MLB: 5 Takeaways from Boston Red Sox's Early Season Struggles

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MLB: 5 Takeaways from Boston Red Sox's Early Season Struggles
After being a Cy Young Award candidate for most of 2013, Clay Buchholz has been a huge disappointment this season.

Fifty games into the 2014 MLB season, the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox find themselves at the bottom of the AL East.  Even with over 110 games left, Boston fans should start to panic.  Here are the five biggest takeaways from the struggling Red Sox's season so far.

They Need to Start Hitting

In 2013, the Red Sox led the majors with 853 runs scored; this year, they currently rank 18th.  With Dustin Pedroia struggling and no Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, Boston ranks 24th in batting average and 21st in slugging percentage.  

David Ortiz currently leads the Red Sox with 12 home runs, but tied for second on the team are Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli with only five.  Without one batter in the starting lineup hitting over .300 and with only one power hitter, Boston's offense has been a huge disappointment.

There's Something Wrong With Clay Buchholz

After finishing last season with a 1.74 ERA, the Red Sox veteran now finds himself struggling.  In nine starts this season, he is 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA.  

Buchholz was a Cy Young Award candidate last year before he was put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury that kept him out for two months.  Many speculated that his shoulder injury from last year might be the reason why he's underperforming this season.  But according to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, Buchholz claims that his struggles are not a physical issue.  

Their Pitching is Almost as Bad as Their Hitting

Even though the Red Sox rotation has stayed healthy, the pitching has still been subpar.  Boston ranks 19th in ERA and 26th in opponents' batting average.  The top of the rotation, led by Jon Lester (3.36 ERA) and John Lackey (3.58 ERA), has pitched well but not great.  

The bottom of the rotation has been horrible.  Buchholz, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront are all sporting a 4.65 ERA or higher.

Boston Continues to Miss Jacoby Ellsbury

When the Yankees stole the Red Sox's star center fielder, Boston decided to give its young prospect, Jackie Bradley Jr., a shot.  In 46 games, Bradley Jr. is batting an atrocious .193 with zero home runs.  

According to Baseball-Reference, Bradley Jr. was ranked as a top-50 prospect going into the 2014 season.  He's still young, so he has plenty of time to turn it around, but right now, he's no Ellsbury. 

The Red Sox Are the Worst Team in the AL East

With a 21-29 record, Boston finds itself in last place in its division, eight games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.  The Red Sox have scored the least amount of runs, and they have the worst run differential in the AL East.  In ESPN's most recent weekly power rankings, Boston ranks 26th, three spots behind the Tampa Bay Rays.  

There's a lot of time left in the season, but it does not look good for the defending World Series champions.  

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