What do the Massachusetts State Lottery and the Red Sox infield have in common? The lottery offers a second chance drawing on selected lottery tickets, and the Red Sox infield gives second chances to the opposing offense.
Outs are baseball coins and are quite valuable. You get 27 to put the other team away, but poor defense can expand that, and with a questionable pitching staff, second chances are the last thing you need. Just how bad is it?
FanGraphs ranks the Red Sox team 12th as a group, and the various metrics proliferate with minus signs. Not a soothing picture, but then you break down the infield, and another gem steps out - Rafael Devers!
Back in the past, Devers was considered a liability at third base. If they awarded Iron Gloves, Devers would corner the market. Devers is not making me forget Brooks Robinson, but the kid is not collecting a slew of those negative marks. Devers is floating a -1 on Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and is now in the plus category with a 3.4 UZR/150. On Outs Above Average (OAA) - a range metric - Devers is +1. A bit of solitude in an ocean of frustration?
The Red Sox infield defense is killing the team and the pitching staff
On the more traditional side, Devers has "only" five errors and does not lead the league, and Devers has long locked down the category of the error leading the American League every season since 2018. Dever's fielding percentage is near or at the bottom rung, but his hitting ability and now passable defense makes his 10-year, $313 million contract downright palatable. That finishes a slight nod to the positive.
First base is a defensive sieve with Triston Casas. And Casas is undoubtedly not a hitter except for the occasional bi-monthly home run. Casas's hitting is matched with an equally embarrassing defense, and a -4 OAA tells a sad tale regarding range, and that is matched with a -4 DRS. Bobby Dalbec is slugging at Worcester, so it's time for the nth attempt to tap into his talent.
The solid spot should be second base, but Trevor Story is out, so the spot has been filled with eight players and counting. They are 11th in the American League defensively at second as a team, and metric minuses dot the board with a league-worst -7 DRS, and OAA with just -2 is a virtual paradise of run prevention success.
Shortstop is considered the gold standard for defensive positions, and gold as in glove will not be awarded to anyone with a Red Sox jersey. Yu Chang was appreciably solid defensively until a bone injury placed him on the shelf.
Enrique Hernandez is capable of a highlight play followed by either a booted ball or an errant toss. Hernandez has notched nine errors as I write this, and when it is published, he may be in double figures. Still, Hernandez is getting the bulk of the playing time and will unless Marcelo Mayer lights it up at Portland and skips 3A.
Granted, I may be accused of cherry-picking statistics, but when you look at Fangraphs, Statcast, or watch the daily performance, you can see this group needs some renovation. The range factor is a telling metric representing potential outs that are now hits. If a pitcher has a notable ground ball percentage, they hold their breath when a sinker is tapped into the ground.
I must return to 1964 and Dick Stuart, Dalton Jones, Eddie Bressoud, and Frank Malzone for a similar wreck. Yes - Malzone was top-notched and a Gold Glover, but having Stuart around makes up for Malzie's great glove and bat. But those guys could all hit, and this group needs more of that skill set, as BSI's Andrew Cornelius noted.