In the first month of the title defense of the Boston Red Sox, the team has gone through a number of issues that have caused a maddening amount of inconsistency. Boston finished the month with a 13-14 record, a far cry from the team’s 18-8 April last year. The Red Sox did show signs of life towards the end of the month as the offense started to warm up following Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks returning from the disabled list. However, a few things undoubtedly have to change, namely hitting with runners in scoring position, playing consistent defense, and getting reliable performances from the back end of the rotation.
It is difficult to pinpoint one reason why Boston has struggled thus far. It is mostly a conglomerate of things, since not one player or unit has been consistent from the get-go aside from the back end of the bullpen. The Red Sox offense has sputtered as manager John Farrell has gotten mostly poor results out of anyone he has slotted there from Grady Sizemore, to Daniel Nava to Jonny Gomes. Dustin Pedroia has started to look comfortable in that role of late with Victorino behind him.
Early on, getting hits with runners in scoring position was the biggest issue, but Boston has taken baby steps toward fixing that. The offense at full health started to pick up production and walks have mostly not been an issue, as the Red Sox still rank fourth in the majors in walks. According to ESPN, Jackie Bradley has hit .400 with runners in scoring position mostly out of the No. 9 slot in the lineup, but the traditional middle of the order bats like David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, A.J. Pierzynski, Xander Bogaerts and Gomes are all hitting under .211 in those situations.
The team expected a lot from the rookie shortstop Bogaerts, and he has had his ups and downs. The Sox lost a game in Chicago to the White Sox due to an error of his, one of a handful of hiccups he has had in the field. At 21, everyone knew there would be some growing pains, specifically on that side of the ball. On offense, Bogaerts has done his part by hitting ___________. The power has not come around yet, but he has admittedly been a guy who doesn’t start hitting for power until he settles into the season and the weather warms up, so there is no reason to worry. Another player who has had mixed results is Grady Sizemore. Sizemore won the starting center field job prior to the season, but Bradley’s exceptional play at that spot has relegated Sizemore to left and right field. His offense has been up and down, but should provide a big boost once he gets more comfortable.
Top Red Sox Player for April: Mike Napoli
Napoli has been the most consistent force for Boston, and he leads the team in batting average, homers and RBIs. It is not completely unreasonable for him to keep up his average all season, but he has done it before. Not having to worry about learning a new position in the field could be having an effect on his bat so far, and Boston can only hope he remains a powerful force all year. His strikeouts are down slightly from last year as well. Napoli has really been Boston’s only hitter who hasn’t gone into a slump so far.
Top Red Sox Pitcher for April: Jon Lester
He does have four losses, but Jon Lester has mostly been his typical ace-like self. He has gotten unlucky with his draws, which has resulted in the offense scoring just 12 runs in his six starts to this point. He does have two wins to his name, and Lester has been a force in the other aspects, with a great 3.10 ERA and a 43:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It was important for Lester to get off to a good start to ease any doubts that the whopping 248 innings he pitched last season (including the playoffs) didn’t affect him.
Commentary by Justin Hussong, Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers