clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Red Sox lineup has not had a fun month of June

Should we be worried?

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most frustrating and difficult parts of being a baseball fan is not giving in to the temptation to react with each and every passing moment. I mean, none of this is terribly consequential so it doesn’t really matter if you react passionately with each result, it’s just that it’s an easy way to drive yourself crazy. Baseball is filled with ebbs and flows, but it’s certainly easier said than done to let the bad moments slide off you. Additionally, while small sample sizes can often be deceiving, there are definitely instances in which they are indicative of a larger trend to watch moving forward. Deciding what is real and what is not is perhaps the most difficult and frustrating part of being a baseball fan.

With that in mind, it’s worth looking at the recent run by the Red Sox, specifically in the month of June. Now, using just the calendar month June is an arbitrary endpoint, but it’s close enough to the start of this rough period for Boston and it’s a lot easier to parse numbers this way. Anyway, Boston has gone 10-8 this month, which is not close to their season-long pace and would qualify as disappointing. However, if this is just a bad stretch and perhaps their worst stretch of the season, one could argue that’s actually pretty good! The real frustration is that the starting pitching has been incredible during this run, but the team is still not winning more consistently because of poor offense.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After the lineup had been one of the best in baseball for both of the first two months of the season, the group has taken a major step back in June. Through 18 games this month, they’ve hit for an 89 wRC+, meaning they’ve been roughly 11 percent worse than the league-average hitter. For context, that’s roughly equivalent to Rafael Devers’ season-long wRC+. It also ranks 19th in all of baseball this month. That’s not ideal for a team fighting with one of the game’s best teams in the American League East.

There are two ways to look at the recent performance by the bats. From one point of view, we have the optimistic view. That is, we acknowledge that this is just a small snapshot of the season and a small enough sample that it’s unlikely to be a true representation of the team’s true talent. The lineup has been more than fine for the majority of the season and it makes way more sense to use the larger sample when trying to decide who this group really is. The pessimistic view says that this stretch has exposed some real flaws with the lineup and that these flaws are likely to continue to be exposed, meaning that the recent performance could very well be representative of what we can expect moving forward. The truth, as boring as it may be, is that both sides have some kernel of truth on their side.

The optimistic side of things is pretty simple: The team is in a slump! Baseball is a game of ups and downs. There aren’t a whole lot of players who are going to be good day in and day out, and the idea is that the team doesn’t combine too many slumps at any given moment. The Red Sox have not been able to do that of late. In particular, Mookie Betts has both missed time this month and slumped upon his return. He is, of course, the best player on the team so him not playing up to his normal standards for a week-long stretch is both not concerning and harmful to the team. They have also suffered from some bad sequencing, as they’ve gotten on base plenty of late but have not been able to come through with their opportunities. There are systemic issues to that, of course, but a lot of it is just not stringing at bats together in the most ideal way.

The bad is more complicated, but no less valid. The Red Sox have some real problem spots on their roster. Catcher is a disaster offensively for every team, but the Red Sox have taken it to another level. The good news is that Christian Vazquez has actually been pretty good of late (127 wRC+ in June). Second base is also a disaster, with Eduardo Núñez being awful in just about every area of the game and Dustin Pedroia not looking particularly close to a return from injury. It’s probably time for a change there, but it’s hard to be overly confident in any option. The bottom of the order in general has been rough all year, and it’s more easily noticeable right now with some of the bigger bats struggling. Most teams don’t love the bottom of their lineup, but the Red Sox’ lack of consistency there has contributed to those blown opportunities referenced above.

In my mind, the wildcard in this whole conversation is Mitch Moreland. Most of the lineup, struggling right now or not, can fit pretty easily into one of the two viewpoints above. For example, Betts should be better and Núñez is probably going to stay bad. Moreland is less clear. The first baseman not only has a somewhat unclear true-talent level — he’s shown huge flashes with the Red Sox that suggest a real ceiling but ultimately has been around average for his entire career — but he also represents the border between the top and bottom of the lineup. How you view Moreland moving forward says a lot about how you feel about the Red Sox lineup.

Ultimately, I fit more into the first category than the second, but again that’s not to say there aren’t real issues here. The bottom of the order is a problem, and second base in particular is a position that needs to be addressed. The offense is going to be better than average whether or not they make a move, but the goal needs to be more than that. There are real issues here, but the key is to properly contextualize them. Overreacting can lead to rash and ultimately costly moves, and that is the rub with watching a sport with 162 games.