The biggest concern the Boston Red Sox have entering the playoffs is obvious: It’s the bullpen, and anything else is a distant second.
And for much of the season, the Red Sox offense would have been nowhere near the list of concerns. It’s been a different story lately, though.
The Red Sox are now 0-for-2 in their attempts to clinch the American League East, a showing that would be right at home in the Boston batting order right now. The Sox are now “only” 6-5 in its last 11 games after a lopsided 10-1 loss to the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
It’s the eighth time in that 11-game stretch Boston has scored four runs or fewer, and the Red Sox are averaging just 3.3 runs per game in that time. That’s obviously a far cry from the offensive production up until that point in the season when the Sox were averaging 5.4 runs per game.
Boston also had a team OPS of .793 until this slump; in the last 11 games, it’s just .660. There’s been a major power outage, too, with the Red Sox averaging a home run every other game after hitting more than one per game until this point.
Unsurprisingly, there have been some unsightly batting lines for members of the Red Sox lineup of late.
–Mitch Moreland is hitting .116 (5-for-43) with one extra-base hit and one RBI in his last 16 games.
–Rafael Devers is hitting .146 (6-for-41) with a home run and two RBIs in his last 14 games.
–Andrew Benintendi is hitting .221 (27-for-122) with a home run and 11 RBIs in his last 31 games.
Or think of it this way: How bad would this stretch be without Brock Holt? He’s hitting .400 over the club’s last 11 games with a pair of big home runs and seven RBIs.
So what do all the numbers mean? Probably not much. As has been the case with a lot of the most impressive Red Sox plaudits, it’s hard to know how much these recent struggles with affect Boston when it gets to the playoffs.
At this point, we’re all just kind of waiting for the postseason, and who knows, maybe so are the Red Sox. They’re still professionals and no one ever wants to give away an at-bat, but the baseball season is a grind, especially when it’s all but a formality you’re going to win the division.
They’ve also had their work cut out for them lately, facing five All-Star pitchers (Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jake deGrom, J.A. Happ and Luis Severino) in that 11-game stretch. In addition, they’ve faced two other former All-Stars (Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez) as well as a former Cy Young Award winner (Dallas Keuchel).
But the Red Sox better get used to top-flight pitching. Elite hurlers have stymied them in the last two postseasons, and it won’t be any easier this October.
All of that being said, the Red Sox offense has earned the benefit of the doubt. We should judge them on the bigger sample size while understanding slumps are an inevitable part of the sport.
The bullpen remains a bigger problem, but if the vaunted Red Sox offense is still nowhere to be found in a couple of weeks, it’s going to be another early autumn exit.
Thumbnail photo via Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports Images