Thinking Outside the Batter's Box: Sluggish start nothing to worry about

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Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

The Newtonite

Thinking Outside The Batter's Box is a blog about baseball published every week.
Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

by Jacob Gurvis

After the first week of the 2014 season, the Boston Red Sox are not looking like the defending champions. The Sox, 3-5, have not been playing like themselves, and got swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in their first home series of the season.

But don’t fret, because this slow start is nothing to worry about.

In 2013, the Red Sox had baseball’s best offense. The team scored an MLB-best 853 runs, and also led all of baseball in team RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and were second in hits and batting average. Those are some impressive stats.

So far in 2014, the Sox are in the bottom third in strikeouts and walks, have the most double plays in baseball with 15, and have an MLB-worst one stolen base.

Yet despite five losses, the team’s pitching has been pretty good so far. Almost two times through the rotation, with the exception of Clay Buchholz (six runs in 4.1 innings) and Felix Doubront’s second start (five runs in 2.2 innings), all starters have pitched well. Lester has pitched two gems, but is 0-2 because of poor offensive support (one earned run in 14.1 innings.) John Lackey has started 2-0, and has only given up two earned runs, with 11 strikeouts in 13 innings.  The Sox are fifth overall in strikeouts and have given up the third fewest walks in baseball (17).

As a whole, the Sox have some work to do. Their offense is lacking in almost all areas, and some guys are struggling. But there have been a few players with hot starts. Dustin Pedroia has ten hits through the first six games, with only one strikeout in his 28 at-bats. Xander Bogaerts has eight hits and four walks through his first 25 plate appearances, including two doubles. Mike Napoli has two homers, seven RBIs and four walks so far. So not all is bad in Beantown.

Another big issue the Sox have been facing so far is the injury plague. Shane Victorino and Craig Breslow both started the season on the Disabled List, and Will Middlebrooks has since been added to that list. On Monday, the Sox signed infielder Ryan Roberts to add depth at third base.

In 2011, the season of ups and downs, the Sox started off 0-6. Then they turned it around, won 90 games, and ended up being baseball’s hottest team for the bulk of the season. So a slow start does not dictate the entire season. (Let’s ignore their 7-20 September collapse).

The first week does not by any means make or break anything. The Red Sox have 154 games left, and all the time in the world to improve. Need some more evidence? The Miami Marlins, who lost 100 games in 2013, have MLB’s best record, starting 5-2.

Catcher David Ross is not freaking out because he knows that this isn’t how Boston plays baseball. “I know everybody out there is giving their best, that’s all I really care about. We’ll iron those things out. We’re still trying to come together and learn what we’re all about, figure things out,” he said.

So not to worry, Red Sox Nation, our local nine has plenty of time to turn things around and play the type of baseball we’re accustomed to seeing from this talented group.