Breaking down the real Boston Red Sox offense
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Source: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images North America)
As of this posting, the Boston Red Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball by just about every measure. However, this success has come via some unconventional methods. Through the first 22 games of the season, a trend has started to emerge for the Boston offense. The Sox either score runs in bunches, or not at all, and there’s really no in-between. So, what does the real Boston Red Sox offense look like? And how can they become more consistent?
Searching for the real Boston Red Sox offense
Generally speaking, the average major league offense is expected to score anywhere from four to six runs on any given day. Putting up three or fewer is underachieving, while scoring seven or more should be more than enough. Through 22 games, it’s astonishing how often the Red Sox offense goes for either extreme.
The Red Sox offense averages 5.77 runs per game, good for second best in the league. While that’s an impressive statistic in its own right, it’s more impressive considering the Red Sox have scored three runs or fewer in eight of their 22 games. That’s just over 36% of the time, a surprisingly high percentage for an offense of the Sox caliber.
The reason their offense ranks so high is because when they’re good, they’re REALLY good. The Sox have scored seven or more runs in 11 of their 22 games, an absurd 50% rate. That’s clearly not sustainable, but that just goes to show how good this offense can be when everything is clicking.
So, which offense is the real one? The season is still young, so what are the expectation for the Red Sox offense over the next 140 games? Will they be the team that struggles to score runs, or the one that never takes the foot off the gas?
Which offense is the real one?
Chances are, the real Red Sox offense is something closer to the dominant version instead of the anemic version. The Red Sox, as previously mentioned, have scored seven or more runs in half of their games, which shows their potential. However, they’ve been doing that with essentially only two-thirds of a functioning lineup.
The bottom of the order has been the Achilles heel on this team, especially with Xander Bogaerts on the disabled list. The top six spots of the order have been relatively consistent all season, while the last three spots have been highly questionable. Those spots have been comprised of mainly Jackie Bradley, whoever’s catching, and Brock Holt.
Bradley’s role in this offense has already been analyzed in depth by Red Sox Unfiltered’s Patrick Green. Basically, he’s a naturally streaky player, and there’s several underlying statistics to suggest a positive turn is on the way. The other two spots should also improve.
While Holt’s warmed up from his painfully slow start to the season, he’s still not an ideal starter. Fortunately, he’s not long for the starting lineup. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is on the mend, and should return to the lineup by Friday.
There’s no overstating how much of an upgrade Bogaerts is on Holt. Before his ankle injury, Bogaerts was easily the teams hottest hitter. Through 40 plate appearances, Bogaerts hit two home runs and seven doubles while posting a .368/.400/.711 slash line. That pace is somewhat unsustainable, but his presence alone could mean an extra run per game over Holt.
The catching situation isn’t so cut and dry. Currently, Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon have caught every game, and it hasn’t been pretty. Vazquez currently boasts an absolutely atrocious 44 wRC+, with a .211/.262/.263 slash line. Leon’s even worse, holding a -48 wRC with a .115/.115/.115 slash line. It’s genuinely difficult to be that bad as a duo.
The good news is that it’s physically impossible for them to stay that bad. Neither one will ever win the batting title, but they can’t stay THAT bad all season. Regardless, the answer to the catcher problem may rest on the bench in Blake Swihart.
Anyone who’s watched Swihart catch knows that he’s something of a mess defensively. However, he’s clearly the best bat of the three, even when Vazquez and Leon aren’t slumping. Entering the season, the general thought was that Swihart’s offensive upside didn’t justify the defensive downgrade. However, with how bad Vazquez and Leon have been, it may be time to rethink that strategy. Should Swihart prove to even be an adequate defensive catcher, his bat will provide a solid upgrade to the lineup.
Just like that, the bottom of the order goes from three easy outs to three difficult outs. Factor in an absolutely stacked top six, and suddenly there’s no easy out in the lineup. Will the Red Sox continue to score seven runs or more in half their games? Probably not. However, this lineup is built in such a way that the Red Sox should be a top-five offense, and these cold stretches should be the outliers.