This much is clear ….. the Boston Red Sox are helpless to stop opposing running games. Last season’s token resistance has crumbled and we are now talking about a defense that is suffering from “impotency.” Unfortunately, this kind of impotency can’t be cured with Viagra.
The numbers are quite frightening. Through twelve games, the Sox have given up 21 stolen bases. And the number of guys caught stealing? ONE. This follows on the heels of last season where the Sox got mauled in the running game, giving up 151 steals while throwing out just 13 percent of all base runners. Given that performance, it was logical to assume we’d see more of that this year. But based on the early returns, it looks like the problem will be far worse than envisioned. And that is because it looks like this catching pair can’t throw anyone out. Nobody at all.
As far as I can tell, we have now crossed a tipping point and the whole league knows the Sox are helpless. So it has become “open season” on the Sox where even marginal base stealers are running with impunity. No longer is it just guys like Carl Crawford and BJ Upton doing all the damage. Instead, its guys like Nick Punto and Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist who are taking extra bases at will. And if the Sox can’t arrest this slide, it won’t be long before guys like Vladimir Guererro and Jorge Posada are getting green lights. Call it the “The Great Second Base Turkey Shoot” of 2010.
Now there is a train of thought that argues it is not entirely the fault of Boston’s catching duo. I agree. In assigning blame, I think the pitching staff bears a small amount of responsibility and Francona deserves some as well for not making prevention a bigger priority. But “small” is the optimum word here. And the balance hangs with one catcher (Martinez), whose throws couldn’t find second base with a GPS locator, and another catcher (Varitek), who’s throwing game now approximates that of the 2009 Cleveland Browns.
To these eyes, it is clear that the Sox have a catching problem and that problem is going to feed itself and get worse as the league figures out the Sox can no longer defend second base. So instead of giving up “just” 150 steals this year, the Sox will probably edge past 200. And as that happens, any gains the Sox might achieve with other defensive improvements will be for naught and a mid-course correction will be necessary.