Entering Friday, the Boston Red Sox are 15-7 with a two game lead over the Orioles in the American League East. Their pitching has been fantastic with a league-leading 218 strikeouts in 196 innings. The defense is playing up to its potential as well, helping the Sox staff to the fourth-best ERA in the American League. On offense, the Red Sox are back to their grinding ways after a season of free-swinging futility. They rank third in the American League and sixth overall in runs scored. While Red Sox fans have gotten used to seeing the team at the top of the offensive leader boards, their production in these first weeks has been very different than expected.
Like so many of the great Red Sox offenses in recent history, this club can wear opposing pitchers down.
The Red Sox have hit fewer home runs than all but four other
Part of the issue comes from some early struggles from the team’s power hitters. David Ortiz began the season on the DL and his return is already helping to add power back into the lineup. The other big bats have not fared well in his absence, however. Will Middlebrooks has five of the team’s nineteen home runs and a very reasonable .217
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The big surprise has been two guys at the top of lineup. No one can claim that Dustin Pedroia or Shane Victorino are struggling right now: Pedroia is hitting .301 with a .408 OBP, while Victorino is at .292 with a solid .358 OBP. However, both hitters have shown almost no power in these first 22 games. Pedey has slugged just .337 and Victorino has slugged just .319: both players have ISOs under .050. All that time on base has been great for the Red Sox offense, however. Pedroia ranks second on the club in runs scored and Victorino ranks fourth, helping clean-up hitter Mike Napoli to a league-leading 26 RBIs. Their lack of power may be hurting their OPS, but right now it is enough that they are getting on base for those who have had their power stroke.
Both players have averaged ISOs above .150 in their careers, so regression in a positive direction here seems inevitable. In the small sample that is the 2013 season, these two normally-selective players have taken their patience to the extreme, swinging below their career norms overall and laying off of out-of-the-zone-pitches at extreme rates. Pitchers are also being less aggressive, throwing both Pedroia and Victorino fewer strikes than they are used to getting.
These results are unlikely to be predictive in any way. This Red Sox club will almost certainly hit for more power. If that doesn’t happen, however, they are not likely to remain one of the league’s top offenses. These first weeks have seen an extreme in production without power that simply cannot be sustained over 162 games.
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