The Boston Red Sox have lost some pretty big bats over the last couple of years. Adrian Beltre, J.D. Drew, Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis and Cody Ross represent just a handful of sluggers that appeared in Boston’s starting lineups from 2010 through 2012. With these guys all gone, and a new crop of less-powerful talent in place, the Red Sox will be forced to get more creative in scoring runs this year.
Boston brought in line-drive hitters Stephen Drew and Shane Victorino over the winter, both of whom are expected to be everyday players. Their speed and aggressiveness on the basepaths will give the Red Sox an alternative method in which to score runs. Victorino stole 39 bases last season, and Drew swiped 10 bags the last time he was fully healthy back in 2010.
This new style of offense is what the Red Sox had in mind when they signed Carl Crawford back in 2011, but injuries sidelined him for a good portion of his time in Boston. Crawford averaged over 50 stolen bases in his previous eight seasons before joining the team, but with the Red Sox, he totaled just 23 steals in two years. Now, with a new lineup in place, the team will once again try to establish a running game.
Drew and Victorino will join Jacoby Ellsbury (combined 159 steals in 2008, ’09, and ’11), Dustin Pedroia (20 stolen bases in four of the last five seasons), and Will Middlebrooks (17 steals during the last two seasons) in one of the fastest rosters that the Red Sox have fielded in years.
New manager John Farrell is well aware of all this. Among the team drills being worked on in camp this week is an exercise that emphasizes moving from first to third on singles hit to right field. Farrell has indicated a desire to be more aggressive with the baserunning this season in an effort to score runs without having to rely on home runs. If the team can stay healthy, he has the tools to accomplish just that.
The Red Sox scored just 734 runs in 2012, their lowest output in 20 years and the first time that they’ve been under 800 since 2001. They also posted their lowest home run total (165) since the strike-shortened 1994 season. Their 2013 roster gives the Red Sox an opportunity to get back to around 850 runs provided that they are able to utilize the lineup’s full potential—which should include an increased number of stolen bases.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)