May 1 found the now-first-in-the-AL-East Red Sox mired in third place with a 13-11 record, behind the Yankees and the Orioles, each with 15-8 records. Their offense was adrift in the doldrums, averaging fewer than four runs per game (3.88 RPG) with only 15 home runs to their name (.62 per game). Even though their April record was close to the 14-10 from last April, the team averaged 5.04 runs per game last year even though they only hit four more homers than they did this April.
So how did the 2016 Red Sox do it? The quick answer: with a high OBP (.343) – thanks to a lot of singles (144) and walks (79) – and by hitting doubles (66) which led to the second highest OPS (.790) in the league. The 2017 Sox were similar in total hits and walks (74), but their run production was down due to a dramatic downturn in doubles (39) and an increase in singles (162). Am I saying that home runs aren’t important? No. But they aren’t the be all and end all of run scoring. After all, the 2016 Red Sox only had 19 homers in the first month of the season, a mere four more than the 2017 side.
As of June 30, the Red Sox were last in the AL with 80 homers, with 31 at home and 49 away. But, 80 is only a dozen fewer than the 2016 side had at that point. Even though they are now averaging one per game, they are unlikely to jump out of the bottom third in that category. And – remembering that the goal here is to make the playoffs – they shouldn’t need to as long as they stay near the top of the league in doubles (3rd place with 1.9 per game) and OBP (3rd place with .338) and stay near the bottom in strikeouts per game (13th place with 6.9).
Last season they averaged 5.4 RPG hitting 2.1 doubles and 1.28 homers per game with an OBP of .348 and 7.16 Ks per game. This season they are at 4.7 RPG, despite the relative dearth of home runs, with Hanley Ramirez performing at a lower level than expected, though he is starting to heat up (hitting .387 with four doubles and three home runs from June 23rd through July 2nd), and without any semblance of offense from third base. Barring a trade, or one of the current Red Sox playing there being touched by the hand of God, we shouldn’t expect much from third base. However, the offense is still a potential powerhouse, especially if Mookie Betts heats up as he normally does during the summer.
Editor’s note: Update on the numbers and offensive rankings after the four games of July:
After the recent offensive explosion, the Red Sox now rank second in hits (9.39 per game), first in singles (6.29 per game), third in doubles (1.94 per game), and fourth in runs (4.96 per game) in the American League. Their OBP still ranks third in the AL, but has gone up to .344 and their OPS is now .768, good for fourth in the AL. Their wOBA also ranks fourth at .329.
We’ll be updating this periodically throughout the season.
Barring an injury to a key producer on offense and/or the pitching staff having a major setback, this team, as currently constructed, should remain in contention for at least a Wild Card berth. After that, their chances to advance deep into the playoffs are as good as any other teams.