Boston Red Sox and Teams That Should Be Worried About the Future

Alexander Van ReesContributor IIIMay 7, 2012

Boston Red Sox and Teams That Should Be Worried About the Future

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    After an amazing 17-inning affair in Boston on Sunday afternoon, which featured a DH as the winning pitcher, the Boston Red Sox were unable to overcome the surging Baltimore Orioles, and continue to be questionable for the future.

    The Sox are not the only team in jeopardy of missing the playoff nod this season; the Philadelphia Phillies have made five consecutive trips to the playoffs dating back to ‘07, and even with the extra wild card this season, they could forgo baseball in October.

    Both the Sox and the Phillies, in my opinion, are the two teams who have surprised everyone with their horrendous performances thus far into the young season. Yes, they have both experienced problems with their star athletes and injuries early on, but no one thought they would both sit in last place in their respective divisions on May 7.

    The San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and the Minnesota Twins are among the other teams across the MLB that are not playing up to their standards and have a tough season ahead of them.

    Check out my list of the teams that should be worried about their future and let me know what you think!

1. Boston Red Sox (11-16)

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    Coming off of a sweep at the hands of the Orioles, the Sox sit five games under the .500 mark and have started off this year with their worst record since the beginning of the ‘96 season. Nothing seems to be going right for Bobby Valentine and his new club.

    The Sox main problem has been their pitching staff this season, both starting and relief pitching; collectively, they sport a 5.36 ERA, which ranks them 13th out of the 14 American League teams (Minnesota is last at 5.69).

    Their starting rotation has struggled mightily, as their once-dominant hurlers have become anything but thus far into the season. They have tossed 154.2 innings as a group, and they have yielded 101 earned runs, which equates to a 5.89 starting ERA.

    Although starter Clay Buchholtz is 3-1, he sports a lofty 9.09 ERA and he has allowed 33 earned runs on 47 base hits over just 32.2 innings. The Birds knocked him out on Sunday after just 3.2 innings and five runs.

    No starter sits with an ERA below 4.38 (Daniel Bard). Former World Series MVP Josh Beckett sports a 4.45 ERA in his five outings this year, while Jon Lester features a 4.62 ERA. If the Red Sox are going to be in contention, pitching is the first place they need to drastically improve upon.

    As for the bullpen, they have not performed as badly as their starting pitchers. However, it has not been what they were looking for entering the season. Collectively, they have tossed 93.1 innings pitched and they have surrendered 45 earned runs (4.35 ERA).

    Offensively, they’ve been very inconsistent. One day, they’ll put up double digits on the board, and the next day they will struggle to score three runs. David Ortiz has been their one consistent hitter in the lineup as he leads the team with a six home runs and 22 RBI, and is second with a .365 batting clip.

    Other than Ortiz, the rest of the offense is up and down. Adrian Gonzalez is batting just .264, which is rare for him, with two home runs and 15 RBI. Ryan Sweeney, who is filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury, is batting .368, but lacks power.

2. Philadelphia Phillies (14-15)

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    The Philadelphia Phillies, who seem to always be the talk of baseball in the offseason, seem to have stumbled on a huge bump in the road. They are only one game under the .500 mark, but the Nationals and Braves seem to be running away with the East, and they keep declining.

    Of course, as predicted, their pitching staff continues to pitch well and put up strong numbers. As a group, they sport a 3.39 ERA, which is good for sixth place in the National League, and third in their tough division.

    Led by ace Roy Halladay (3.20 ERA), their pitching staff is the only thing keeping them afloat and around the .500 mark. Their starting pitchers all have ERAs below 4, except for Kyle Kendrick (5.30 ERA), who is currently filling in for Cliff Lee.

    There is really nothing to worry about pitching-wise. Lee is on the DL and will be back sometime in June, and Kendrick will head back to the pen. They need to focus on their offense and get their power hitters healthy and back in the lineup.

    Their downfall this season has been their offense; as a team, they are hitting .252, which ranks them fifth in the National League, and you might be thinking that fifth out of 16 teams is not bad. However, if you take a deeper look at the numbers, it will be more evident why they have struggled.

    Slugger Ryan Howard and former first-round pick Chase Utley’s absences have really caused problems for the Phillies. Not to mention, leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins has gotten off to a tough start with the bat; he is hitting just .223 with five RBI and has yet to go deep. He’s the table-setter, and only has scored 12 runs all season.

    Both Hunter Pence (18) and Shane Victorino (17) have scored more runs than Rollins, and if they’re going to win, they need to get him back on track and hitting well at the top of the lineup.

    The Phillies are only holding on because Pence, Victorino and the surprising power/batting from catcher Carlos Ruiz; he’s batting .318 with five home runs and 19 RBI. Pence leads the team with six home runs and 20 RBI, but is only batting .274 on the year.

    Not only are Utley and Howard still out, but slugger Jim Thome, who was brought back to the City of Brotherly Love because of his ability to smash home runs, is on the DL as well. 

3. The San Diego Padres (9-20)

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    The San Diego Padres are a tough organization to figure out. They have always been keen on pitching, and that has definitely been their strength over the years. Year after year, they struggle at the plate, and this year seems to be the same.

