Slumps are never helpful for any baseball team, but especially not in the case of the Boston Red Sox. Entering a three-game series with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox sport an outfield corps that is only hitting .210 on the season. One of the major concern factors for the Red Sox is Grady Sizemore, who has struggled to maintain a hot start throughout the remainder of April.
In his last seven games, Sizemore has only one hit in his last 22 at bats, amounting to just a .045 batting average. Although Sizemore isn’t striking out at a heavy rate, the 31-year-old outfielder has struggled to capitalize in key spots, seeing his playing time dwindle as a result. With Jackie Bradley Jr. getting more opportunities to play in center field, Sizemore has been relegated to play left field and sometimes right field (for the first time in his career), raising some serious questions as Shane Victorino is set to return off the disabled list.
One of the leading factors that has led to Sizemore’s prolonged slump is his ineffectiveness in the leadoff spot. Expected to be a strong leadoff hitter due to his past successes with the Cleveland Indians in that capacity, Sizemore has only hit .100 (three hits in 30 AB), while hitting a strong .370 in other parts of the order. With no definitive leadoff hitter at their disposal, the Red Sox have been overdependent on Sizemore to bat first on a daily basis, leading to more pressure-filled at-bats and increased difficulties for a player who hadn’t played an MLB game since 2011.
Another factor that has hindered Sizemore over the past few games is the variability surrounding his role in the Red Sox’ outfield. After playing the majority of his career in center field, the Red Sox have moved him around the outfield, giving other players (Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, and Jonny Gomes) opportunities. Although it sounds great in nature, the variability has played a role in the psyche of Sizemore, who has only hit .161 in any other offensive position besides center field. If Sizemore could play more games in center field, where he has a .300 batting average on the season, then that could spell volumes of success for the lineup.
Essentially, the variability surrounding Sizemore’s status in the lineup and within the Red Sox’ outfield have been major factors towards his prolonged slump. If Sizemore doesn’t pick it up in the coming games, then his roster status might be challenged, leading to more problems for the outfield. Hopefully Sizemore settles into his flexible offensive and defensive role in the coming games, or else the Red Sox will find other options that could play all three outfield roles as they try to go deep in 2014.