These Red Sox haven't been a hit on offense

These Red Sox haven't been a hit on offense
April 11, 2014, 11:00 am
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NEW YORK -- Of all the problems the Red Sox thought they might encounter this year, it's doubtful an anemic offense was one of them.

The team led the major leagues in runs scored -- and doubles, and total bases, and slugging percentage, and on-base percentage -- in 2013. While this isn't the same exact lineup from a year ago, it does return six regulars.

But 10 games into 2014, the Red Sox are a shell of themselves at the plate. In an admittedly small sample size, the Sox now rank 12th among the 15 American League teams in runs scored and seventh in OPS.

In each of the last two games, they've managed just four hits. Already, the team has been limited to two runs or fewer four times this season.

To be sure, injuries haven't helped. The team has yet to play with regular right fielder Shane Victorino (hamstring) and the presence he provides, either at the top or in the lower-middle part of the order. And for whatever inconsistencies Will Middlebrooks has experienced, he surely is a better offensive option than either of his replacements, Jonathan Herrera and Ryan Roberts.

But injuries are part of the game and must be endured. The loss of Victorino and Middlebrooks doesn't fully explain the team's offensive ineptitude.

"A number of [at-bats] with two strikes, I'd like to see us battle a little bit more,'' said John Farrell.

Asked if a reshuffle of the batting order might be in order, Farrell indicated otherwise.

"No, we're looking to get some continuity,'' said the manager, "and really to be able to bunch some hits together, which hasn't been the case."

The Sox didn't have many hits -- together or alone -- at all Thursday. They didn't get their first one off Michael Pineda, in fact, until Xander Bogaerts' leadoff single in the fifth.

Since Opening Day, finding a hit when they need one has been an issue for the Red Sox. In the opener, they were famously 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, while stranding 11 runners.

On Monday night against Texas, they managed to hit into five double plays in the first six innings. On four occasions that night, the second hitter of the inning hit into a double play that wiped out a leadoff runner on base.

For the young season, the Red Sox are hitting just .202 with runners in scoring position, rankng them 11th out of the 15 A.L. teams.

They've stranded 70 baserunners, an average of seven per game, and four times have stranded nine or more.

And when they're not stranding runners at the end of the inning, they're eliminating them with rally-killing double plays. The Sox have 17 GIDPs; no other American League team has more than 10.
     
Even allowing for the vagaries of early-season statistics, the Red Sox have three regulars (or semi-regulars) hitting under .222.
     
A big issue has been the lack of production out of the leadoff spot. The Red Sox may be able to do without Jacoby Ellsbury's base-stealing ability, and they feel Jackie Bradley Jr. is already his equal defensively. But there's no denying that the club, to date at least, sorely misses his presence at the top of the batting order.
     
As Farrell experiments with a rotation of Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore in the No. 1 spot in the order, the Red Sox have a collective .304 OBP, 11th in the league.
     
It may be that this is merely cyclical. The Sox are, after all, getting baserunners -- as, perversely, their LOB and GIDP numbers indicate. They're just not doing anything with their opportunities.
     
"We've got to regroup and put together a better effort offensively,'' said Farrell.
     
Until they do, the team will continue to waste decent outings from its starting rotation, as happened Thursday night.