As the Bard said, rough winds do shake the darling buds of May. And rough winds are shaking Boston’s faith in the Red Sox, and in the ownership/management team that has brought home two World Series trophies.
It’s still early — but to paraphrase Yogi Berra, in the AL East, it gets late early. The Red Sox headed into Thursday in fourth place, 6.5 games behind the first-place Rays. Already, Boston has dropped two series to the Yankees, a series to the Twins, and gotten swept by the Rays. The teams they’ve beaten — the Rangers, Orioles (who later swept them), Angels and Blue Jays — are not, with the exception of Texas, considered contenders.
So the question becomes this: Are the Red Sox contenders? Some fans have already relegated the “run prevention” strategy to the same scrap heap as Theo’s other boy-genius idea, closer-by-committee. But the problem with the run prevention strategy isn’t the strategy — it’s that the Red Sox are not actually preventing runs.
Before this week’s small winning streak, Boston had allowed more runs than any other AL team. Even with strong starts from Jon Lester and, recently, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Sox starters labor under a 5.05 ERA. The relievers — a corps that apparently includes Jonathan Van Every — claim a 4.60 ERA.
The answer to this problem is not, as some have been clamoring, to add offense. The Sox rank third in the AL in runs scored, first in hits and second in homers. As for the defense, even judging by the popular yet archaic metric of errors — since that’s what folks seem to be judging by — Boston is solidly middle-of-the-pack. Given that they’ve also been missing Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, both key parts of the run prevention plan, it is wildly premature to declare the defensive strategy dead.
The single thing the Sox must do is improve their pitching. They need the Josh Beckett who flummoxed the Yankees the first time through the lineup to reflummox them the second and third times through, rather than getting shelled. They need continued improvement from John Lackey and Clay Buchholz. They need the real Matsuzaka to stand up. And if they can’t get that, they need to consider which new pitcher they could acquire.
– Sarah Green also writes for UmpBump.com.
Follow her on Twitter @skgreen.
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