David Ortiz Starting Slow In 2015

With the additions to Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez it was expected the pressure would be taken off David Ortiz to be the main guy in the middle of the Red Sox order. Ortiz has performed up to and even above the standards many have expected the 39 year old to live up to in recent years but this season Ortiz has been struggling in the middle of the Sox order.

Ortiz has been a victim of the shift, obviously not much he can do about it unless he startsDavid Ortiz going the other way more, but easier said than done. With his average now just .221 Ortiz could be quietly having one of his worst seasons in a Red Sox uniform. Obviously no one expected him to hit 50 home runs again, or win a batting title. But, the offense of the Red Sox needs him to perform at a high level. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are battling injuries that don’t look to be going away any time soon.

Ortiz is not the only Red Sox hitter struggling, but I feel he is the most important right now. He is the identity of this Red Sox team and the offense will be most successful when he is on. The lineup changes manager John Farrell made over the weekend were small and he seemed to revert back to the usual lineup already after flip flopping Ortiz and Ramirez this weekend. They were back to their normal spots in the lineup Monday. I feel Farrell is too reliant on going right-left in the lineup and should just have the best hitters at the top of the lineup. A hot Xander Bogaerts should not be hitting 7th, and a struggling David Ortiz should not still be hitting 3rd.

Mike Napoli had been struggling with his average dipping as low as .171 last week but with a great weekend series against the Angels he raised it to .211. 40 points in a weekend is a lot to expect but it is time for Ortiz to get on a roll and carry this Red Sox offense like he has the past ten plus years.

If and hopefully when Ortiz comes around with the bat, the Red Sox offense will be what many expected it to be before the season. Expecting the team to score 900 runs and be one of the best offenses in the American League, while stepping up in an American League East that no ones seems to be grabbing a hold of.

Ortiz has been the guy for the Red Sox for so long, admitting that he is struggling at the plate is something many people will refuse to believe, but his stat line is down and so is the Red Sox offense.

Mike Napoli Awakes From His Slumber While Hanley Naps

When Hanley Ramirez went on his April tear, Red Sox Nation optimists everywhere thought the next five months would be just like the 10HR, 22RBI performance he debuted with. Little did anyone expect that as we near the end of May, we’d still be waiting for his first home run of the month, and it took 20 games for him to collect his first RBI.

Fortunately for the sub-.500 Red Sox, Mike Napoli has warmed up from his April Mike Napolihibernation and is having a month of May close to what Ramirez did in April. So far, the $16,000,000-a-year first baseman has hit 7HR and 17RBI, after hitting just 1HR and driving in 4RBI in May. He has seen his batting average climb from an anemic .162 in April to .257 this month.

Although Napoli is still halting a paltry .211, he is pacing to hit 24 home runs, which would be his most since donning a Red Sox uniform in 2013. Ramirez, meanwhile, batted .293 in April, but has cooled off to .230 this month (which is a world away from his National League leading .342 of six years ago in Miami.)

The Red Sox need Napoli to stay hot. We haven’t even addressed David Ortiz and his woes yet. Big Papi is off to his worst start in six years. He has 6HR so far, and isn’t even hitting his weight, batting .221. Maybe if Napoli cools off in June, Big Papi will cowboy up and put the team on his back for a month.

Finally, the right field position is clearly the Red Sox Achilles Heel. The position as a whole is only hitting .199. Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig are hitting .255 and .159 and .135 respectively. So far, it doesn’t appear Rusney Castillo will be confused with Dwight Evans. The team needs more than 2HR and 12 RBI from that position.

I guess the point of all this is means that we can’t blame the pitching, at least not for all of the teams woes.

Will Rusney Castillo Solve The Sox Offensive Struggles?

With Rusney Castillo on a tear in Pawtucket recently the Red Sox have been forced to consider making changes to their everyday lineup. With the offense not being able to score more than 3 runs in seemingly every game on the past road trip, the pitching carried the team to a 5-5 trip.

