Boston Red Sox and the importance of Shane Victorino

It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox’ offense is sputtering right now. For a squad that led the majors in runs a season ago, they currently sit 24th in MLB in runs scored (60) this season and 23rd in the league in team batting average (.236).

The good news? Help is on the way.

Shane Victorino, who posted a slash of .294/.351/.451 last year with Boston, began his rehab assignment today from his hamstring strain with Triple-A Pawtucket, going 0-for-3 and playing six innings in right field. Victorino is scheduled to play in two more games with the Paw Sox on Monday and Tuesday before being re-evaluated by Boston for a possible return next week, according to Ricky Doyle of NESN.com.

Boston Red Sox

Shane Victorino could return to the Red Sox by sometime next week.

Aside from his ability to play a Gold Glove-caliber right field for the Red Sox, Victorino could provide that spark at the top of lineup that Boston has been missing since the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees.

Part of Boston’s offensive struggles this year I think are connected to Victorino’s absence and how it has affected some of the other guys on the team.

Consider the fact that the platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava isn’t so much a platoon anymore without Victorino’s presence. At times, they have been in the lineup together, which was a rare occurrence in 2013 when John Farrell was able to use them in accordance to their individual strengths.

Nava struggles when he hits from the right side (evident in his .252 average from the right side vs .322 average from the left last season). Nava is just 1-for-17 batting from the right side this season, and his OBP, perhaps his best tool as a Major League hitter, was 100 points higher from the left side in 2013. So his struggles through the first 18 games this season don’t surprise me as I think it’s a clear result of overexposure.

The story is similar for Jonny Gomes, who’s strength shows up in his ability to hit left-handers primarily, but isn’t too shabby against righties either. Both of these guys would benefit greatly if they could return to the blue print used last season, but that isn’t possible without the Flyin’ Hawaiian back in the lineup.

The other factor Victorino brings that the Red Sox are severely lacking so far is speed. Let’s face it, without Ellsbury, there’s absolutely nobody left on the roster who poses a threat on the base paths. Victorino changes that. He nabbed 21 stolen bases in 2013, and with the rate that Boston is grounding into double-plays, it will be a nice sight to have a player who can eliminate the DP by stealing a bag here and there.

We haven’t seen Boston’s lineup at full tilt yet this season, so let’s hope that the return of Shane Victorino can put the charge back into what was supposed to be one of the best offenses in baseball.