Monday, April 14, 2014

Boston's Bats Are the Problem

At 5-8, the Red Sox find themselves on the bottom of the AL East. To be fair, that is only two games out of first. Nevertheless, that is not a place we expected to find Boston in the latter-half of April.

When this happens, the impulse is to initially look for excuses. Especially when you drop three of four to the Yankees in the Bronx.

Sometimes, that impulse is just misplaced. As with Pineda and his dirty hand; that wasn't why Boston dropped the first game.

Sometimes, that impulse has a legitimate genesis. The umpires blew two reviews that went against Boston over the weekend. And while the one on Saturday didn't affect the end of that game, the inexplicable reversal on Sunday provided the difference in New York's 3-2 win.

Replay doesn't help if the umpire is still blind

Replay is useless if the umpires can't actually see what is - or isn't - on the screen. Last night, they overturned a 5-4-3 double play when no conclusive angle existed to do so. That gave New York a 3-1 lead. Without that screwup, it's 2-2 going into the ninth and who knows what happens.

But I digress. Because while that call was costly, the real reason for Boston's poor standing right now has to do with their lineup.

Boston is 8th in the AL with an OPS of .695, compared to their AL-leading .795 OPS last year. They are fourth in the AL with 110 strikeouts but ninth in walks. They have grounded into 17 double plays, leading the AL.

It's not their pitching. The staff has a respectable 3.76 ERA. Their nine quality starts is second-best in the AL. They are sixth in strikeouts with 104 and their 27 walks allowed is second-best behind Detroit. While the Boston staff has allowed the third-most hits in the AL (126), that hasn't translated into a lot of runs (seventh in the AL in earned runs allowed and overall runs allowed). As a whole, the Boston rotation and bullpen haven't been spectacular, but they have been solid.

It's the bats that are letting Boston down.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pineda, Pine Tar And Why The Red Sox Lost

Let's get something out of the way right now. The Sox lost to the Yankees 4-1 because Michael Pineda pitched a very solid game. They lost because they went 0-5 with runners in scoring position.

They most certainly did not lose because Pineda had something on his hand.

Last night's broadcast on NESN turned into a late-night Alex Jones radio show, with Remy and Orsillo ruminating about a brown substance on Pineda's pitching hand. Was it pine tar? Was it dirt? It really doesn't matter, because unless Pineda has been pitching every game in every series in 2014 then Boston's problems go beyond last night's loss.

The hand that somehow makes Daniel Nava keep striking out.

They went 0-5 with runners in scoring position. On the season they are .202 with runners in scoring position. Boston has scored 36 runs so far, 12th out of 15 teams in the AL. Their 82 strikeouts are fourth highest in the AL. The Sox have grounded into 17 double plays so far, the worst in the AL.

Add to the above the fact that their fielding has been below league average so far in 2014. The AL team average is a .984 fielding percentage with five errors. Boston has a .979 FP with eight errors.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Disappointing Home Series for Boston

I am thankful I was so busy this weekend that I didn't have time to type about Boston's series with the Brewers until today. Because had I done it in the moment it likely would have been a ton of cursing briefly interrupted with sobs.

Dropping the home opener was something I actually expected. Coming off the emotion of the ring ceremony and raising the title banner, you can see that being a possibility. What I didn't expect was it to happen via the bullpen imploding in the ninth inning.

Edward Mujica simply didn't have the stuff he needed to get three outs. Only one batter went to four pitches, when Carlos Gomez hit a 2-1 pitch to drive in Overbay and increase Milwaukee's lead to 5-2. By the time the Sox brought Andrew Miller in, it was 6-2 and the game was effectively over.

It also didn't help that the Sox lineup only scratched four hits and two runs off of Estrada despite getting him to throw 102 pitches in 5.2 innings. It was a waste of a solid performance from Jake Peavy, who went six innings and gave up two runs on six hits. But the Sox went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

They may as well have held their bats like this the entire series. Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

Game Two was a runfest that Boston had no business winning. Buchholz was bad, going 4.1 innings and gave up six runs on 13 hits. The Brewers' Wily Peralta was little better, with Boston scoring five runs in five innings.

But that parity disguised how much better Milwaukee was hitting. Boston had seven hits all game while the Brewers had 19. The Sox went 2-6 with runners in scoring position while Milwaukee was 6-23. If the Brewers had been a little more efficient this game would have been a wipeout.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Red Sox Trending Positive To Start 2014

The Baltimore Orioles were the only AL East team to have a winning record against Boston last year. The Sox were 8-11 against the Orioles with a .421 winning percentage. That was their third lowest win percentage against any team last year.*

One series, especially the first of the year, cannot be a barometer for the season as a whole. Just as one game doesn't define a series or a trend. But with Boston's 4-3 win last night, they start the season 2-1 against a team that gave them fits in 2013. And across those three games, you could see some commonalities.

Let's look at last night's starter first. Felix Doubront picked up the win with a performance that, although it wasn't a quality start, nevertheless got Felix his first win of 2014. He went 5.2 innings, giving up three runs on six hits. He struck out four and walked one.

And now here's a look at our first commonality with Boston's starters:
Starting Pitcher | Pitches Thrown | Strikes | % of Pitches Thrown for Strikes

Doubront | 76 | 51 | 67%

Lackey | 90 | 68 | 75.5%

Lester | 104 | 73 | 70.1%

All three starters were pounding the strike zone in this series, Lackey in particular. That is how you help your team wins games as a pitcher.