Red Sox Need to Step Up -- But Can We Expect Them To?

The Red Sox are 4-7. Ouch.

 

But how bad are they really? How close are they to being, say, 7-4?

 

So far, of the Red Sox' seven losses, two of them have come by one run, and two of them have come in extra innings. And while they have only blown out another team once, they have only been blown out once themselves.

 

Some of this can certainly be attributed to the bullpen. Teams with bad bullpens would, it goes to reason, lose more close games, especially in extra innings. But it's also just a matter of not getting that one play, that one timely hit or much-needed catch when we need it.

 

Now, if this were with everyone performing to a reasonable capcity, it would be worrisome. But looking at some of our team's performances to date, you would have to be very pessimistic to assume that everything will continue as it has. More than half of the Red Sox' lineup is performing so far below expectations, that something almost has to change.

 

 

 

There are some exceptions—Dustin Pedroia is doing his best to single-handedly keep this team alive, while Kevin Youkilis is producing well, and Marco Scutaro is at a pretty good middle-ground as far as expectations are concerned. And when he's played, Jacoby Ellsbury has been fine if not fantastic offensively. But what the Sox need now is for their 5-8 guys to step it up, because if just one of them was actually performing even close to expected levels, it might make all the differnce.

 

Everyone knows about David Ortiz' struggles, and everyone talks about them. He's currently striking out in 43% of his plate appearances, has a pitiful .237 OBP and .314 SLG, and is looking for all the world like the David Ortiz of April '08 and '09 all over again. It's questionable whether the big slugger can ever return to form again, as he's getting up there in years, and his bat speed and ability to hold up on certain pitches seems to have gone away in a hurry.

 

But more surprising, and less talked about (equally surprising, given the typical bent of the local media) are the struggles of J.D. Drew, who has the team's worst wOBA—even lower than Bill Hall's! Currently hitting .139/.225/.222, Drew seems to be pressing at the plate, striking out just slightly less than Papi. Mired in a 1-17 slump, it's hard to imagine that Drew's season will continue as it has. His reappearance as a middle-of-the-order bat is vital to this team's success. Luckily for us, it's also fairly likely.

 

The other big hit comes from the guy who was supposed to be this year's big offensive boon: Victor Martinez. The DH-cum-catcher has looked more like the latter offensively to date, with a .244/.277/.400 line. This seems to be more a matter of bad luck then Drew or Ortiz, though, as Victor is making plenty of contact and, in fact, has a LD% of 26.8. That .250 BABIP shouldn't last very long.

 

While less is expected out of them, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre are also not quite up to par. Cameron's .364 OBP is actually quite good, but a BABIP below his usual and a lack of power-to-date has dropped his wOBA to only .315—his lowest since his sophomore year in 1998. Beltre, for his part, is walking even less than usual, and has an ISO more than 100 points below his career average. More power from these two, to say nothing of a couple more trips to the basepaths for Beltre, would go a long way.

 

Of course, it's not just the offense. We've heard so much about defense that it's hard to believe how bad things have been. The last few days have been marked by defensive miscues from our three big defensive additions! And while they've also showed off a few flashes of brilliance—particularly Scutaro and Beltre—it's hard to say things are going well when they're losing grounders in the lights, throwing off-target, and having balls bounce off their closed gloves. Usually, errors can be written off with high-mobility guys as just having more opportunities, but at the pace these guys are going, the mistakes could almost be enough to offset the added range! While fielding can slump just as often as batting, it's hard to believe that this rerun of the Rent-A-Wreck situation from a few years back will continue. These guys all have the tools needed to be top-of-the-line defenders, and these mistakes should not be expected to continue at such a pace.

 

So what does that leave us with? The dilapidated bullpen, for which I don't really have an answer. Okajima can be useful, and Bard and Papelbon's spots are locked in. After that, it's an absolute train wreck. But what's important is that the Red Sox focus their attention there, where the actual issues are, instead of trying to fix problems that will fix themselves.

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