    As a team, they are hitting just .219 on the year, which is good for 12th place in the National League. They have only scored 94 runs, and they have recorded just 12 home runs as a team. Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp already has smashed 12 home runs of his own!

    Chase Headley leads the team with four home runs and 16 RBI, but is only batting .252 on the year. Nick Hundley is the only other Padre with more than one home run, and only three have double digit RBI totals (Headley 16, Hundley 12, and Jesus Guzman 10).

    Yes, Petco Park is one of the toughest hitter parks in all of baseball, but something needs to be done. They need to go out and pick up a slugger who can carry this team on his back. The loss of Adrian Gonzalez is really hurting them now.

    Not one of their everyday starters has a .300 average; Chris Denorfia is the closest with a 2.98 clip. Other than him, Mark Kotsay is second with a .276 average, but he has only played in six games on the year.

    Like the Phillies, their pitching is what is keeping them afloat this year. Collectively, their staff sports a respectable 3.50 ERA, which is good for ninth in the National League. Clayton Richard (4.89 ERA) and Joe Wieland (4.55 ERA) are the only two starters who have ERAs about four.

    Anthony Bass (3.51), Cory Luebke (2.61) and Edison Volquez (2.92) have all pitched very well for the Padres, and they seem to have great futures ahead of themselves.

    The Padres have all the pitching they need,so their focus should be hitting. They are at the bottom in almost every hitting category in the National League, and if they want to build a winning-caliber team, they need to add some pop to their offense.

4. The Minnesota Twins (7-20)

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    Throughout most of the '90s, the Minnsota Twins were one of the worst teams in baseball under Tom Kelly. After Ron Gardenhire took over in 2002, however, they became one of the most successful franchises of the decade.

    Last season was only the second time under Gardenhire’s tenure that the Twins finished with a sub .500 record (63-99 and 79-83 in ’07). Minnesota is struggling with all facets of the game right now, and many questions should be raised about in their possibly dismal future.

    Offensively, they are batting just .237 as a club, which is good for 13th in the American League. They have only crossed the plate 92 times (last in the AL) and they have recorded just 16 home runs (12th in the AL). Slugger Justin Morneau is currently on the DL with a sore right wrist; he smashed four home runs and drove in nine on the season.

    Denard Span is the only starter in the lineup with an average above .300 (.309); Josh Willingham is close with a .291 clip and former MVP Joe Mauer is hitting just .278. Other than those three, the rest of the club is hitting around .250 or lower and not producing power numbers or RBI.

    Only three Twins have more three or more home runs at this point in the season. They need a power bat in the middle of their lineup with the absence of Morneau. Willingham is trying to fill that void as he leads the club with five jacks, but Mauer has only gone deep once and needs to pick it up if the Twins want to get out of the AL Central cellar.

    The Twins have been known for their pitching over the last 10 years, but these last two seasons have been tough to watch. Currently, they rank last in the AL with a 5.69 team ERA.

    Gardenhire used six starters throughout the season, and five of them have an ERA above 5. Carl Pavano (2-2, 4.62 ERA) has been the Twins best pitcher this season, while veteran Jason Marquis (2-1, 5.40 ERA), who was brought over to fortify the rotation, has struggled in his new uniform. Both Liam Hendricks and Francisco Liriano sport ERAs north of nine.

    Their pen has performed much better than their starters as they have allowed just 39 earned runs in 88 innings of work (3.99 ERA).

    The Twins definitely need to improve their starting pitching, whether it be a fresh, new face or just stick with the hurlers they have and hope they improve in time.

5. The Kansas City Royals (9-18)

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    Like the Twins, the Kansas City Royals have been a streaky team in the past. This season, however, is not one of those far-and-between successful seasons.

    Currently, they own the second worst record in baseball, and would be at the bottom of any other division, however, they find themselves in the same division as the Twins. The Royals team ERA sits 12th in the AL at 4.79 on the year, while they are batting .259 (fourth in the AL).

    Offensively, they have smashed 22 home runs and scored 104 runs (both ranks 11th in the AL).  They have some good, young hitters in the lineup that are hitting for a high average, but just have not been able to put up the power numbers.

    Chris Getz and Jarrod Dyson are both hitting above .290, but have yet to deliver a home run and they have recorded only seven RBI between the two of them.

    Billy Butler is putting together a strong season as he is batting .296 with five home runs and 20 RBI, while Mike Moustakas is batting .305 with four home runs and 15 RBI. However, that’s basically their offense.

    Danny Duffy (2-2, 3.57 ERA) has been the lone bright spot for the Royals out of the rotation this season. Bruce Chen has been the victim in tough-luck affairs as he is 0-4 with a 4.98 ERA. Other than these two starters, all others have an ERA above 5.

    As for their pen, former Dodger Jonathon Broxton (five saves, 1.86 ERA) has been lights out for his new club. With the exception of Greg Holland (0-2, 11.37 ERA in seven games), everyone in their pen has an ERA of 5 or lower, most in the 3s and 4s.

    The Royals definitely need a power bat in the middle of the lineup, and a starting pitcher with experience. They already have a proven closer, and if they could find another middle-reliever, maybe a set-up man in front of Broxton, they would be fun to watch.

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