Rock Bottom Baseball

So, just how bad are the 2012 Boston Red Sox? And why?

Well, it isn't so much that they're bad. It's that they're frustratingly, unpredictably bad. It used to be that you never stopped watching a Sox game early because no matter the score they could always pull it out and grab a win. This year, it seems no matter the score (see the evaporating 9-0 lead vs. the Yankees on April 21) the Sox can find a way to blow it. No lead is safe.

So... Why?

Batting? The team's batting stats have been pretty good, actually. They're second in the AL with 155 runs scored (Texas has 160) and second in team batting average with .273 (Texas is hitting .291). David Ortiz is having a great Spring, batting .380 with 7 HR and 23 RBI. Only the rookie Will Middlebrooks has a better average, .381, but he's only got 21 major league at bats. A lot of the other guys are having a pretty good, if not spectacular, season at the plate so far.

Fielding? It's been just ok. Some bonehead errors (see Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the perennially awful Nick Punto), but overall the defense is pretty good, even with Youkilis and Ellsbury on the DL. They have the third fewest errors committed (only Texas and the Yankees have fewer) and they're tied with Seattle for third best fielding percentage.

So then it's the pitching:

The Red Sox team ERA is the second highest in the AL, 5.31. Ok, a little basic math... 155 runs scored over 28 games is 5.54 runs per game. If the Sox had the impressive team ERA the Orioles have right now, 2.99, we wouldn't be having this discussion. But as it is, the pitching has been terrible. And this is really why the Sox are 12-16 versus a respectable 16-12 or better.

The bullpen has blown leads. They were full-on awful until Justin Thomas and Mark Melancon got sent back to Pawtucket. With that, and Rich Hill coming back, things have improved quite a bit. Indeed, Atchison, Padilla, and Morales have looked pretty good over the last week or so. The real problem now seems to be the starters.

The starters have been mediocre. Daniel Bard (a converted closer) has the best ERA of the lot with 4.38. Clay Buchholz has been a mere shell of his former self, sporting an ERA of 9.09. That's spotting the other team one run for every inning he pitches. And the "aces", Beckett and Lester, haven't been great. They've been different pitchers from start to start. Certainly not dependable. And for Yaz's sake, if Bobby V can't learn when to take struggling pitchers out the ERA's are going to continue to rise. If I can sit at home watching and know exactly when a guy should get pulled, then the manager with 15+ years experience sitting in the dugout should see it, too.

The fact is that without good pitching it really doesn't matter how good your offense and defense are. See Kansas City for decent offense with awful pitching. See Baltimore for good offense with lights-out awesome pitching.

The Sox have an arguably great offense and a very good defense in the field. But the pitching has let them down badly this year. And the result of that has been wins against teams with bad pitching (where the Sox offense could overpower them) and losses against good teams that pitch and hit well (Detroit, New York, Baltimore).

Until the pitching situation is fixed, whether through trades or Buchholz getting a phantom injury or Matsuzaka coming back soon with a new elbow, this team is going to continue to flounder despite the best efforts of the rest of the team.