3 reasons why the Red Sox offense is struggling to begin the 2022 season
The Red Sox had a short training camp to prepare
Training camp was delayed by the lockout, with both sides focused more on their long-term goals than the immediate concern of the upcoming season. Since MLB wanted to avoid cancelling games or pushing the postseason schedule deep into November, the compromise was a shorter spring training that didn’t give players sufficient time to prepare.
The reason behind Trevor Story’s slow start is fairly obvious. The lockout halted free agency negotiations for months and he didn’t end up signing with the Red Sox until spring training was nearly over. He left camp shortly after his arrival for the birth of his child, shortening his time to prepare even further. Boston’s prized offseason acquisition is expected to be a tremendous upgrade to the lineup but you’re crazy if you expected Story to start the season on fire after only 12 plate appearances in spring training.
A shorter training camp also means pitchers had less time to build up their workload. Teams have leaned on their bullpen more frequently in recent years but this strategy has been taken to the extreme so far this season. MLB has allowed expanded rosters in April, allowing teams to carry extra relievers to make it easier for bullpens to handle nearly half of the workload. Only 13 major league starters with at least three appearances have averaged 6+ innings this season.
Most relievers tend to limit runs more effectively than the average starter since they can unleash their velocity in shorter stints, rely on a more limited arsenal and they don’t need to worry about facing the same hitter multiple times. With relievers handling a higher percentage of innings, pitching staffs have the advantage.
Rushing through a limited training camp put players at an increased risk of injury. The Red Sox haven’t been hit hard by significant injuries but they have taken a toll, even if we ignore Chris Sale’s rib injury that occurred before camp opened.
Xander Bogaerts tweaked his hamstring on Opening Day and followed by going 2-for-18 over his next five games. He busted out of his brief slump last week but was clearly compromised for several days while the hamstring soreness lingered.
J.D. Martinez has missed the last four games with left adductor tightness. Replacing his spot in the lineup with Travis Shaw or Rob Refsnyder is obviously a drastic downgrade.
The Red Sox don’t have enough depth to cover for injuries to one of their star players. Removing a productive bat for an automatic out will shorten any lineup. You know your offense is in trouble when Jackie Bradley Jr., arguably the worst hitter in baseball last year, is batting sixth.
These aren’t long-term concerns though. Players should get healthier and find their rhythm at the plate to recover from slow starts. The Red Sox have prized prospects who could emerge later in the season to upgrade the fringe players on the edge of the roster. Additional reinforcements could be found at the trade deadline. The roster the Red Sox have now isn’t the one they will end the season with.
The lack of offense is certainly a concern but the decline isn’t as troubling as it seems when we consider why run production in general is down across the league. Boston still rates poorly against the competition, but we’re early enough in the season that one strong series could shake up those rankings. There is plenty of reason for optimism that they will improve upon this small sample size so don’t push that panic button yet.