The Boston Red Sox’ win last night put their record at 32-38, 8.5 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays. Last season through 70 games, the Sox were 42-28 and on their way to winning the World Series. So what is the big difference from last season?
First, let’s take a look at the offense from last year and the offense so far from this year. At first glance, the numbers are shockingly different. Last year, they were first in runs, second in batting average, and first in OBP, slugging, and OPS. This year, almost halfway through the season, they are 22nd in runs, 21st in average, 9th in OBP, 22nd in slugging, and 18th in OPS. OBP is the only category in which they are still in the top ten, but it doesn’t matter much if nobody is driving in the runners on base. Their OPS is down almost a hundred points, going from .795 to .698, which is even worse than the 2012 disaster year in which they mustered a .730 OPS.
Now let’s look a little bit deeper. Hitting and scoring runs is all about timing, especially when you aren’t hitting home runs, which the Sox are ranked 26th in with almost half as many homers as the Blue Jays. With two outs and runners in scoring position, the Red Sox are hitting a measly .217, down from .249 last year. Well, you can score runs with any number of outs, so let’s look at runners in scoring position regardless of outs. Last season, probably the three best teams in the league were all at the top of the league in average with RISP, that being the Cardinals, Tigers, and Red Sox-who hit .278. This year, the Red Sox are hitting .237, good for what seems to be their favorite ranking, 22nd.
Now, while the players are underperforming, it is not all their fault. Plenty of free agents were available to bolster their roster, especially in the outfield. If the team had no intention of resigning Jacoby Ellsbury, cheaper options such as Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, or Nelson Cruz could have all been afforded.
Cruz is the easiest name to point out at this point because he has more home runs than the whole Red Sox outfield, but for $8 million dollars there’s no excuse for not giving the ex-steroid abuser a chance.
Maybe even Michael Morse, who is helping the Giants back into World Series contention, would have been a fit for $6 million. Considering Stephen Drew was just signed for $10 million for part of the season clearly shows that money is no issue, so maybe the front office was a bit too nonchalant this past offseason. Just because they won the World Series doesn’t mean they can sit back and hope that some rookies put the team right back to where it was a year ago.
In another city, this might be alright. If it was the Minnesota Twins who won the World Series last year, they might not be hassled as much over a disappointing season to follow it up. Not in Boston. We are a spoiled city that needs its teams to win, plain and simple. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, there better be a good excuse. Half of the Patriots’ roster was injured last year, but fans were still looking for an unprecedented Super Bowl appearance.
If the hitting turns itself around, this might be an afterthought. David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia seem like they almost have to hit better the second half of the season and the slew of Mendoza-line candidates in the outfield are due to turn it around as well. If the Red Sox limp back to the .500 line and miss the playoffs by five games, which is a likely scenario, the front office will have some explaining to do.
They may be better off explaining with actions rather than words and making a splash this next offseason. Better yet, make a move at the trade deadline to make the fans at least slightly more content for the time being. It’s strange to hassle a team that just won the World Series, but that is what being a Boston sports fan is all about.