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  Friday, March 6, 2015
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Inconsistency Plaguing the Sox
By Paul Noonan

     In New York, the trouble has been keeping a healthy team/outfield.  In Toronto it has been injuries to the starting pitchers.  In Tampa Bay it has been poor pitching, and Baltimore has had to deal with numerous clubhouse changes.  Given all this chaos in the AL East you would think the Red Sox would be easily sitting atop the division.  However, that is not the case.  Thanks to inconsistent performances and a few other flaws, the Red Sox are barely holding on to the division lead as of Sunday. 


     There are maybe five Red Sox who you could say have been consistent since day one.  Granted, no one is going to be on every game, everyone will have cold streaks and hot streaks, good games and bad, but you still expect a similar overall performance at the end of the week.  For the Sox this has not really been the case.  Throughout the lineup you never know what to expect from most players every game.  The biggest area of inconsistency for the Sox is on the mound.  Jonathan Papelbon is the only pitcher who leaves little question as to what will happen when he steps on the mound.  After blazing starts, both Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett have fizzled a little over the last month.  For Schilling things have gotten better, and his 9-2 record shows he has done enough to keep his team in the game even when he is not dominant, but for Josh Beckett things have been different.  His ERA the last ten games is hovering near 7.00 and he hasn’t made it past the six inning since May 20th at Philly.  His disastrous starts against Toronto and New York were humbling both for Beckett, and even more so the fans, who had come to expect near dominance in every game.  In Clement and Wakefield it is always a crapshoot.  Some games they are on and show flashes of brilliance.  In other games they show why they are not at the top of the rotation.  Even rookie David Pauley has caught this disease.  After a start you would expect from a Double- A call- up against Toronto he rebounded with a start you would never expect from a Double- A call- up in the hostile environment of Yankee Stadium.  A few days later he falls hard again to Texas.  In the ‘pen things aren’t much better.  No lead seems safe unless Jonathan Papelbon is holding the baseball.  No middle reliever, except the injured Timlin, really calms the nerves of Sox’ fans. 


     The problems haven’t just been on the hill.  The Sox’ lineup has been off and on as well.  A drop- off in production was expected as the Sox focused more on defense than offense this season, and bats such as Gonzalez and Cora are not relied on for heavy production, but even some of the bigger bats have shrunk at times.  David Ortiz’s power numbers have been fine, but his batting average can be easily overlooked.  Batting .260 as of Sunday, Ortiz has been quiet at times at the plate.  The Sox have faced a lot of lefties thus far, but even against righties Ortiz is only batting .261.  Ramirez’s recent turnaround has been a good sign, and with Ortiz’s struggles has been bigger than you think.  While Jason Varitek’s value goes beyond production, a little more production wouldn’t hurt.  Varitek has never been a exceptional hitter, but he is not normally a .260 hitter, and his power numbers are on pace to be the lowest since 2002 when he first became the Sox full- time #1 catcher.  While he is a back- up, Doug Mirabelli has not been the dependable fill- in as he was the last couple years.  Since May 29th Mark Loretta has seen his batting average drop from .317 to .295 a tough drop- off from the number two hitter in such a short time. 

     These past few weeks have been tough on the team in general.  Three games were postponed in May, this weekend was a chaotic mess, the pitching rotation is out of whack, call- ups and send downs have been frequent, so things haven’t been a breeze for the Sox.  Nevertheless, the Sox can’t use that as excuses.  Things haven’t been any easier for their AL East foes, in some cases it has even been tougher.  The Sox do still have a strong team.  The relief may need a little tweaking and a bona fide fifth starter wouldn’t hurt, but other than that this team should be playoff bound.  All they have to do is regain that rhythm and consistency that they showed in mid- April.  Hopefully they find it while the Yankees are still struggling with injuries and before the Blue Jays catch a hot streak.

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