Castillo missed two games in Pawtucket, while back in Boston not with the big league club but with the birth of his first child. John Farrell said the expectation is Castillo will be up soon. Rusney CastilloSoon is something the Red Sox offense needs with almost every hitter in a slump. Mike Napoli has provided almost nothing this season, in a year the team expected him to break out after surgery to adjust his jaw and help him sleep. Pablo Sandoval cannot left handed pitching, something the Red Sox were expected to mash against with the addition of Hanley Ramirez.

A trip to the disabled list would not be a bad idea for Ramirez. Since he collided with the left field wall almost three weeks ago, he has not been driving the ball like he was in April, but still leads the team in homers, a testament to the offense not coming along. Ramirez has not driven in a run in May, resting his shoulder could be beneficial to the team and for him in a long haul. I believe he is the most important player when it comes to offense for this team, without him clicking the offense hasn’t been.

The Sox aren’t only leaving runners on base at a high rate, but no one player seems to be making a name for himself in terms of average. The Sox do not have a player hitting over .300 and Xander Bogaerts leads the team in average hitting .271. Obviously pitching gotten better in the majors in past years, but not many offenses don’t feature at least one hitter over .300.

Brock Holt has been forced to play everyday with the injuries to Shane Victorino and Pablo Sandoval. Holt, is a great story, being able to play multiple positions to help the team in a time of need, I just don’t think he is an everyday player. With the addition to Castillo to the roster, Farrell will have to make the decision to send down Jackie Bradley Jr., again or place Ramirez on the disabled list something, which I don’t expect.

Castillo was signed to $72 million contract so he should be playing everyday and not in Pawtucket past this weekend. Obviously he will go through some struggles but the whole offense is struggling and a message needs to be sent.

Farrell does not get fired up too much, but this team right now is too complacent thinking it’ll just solve itself with Mike Napoli hitting sixth everyday as his average continues to swoon under .180. A lineup shakeup would be something I feel would help the players realize if they don’t start hitting they might not be in the lineup everyday.

I’m not saying Rusney Castillo is going to be the next Mike Trout and come up and light the world on fire, but he should at least help the offense looks respectable, and not dormant against left handed pitching.

Situational Hitting Not Part of Red Sox Arsenal So Far This Season

red sox hitting

The Boston Red Sox have scored the seventh most runs in all of baseball through 25 games after Sunday’s night contest against the New York Yankees with 122 runners touching home plate. This also ranks sixth in the American League behind the Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros and now the New York Yankees.

However, the Red Sox have scored some of these runs due to other team’s mistakes (unearned runs) and thanks to 29 long balls on the season. Red Sox hittingThe team has not hit well with runners on base, especially with runners in scoring position, and that could be a concern if the trend continues.

As a whole the Red Sox are hitting .228 with runners in scoring position. That number goes up a tick to .239 with two outs, but that still is rather pathetic for a team that is in the top 10 in runs scored in all of baseball.

The team does have some players hitting well in these positions as Daniel Nava (.333), Mookie Betts (.304), Xander Bogaerts (.300) and Brock Holt (.300) are the only batters with 10 or more at-bats with runners in scoring position with an average above .263.

Players not hitting well in these situations include Pablo Sandoval (.263 in 19 chances), Hanley Ramirez (.227 in 22 chances), David Ortiz (.211 in 19 chances), Mike Napoli (.158 in 19 chances) and Dustin Pedroia (.124 in 24 chances). Now, yes, it is a small sample size for all of these batters and Napoli is hitting less than .170 on the season, but this could be a real concern for this team in its ability to tack on those extra runs in order to win games throughout the season.

The Red Sox have had a grand total of 109 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs and at least 14 apiece for Betts and Pedroia should mean a lot of runs. But both hitters have hit less than .150 with a combined four hits and just one extra-base hit for the centerfielder.

