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The Dead Ball Dead Sox

To say that the Red Sox lineup has appeared morbid is an understatement.

What’s most bothersome is how the lineup has not been able to execute against lackluster pitching, and last night was just another example of that. The Red Sox faced the once great CC Sabathia, but his fastball barely tops out over 88 mph these days. Sabathia still has a change-up (that acts a bit like a slider), and a curveball that he throws occasionally, but last night his pitch speeds hardly varied from the 82-88 mph range. We’re not talking about a pitcher who can toss 93-95 mph fastballs, pull the string with a sub-80’s mph change-up, and mix in a splitter or slower curveball. (Which a lot of younger starters in the big leagues are able to do right now. What happens when this Red Sox lineup faces those pitchers?)

In short, Sabathia should have gotten hammered last night – but the Red Sox ended up having more fielding errors than hits. That’s embarrassing.

What’s more embarrassing are some stats that Red Sox hitters are amassing. I’ll only highlight a couple because: 1) We don’t have all day to look at the trove; and 2) Looking at everything might induce Friday afternoon weeping.

First, here are the stats for runners in scoring position for 2013 and 2014 for David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, and Daniel Nava.

BA w/RISP OBP w/RISP RBI w/RISP
Ortiz
2013 .315 .453 72
2014 .174 .318 7
Napoli
2013 .257 .372 73
2014 .174 .269 9
Pedroia
2013 .312 .369 72
2014 .263 .263 4
Nava
2013 .306 .392 58
2014 .091 .286 1

When you focus on stats as a whole, without narrowing it down to RISP, players like Ortiz and Napoli look fine. Napoli is hitting .294 with 5 homers, Ortiz is starting out slow with a .256 average but he has 4 homers. But when you narrow their stats down to how they’re hitting with RISP, when compared to how they hit in 2013, you see where the problem lies.

The biggest shocker here, though, is Daniel Nava. It’s weird to think of Nava, who was essentially a platoon player, as a core part of the Red Sox hitting attack in 2013, but look at how he raked with RISP: .306 average, 58 RBIs. And now? Nava isn’t even on the 25 man roster now. That’s a huge loss.

Speaking of huge losses for the Red Sox, let’s see how Jacoby Ellsbury‘s loss as effected the line up. This next stat comparison may not be fair because Shane Victorino has been on the disabled list, and both Red Sox players I highlight weren’t expected to replace Ellsbury. Regardless, Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. are both centerfielders who are expected to get on base and steal bases. I’ve combined Sizemore and JBJ’s April 2014 stats and compared them with Ellsbury’s stat line from April 2013.

OBP Runs SB 2B 3B
Ellsbury (April 2013) .336 19 11 6 3
Sizemore/JBJ (April 2014) .300 15 6 6 1

Unfortunately, one Sizemore and one JBJ are not equal to one Ellsbury. Both players have been struggling, with Sizemore hitting .212 and JBJ doing worse with a .206 batting average. Even though JBJ is getting on base at an average rate, as reflected in his .324 OBP, this isn’t satisfactory. Both players combined are not getting the job done.

Not that it matters, because the meat of the Red Sox batting order isn’t hitting with runners in scoring position anyway. With Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino returning, the Red Sox have most of the lineup that they wanted for 2014 in place (minus Daniel Nava, who looked completely lost at the plate). Ryan Roberts and Jonathan Herrera aren’t whiffing every time the step to the plate anymore, so the Red Sox are out of excuses. It’s time to start hitting.

This Red Sox lineup has some serious problems right now, and the solution isn’t telling A.J. Pierzynski to swing at less pitches. The problems start with the team’s core not being able to produce, and if they don’t figure out a way to hammer pitchers like Sabathia soon, then maybe they’ll need to take pitching lessons from Mike Carp. Because they’ll all be throwing an inning or two soon.

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