There’s a murmuring starting up in the Boston media echo chamber about a perceived lack of power — or at least home run power — in the Red Sox lineup for 2016.
The merits of the murmuring aside — Boston has hit 21 home runs in in 25 games, which ranks 13th out of 15 American League teams, but it seems all we saw in the weekend’s closer games vs. New York was timely home run after timely home run (David Ortiz, Travis Shaw and Christian Vazquez come immediately to mind) — it’s worth at least asking:
Does it matter?
While the Red Sox are 13th in the league in home runs, they lead the league in runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, on-base percentage, on-base+slugging percentage and total bases.
At that rate, who really needs the long ball?
Recent history suggests the answer to that question would be no one. No one with World Series title aspirations at least.
- The defending World Champion Royals were 14th in the AL in home runs while ranking near the top of the league in hits, doubles and triples (and stolen bases). Same story in 2014, winning the American League pennant with high rankings in hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases and coming in last in home runs.
- 2014’s World Champion Giants were middle-of-the-pack in home runs but near the top in hits and triples. The 2012 championship club ranked last in the NL in home runs and near or at the top in doubles, triples, stolen bases, on-base percentage and so on.
- The 2011 Cardinals, again, middle-of-the-pack in home runs, tops in hits, total bases, on-base percentage and near the top in doubles.
Noticing a pattern, here?
Finally, how about the 2013 Sox? They were fifth in the AL in home runs. Granted, higher than any of the other recent World Champs. However, they were still ranked higher (1 or 2 in most cases) in hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, total bases and on-base percentage.
The modern path to the World Series seems to allow for deficiencies in traditional power hitting (in the over-the-fence sense). That might be for the best, because power hitting tends to disappear in October.
In any case, if the current Red Sox lineup holds anywhere close to this sort of production, the path is already there to make it to the finish line.