Line drive. Out. Line drive. Out. For the Red Sox, the same pattern that permeated their loss on Wednesday also represented reason to believe that their offense is a lot closer to what it was thought to be than the team’s early-season runs totals suggest.
The Red Sox, through 40 games, are averaging exactly 3.9 runs a night, a mark that ranks 12th in the American League. Yet the number of balls they’ve hit that have found their opponents’ gloves has been uncanny.
The team entered Tuesday with a .259 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) – meaning at-bats that ended in something other than a homer, a strikeout, or a walk. That’s low. Very low.
The mark ranks as the worst in the majors. It’s nearly 40 points below the league average BABIP of .296. Since 2000, only four teams have had a BABIP below .275, and none was lower than .269.
There’s more. The Red Sox are one of the hardest teams in the league to strike out, with their 16.8 percent rate entering Wednesday ranking as the second-lowest in baseball. That means more balls in play, which should result in more hits and more runs. They’re walking at a higher rate than any other team in the AL, meaning a wealth of baserunners. They’re hitting homers at a rate that is slightly better than league average. They’re hitting line drives at roughly a league average rate.
All of those are the components of an above-average offense. That hasn’t been the case yet for the Red Sox, but there’s a very good chance that the worm will turn – perhaps dramatically.
Of course, the Sox anticipated the same change of course last year and it never came. Based on that experience, it’s hard to view a reversal as inevitable.
But, statistically, a change of fortunes – and productivity – is likely. Typically, when players suggest in the wake of defeats that they’re hitting into bad luck, the claim seems like self-deceit. In the case of the Red Sox so far this year, the claim passes the smell test.
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