Since my quiet (yet enraged) acceptance that our pitching would suck nearly every appearance, I have spent my time watching games with the hope that the Sox would score ten runs every outing. They never do, and this puzzles me because they always seem to be threatening. The Sox are excellent threateners, but do not seem to follow up with action. It occurred to me that perhaps I was just catching them during off nights - I can't watch all the games - so I decided to look at how the team is performing on offense situationally.
You probably won't be surprised to learn that I was not pleased with what I found out. Let's take a quick look at the team OPS by team in the AL, for the season. I have broken them out by situation (double-click to open larger image):
A couple things jump right out, don't they? First off, the Sox are the only team to get progressively worse at the plate until they are in a 2-out RISP position. Now, they're starting pretty high with that .828 OPS with nobody on, but the pattern is not what you want to see. Cleveland is a good example of a team that succeeds regardless of the situation.
Next, the fact that the Sox absolutely suck ass with the bases loaded is pretty disappointing isn't it? They do lead the league in bases-juiced sac flys, which is nice. This might be due to their also league-leading .70 GB:FB ratio in that situation (this hasnt stopped them from being right up there in DPs, don't worry). Another strange factoid from the bases-loaded stats page - the Spanks lead the league in HBP with the bags full, at SIX. They are not afraid to lean into one.
The story is pretty clear, although there are no doubt several reasons for it. In spite of being second in the league in runs scored, the Sox are leaving a ton of runs on the table. It would appear they are averaging 8.38 men LOB per game (see the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum). That's really just not very good. I mean, it's good that their high-OBP mantra has paid off because with their total inability to consistently drive guys in (Papi and Manny excluded) that is how they're scoring runs - attrition. My point is that with more consistent situational production the awful, awful, just awful pitching might be more easily weathered.
As I mentioned earlier there are probably a lot of reasons for this situation. One of them, however, has to the be this: the Sox get the worst production out of the #5 spot in the lineup of any team in the AL. In all of MLB, only Florida's OPS is lower (.682 to Boston's .695). How is that possible? Here are some figures:
SLG: .354 (worst in MLB)
Total Bases: 149 (worst in MLB)
RBIs: 51 (tied for 3rd worst in MLB)
BBs: 68 (tied for 2nd to top in MLB)
The walks might be an indicator that the hitter isn't seeing a ton of good pitches to hit, but the #1 BB count at the five-spot belongs to the Yankees who are producing at a .966 OPS with a .549 SLG in the position. So it's hard to argue that with any conviction. Rather, it looks like the approach is the one I used in second grade: "a walk's as good as a hit - maybe better!"
I think at this point most of us would like to see Lowell or WMP in the five-hole, with Youks leading off and Crisp hitting down in the order. Youks doesn't have speed but is getting on base in front of the guys who consistently drive in runs. Crisp's speed would be best used in creating runs for the bottom of the order guys. Or so it seems to us in our armchairs. But, really, when all is said and done, we're just nitpicking. If it gets right down to it, we'd simply like to see a win and the lineup be damned.