Batting Fifth: Who Can Bring In Runs For The Red Sox

Is Jarrod Saltlamacchia the answer at no. 5? (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Red Sox may have finally kicked their losing streak Sunday, but many of the same old problems remained., as the Sox left 10 men stranded on base.

The problem actually extends back through the entire four-game losing streak, with David Ortiz having left 12 men on in the last two games of the series. But a two-game slide shouldn't have anyone calling for one of the best hitters in the league this year to be moved down anytime soon. I know we Sox fans can be fickle at times, but that's a bit much.

Still, we have six more games to play in the NL, and with Terry Francona seemingly unwilling to play Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield, the Sox will have to make due with only having their 1-through-4 batters set in stone. The question, then, is who can we bat fifth who won't leave 18 men on base in just three game's time?

J.D. Drew

The Sox were set to go with Drew in Sunday's game, but a batting practice incident lead to a swollen eye and a day cut well short--though he still managed to strand two men all the same. What an overachiever! 

Really, though, as much as it pains me to say this, Drew's days as an effective offensive player may well be at an end. His .292 wOBA comes a year after a sharp decline to .346, his BABIP is in match step with what it was last year, suggesting more of a fundamental change in how well he's hitting the ball than a bout of bad luck, and he's seen a drastic decline in power, with only nine extra-base hits on the year.

Really, it's not hard just to look at him and pass judgement, either. His inability to catch up to a good fastball--something which has never been a problem in his best years--has left him taking some very off-balance hacks when he's surprised by off-speed offerings, and forces him to swing early, before he can really judge if fthe pitch is going to be a ball or a strike. Drew may still make for a passable roster spot thanks to his plus defense, but a no. 5 batter he is not.

 

Marco Scutaro

An unexpected contestant, Scutaro has none-the-less been seeing a good bit of support in our game threads, and in a lot of ways it makes sense. While his 1-for-11 against Pittsburgh likely wouldn't have helped much, he's been something of an offensive threat since returning from the disabled list with a .816 OPS in May. 

Of course, Scutaro isn't going to be a guy who brings everyone in with one swing of the bat, but he almost never strikes out, which is very helpful for a team which has struggled to find guys who can even provide situational outs when they're needed most, and he's a legitimate threat against lefties.

While the platoon attempts of Terry Francona so far this year are a large part of what's sparked this issue in the first place (see: McDonald, Darnell and Cameron, Mike), there's maybe something to be said for arranging the order based on splits. Against a southpaw, the Sox could do a lot worse than having Scoot bat fifth.

 

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Saltalamacchia has been quietly establishing himself as a decent catching option for the Red Sox when given the chance this past month. He's only had 49 at bats, but he's made the most of them so far, hitting .347/.418/.571 in June. That being said, he might not be the ideal no. 5 hitter.

For one thing, his numbers this month are largely the product of a massive .516 BABIP, which is in no way sustainable. Meanwhile, he's struck out 17 times. With strikeouts being the last thing you want with men on base--no, the possibility of a double play should not outweigh the potential for a hit or at least an RBI out--Salty strikes me more as a no. 6 hitter. He's got the power to clean up any remnants when he does hit, but shouldn't be the guy on whom the burden falls every time to make sure the Sox get something out of their baserunners.

 

Josh Reddick

And here's where I think the real answer lies. Reddick combines Marco Scutaro's tendency to avoid the strikeout with Jarrod Salalamacchia's power and hot streak. Hitting .414/.457/.690 so in his short season-to-date, Reddick's numbers would still look pretty good even without a .423 BABIP. 

There are a few obvious objections when it comes to Reddick:

 

  • He can't hit lefties: A belief stemming from Terry Francona's refusal to hit him against southpaws more than anything, Reddick's splits may not be non-existant, but generally he hasn't had too much more trouble against them than righties. More importantly, at some point it's time to dive in. If he's going to be a part of this team's future, it's not going to come against righties only. At the same time, with Marco Scutaro available, it's understandable if some fans would prefer to swap their places in the lineup depending on who's on the mound.
  • Too much pressure on the recent call-up: There's no doubt that Reddick hasn't had a lot of experience with Major League pressure, but--just as with lefties--this isn't something that can just be avoided. There's also the fact that Reddick hasn't ever really been the type to over-think things. We've seen him come up big offensively already this season--he's 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and a double in at-bats deemed "high-leverage" by Fangraphs--and he's not let big league nerves keep him from making highlight reel grabs in the outfield either.
  • His hot streak won't last: As with many other players relatively new to the league, there's a good likelihood that pitchers will figure out Reddick at some point in the near future and make him iron out the final kinks in his game as best he can. The good news is that the Sox only need six games out of Reddick in this capacity, and then he can go back to working them out in lower-leverage situations should he find himself in trouble.
Obviously none of the answers are going to be as satisfying as having Papi back in the fold for the last 80 games of the year. But I think I speak for every Red Sox fan when I say we're getting tired of stranding 10 runners on base per game without also scoring 10 a game. The Sox have options that are better than the one's they've been using--it's time to take advantage of them.

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