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Missing Carl Crawford

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BOSTON, MA  - JUNE 17:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox leaves the game in the first inning after an injury against the Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park on June 17, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 17: Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox leaves the game in the first inning after an injury against the Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park on June 17, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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We've discussed how the Red Sox may want to replace J.D. Drew internally with Josh Reddick, or how the team needs to figure out an option for the fifth spot in the lineup, but the thing that has been hurting the Red Sox lately is the loss of Carl Crawford. Just taking a look at the season's stats, it's hard to see that, as Crawford was hitting all of .243/.275/.384 on the season, but from May 1 onward, Crawford was at .295/.318/.476 with seven doubles, four triples, and five homers in 166 at-bats. 

That doesn't seem like a lot, at least in the on-base department, but you have to remember that offense is down in 2011. The league average left fielder is hitting .254/.321/.396, and just .243/.305/.370 in the American League. While Crawford's April brings his whole line down, he hasn't played like that at all during the last two months -- that is the production Boston misses.

Especially when the players getting extra at-bats due to his absence have been playing poorly. While left field is at .250/.324/.500 since Crawford went down, all of that has come from Reddick's limited time there (.385/.471/.923 in his 13 at-bats). Think about that for a moment... if there have been 32 at-bats in left since Crawford went down, and Reddick has hit that well in his 13, how poorly have Cameron and McDonald down with the other 30-plus plate appearances? Not to mention that, at this point, Reddick is a better defensive player than both, as he is capable of playing center, making him overqualified for a corner slot.

And, of course, even if Reddick is in left and hitting, that leaves right field to some combination of Drew, Cameron, or McDonald, a group that has hit .200/.263/.200 since Crawford went down. Now, this isn't to say that these small samples are predictive, just that they are what is hurting Boston's lineup over the past 10 games or so. 

Sans Crawford, and without Reddick in the lineup, all of a sudden there are two gaping holes in the offense every day. Factor in that the pitcher has a chance to hit in National League parks, and that Boston is forced to use David Ortiz as a pinch-hitter without the designated hitter available, and it's easy to see how a team that looks like it may have the scariest offense of the last 40 years in the AL could be tamed by even the Pittsburgh Pirates' hurlers. Those three holes and no Ortiz makes for a very different lineup than the one Boston can roll out against even the top clubs in the American League, and changes the whole dynamic of the offense. 

Terry Francona looks to change that tonight by starting Adrian Gonzalez in right field and David Ortiz at first base. While this is not something I approve of -- were something to happen to Gonzalez while playing an unfamiliar position, even something minor like a hamstring strain, the offense's suffering would be drawn out even further -- it should help to solve some of the problems that Crawford's absence has caused. When Crawford returns, though, not only will the team be getting his bat back, but they will be able to subtract that of McDonald's or Cameron's from the equation -- and hopefully keep Reddick around to reduce the ineffective outfield play even further.