NEW YORK -- All year, this looked like the revival of the 2016 offense. Some extended drop-offs are starting to make that seem like a mirage.
The Red Sox’ 11 home runs in the month of September are the fewest of all 30 teams. As of midnight going into Thursday, their on-base percentage in September, .317, was middle of the pack at 14th best. Their slugging percentage, meanwhile, was worse than all but four teams, at .362.
“There’s been a few at-bats early in the game, in these two games, that we had a chance to score right away,” Alex Cora said after a 10-1 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday. “We had man at third with less than two outs, and we haven’t been able to cash in. That’s something that, we’ll talk about it, and it’s always good to get the lead. I think we’re pretty good ball club doing that. There’s certain at-bats, just put the ball in play and get the runner in and keep moving forward. We’ll talk about it.”
The Red Sox offense overall still has been a juggernaut. The Sox entered Wednesday first in runs per game (5.30), first in slugging percentage (.449) and tied for the second-most steals (117). They wouldn’t have 103 wins without a very capable lineup.
But as the playoffs arrive, the Sox need to look at their recent downturn and identify whether they feel they’ve just hit a natural rut, or whether something both larger and correctable is at play. Were some players simply playing over their heads collectively, or have they just temporarily lost their approach?
Sandy Leon is hitting .098 in the second half. Mitch Moreland is hitting .179, Christian Vazquez .200 and Rafael Devers .222. Blake Swihart, the man who must rarely play, is at .250, with Brock Holt at .224.
Vazquez, Moreland and Leon together are a combined 39-for-264 in the second half: a .149 average. Andrew Benintendi (.263) has just two home runs and a .693 OPS.
J.D. Martinez (.339) is still his incredible, awesome self, while Mookie Betts (.296) has done very well but seen a drop in power too, with just six home runs since the break. That’s the same amount as Jackie Bradley Jr., who has quietly put together a very solid second half, with an .818 OPS.
The Red Sox don’t seem to be swinging at strikes as often as they were before. Per FanGraphs, the Sox had a 69.2 percent swing percentage at pitches in the zone, sixth best in the majors in the first half. They entered Wednesday 19th best in the second half, at 66.2 percent.
The Sox could be due to break out. They could also be a lineup exposed. But it’s a topic they’ll have to invest time in before the playoffs begin, and consider whether players like Moreland and Leon make their lineup as strong as can be over, say, Swihart and Steve Pearce.