Kevin Youkilis is on the DL, last year’s American League MVP Dustin Pedroia is still nursing a groin injury, and David Ortiz has not hit a home run. On the pitching side, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester all have earned-run averages over 6.00. This sounds bad for the Red Sox and their fans.
Should they be worried?
No, they should be excited. Baseball is a long season; the injuries to Youkilis and Pedroia mean very little at this point in the season. The other American League teams should be worried that the Sox have managed a 21-13 record despite the adversity.
Big Papi is only ranked 54th in RBI going into Wednesday night’s game. Yet, Hall of Fame member and former hitting coach Jim Rice says “I’ve looked at Papi’s stance and swing, compared it to previous seasons, and I just don’t see anything wrong with him” on his blog. He goes on to add “If he continues to make solid contact, this slump will be a faint memory by August.”
One possible positive for the Sox with Youkilis being out is Terry Francona. Boston’s manager is willing to place Jason Bay behind Big Papi in the lineup. Since he came over in a trade for Manny Ramirez, Francona has been reluctant to place Bay in Ramirez’s old lineup spot. Now that Bay is in that slot, this will help Bay even more, because pitchers will have to come after him or Big Papi. Boston’s batting average is still at .281, which is second only to Toronto in the AL.
Pitching is said to be what wins championships. The Red Sox could be worried about that with a team ERA of 4.80, ranked 10th in the AL. However, the pitching is not at full force just yet. Several key pitchers will return and help bring that ERA down, including the aforementioned Matsuzaka. Plus, nobody thinks Beckett will continue to give away so many runs, and even so he has a winning record.
At the end of the season, the questions about pitching may be about the bullpen. As of right now, closer Jonathan Papelbon is tied for the highest number of saves in the league. He looks good.
Middle relief can be an issue. Only later in the year will reveal how good or how bad the Sox are in this department. It’s certainly not an area to acquire wrinkles about in mid-May.
The one thing for Red Sox Nation and all of the AL contenders to look at right now is the that BoSox are winning. They own the second-best winning percent in the American League, even if Big Papi still has not hit a single home run.