It is early for the reigning World Series champs but the Red Sox have holes throughout their roster and if they intend to defend their title, management needs to push the panic button immediately and correct this ship before it gets worse.
The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury is now more apparent than ever. The Yankees, a team that struggled offensively last year, are already top ten in batting average, stolen bases, and runs scored. Their defense is better in the outfield as Ellsbury is covering much more ground with Brett Gardner moving to the corner spots. The Red Sox countered with the signing of Grady Sizemore and while it looked like a brilliant move in the first couple weeks, the oft-injured Sizemore has tailed off as of late. When healthy, he is just as good as Ellsbury, putting up some of the best numbers (53 doubles, 134 runs scored with 28 homers and 76 RBIs in 2006) for a leadoff hitter. But Sizemore had not even been in baseball for the past two years and was injured in both 2010 and 2011. Banking on him to remain in the lineup throughout the year is already a challenge but hoping Sizemore would regain his All-Star form is unrealistic.
In 2004 with the Red Sox down 1-3 against the Yankees, Ortiz, who had just hit a walk-off home run in Game 4, pleaded for his teammates to help and they responded. Ortiz can sure use some help right now otherwise October is a longshot. The aging legend is second on the team with 5 homers and 13 RBIs. He is on pace for another 30/100 season but the others needs to step up. Will Middlebrooks is only batting .250. Daniel Nava, who entered as the team’s starting left fielder, was demoted to the minors. Former MVP Dustin Pedroia has no homers with only six RBIs in 25 games. Xander Bogaerts, in his first full season as the starting shortstop has only a .397 slugging percentage. Jonny Gomes might look into growing back the beard after posting only a .226 batting average. If Big Papi is going to continue as the team’s best hitter, expect the World Series treatment during close games. There is no pitcher that will give him anything close to hit. Ortiz, who hit an epic .688 during the World Series, has been clutch since his arrival to Boston. Even with Napoli putting up decent numbers, it is not the same dynamic duo of Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Someone has got to start hitting other than Ortiz.
The pitching and lack of depth is troubling. Ryan Dempster walked away from $14 million to sit-out the year and spend more time with his family. Jon Lester, Jack Peavy and and John Lackey have been relatively effective in the rotation. However, Peavy has only thrown one full year since 2007 so keeping him healthy is always a concern. Lackey is one bad pitching performance to end up in Red Sox Nation’s doghouse, a place he has spent the majority of his Boston career. Closer Koji Uehara looks to be in top form but just came off the DL. Otherwise, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront each have ERAs above 6.00. Buchholz has already given up as many homeruns as he did last season. Batters are seeing his pitches as if it’s a balloon. His fastball is only topping out in the high 80s and his curveball just is not breaking. He struggled in the postseason with fatigue and it looks like his deadarm-issues have lingered into the season. Lester is the team’s only true ace while the rest of the rotation needs to be more effective.
When the Red Sox the World Series in 2004, they were swept in the ALDS the following season. After their second title in 2007, the Manny Ramirez debacle followed before they were ousted by the Rays in the ALCS. This year, the ship needs to be corrected for the Red Sox to even make the playoffs. The Yankees, Rays and Jays have all retooled, making the AL East the hardest division in baseball. If the Red Sox want to defend their title, a trade is not going to help. Someone needs to grasp the opportunity, step into the spotlight, and give Ortiz protection.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/.