Why Are the Boston Red Sox So Bad?

Xander Bogaerts, Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox
Xander Bogaerts, Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

The 2022 MLB season is a little over a month old, and a quick check of the standings shows the big-money teams are thriving. One notable exception to that rule is the Boston Red Sox.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels all sit atop their respective divisions and are among the best teams in baseball. Not among those teams off to hot starts are the Boston Red Sox, who have limped to a record of 11-19 and who already sit 10.5 games back of the Yankees in the American League East. So what is going on in Boston, and why aren't the Sox winning? There may not be easy answers to either question.

The Red Sox opened the season with a payroll of $218.1 million, and a luxury tax payroll of $236.6 million. Despite that, they are currently two games worse than the Baltimore Orioles, and have the sixth-worst record in the league. A check of the stats answers some of the questions you may be asking.

Boston currently ranks 25th in baseball in OPS (.628). 26th in runs scored (104), 27th in on-base percentage (.284), 25th in slugging percentage (.344) and 28th in home runs (17). The offense has been flat-out terrible. Other than Xander Bogaerts (.880), Rafael Devers (.854) and J.D. Martinez (.830), no Red Sox regular has an OPS over .700. In fact, fourth on that list is Alex Verdugo who is at a woeful .576. Big offseason addition Trevor Story has been terrible, slashing .204/.282/.276. It's been all bad for Boston.

The issue is, the pitching hasn't picked up the offense while it's struggling. As a team, the Red Sox are 18th in ERA (3.71), and the bullpen's ERA is 4.07, which is 21st in the league. The bullpen has surrendered 58 earned runs and 52 walks in 30 games and leads the majors with eight blown saves. The starting pitching actually hasn't been bad. While Sox pitchers have combined for just four quality starts, the starters rank 10th in baseball in ERA (3.41). There hasn't been a ton of consistency and guys aren't typically going deep into games, but the starters certainly aren't the problem.

Some of Boston's problems may just be a number of guys having slow starts. There may have also been some bad investments made. Story had a down year in 2021 and the Red Sox handed him a six-year, $140 million deal. Do I think he'll remain terrible? No, but he's staring down the wrong side of 30 and only mustered an OPS of .801 and a wRC+ of 100 playing at Coors Field in 2021. That's not the kind of performance you bank $23 million a year on.

The good news for Boston is that its other stars -- Bogaerts, Devers and Martinez -- have all shown up this season. The problem is, no one else has. The outfield has combined to produce an fWAR of -0.5 on the year, which is third-worst in baseball. But that's not the worst of it. The team's first basemen have combined for an fWAR of -1.2, which is second-worst leaguewide, and the catchers' fWAR (-0.6) is tied for last in the league.

To be fair here, the season is still young. Guys like Story and Verdugo will likely bounce back, at least to some degree. But the Red Sox have built themselves a 5.5-game deficit on the final wild card spot and have a -18 run differential.

Boston beat the Atlanta Braves 9-4 Tuesday night to snap a five-game skid and a streak of of eight losses in 10 games. Devers blasted a grand slam, and the Red Sox had eight players register hits. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come. If not, this might be yet another high-priced, wildly-disappointing Red Sox team that ultimately achieves nothing.