Xander Bogaerts led the qualified Red Sox in batting average with a .273. Yes – a .273 leading the Boston Red Sox. I went back decades before giving up on finding a lower average leading the team. And in 2016 XB hit .294. The rest took a dive. Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Hanley Ramirez – right down the list. The only one that had a remarkable improvement was Travis Shaw only it was for the Brewers.
Chili Davis is gone. Will a change in hitting coach help? I’m not much of an advocate for miraculous results occurring with a coaching or managerial change taking place. Occasionally a coach will find something mechanical or even psychological and a player will improve. Even Dustin Pedroia spotted a flaw with the pitching delivery of David Price.
One part of the average equation is age. Most of the players have not reached their baseball peak years and suffered possibly growing pains and most certainly the absence of an anchor in the lineup. I will not minimize the removal or Papi nor will I maximize it. What I see is just a blip. An anomaly. Too many very good players took a step back.
If Martinez (or another) arrives to add some punch that will be great. Hallelujah! If not I still expect this offense to significantly boost up run production. Just too many good hitters not to.
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What it will come down to in 2018 is simply a matter of faith. Is this a talented enough collection of bats to reverse the trend? Can they get back into the .280 range? If this team is capable of a higher average the trail of runs will happen with or without home runs, but that average increase will most certainly produce a corresponding increase in home run production.