Boston Red Sox are failing in every aspect of the game this season

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale /

The Boston Red Sox have failed to produce on offense, defense and with their pitching staff. It seems nothing has gone right for this team in 2019.

How bad has the start to the 2019 season been for the Boston Red Sox? Allow Chris Sale to sum it up.

"“It sucks! I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I just flat out stink right now. I don’t know what it is.”"

Sale was speaking to reporters about his own performance against the New York Yankees on Tuesday but he may as well have been analyzing the team’s performance through the first 18 games of the season. He’s correct – the Red Sox do stink right now – but while Sale feigns ignorance about what the problem is, we know exactly what’s wrong with this team.

Everything. The reigning World Series champions have stumbled out of the gate by doing essentially everything wrong. Look to any aspect of the game and the Red Sox are failing at it.

Boston is buried at the bottom of the AL East with a 6-12 record that stands a mere half-game ahead of the Kansas City Royals for the worst record in the American League. The brutal -40 run differential they enter the day with is the worst in the league and barely ahead of the rebuilding Miami Marlins (-43) for the worst in the majors.

Their struggling ace will shoulder most of the blame but the putrid performance of the pitching staff extends beyond Sale’s decline in velocity and inability to locate his fastball. Each of Boston’s starters has taken their lumps this season. Red Sox starting pitchers are last in the majors with a collective 7.18 ERA, letting the 1931 team (6.96 ERA) off the hook for the worst mark in franchise history through the first 18 games of a season.

The bullpen hasn’t been much better, ranking 11th in the AL with a 4.78 ERA. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have exceeded expectations in sharing the closer role but there aren’t any reliable options behind them. The recently demoted Marcus Walden and occasional spot starter Hector Velazquez are the only other Red Sox relievers with an ERA lower than 5.00 this season. The other handful of pitchers who have worked out the bullpen have been astonishingly bad – and that doesn’t even factor in the time they had Eduardo Nunez toss an inning in relief!

As poorly as the pitchers have performed, the defense behind them hasn’t exactly done them any favors. Boston’s 13 total errors are the 7th most in the majors and their .977 fielding percentage ranks 25th. They rate a middling 15th with a 0.4 UZR and 24th with -8 defensive runs saved.

Rafael Devers has been the worst offender in the field with five errors, second-most among any position player in the majors. His -1 DRS suggests he’s only slightly below average rather than terrible. Devers has shown improved range but still botches too many routine plays.

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The bigger issue is that players typically known for their elite defense have been a bit disappointing in the field. Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mitch Moreland all have -1 DRS this season. At least we should be able to chalk this up to a small sample size fluke that will reverse course as the season progresses but it has been a factor in the team’s struggles.

This loaded Red Sox lineup is still among the league’s best though, right? Wrong! The team that led the league in runs scored last season is currently a distant ninth with 74 runs through 18 games. That average of 4.1 runs per game is a steep drop from the 5.4 runs they averaged in 2018. Boston ranks no higher than 10th in the league in home runs, AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, wRC+, and wOBA. They are below average hitting with runners on base (.251) and runners in scoring position (.258). These are all areas in which the Red Sox dominated in last season yet essentially the same lineup has been disturbingly mediocre so far this year.

We can’t blame all the hitters for this mess. J.D. Martinez has been tearing the cover off the ball. Boston’s first four wins of the season may have gone the other way if not for the heroics of Moreland. Xander Bogaerts looks primed for a career year. There have been some positive signs but a lot more negative ones. Reigning MVP Mookie Betts is struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line while seven players with 16+ at-bats can only aspire to reach the .200 batting average plateau.

Boston was a good baserunning team last season, ranking third in the league with 135 stolen bases at a very efficient 80.13 percent success rate. This season, the Red Sox haven’t been quite as aggressive on the bases with a middle-of-the-pack seven steals and they haven’t been nearly as successful when they try, swiping bags a mediocre 75 percent clip.

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This team is far too talented to be this bad in this many different ways. Boston will undoubtedly turn it around to improve in every aspect of the game. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will return to the elite levels we saw last year in each area. They may need to do that and then some in order to climb out of the deep hole they are digging themselves into.