No need to dress things up, the Boston Red Sox have been atrocious this season. But the season is far from over, and the Sox are far from being out of options.
With struggling bats, injuries and nearly no consistency out of the pitching staff, Boston certainly has a number of concerning issues. Here are five steps they can take to get the 2012 season on the right track.
You're kidding yourself if you subscribe to the logic of Kevin Youkilis being out of gas. He's 33—yes—and has missed his fair share of games since 2008, but his value hasn't evaporated over night.
Just last year, in a season in which Youkilis struggled mightily with injuries, he still produced 80 runs in just 120 games. His drop in average is what was most concerning. Youkilis had the same amount of hits in 2010, but did so in 18 fewer games.
Fast-forward to 2012 and Youkilis finds himself in one of the worst slumps of his career.
He's also an aging corner infielder who hasn't been in a groove in awhile, had his name dangled in trade rumors this offseason, has had his spot in the order toyed with and his motivation openly and publicly questioned by his brand new manager.
It's time to let him be so he can focus on swinging his hunk of wood at the spinning ball of leather. Things are too complicated right now, and for a baseball guy out of Cincinnati, Youkilis probably just needs some time to re-focus himself on what he truly loves.
The best remedy would be finding him a locked-in spot in the lineup or sticking with him in the five slot until he figures it out. Hitting out of the sixth slot just isn't working out for him right now.
The logic behind the move away from Jarrod Saltalamacchia is two-fold. You can see what's left in Shoppach's bat and the pitching staff would get a chance to work with another, arguably more experienced, catcher.
Maybe one or two of the starters really develop a rapport with Shoppach, or maybe the former Ray can be a calming influence to a few of the bullpen arms.
Shoppach has been pretty terrible at the plate over the last three years, but he's only averaged 217 at bats per season over that stretch. Back in 2008, when he played in 112 games, Shoppach smacked 21 home runs and drove-in 55 runs while batting .261 in 352 at-bats.
Compare that to Saltalamacchia's career-best season of 2011 in which he posted 16 home runs, 56 runs batted in, and he batted .235 over 358 at-bats.
I think there's a good argument to be made for Shoppach getting some time. He offers every offensive threat that Salty does and he's got a little more experience behind the plate.
Why not give it a shot?
Presently Boston's pitching staff owns an impressively high collective ERA. I mean it's honestly difficult for five separate athletes to pitch this poorly for this long... at the same time... on the same team.
I suppose Felix Doubront shouldn't receive much flack. The 24-year-old has strung together three decent games and has an ERA under 4.0 to go along with 20 strikeouts in 16.0 innings.
But getting to the point—collectively there are issues in the starting rotation. Granted they can be worked out over the long term, but there need to be steps taken in the interim. Boston has only until May 1st to call Aaron Cook up from AAA.
He looked strong in spring training and has only continued to look ready to contribute for Pawtucket. In four games, Cook has racked-up 27.0 innings and has only allowed four earned runs.
Promoting Cook would give Boston another stable arm in the pitching staff at a time where specific roles don't really matter. It's widely known that a number of positions are up for grabs within the Red Sox rotation and bullpen. I just couldn't understand allowing Cook to walk considering the issues at the major league level.
I know I may have painted Saltalamacchia in a bit of a negative light previously, but I only wish to illustrate the weaknesses to his game.
He's an imperfect match for the starting catching role, it's certainly no easy job to step in and fill Jason Varitek's shoes. Even Varitek himself had trouble doing it later in his career.
I'd like to see a more even time split between Salty and Shoppach at least until one of them develops chemistry with some arms or starts to warm up at the plate. Through only six games, Shoppach is hitting .375 compared to Saltalamacchia's .237 average through 12 games.
And even with all that said, the pitchers themselves need more time to figure things out and work through their struggles. If we're all actually ready to call it on these starters in under 25 innings of work, we've got some serious pessimism to work through.
The bullpen is also a problem, but not one that can't be easily addressed if need be. Puzzle pieces are much easier to work in, and to find for that matter, as relievers.
And that leads me to my final point...
Ben Cherrington and the Sox brass cannot shy away from improving this team by whatever means become necessary. So far, they haven't shied away either.
With a need in the outfield created after the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston dealt for Marlon Byrd who should help ease that void for the next few weeks and provide great depth from there on out.
The Roy Oswalt rumors have begun once again, and the Sox are unsurprisingly still right in the thick of things.
And I don't think it would surprise anyone if another relief pitcher is acquired down the road, which seems to be an annual occurrence regardless.