Note: all games as of after Sunday, so Memorial Day and thus the Cubs game aren't apart of this...
It’s Memorial Day and that means I finally actually look at the standings as our sample size is starting to actually get to the point where we can start making some judgement out of the season. So let’s do that...
The Sox find themselves at 24-24, taking advantage of a pretty easy schedule the last few weeks. With a -11 run differential, they’re playing slightly above their heads. The good news is that they’re pretty much a .500 team, the bad news being there’s little or no overall regression to the mean to take place when you look at these figures. The Sox are who they are... about an 80 win team.
However the biggest concern is that Sox offense (or lack thereof). They've only scored 177 runs, worst in the AL (however the Mariners average fewer runs per game). So it’s easy to figure out how the Sox are even sniffing .500: pitching, specifically their starting pitching.
Having only allowed 188 runs so far this season, the Sox find themselves trailing only the Rangers and Yankees in that department. Basically, like so many seasons over the last decade, Coop is doing it again. I’ll break down the staff more later this week, but the staff has been excellent with the only some minor issue in the back third of the bullpen, and anyone who gets upset with the 5th guy out of the pen probably also gets pissed off that the team doesn't go 162-0 every year.
So what’s gone wrong with the offense? The 2012 Sox scored 4.62 runs again, the ‘13 Sox have only managed 3.69 a game... nearly a full run less per game. Hey whaa happened?
Flowers is striking out a ton and the power hasn’t been anywhere near what I’d thought it’d be. On top of that, he isn’t really walking which isn’t helping matters. Nearly a third of the way into the season, and it looks like the Sox may have an issue behind the plate... but considering that most major league teams don’t have catchers that can do too much damage with the bat*, Flowers’ isn’t the biggest concern.
*Only 12 catchers have a wRC+ above 100. Also, AJ isn’t really doing too much in Texas, so bringing him back probably would not have an impact on the Sox win-loss record.
No the biggest concern for the Sox is, and seems forever will be, third base. To put it simply, Keppinger has been horrible. True, he’s shifted to second since Beckham’s injury, but if Gordon was healthy, Keppinger would probably be riding the pine by this point. He’s been horrible and there really is nothing else that needs to be said since he doesn't walk and he doesn't have power... basically he’s nearly useless as a baseball player right now. True, he’s been unlucky (BABIP of .230) and he doesn't strike out a ton, so hopefully, eventually this contact will turn into a few more hits, but seeing that he doesn't walk or hit for power... might be time to look for a third baseman.
Wait you say, the Sox might have something with this Gillaspie guy... and I wouldn't totally disagree with you. He walks a bit, he has a little pop and his glove so far has graded out well. But there’s one big problem: his BABIP is .354. Seeing that Gillaspie lacks Trout speed, that’s not going to stay up there forever, and when it does fall back down a bit, he’s not going to be nearly as ‘good’ as he looks now. However, even when you factor in the probable regression, he’s a much better alternative to Keppinger. I fully expect Robin to sit Keppinger and start Gillaspie at third when Beckham comes back this week.
Let’s go quickly through the rest of the offense:
First Base: Konerko has been a disappointment and his days as an average every day player might be over. However, do keep an eye on Konerko’s ability to drive the ball. His home run/fly ball is way down to the tune of 8 points off his career average. The question is, does Paulie no longer have the bat speed to drive the ball or is he just unlucky/cold weather playing havoc with him? It is possible that a few of the fly balls he’s hitting will start leaving the park in the months to come... if that’s the case the Sox offense will look a lot better.
Second Base: Beckham’s been hurt most of the year so it’s hard to say... Keppinger stinks.
Shortstop: Alexei’s rebounded a bit from an off year last year. Hopefully his age isn't catching up with him, however, I would tend to think it is not considering how strong he is still in the field. But his power has completely evaporated from his game, which is officially a concern.
Left Field: Viciedo has been pretty good. He missed two weeks, but he’s been good thus far. Yeah, luck is playing a bit into that, but I’ll take it right now. He’s walking a little bit (in fact he's been a walk machine since he came off the DL) and he’s hitting for a little power. His splits aren’t nearly as large as they've been in the past, if anything you’d expect him to do better than lefties than he has, so there might be some room for improvement, especially if he’s made some adjustments to facing righties (jury’s out on that).
Center Field: De Aza’s come on a little in the last few weeks and he’s right around where you’d expect him to be, though I guess he’s probably hit for more power. He’s really turned himself into a nice everyday player.
Right Field: Rios has been great and if he keeps this up deserves to be talked about for the All-Star team.
DH: We know what we’re getting with Adam Dunn: walk, strikeout or home run. If for some reason he doesn't do one of those three things, he'll get unlucky (BABIP below .200). Is there room for improvement? I guess, but he leads the team in home runs and over the last month... It’s the first few weeks of the season when he decided to be all aggressive that make his numbers look bad. But in the last 30 days: 8 home runs, 18 RBIs, an OBP that’s respectable considering how terrible his BABIP is. I’ll gladly live with the Adam Dunn the Sox have gotten in the month of May.