For the 2011 Red Sox, you could point to the lack of timely hitting (.199 batting average with runners in scoring position), the lack of any hitting (.235 team batting average) and inconsistent starting pitching (5.31 ERA).
Chief among the Sox' issues, though, might be the bullpen.
A unit that was described as "revamped" and generated the best competition for roster spots in the spring has largely been a letdown thus far, and the contributions of Dan Wheeler and Hideki Okajima on Tuesday in Oakland only intensified the issue.
With the clock striking midnight on the East Coast, John Lackey and Brett Anderson were cruising. The game reached the eighth inning in about two hours, but it was then that the game came to a near halt.
Wheeler, after pitching a 1-2-3 seventh in relief of Lackey, came back out for the eighth. He battled with Cliff Pennington for nine pitches but ultimately lost, giving up a double. In came Okajima for his first major league work of 2011. He surrendered two hits and a walk in 31 pitches, a pitch count he's reached just once in each of the past two seasons, before giving way to Alfredo Aceves.
By the end of it, the bullpen ERA climbed to 6.56, the worst such mark in all of Major League Baseball, and the Red Sox were all but finished before stepping to the plate in the ninth. The Sox hold a rather sizeable "lead" in that regard, too, with the Dodgers (6.17 ERA) having the only other bullpen over the 6.00 mark.
The problem thus far has involved just about everyone not named Jonathan Papelbon or Alfredo Aceves. Those two have a combined ERA of 2.13 and 0.868 WHIP over 12 2/3 innings, while the rest of the relievers have an 8.15 ERA and a 1.528 WHIP.
The common preseason thought of Papelbon forming a fearsome trio with Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks at the back end has largely come up short. Bard (0-2, 6.75 ERA) has just two clean innings in his 6 2/3 innings of work, while Jenks, although strong in his first four outings, surrendered four hits and four earned runs on Friday night against Toronto, another game that the bullpen let get away.
Of course, it'd be wrong to pinpoint one area as the primary reason for the 5-11 start to the season. If things don't turn around for the bullpen, however, those wins will continue to be harder and harder to secure.