Last season, the Boston Red Sox were one of the better defensive teams in all of baseball. The team finished with the fourth best percentage in the AL with .987. So far in 2014, the Red Sox have gotten off to a slow start and their defense is a major reason.
In game one of their series against the Baltimore Orioles, pitcher John Lackey allowed six runs on 10 hits, but not a lot of the hits he gave up were hit very hard. Red Sox players such as Mike Carp and shortstop Xander Bogaerts had trouble making routine plays in the field during this series and throughout other games this season as well.
Outfielder Daniel Nava not only has struggled at the plate thus far this season, but he isn’t playing very well defensively either. He already has three errors in 19 games and has failed to look comfortable at either the right or left field positions.
At third base, the Red Sox miss the range of Will Middlebrooks. While he isn’t the greatest defensive third baseman, with his 6’3 frame and wingspan Middlebrooks is able to cut down infield balls other smaller players cannot.
While Middlebrooks has been injured, Brock Holt, and Jonathan Herrera have been patrolling third base. With both of them being 5’10, they lack the wingspan of Middlebrooks, thus opening up holes in the infield.
If you add the lack of range at third base with the defensive limitations of Xander Bogaerts, then it’s easy to see why the Red Sox have struggled on the left side of the infield. I think everyone knew that Bogaerts would be a downgrade defensively, but I don’t know if anyone expected him to struggle on routine plays at shortstop.
In last week’s game against the Chicago White Sox, the 21-year-old bounced a throw to first base that allowed the White Sox to walk off with a 2-1 win rather than sending the game into extra innings. Bogaerts has two errors on the season, but that doesn’t factor in the poor job he has done turning simple ground balls into outs.
The Red Sox currently rank 14th in MLB in fielding percentage, but the statistics don’t tell the entire story of how poorly this defense has played. Getting Victorino and Middlebrooks back from the disabled list should help a bit, but they have to start to show improvement before they both get back. With the Red Sox lack of offensive consistency, the team can’t afford to give runs away because of poor defense.