Red Sox Face Uphill Battle Against Angels

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Since the 2010 season started, I have posted series previews that culminated with a prediction. In every instance aside from one, my predictions have been off. This is partly due to the fact that entering this upcoming series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Red Sox have stuttered their way to a 11-14 record. In 18 of their first 25 games, the Red Sox have had 18 games decided by 2 runs or less and 8 of which have resulted in losses.

While the Red Sox began the 2010 season with a plan to focus on pitching and defense, the plan didn’t also coincide with the unexpected trips to the disabled list by Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury. Cameron and Ellsbury are arguably better defensive and offensive options over Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, and even the newcomer Darnell McDonald. While fielding percentage suggests that Hall, McDonald and Hermida are viable outfield options, the reality is the three substitutes are subpar when you consider where they rank in zone ratings for their overall careers compared to the players they’re filling in for. The bottom line, in part, is the outfield isn’t as good as the Red Sox expected going into the season.

Another aspect of the poor start by the Boston Red Sox relates to their offensive struggles. In addition to the well known power outage from David Ortiz, Victor Martinez and J.D. Drew have struggled for part of the season to date. Drew has shown signs of life though, going 5 for his last 12 with 3 homers and a double. With David Ortiz being shifted into a platoon, it looks to be a short term attempt to jumpstart the season on Big Papi’s power. The guess here is his days are numbered as a member of the Boston Red Sox if he struggles far into May. Having Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury back sooner than later will instantly improve the offense.

The Red Sox pitching staff has had its fair share of up and downs, and only recently started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While Clay Buchholz has pitched well so far, the rest of the staff has struggled. Jon Lester has thrown 12.2 scoreless innings in two starts since three rough starts to start the season. John Lackey, and Josh Beckett to a lesser extent, have also thrown slightly better in their last starts. It seems part of the pitching problem relates to consistency, and pitching well against the tough lineups that include the Angels and Yankees.

The relief corps of the Red Sox appear to have several players who have pitched well, but there is an alarming difference between the Red Sox relief corps and that of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. The relief pitchers of the Red Sox have, as a team, allowed 40% of inherited runners to score. The Yankees bullpen has allowed 29%, and the first place Rays have allowed 28% of inherited runners to score. The Red Sox bullpen has allowed nearly twice as many inherited runners to score than either the Rays or Yankees. The third place Toronto Blue Jays have allowed a higher percentage of inherited runners to score, but the Red Sox have allowed a higher total number of runners to score, 17 to Toronto’s 12.

With Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury not close to returning to action before the end of the week, the Red Sox will have to rely on the replacements and hope for a a continued pace by Buchholz and the rest of the rotation if they hope to break even over the next two series matchups. With the pitching staff facing a game of musical chairs with the shuffling of Tim Wakefield to the bullpen, the optioning of Scott Atchison, the release of Alan Embree and the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the rotation, it’s impossible to guess what else may change with the team before the end of the week.

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