Playing Patience or Panic on the Boston Red Sox's 5 Worst Early Slumps
The defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox have gotten off to a rocky start in 2014.
With just a 4-6 record through their first 10 games, it is no surprise that several players have not performed at the levels expected of them.
For the most part, it's much too early in the season to come to any conclusions based on what's happened so far. Slumps to begin the year are often just a product of a small sample size, however, it is possible that a player's struggles at this point could be a sign of things to come.
Here is a list of the five Red Sox with the most disappointing numbers through 10 games and a verdict of whether patience or panic is the proper reaction to each.
Statistics courtesy of RedSox.com.
2014 stats: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 2 SO, 2.00 WHIP, .429 BAA
In three outings so far this season, Burke Badenhop was effective in one and highly ineffective in the other two. After throwing a pair of scoreless innings vs. the Milwaukee Brewers April 4, he's allowed five earned runs in a total of three innings pitched since.
The good news for Badenhop is that he's not being counted on as a key component of the Red Sox bullpen.
A journeyman reliever with a career 4.05 ERA, the 31-year-old is unlikely to find himself on the mound for too many high-pressure situations in Boston. Even if it takes a while for his inflated numbers to come down, he should be able to do it while keeping himself out of the spotlight.
2014 stats: .174 BA, 0 HR, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 11 SO, .217 SLG
Jonny Gomes is a fan favorite, known for wearing a military helmet during postseason celebrations in 2013 and recently a stars and stripes blazer when the Red Sox visited the White House. During his time in Boston, Gomes' attitude and charisma have done their part to mask his subpar numbers.
Gomes batted .247 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI last year while platooning with Daniel Nava. Red Sox manager John Farrell elected to go with Gomes as the everyday left fielder in the playoffs, and he hit just .167.
In 2014, Gomes has struck out in over 40 percent of his plate appearances (11 of 27) and has just one extra-base hit in 23 at-bats.
Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore are both off to hot starts, and Shane Victorino is likely to return from the disabled list in the not-too-distant future. Unless Gomes starts hitting before that happens, he may find himself stuck on the end of the bench.
If his career .244 average is any indication, a major spike in Gomes' production seems unlikely.
2014 stats: 1-1, 9.00 ERA, 8.0 IP, 8 ER, 12 H, 4 BB, 6 SO, 2.00 WHIP, .353 BAA
Felix Doubront pitched adequately enough to get a win in his first start, and he was doing fine through the first two innings of his second. But in the third inning against the Texas Rangers April 8, he surrendered five earned runs while retiring just two batters, and he allowed the final seven hitters he faced to reach base.
Manager John Farrell theorized that Doubront might have been fatigued at that point, given how long the inning lasted -- Texas sent 11 hitters to the plate, 10 against Doubront -- but the pitcher thought otherwise.
"Not really," said Doubront. "I wasn't tired. I don't know. I can't explain what happened. I was feeling really good during the first two innings and the whole day, and in the bullpen (beforehand). Then you forget and you start doing too much and I think that was what happened."
The night constituted the shortest start of Doubront's career, shorter even than an a three-inning start in Oakland on Sept 1, 2012.
"It's hard to explain," shrugged Doubront. "I don't know what happened. It was one of those games."
Given that the 2.2 inning stint was the shortest start of his career, it's easy to write this one off as an anomaly. As long as Boston fans are willing to temper their expectations with Doubront, there's no reason for concern.
Even though the 26-year-old is currently occupying the third spot in the Red Sox rotation, he should only be counted on to be the same No. 5 guy he's been the past two years.
Doubront's final numbers in 2012 and 2013 were remarkably consistent. In each season, he won 11 games and tossed just over 160 innings, while posting a WHIP of 1.45, followed by 1.43. Doubront's stats at the end of 2014 will likely be very similar.
2014 stats: 0-1, 15.43 ERA, 2.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 2 SO, 3.00 WHIP, .462 BAA
Edward Mujica has allowed multiple baserunners in two of his three appearances, taking the loss in the Red Sox home opener after giving up four earned runs in 0.2 innings. Mujica was quick to shrug off his poor showing, however.
Via Mark Daniels of The Boston Herald, Mujica said: "(After) it happened, I get home with my family and right after the game I feel like, 'Oh (expletive),' I was beaten. I put it in the book and turned the page. Today is a different day."
Red Sox fans probably shouldn't be so eager to dismiss Mujica's early season numbers.
Mujica was the St. Louis Cardinals closer in 2013, converting 35 of 37 save opportunities through August. But in September, he suddenly became very hittable; he blew two of four saves and finished the month with an 11.05 ERA and an absurd .514 batting average against.
Mujica lost his job before the playoffs and made just two appearances in the postseason—none in the World Series.
In 2014, he's picked up right where he left off.
2014 stats: .139 BA, 1 HR, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 10 SO, .205 OBP
Nava finds himself in a similar boat as Gomes. There will soon be five outfielders fighting for three spots in the Red Sox lineup, and Nava's current stats might easily cause him to be the odd man out.
With no clear choice for his leadoff hitter this year, Farrell felt that Nava might be a solid option. Not a bad idea, considering he finished fifth in the American League in on-base percentage last season at .385. But in five games batting at the top of the order in 2014, Nava has gone just 3-for-20. Even more discouraging is the fact that he has walked just once all season.
It’s as much trying to get Daniel going. We still value the on-base (ability), which Daniel has a strong track record of that, and yet right now we feel like we’ve got to give him an opportunity to get his feet on the ground offensively. Once he does, we feel like he’ll be in that spot. Just trying to make the most of the current streaks or the way guys are swinging the bat right now.
It appears Farrell made the right move, as Nava hit his first home run of the year in Boston's 4-1 loss. Could it be the beginning of the end of his early season slump?