As this column is written the Red Sox currently sit at 30-32. I have always used 95 wins as the benchmark for making the playoffs. Given those numbers the Sox need to play .650 baseball the rest of the way to reach my benchmark! While much of the banter in the Boston and local sports media circles always seems to be around pitching and Boston's seeming lack of it, I am apparently in the minority of believing the problem with this team is the hitting. Except for you Tim Britton, who made a similar argument in today's ProJo Live Blog, thanks for the validation!
If you look simply at the statistical evidence so far this season, the Sox hitting seems to be doing very well as they are ranked near the top of the AL in most categories. Meanwhile, statistically speaking the pitching rank near the bottom in most categories. However, if you take an in-depth look at these statistics you will find some interesting nuggets. For the months of May and June, the Sox are 2 games under .500. During that time the staff ERA is 3.79 with a respectable WHIP of 1.25, both numbers under the AL average. The hitting however, has fallen off dramatically, ranking near the bottom in both runs (41) and average (.235) for the month of June. In my eyes, the reason for the Red Sox continued struggles to gain momentum and get out of last place lies solely on the fact that they cannot score runs. A month and a half of your pitching staff giving up less than 4 earned runs per game (4.2 total runs per game) and this team could only manage 19-21? Included in that time was a 1-8 and 1-7 stretch. So let's use 5 runs scored as the goal for this vaunted line-up. Next let's look at the Sox record when scoring 5 or more runs: 25-4. When scoring fewer than 5: 5-28. I know what you are thinking, any team that scores 5 or more is going to be very successful. How about this tidbit, the Sox are 21-13 for the year when the opponents score fewer than 4 runs, good for a .618 clip and 14-9 in the last month and a half. Granted these numbers do not really support my point.
Here is what it boils down to, the Sox top 5 hitters in the month of June are Nick Punto, Daniel Nava, Kelly Shoppach, Scott Podsednik, and Darnell McDonald! If this team is going to play itself back firmly into the Wild Card race let alone the AL East race, the hitters on this team need to step up.
In the last month and a half here are the numbers:
AVG (H/AB) BB/K Total Bases TB per Hit
Dustin Pedroia .254 (35/138) 14/23 50 1.4
Adrian Gonzalez .255 (41/161) 9/31 67 1.6
Kevin Youkilis .219 (14/64) 7/18 23 1.6
* As a side note in a Tweet by Danny Knobler, a scout observing Youk stated “For what he costs, he can't do anything.” Well Now!
David Ortiz .241 (35/145) 22/24 70 2.0
Will Middlebrooks .300 (36/120) 7/33 64 1.8
*Another side note in the Trade Youkilis saga, in a Tweet by a Phillies blog site “Phillies prefer Middlebrooks to Youkilis. In other news, I prefer a night of lusty passion with Kate Upton to Winona Ryder.” Who can argue with that?
Mike Aviles .242 (39/161) 3/23 57 1.5
Ryan Sweeney .261 (24/92) 6/22 30 1.3
Jarrod Saltalamacchia .269 (29/108) 8/35 58 2.0
Kelly Shoppach .295 (13/44) 3/16 27 2.1
Daniel Nava .298 (28/94) 19/21 46 1.6
Those numbers are average at best and they have turned into a bunch of singles hitters, if they make contact at all. As a group, the Sox have hit 42 HR's since May 1st and stikeout at a rate above the league average. Understandably injuries have hurt the line-up with constant shuffling and trying to win with secondary players in big roles but, the pitching staff has picked itself up by the boot straps, time for the hitters to do the same. Time to earn your paycheck Dave Magadan and get these guys going. Time to stop bitching about the umpires, time to stop using the excuse that we have faced good pitching. As Will Middlebrooks, arguably the best hitter the last 6 weeks, likes to Tweet time to #wakeandrake!