Joe Girardi

Health, not home runs, is biggest question for Red Sox offense

Health, not home runs, is biggest question for Red Sox offense

BOSTON - The Red Sox offense will be fine, if healthy. Better than fine.

The power question is really an extension of the health question.

Wondering whether Dustin Pedroia can fully, quickly heal from Manny Machado’s slide makes more sense than worrying about the lack of home runs. Are Hanley Ramirez’s shoulders the reason he has a .589 OPS, or is he just off to a cold start?

"I don’t complain," Ramirez said Tuesday when asked about his shoulders. "It’s just timing."

The fact the Red Sox have just 11 home runs, the fewest anywhere, is odd. It’s also been just 20 games, a one-eighth slice of the season.

“I think home runs can come in bunches,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It can happen quickly. I’m not surprised that they don’t have them, or I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a ton. Either way. It’s just a small sample size. They’ve been to some cold weather cities as well. I know they were in Detroit, and that’s not a great place to hit home runs. And they had people that were ill. They had to deal with a number of things, so let’s hope it lasts a couple more days.”

The Sox start Thursday with the fifth most pitches seen per plate appearance, 3.98. Their .273 batting average is best in the American League and third in the majors. Their .339 OBP is also best in the AL.

These aren’t indicators of an unproductive lineup.

The past eight games haven’t been a tutorial in bringing runners home. The Sox have the fifth-worst average with men in scoring position in that stretch: .224 from April 17 on. 

The first-place Orioles are hitting .227 with runners on in the same time. On the season, the Sox still have a .286 average with runners in scoring position, the sixth-best mark in the majors.

This, in fact, is almost the same lineup from a year ago, minus arguably the best hitter in baseball from 2016, David Ortiz. 

The loss is huge. But not huge enough to make an entire team stop hitting home runs.

The trouble caused by Big Papi’s absence, like most everything about him, can be overstated. It surely already has been.

If Big Papi were here… the Sox would be a better team. But they wouldn’t have 40 home runs like Eric Thames’ Brewers.

The Sox’ record through 20 games this year and last year is identical, 11-9. The 2016 Sox had four more home runs at this point.

Undoubtedly, the optics have changed sans Ortiz, and maybe opposing pitchers don’t have to be as careful as they were in the past. 

The 2016 group was the most productive offense in the majors, with 5.42 runs per game. But the home run total was ninth, at 208. The doubles total, 343, was tops.

“It’s definitely different, but you’ve got to remember, there’s some really good hitters still in this lineup,” Girardi said of the lack of Ortiz. “A lot of them, from top to bottom. Maybe you don’t have that big bopper in the middle with all the presence and the experience, but they’re extremely talented offensively.”

As long as they're healthy.