The Stifling of the Red Sox Offense
The Red Sox lineup has shown to be scuffling a bit. What can be done about that?
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (April 6, 2018 – Source: Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)
Alex Cora and the Red Sox have been pretty steadfast in the lineup that gets trotted out on a daily basis. There are only minor changes based on who is getting a day off or matchup wise, but for the most part, we have seen the same lineup.
Maybe it’s time for a permanent shake up.
Don’t get me wrong, the lineup has been working so far. The Red Sox are leading the AL in hits, doubles, batting average, slugging, and OPS. They’re 2nd in the AL in runs scored, RBI, and have the 4th fewest strikeouts as line up. By all accounts, it is doing what it needs to do to get the Red Sox to a favorable record.
Where my issue lies is in the fact that the Red Sox started out 16-2 heading into a weekend series with the Oakland Athletics. They were off to the best start in franchise history, and then something magical happened.
Sean Manaea, the 26-year-old left hander for the A’s, no-hit the Red Sox in the second game of that series.
The Red Sox ended up losing 2 out of 3, and that no-hitter proved to bring a stifling silence in the Red Sox bats.
Including the no hitter, and running through the Sunday, May 6th game, there are some stats that are bit concerning for the offense. In the American League, the Red Sox are 11th in batting average, 10th in hits, 8th in home runs, 7th in runs scored, and 6th in strikeouts.
This doesn’t look so good.
A closer look says that the Red Sox are 11th in slugging percentage, and 13th in OPS. There is also a statistic called wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus), which tries to credit a hitter based on the value of a hit, instead of just seeing a single, double or home run. It’s scaled so that league average is 100. The Red Sox wRC+ is 87, which would be 13 points less than average. That puts them at number 14th in the American League.
Every statistical category has them in the bottom half of the American League.
It does not help that the catchers for the Red Sox have produced next to nothing and it does not look like it is going to get better. Jackie Bradley cannot seem to get out of his season-long slump. He has gone 5 for 47 with 21 strikeouts in the same stretch mentioned above. All 5 of those hits are singles.
I don’t care what your defensive value is. When the bottom third of the order is producing at such an anemic level, it’s time for a change. There is no signs of life in the bottom part of that order, and for that, I propose a different lineup here:
Mookie Betts RF
Mitch Moreland 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
JD Martinez LF
Andrew Benintendi CF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Rafael Devers 3B
Blake Swihart C
Eduardo Nunez 2B
Now that is a long lineup for an opposing pitcher to get through.
It’s time for Blake Swihart to get some reps behind the plate. Vazquez has made some mental mistakes behind the plate (a certain play where he used his equipment to retrieve a ball, resulting in runners being moved up comes to mind), and has not been hitting at all. What’s there to lose? At the very least, it can let other teams see that Swihart can be a catcher and maybe have a trade chip at the deadline.
Defense might save you late in games, and it’s fine to make changes late with slim leads, but if the Red Sox want to continue ripping the league apart like they were for the first month of the season, playing the hot hand in Mitch Moreland, and sitting the parts of the line up that are giving zero value is the way to do it.
You cannot win baseball games without scoring, and while the Red Sox are still boasting a great record, it sure has started to unravel a bit.