Run Prevention? I’m not Buying it!

Despite Theo Epstein’s best attempts to convince the Nation that less is more, Red Sox fans cannot help the unsettled feeling that comes from realizing just how badly this roster has hemorrhaged offensive output in the past couple of years.  Gone are Manny and Jason Bay and David Ortiz (though we still do have the ghost of Big Papi lingering around).  From top to bottom, the Sox batting order used to be very treacherous waters for opposing pitchers to navigate.  The Manny-Papi-Youkilis gauntlet in the 3-4-5 slots used to cause insomnia, indigestion, and even thoughts of “can I just fake being sick for this series,” from enemy pitching staffs.  Those days are gone, and the results are utterly painful to watch.

When unveiling the completely underwhelming crop of new Red Sox for 2010, Theo preached run prevention.  Sure, none of these newcomers was a juggernaut in the batters’ box, but what they lacked in offensive prowess was supposed to be more than recovered in how many runs their excellent defense would prevent over the course of the season.  We may only have slightly more than 7% of the 2010 season behind us, but Theo’s master plan is looking more like kindergarten finger painting, and Sox fans are having an increasingly hard time drinking the Kool-aid.

The fact of the matter is, this edition of the Red Sox has, to this point, been unwatchable.  I’ve yet to sit down and try to watch a game that I didn’t wander away from in either frustration or utter boredom.  The offense doesn’t produce any runs, and the defense doesn’t do a very good job of preventing them.  While Marco Scutaro will never be confused with Luis Aparicio, he was supposed to be an upgrade on Julio Lugo.  While Lugo’s departure was welcome news, Scutaro is doing little to make us forget the past tenant at short.  And if run prevention was really the name of the game, wasn’t bringing back Alex Gonzalez the best possibleoption when it comes to preventing runs?

Aside from one stellar play in Minnesota where he ranged deep into the hole and made a surprisingly strong throw to first, Scutaro has been achingly average so far.  Against Tampa, I watched him make an error on a ball most kids in high school would have played with far more attention to fundamentals.  His offense has been adequate, but not above average.  So I ask again, if the team was in the market for average offense and true run prevention, why is Alex Gonzalez a Blue Jay?

In the offseason, we lost (or chose to lose, as he wanted badly to return) the streaky yet ultimately productive Jason Bay, who reliably churns out a line of .270-30-100.  He was replaced with Mike Cameron, a player whose value I’ve never understood.  Cameron is more likely to put up numbers in the .250-18-65 range while striking out a ton (supposedly the main knock against Bay was his propensity to whiff).  But offense supposedly isn’t his cachet, it’s all about run prevention!  Jacoby Ellsbury, and the poor routes he takes to fly balls, was pushed to left field, where his defensive responsibilities would be diminished,.  The flashy, effective Cameron would set up shop in center, giving the Sox one of the best defensive outfields in the business.  The reality of the situation is that, instead of being the 15 year veteran, stabilizing force in the outfield, Cameron seems to have learned to play center field just last week.  He often seems to completely freeze on balls hit in his direction.  In Sunday’s game against Tampa, Evan Longoria hit a deep fly ball to center.  Cameron took two steps in, froze, turned over the wrong shoulder and began gliding back toward the warning track.  His relatively nonchalant gait seemed to indicate that he had a bead on the ball and was about to catch it.  Instead, it landed 10 feet over his head and went for a double.  Longoria eventually scored on a Carlo Pena homer, but in my opinion he should have never been on base.  His fly ball was eminently catchable, but the run prevention expert in centerfield simply couldn’t find a route to the ball.

It’s unfair to place all of the blame for the disastrous start to the season at the feet of two new players.  Other things have gone wrong; the lineup hasn’t hit, the starting rotation hasn’t pitched, and the watching the bullpen makes me feel like I’ve eaten rancid pork rinds.  The fact of the matter is that we were presented with a team stamped with the mission statement “Pitching and Defense; 2010.”  What we’ve gotten instead are lopsided scores, early exists by most members of the pitching staff, downright snooze-worthy performances, and a number in the “Games Behind” column that is increasing at an alarming rate.

Is the sky falling?  Not yet.  But it’s sure as hell cracked and beginning to look unstable.

~ by schlippo on April 19, 2010.

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