Team Profile – Boston Red Sox
2011 saw an epic collapse in the Red Sox organization. During the last month of the season, Boston played worse than almost any other team in the majors. This allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to turn their win against the New York Yankees on the last day of the regular season into a trip to the ALDS as the wild card team. Instead of placing the blame for this collapse where it truly belonged (the players), the Red Sox’s ownership felt a change of management was necessary. Theo Epstein and Terry Francona were fired, and Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine were brought into the organization.
2012 hasn’t been any kinder to the Red Sox (because the original problem was never solved). Boston is currently in fourth place in the A.L. East, 13 games behind the Yankees. While by no means out of the race just yet, hope is quickly dwindling for this club. So what do the Red Sox need to do to get back in the race?
The starting rotation has been the single biggest problem for this team so far in 2012. Clay Buchholz and Felix Dubront are the current win leaders with 10 each, but both have ERAs well over four (4.24 and 4.70, respectively) and elevated WHIPs. They’re getting run support, for sure, but are also giving up a lot of runs. And they’re the best the rotation has to offer. John Lackey is on the disabled list. John Lester has only five wins and 5.20 ERA. Josh Beckett’s ERA is at 5.19. These are the electric, dynamic, elite pitchers of the Boston staff, and they’re all doing worse than anyone could have ever imagined. No one can quite figure out what’s happening, and both have to continue to go out ever five days and pitch. But if things continue the way they are, then Boston won’t be able to recover at all.
Boston still has one of the most potent offenses in Major League Baseball. They’re a good hitting team, and have been for the better part of a decade. While the faces have changed somewhat, new bats have been added, making sure the lineup is potent in any particular game. Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz are the team leaders, with a .306 and .316 batting average, respectively. Carl Crawford has come back strong, at .283, while Dustin Pedroia is doing what he does best at the top of the order, hitting .280. The biggest (happiest) surprise is Cody Ross, who is hitting .274 with 18 home runs. Ross has been especially necessary, due to the overwhelming number of injuries the offense has faced this season.
As much as the dissonance with the team as a whole is still a problem (proven by the fact that Boston hero Kevin Youkilis was traded away in July after developing real problems with the leadership of Bobby Valentine), injury has certainly played its part. Carl Crawford (after getting a monster contract before the 2011 season) was out for most of the 2012 season. Dustin Pedroia was injured for a while this year, as was perennial all-star and gold glove contender Jacoby Ellsbury. Three major pieces to the lineup were injured for different periods this season, and the Red Sox were never really able to recover. Now one of the most potent bats (David Ortiz) is also sitting on the sidelines, compounding the issue.
Andrew Bailey if finally off the disabled list. The one-time rookie of the year closer out in Oakland was traded to Boston in the offseason … and he was promptly injured and spent the entirety of the season until now on the bench. It was a big loss for the bullpen, given the need for a closer in Bean Town. But he’s back, and looking to get into the swing of things for the stretch run. Alfredo Aceves was serviceable during the interim, but with an ERA of 4.14 and 23/29 in save opportunities, having Bailey back is going to be a huge sigh of relief for the Red Sox.
The bullpen as a whole is okay, but not great. There are those who have lasted the entire season and done serviceable jobs, like Andrew Miller, with an ERA of 3.00 in 39 appearances. There are those like Mark Melancon who have appeared in a number of games (28), and haven’t done anywhere near acceptable. (Melancon’s ERA is 7.12.) It’s a very mixed bag, which isn’t what Boston wants. When your rotation is struggling as much as this one is, the bullpen needs to be beyond stellar to make up the difference. Boston hasn’t gotten that, and it’s showing.
Keys to Success
With the alleged revitalization in the organization during the offseason, Boston looked primed to get back into old form. But injuries, unexpected disappearances of talent, and trades have left the Red Sox gasping for air, and almost out of the race entirely. Like I said, they’re not out of things just yet. With plenty of games left to play, Boston could easily pull a Tampa Bay and take the regular season right down to the wire. But that hope is quickly dwindling, and doing so will require a BIG jump in the overall success of many different parts of the lineup in the next six weeks. Perhaps September call ups can help a little bit, but it’s not looking good for them. Only time will tell what ultimately becomes of the 2012 Boston Red Sox.