The Boston Red Sox keep winning thanks to the brilliance of their starting rotation. Is it time to start worrying about the lack of offense?
A five-game winning streak has vaulted the Boston Red Sox to the top of the AL East. Opening the season on the road with a 5-1 record is impressive yet this team is not without their concerns. Boston keeps winning but it’s not due to the revamped lineup we expected would carry this team.
The Red Sox are missing two key starters from their rotation yet pitching hasn’t been an issue. Boston is the only team in MLB history to open the season with their starting pitcher allowing no more than one earned run in their first six games. The rotation is doing its job.
The lineup hasn’t been quite up to par though. Despite the rotation’s dominance, Boston’s first three wins of the season each came by only one run for the first time since 1941. The offense produced three runs or less in each of those wins.
Boston’s offense woke up in Miami when the plated seven runs against the Marlins on Monday. Five of those came against Trevor Richards, a 24-year old making his major league debut. Let’s hold off on the excitement over that accomplishment. Boston scored four runs the next night to sweep the two-game series in Miami but it took 13 innings to do it.
Not to scoff at winning five of six games but let’s remember that these wins came at the expense of the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins. Both teams underwent significant roster teardowns over the winter, trading away many of their best players or allowing them to depart in free agency. These teams aren’t expected to put up much of a fight. They may be scrappy but Boston should beat them.
The Red Sox rank a respectable seventh in the American League with 21 runs scored. However, those runs have been tallied over six games. Only two of the teams that have scored fewer runs have played that many games. Three of the teams beneath Boston have only played four games.
Boston is averaging a mere 3.5 runs per game so far this season. The punchless lineup we harped on last season averaged 4.8 runs per game. The power drought that plagued the team last year has continued into 2018. After ranking dead last in the AL in home runs last year, Boston currently ranks 12th.
The Red Sox have produced four home runs. Washington’s’ Bryce Harper and Colorado’s Charlie Blackman both have four on their own. One of Boston’s homers was of the inside-the-park variety on a ball the outfielders misjudged. Take that away and there are nine major league hitters who can match the total number of balls the Red Sox have hit out of the park this season.
J.D. Martinez was signed to solve Boston’s power problems. His only extra-base hit was a double and he’s slugging .250 this season. Is it too soon to wish they waited a year to splurge on Harper or Blackman instead?
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A lack of power isn’t the only problem. The Red Sox are hitting a collective .240 compared to the .258 average compiled by last year’s supposedly inferior lineup. Boston enters the day 9th in the league with a .683 OPS.
Boston’s lineup needs to wake up. The opposing pitchers they’ve faced aren’t exactly a collection of Cy Young candidates yet we should note that Tropicana Field and Marlins Park are both pitcher-friendly venues. Returning home to the cozy confines of Fenway Park could give them the spark they need.
They better hope so. Boston’s outstanding rotation should only improve with the impending returns of Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez but we can’t expect the starters to continue holding lineups to one run or less. The pitching staff will inevitably regress even as it improves on paper.
If the offense doesn’t turn things around to offset any decline from the rotation then the team’s record will start trending in the wrong direction.