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Inside The Sox Struggles

by Mike DePilla
Monday, July 27, 2009

With tonight's loss in the Twinkie-dome, the Sox have now lost 4 of their last 5 games, most of them in extremely frustrating fashion.

But before everyone goes off on Scott Linebrink and Bobby Jenks, or the putrid infield defense, I'd like to make the point that it's the offense that is every bit as responsible for the Sox recent slump.

The bullpen has struggled lately, but it has gotten exactly zero help from an ailing offense. And when I say "zero", I am barely exaggerating. In the Sox last 9 games, the team has scored a total of 4 runs--all in one game-- from the 6th inning on. I watched all the games and checked all the box scores. That's a span of 35 innings in which the Sox have put up nothing but goose eggs in all but one game.

That one game was last Wednesday in a come-from-behind victory over the Rays at the Cell. Since that game, the Sox have gone 6 games and 25 innings without scoring a run in the 6th inning or later of any game.

That is just not going to cut it. There have been three one-run games in that stretch in which the Sox took an early lead but never added on, allowing the Tigers and Twins to come back and win in the late innings. It's not a sabremetric formula that can be proven, but I feel like if you rest on a slim early inning lead without adding on you're playing with fire.

Even just adding one or two insurance runs in the middle to late innings makes a huge difference in the momentum of the game, and the psyche of the opposition. The Sox have done nothing in the way of run-scoring in those situations in the past week, putting momentum on the opposition's side and undue pressure on the bullpen to be literally perfect.

Tonight's game was the worst. Outside of two homeruns, the Sox didn't even get a runner to second base all game! That is ridiculous. And it's not like the Sox were facing Roy Halladay. Glen Perkins came into this game with a 5.55 ERA. In his last start against light-hitting Oakland he allowed 8 runs on 6 hits and lasted all of one inning. And yet the Sox, aside from two homers, couldn't even reach second base against the guy.

Something is wrong with that.

I do not think it is a coincidence that this offensive slump started the exact day Carlos Quentin returned to the team. Carlos is a great hitter, but until he really gets heated up there is just not enough balance in the line up.

It is true that Carlos swung the bat much better tonight, despite going 0-for-4. But the numbers aren't pretty. In his 9 games back in the line up Quentin is 5-for-29 (.172 BA) with 4 singles and a double. He's not getting on base, when he does he can't run fast and he's not hitting for any kind of power. This 3 through 6 in the line up- Dye, Thome, Konerko, Pierzynski and Quentin- isn't really providing much offense overall.

It's a song we've song a lot over the past 6 years- too many all-or-nothing hitters without the slightest semblance of speed. I'm not looking for Carlos Gomez or Michael Bourne speed, just enough to go two bases on a hit once in a while, or advance on an out. Otherwise there is no ability to manufacture runs.

Again, manufacturing runs doesn't mean bunting. It means stringing together base hits and ground balls to get runners moving around the bases. Gordon Beckham and the bottom of the line up can do it, but the guys getting paid the big bucks to shoulder the load at the plate just can't do it. It's homer or nothing, and hopefully there's someone on base when they hit it.

When you really look at this team in depth, shelling out the buck and prospects to get a sure thing like Roy Halladay or Danny Haren really wouldn't have much of an effect (not that either acquisition is probable anyway). Getting Roy Halladay is supposed to be a sure thing slam dunk World Series move. Yet it's entirely possible the Sox could get Halladay AND Haren (hypothetically of course) and still miss the playoffs.

The defense and offense are the problems. If Kenny Williams wants to improve this team for '09, those are the areas he'll have to address. The starting and relief pitching are much lesser concerns. Everybody in the league has bullpen problems; all things considered I am much more confident that veterans like Linebrink, Jenks and Matt Thornton will rebound and be more than adequate down the stretch. The defense is a lost cause with this configuration of players. Unless there is a big shake up this is going to be a below average defensive team and that will not change. The hitting? Something's gotta happen.

Good teams win the one-run games. This team hasn't shown the ability to do that consistently.


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