The Red Sox’ 10-19 record to begin the year is a surprise. A shock. Their scuffling start to 2022 makes their 2021 October run, to just two games from a World Series, seem so long ago. Their lackluster offense and lack of bullpen depth are huge reasons for it.
The offense, though, stands out the most, in part, because it was supposed to be a strength. And although the stars are producing, it’s the failure of the role players that’s holding the Red Sox back.
Kiké Hernández: Manager Alex Cora is doing anything he can to get some oomph at the top of his order. Hernández was in the leadoff spot to start the year, but Cora moved Trevor Story there with Hernández struggling because of Story’s speed and power.
Story was struggling, too, but it was assumed he would get out of that rut. He hasn’t as of yet, homerless and batting .194/.276/.269 with 35 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances.
Story’s numbers, coming from a star player, place a significant hole in the lineup. But Hernández’s issues are troubling as well. And that Cora decided to put him back in the leadoff spot Sunday proves that the Sox manager is trying anything at this point.
Hernández is slashing .176/.252/.284 with one homer in 115 plate appearances. He got off to a slow start last year, but it was nothing like this.
Hernández is capable of going on a tear. He’s a streaky hitter, and the hot streaks are a part of his value because he can partially carry an offense during that time, alleviating some of the pressure on star players like Story. Last July 1 through Aug. 26, for example, Hernández hit .288/.402/.537 with nine homers, and he was even better in the playoffs. Perhaps it needs to warm up for Hernández to get going.
By that time, though, it might be too late.
Christian Vázquez: His offensive struggles the last two years are a true head-scratcher.
After a breakout 2019 where Vazquez hit .276 with 23 homers, Vazquez has just 14 since, and this year has a .217/.269/.300 line.
Alex Verdugo: He isn’t quite a role player, and a tier below stardom. But Cora calls Verdugo the most complete hitter on the team, and his nose dive at the dish the last two weeks or so has had a role in the Sox’ struggles. Since April 22, Verdugo is hitting just .125/.136/.143, with one extra-base hit (a double).
Verdugo said last weekend that he felt as if he was sliding forward with his hips during his swing.
“I was working uphill,” Verdugo said. “It’s just kind of putting me in a bad starting position that basically has me playing catch up the whole way. We’ve been working on it, figuring it out. Cue back where I feel good with it and you know I’m almost there.”
Bobby Dalbec: .139/.225/.215. That’s Dalbec’s slash line. He hasn’t homered since April 10.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said last weekend that top prospect Triston Casas isn’t quite ready yet, but this team needs some type of spark as it heads into a series with the Braves.
“Everybody knows offensively, we counted on the offense to help us, to carry us,” Cora said. “We have to get better.”