The Boston Red Sox stretched their landslide to seven games last night in a 7-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, ending the three game series in a sweep for the birds. Though poor pitching has certainly played its part in their losing streak, the Red Sox need to look at other problem areas if they want to turn their season around.
Baseball is much more than pitching, obviously. There are eight other players on the field in the defensive half of the inning, and there is another half-inning in which the pitcher (unless the team is in the National League) does not participate. Boston plays in the American League, and relies on a designated hitter to bat in place of the pitcher—and batting is one of the major areas where the Red Sox are flailing.
All but seven players are hitting below the league average, including four of the teams’ regular starters. The Red Sox’ current team batting average is a measly .230. Only one player on the roster is currently batting at or above .300, and rumors abound that he is likely to be sent down to the triple-A leagues soon.
Third baseman Brock Holt has been a shining beacon of hope for the Red Sox since stepping in for injured starter Will Middlebrooks. In his 12 games with the organization, the 26-year-old has scored four runs and has five RBI on 13 hits, including two doubles and a triple. He has been credited with 12 outs, 29 assists, and three double plays on 44 total chances at third base. He also has three errors, but Middlebrooks has two on his stat board as well. Middlebrooks boasts similar numbers on defense, with 13 outs, 35 assists, and 2 double plays on 50 total chances, but his batting leaves something to be desired. The 26-year-old sits at an abysmal .197 for the 21 games he has played this season.
With the recent re-signing of shortstop Steven Drew, the Red Sox plan to move Xander Bogaerts to third base. Sending Holt back to triple-A at this point will hurt the Red Sox in statistics and on the field, but the team’s only other option is to reassign switch-hitting utility infielder Jonathan Herrera.
Nothing has been announced from Fenway yet, but if the Red Sox want to end this streak, they need to assess their batting problems, which are causing them to lose just as much as the lackluster pitching. This means making some sacrifices to keep the players who consistently put runs on the board. Herrera has played twice as many games with the Red Sox as Holt, yet his batting average is .184 and his infield numbers (nine outs, 22 assists, one double play, and 3 errors on 32 total chances) are inferior to Holt’s.
The Red Sox pitchers do not get a free pass, though. The starters are averaging a 4.63 earned run average, and the 3.6 average for the bullpen is not much better. John Lackey is the only starter with a winning record at 5-3, and Uehara is the only relief pitcher with multiple saves. Each of the starters has allowed more than five home runs this season; Jake Peavy is averaging one home run allowed per start. Opposing batters are hitting above the league average against every starter with the exception of Jon Lester. Three of the five starters are averaging less than five strikeouts per start.
The Red Sox need to get their offense and defense in sync. Their season-long run differential of -22 will not win them any playoff spots, nor will a record six games in the red. The Red Sox will need to evaluate all of their problem areas, especially pitching and batting, if they want to end their seven game losing streak. Maintaining Brock Holt on the roster would be a good start; working on Clay Buchholz’s 6.32 ERA will help, too.
Commentary by Christina Jones