With all these numbers showing the Red Sox still haven’t found those timely hits, the team still has a 12-13 record and show that they can contend in the AL East as long as their pitching doesn’t fall off the table once every third or fourth start. Sure home runs help score runs, but timely hitting is what really makes an offense lethal.

Red Sox Bid Adieu to April

Red Sox

With April in the books,  what is different between this years’ version of the Red Sox and the 2014 team? At first blush, one might think, ‘Well, clearly the pitching is a little better than last year and the hitting is much better.’ Not so fast, Rem Dog disciples.

Last years’ pitching staff was actually BETTER through one month than the current staff.Red Sox Through one month, the ERA in 2015 is a league worst 5.04.  Last year at this time it was 3.95, right in the middle of the pack. As far as the number of earned runs that have been given up, the Sox are atop all of Major League Baseball in that category with 113 allowed. Not exactly the type of stat you want to brag about. Last year, they actually played four more games in April and gave up 9 fewer earned runs.

At the plate, most folks thought with the addition of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval that balls would be flying over the Green Monster at epic proportions, and even fantasized that the Mass Pike would have to be closed down during games for driver safety.  While Ramirez just tied David Ortiz’ record for most home runs in April, with 10, the team batting average is well, just average. At .245 it is good enough for 6th overall in the league, which at least is better that the .245 of a year ago that was 11th best.

Even with new sluggers added this year, some numbers are still very close when looked at year to year.  Last years’ slugging percentage was .384, this year it is at .379.  A year ago the OPS was .333, this year it is at .332, and this year’s OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) is .711 while a year ago it was .717.

What does all this mean?  WHO KNOWS?! A year ago the Red Sox were a sub-.500 team, 2.5 games out of first place behind the New York Yankees.  Now, they are 12-10 and just one game behind the Yankees, who come to town this weekend.

It’s obvious that pitching is the weak link, and that the roster is overcrowded with some guys who can still hit (Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli) and might be able to help a team, and with others who may have enormous upside such as Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr.  Let’s also bear in mind that Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada represent an enormous investment and they’ll be at Fenway Park before too long. It’s time for Ben Cherington to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ and beef up the pitching.

Time to Move on From Mike Napoli?

Mike Napoli

The Boston Red Sox 2015 campaign is in full force and their lineup has been pretty much what we expected it to be to this point. One guy who just hasn’t been able to come around at the plate, and continues to punch out almost two times a game, happens to be Mike Napoli.

Napoli’s struggles this year aren’t anything new, but they come as a bit of concern. Napoli batted .248 last season which was the second lowest average of his careerMike Napoli dating back to 2007. Napoli also accumulated a slugging percentage of .419 which was the lowest of his career. There was no hiding it—Mike Napoli struggled big time in 2014, but so did a lot of Red Sox hitters. The concern that I have is that Napoli had facial reconstruction during the off season to help cure his sleep apnea issue that has been haunting him for much of his career. Napoli decided to get the surgery during the off season because his struggles at the plate were magnified by the Red Sox struggles as a team. Napoli seemed like he had turned the corner, and was ready to really break out in 2015 as he hit above .300 this spring with a couple of home runs, but he’s back to the same.

Napoli is currently hitting .132 on the season with no home runs and no runs batted in and is posting a .267 on base percentage to go with a .184 slugging percentage. Yes, Napoli is great with his glove and draws a lot of walks, but he’s hitting in the heart of the Red Sox order and is being called on to drive in runs which he is not.

My solution to this would be giving Allen Craig a shot at first base for a series or two. I am higher on Craig than a lot of people, I think. Craig to me is a star sitting behind an aging veteran who is just not getting the job done. Baseball fans seem to forget that while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, Craig hit .315 with 14 home runs and 96 runs batted in. The year before that Craig hit .307 with 22 home runs and 92 runs batted in. Both years Craig was in the middle of a heated NL MVP candidacy, but lost out. I don’t know how many Red Sox fans I speak for, but I think it’s time to give Craig a shot; if he can be half of what he used to be I’ll take it.