By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Don’t look now, Red Sox followers, but the team has hit its first real, prolonged scoring drought of the season. The Sox have now scored just 10 runs in their last five games, which has naturally led us to wonder whether there is a problem with the offense.
At least not yet.
At the moment, the Red Sox still rank first in the American League in runs scored, just ahead of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. (The Yankees have played five fewer games, but if the Sox rank second, is there really a difference?) Until last night, the Sox had played the last two weeks without Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts, the former of whom is not coming back, the latter of whom returned last night.
Here’s the point: it’s too early to make any definitive judgment on whether a seeming shortage of depth in the Boston lineup could do them in over the longer haul. What is perhaps more important to note at the moment is the Sox’ ability to win when they don’t hit, which speaks to their proficiency in winning lower-scoring games as well as higher-scoring ones.
In modern baseball, historically, the line of demarcation for winning baseball comes at five runs, which means the following: if you score five or more, you usually win; if you score four or fewer, you usually lose. So the best thing to do is to look at where the Red Sox rank in both areas relative to the rest of the league.
Last night, just a few days after losing a 1-0 decision to the White Sox, the Red Sox pulled out a 2-0 victory over the Orioles – the fifth straight game in which the Sox have scored four runs or fewer. While the Sox are just 2-3 in those games, the data tells us that a sub-.500 record in such contests isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s expected.
Entering last night, here is how the 15 American League teams ranked in winning percentage when scoring four runs or fewer:
For now, a few things stick out here: first, the teams at the top of the league in this category are generally the best teams in the league this year – Seattle, New York, Houston and Boston. (The winning percentage for the remaining teams drops precipitously after the Red Sox.) Second, while the Red Sox are good in this area, they are more than a tick behind the top three, which are really their primary competition in the league this year.
Are the Sox bad in low-scoring games? No. But they probably need to be a little better. Some of that speaks to the ability to score runs in key spots. Some of that speaks to the bullpen. Some of it even speaks to managerial decisions like the one the Astros made earlier this month, when they squeezed home a run against the Red Sox in a relatively tight game.
The bottom line is this: in a 2018 American League that lacks much of a middle class, every little thing counts. The Red Sox are one of the good teams. How they compare to Oakland, Detroit and Minnesota doesn’t really matter. They need to be proficient in all areas to beat the best the league has to offer, and they have between now and the end of September to make up any and all gaps.
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