While the offense has generally been what has kept Boston in the playoff race, outscoring every team but the Yankees, it has often failed to produce timely hits, and has been afflicted by inconsistency. David Ortiz has had a wildly up and down season at the plate, and while Bill Hall exploded for two home runs against Toronto last week, he’s hardly been consistent, either. Mike Cameron has underperformed at the dish, as did Jeremy Hermida prior to being designated for assignment. As good as the offense has been, it could have been much better.
Prior to the season, Boston was lauded as one of the league’s best defensive teams. The Sox, though, rank just 14th in fielding percentage with 74 errors thus far this season.
Obviously, many of the Sox’ problems can be attributed to their incomprehensible number of injuries incurred this season. The team has lost both of its stars, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, three starting pitchers, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, and Josh Beckett, both catchers, Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek, their leadoff man, Jacoby Ellsbury, and a host of others. If the team had been healthy, one could expect that they would likely be in the lead in the division.
Starting pitching, too, has been a problem. Matsuzaka struggled for much of the early season, though he has been better of late. Beckett has been in a major slump since his first starts back from the DL, and was very poor in the early season. Tim Wakefield, when filling in as a starter, has been shelled repeatedly. John Lackey has somewhat failed to meet expectations. Only Jon Lester and Buchholz have pitched well, but they have pitched so well as to carry the team for stretches.
The bullpen, many would say, is more to blame than the rotation. Hideki Okajima has had his fair share of struggles, as has Manny Delcarmen. In the past, both were cornerstones of Boston’s middle relief, and the team has lacked options prior to the eighth without them. Jonathan Papelbon, though more consistent than his 2009 campaign until recently, has started to get very shaky. Daniel Bard, on the other hand, has been the pen’s saving grace, locking down the eighth inning and shining in clutch situations.
So what is the biggest reason for Boston struggling to stay in the playoff race?