Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Freefall



So the Sox had their game rained out against the Twins yesterday. Which was the second-best result they saw all week.

I have advocated all year against blind panic. Against knee-jerk moves. Against declaring the whole season a bust based on a small amount of time.

But now we are in June. And Boston is in last place. They are 22-29 with a run differential of -48 (almost a run per game). Yes, they are only 4.5 games out of first. But that has everything to do with the relative mediocrity of the AL East and nothing to do with Boston's quality of play.

In a mostly-disappointing season, the only constant was Boston's defense. It was always in the top third league-wide. Today it is firmly in the middle of the pack. That downturn has added to the misery in Boston. Now, in all facets, Boston as a team is at best middling. At worst (as with their pitching) they are near the bottom. As of today, this team is on pace to be worse than the 2012 Red Sox. That team was the worst Boston put on the field since the mid-1960s.

The defense that was their strength? As of today there are exactly two Boston starters who rank in the top half for their position defensively (among qualified starters). That would be Mookie Betts in center and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. Everyone else is dragging near the bottom.

And yes, that includes Dustin Pedroia. Boston's perennial Gold Glove second baseman is have a very bad year so far in the field. His fielding percentage is well below the league average. While that is due in part to his ability to get to more baseballs (his Range Factor is 4th at his position in the AL) he isn't making the plays he used to make on those balls. His five errors are the worst for a second baseman in the AL. He had two in all of 2014, five total in both 2012 and 2013. While his bat is still producing, his glove has now tailed off a little.

That is still leagues above Hanley Ramirez, who hasn't seen a fly ball yet that he won't pull up on. His Range Factor is 1.54, dead last for qualifying left fielders in the AL. That means he isn't reaching balls hit his way. His fielding percentage of .968 is also dead last. Which means that when he reaches a ball, he still isn't all that good on defense. His defensive WAR? -1.4, which is really, really bad. And negates anything positive he has done at the plate.

Pablo Sandoval? Only Manny Machado and Chase Headley are worse at third by fielding percentage. Sandoval's Range Factor of 2.30 is second-worst in the AL at third, beating out only David Freese on the Angels. Sandoval has never been a Gold Glove at third, but 2015 is rivaling some of his worst numbers ever.

Meanwhile the bats have gone cold and the pitching is failing again. Both Porcello and Miley looked on the verge of becoming solid pitchers...and then dealt up some of their worst work of 2015. Meanwhile, Buchholz has pitched well in his last two outings but was saddled with a loss each time thanks to Boston's ice-cold bats.

The only bright moment in the past week-plus was Eduardo Rodriguez's debut. After that comes yesterday's rainout. The rest has been an un-remitting parade of suck.

And one has to question whether the front-office knows how to turn it around. A lot of fingers are being pointed at Cherington and Company over the airwaves. And not entirely without merit. While I firmly believe that trading John Lackey was the right move in 2014, it is fair and proper to say that St. Louis fleeced Boston in that deal. That deal is Exhibit A in questioning whether the front office has the skill needed to evaluate the talent on other teams. Allen Craig and Joe Kelly have been useless. Exhibit B will be the Cespedes-for-Porcello deal unless Porcello starts getting better on a consistent basis.

Free agents are a question as well. Sandoval and Ramirez were signed primarily for their bats. But Cherington apparently thought their gloves didn't matter. Well, they do. To the point that Ramirez's lack of effort in left is costing Boston more wins than his bat is providing for the team.

So can the front office actually turn this team around? Or are they lacking in talent evaluation to the point that their trades and acquisitions would make this bad situation even worse? Either choice is a lousy one for Boston fans.

It is hard to believe that Boston has reverted in many ways to that 2012 team that imploded. But it's June now and I am hard-pressed to see how this turns around. Unless the players buckle down and actually play to their potential. Which, if we go by what has happened thus far, doesn't look likely.

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