Yes, the first quarter of the 2014 Boston Red Sox season has not gone according to plan. The offense has struggled, the fielding compares to a date with Medusa and the team is floundering at 20-23.
Is the offense truly as anemic as it looks? The short answer is yes. On the other hand, comparing 2014’s production to last year will get you nowhere.
How good was the 2013 offense? If you believe in OPS+, last year’s championship squad was the second best in the team’s 115-year history. In winning their eighth championship, the Sox posted an OPS+ of 117. That is 17 percent more efficient than the average American League team, adjusted to their ballpark. (2003’s eye-dropping 118 is the franchise’s best. Thanks, Grady Little.)
In 2014? The number drops to 94, on pace to tie 1917, 1945 and 1954 for 79th. Not good.
Coming off a season when every starter seemingly had a career year at the plate, there was no realistic way this year’s squad was going to match 2013. The lone player in over 200 plate appearances to have an OPS+ below 110—yes, 110—last season was Will Middlebrooks and his paltry 87.
Was losing Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury too much? Of the three, Salty had the best numbers of the bunch with 118. Ellsbury’s OPS+ was 113 and Drew posted 111. Great numbers, but only Salty cracked the top five on the team.
Their replacements, though, are not producing. Bogaerts comes closest to Drew, trailing 108 to 111. A.J. Pierzynski and Jackie Bradley Jr, on the other hand, have scores of 74 and 68. Remember, the league average is 100. Bradley’s production is a whopping 32 percent below league average. A.J.? Well, he is gone after this season.
For the Red Sox, this is a bad slump. Sure, Shane Victorino will improve as he plays. Yes, Bogaerts and Bradley are still raw prospects. Still, a quarter way through the season, the offense as a whole is anemic and not improving soon unless the team changes their approach.
However, there are two saving graces that the Sox have. No one is running away with the division. Three games under .500 still finds Boston three games out of first. Any sort of winning streak will propel them forward.
Second, the pitching as a whole is not as bad as it looks. Yes, there are holes you can drive a truck through. Jon Lester, John Lackey and parts of the bullpen, however, have held up enough to give the Sox an ERA+ of 110. That is 10 percent above league average.
What the front office does to fix the problem remains to be seen. After a season where every decision they made turned out to be correct, 2014 finds everyone right back to before the start of 2013.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and as are of May 19, 2014.