It wasn’t supposed to go like this. After 26 games of the regular season, the Red Sox are bottom of the AL East and struggling to get a grip on their decline.
Yankees fans looking for the best NY sports betting promos may be enjoying seeing Boston at the wrong end of the AL futures markets, but for Red Sox fans, this has been a nightmare start and it isn’t too difficult to see where the problem lies for this misfiring lineup.
With 90 runs scored in 26 games, Boston is tied for 24th in the majors. Their 3.5 runs per game average is much lower than last year’s 5.1 runs per game. With a combined batting average of.229 and a slugging percentage of .347, the Red Sox are ranked 18th. The worst concern is a .279 on-base percentage, which ranks 27th in the majors. Offense was supposed to be their strength this year. So, what is going wrong for a lineup that includes Rafael Devers, Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez?
Their decline appears to be part of a league-wide trend. Only 10teams own a batting average above .240 this season, down from 18 teams at the end of last season. Meanwhile, the league has produced a dramatic decline in power hitting. Only six teams are slugging at above .400, which is down from the total of 22 for the 2021 season.
The Yankees lead the majors with 35 home runs, putting them on pace for 227. But that total wouldn’t have broken into the topfive last season and is some way short of the league-leading total of 262 homers that Toronto achieved in 2021. In fact, at the current pace, we are set for a season in which the majority of MLB teams will finish with fewer homers than the worst of last year’s lineups. That suggests a league-wide problem that goes beyond the usual issue of the ball not traveling as far in the colder weeks of the season.
The real problem might be the ball. Players have noted that the balls used this season have noticeably higher seams. It is possible that this has been done intentionally to enable pitchers to grip the ball more easily, following the crackdown on the use of sticky materials to boost spin rates. But whatever the reason, the change has had a notable impact on run production. Most significantly, the raised seams create more air resistance, turning home runs into fly outs.
And there is a particular reason why this may affect Boston more than other teams. The Red Sox were second in the majors last year when it comes to balls in play, and in fact, their strikeout percentage is slightly lower than last season. They are actually putting the ball into play more than last year yet their Batting Average on Balls In Play stats are way down as the ball changes have upset their slugging.
Lack of depth
The lockout caused a shortened training period but this has affected the Red Sox more significantly than other teams, with several key players suffering disrupted starts and injuries.
The most obvious example is Trevor Story. He is sure to be a huge addition to the lineup in the long term but has had a rushed introduction. The lockout and then the birth of his child meant that he had hardly any time to prepare for the season, making only 12 plate appearances in spring training.
Rushing through a limited training camp put players at increased risk of injury. Chris Sale suffered a rib injury even before camp opened. Xander Bogaerts injured his hamstring on Opening Day, then went 2-for-18 in his next five games, plainly hampered for several days while the hamstring tightness persisted. J.D. Martinez has also missed games due to discomfort in his left adductor.
What is the significance of this? Because the Red Sox lack depth to cover for an injury to one of their great players, any lineup will be shortened by removing a productive bat for an automatic out.
Reason for optimism
The good news for Red Sox fans is that these aren’t long-term issues. The star players in the lineup will start to find their rhythm as the season goes on, and there are a number ofvaluable prospects who could emerge later in the summer tohelp enhance the roster. There will also be options before thetrade deadline. We can be fairly sure that the Red Sox’s current roster isn’t the one they’ll have at the end of the season, and there is plenty of time yet for them to turn things around.