Lack of Clutch Hits Leaves Red Sox in Deep Hole To say the least, the Red Sox have not gotten off to the start that they wanted. Following a four-game sweep at Fenway at the hands of the Rays, spirits are low throughout Red Sox Nation.

It's still too early to write off the 2010 season for the Red Sox, but with each passing day, concern mounts.

What has been the biggest surprise about the Red Sox so far this
season?
–Charlie, Wells, Maine

 
Offense and a lack
thereof. I was one of the people heading into the spring that thought
the offense, despite all that was written, was going to be fine. It
still may be in the end, but to begin the year, it has been a struggle.

The lack of timely hitting seems to be at the top of the list of
problems. The Red Sox have an 0-for-32 streak going with runners in
scoring position, and the most painful of example was in the 11th inning
of the resumed game on Saturday night, in which the Red Sox had the
bases loaded and nobody out. They could not, however, scratch out a run,
and they lost the very next inning.

The other surprising thing is that Fenway Park has, over the past 10
years, been the best place to be for the Red Sox. They've simply
dominated at home. Now that the Yankees and Rays are out of town, maybe
the home record will turn around in the remaining six games of this
10-game homestand.

Is it too early to scrap the run prevention plan?
–Dean, Hamilton, N.Y.

 
I am not sure they can at this point. When you build your team with a philosophy in mind and spend the money allotted accordingly, it seems unreasonable at best to change gears and add payroll. So I think that while the defense has been shaky early, it will get better. In the end, they will be a good defensive team. However, you need the guys who are supposed to be playing every day in the outfield to play there.

Right now, this stretch of Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury out of the lineup has made things tough. I do not think defense is the largest problem at the moment. No doubt, it was not good against Tampa Bay, but runs are the largest issue at the moment.

Should the Red Sox rethink their philosophy of having pitchers not focus on holding runners?
–Andy, Sutton, N.H.

If they are unable to score more runs, yes. Keeping the runs allowed to a minimum is something the Red Sox have not worried about, because generally, they can score in bunches. The theory has always been to worry solely about the hitter and not jeopardize the quality of a pitch by slide-stepping, etc. I think they will try to do more of that now and maybe pitch out more often, which they almost never do now.

The fact that 23 out of 24 baserunners have stolen successfully is a scary number. It's important to remember that a lot of these really have been stolen on the pitcher and not the Red Sox catchers, who end up with this stat as part of their resumes. I understand the philosophy of letting guys take third as they are already in scoring position, but the first to second stealing has to be addressed.
 
Are J.D. Drew's strikeouts cause for concern?
–Adam, Brookline, Mass.

 
He has always been a selective hitter, and this year he has had a lot of called third strikes. I think he will be fine and might not be 100 percent right now. Because of all the injuries in the outfield, he has had to play every day. I think maybe he might have sat out some of these games if he could have, but because the Red Sox are so short on players available, he has stayed in the lineup. He is an above-average outfielder who has been a very consistent performer at the plate for an entire season of work. While I agree it has been a slow start, I think his track record proves this will not continue.

Will David Ortiz rediscover his power stroke?
–Kim, Pleasant Ridge, Mich.

 
That's a great concern, and to answer your question, I am not sure. Last year, after the horrible start, he found it again to some degree. I guess it could happen again, but the biggest area of concern is around pitches that he normally crushed in the early portion of being with the Red Sox. He has been relatively selective and he's found himself in many hitters counts, expecting and getting fastballs. He has not been crushing them anymore; he is fouling them off and looks unable to fully catch up.

Will that change? It needs to for him to contribute and return to some semblance of being Big Papi. He is obviously already annoyed by the media and fan reaction in the early going. You just hope he is able to rise above all that and find his confidence and swagger again.