The Boston Red Sox infield, although holding up well so far in 2006, is not striking fear into American League pitchers. This collection of good fielders has hit a grand total of 8 home runs after 35 contests, and although most of the Boston Red Sox infielders are hitting for average, their lack of power is alarming. Designated hitter David Ortiz
has out-homered the bunch all by himself, and if not for Boston Red Sox third baseman
Mike Lowell’s collection of 19 doubles, the infield would be completely without distinction when it comes to extra base hitting. Howver, the Boston Red Sox find themselves tied with the Yankees
for first in the American League East, despite the lack of the long ball from the infield.
The Boston Red Sox have long been known for their line-ups featuring a variety of power hitters. Their current infield, consisting of Kevin Youkalis, Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez and Lowell, breaks the long standing Boston Red Sox tradition of home run belting infielders that lack defensive prowess. Even the pathetic Florida Marlins, the laughingstock of baseball after they traded away all their higher priced talent, have 17 home runs from their infield, 9 more than the Boston Red Sox.
Youkalis, who mans first base, is a tough out for the Boston Red Sox, having seen a team leading 695 pitches in his 156 plate appearances. But Youkalis has only a dozen extra base hits, despite his .318 batting average. A right handed hitter, as are the rest of the starting infielders, playing half his games at the Boston Red Sox cozy Fenway Park where the left field wall is an inviting target for sluggers, has only 11 career home runs in over 400 major league at bats. Despite his ability to foul off tough pitches, Youkalis leads the Boston Red Sox in strikeouts with 31.
Obtained by the Boston Red Sox from the San Diego Padres, second baseman Mark Loretta is a career .301 hitter, but has reached double digits in home runs only twice in his eleven seasons. Prior to 2003, Loretta had never hit more than 7 round trippers in a campaign; he has one this year, but it made the Boston Red Sox a winner over Seattle on Patriots’ Day. Loretta has played every infield position during his stay in the big leagues, and is an accomplished fielder, with a .987 fielding percentage as a second baseman. The Boston Red Sox have benefited greatly from Loretta’s hitting against the archrival New York Yankees, as Mark has torn up Yanks pitching so far this season.
The Boston Red Sox shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, came over from the National League Marlins, where he hit only .245 in over 3,000 at bats lifetime. He has had seasons where he has displayed some pop in his bat, but as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Gonzalez has hit only .227 with a single dinger. Perhaps after he has become acquainted with American League pitching, the 29 year old Gonzalez will provide the Boston Red Sox with more offense. Defensively, Alex has stood out, committing only one error on 112 total chances. As a matter of fact, the Boston Red Sox infield has made only 6 miscues all season, with Youkalis perfect over at first. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees has 6 errors all by himself in 2006.
The best offensive player in the Boston Red Sox infield, by far, has been third baseman Mike Lowell. Mike came over in the same deal in which the Boston Red Sox obtained right handed pitcher Josh Beckett; the Marlins would not have made the deal had not Boston taken Lowell and his big contract. Lowell had a horrible offensive season in Florida in 2005, hitting .236 with only 8 home runs and 58 runs batted in. Lowell, who is 32 years old, was a three time All-Star with Florida from 2002-2004. He knocked in at least 85 runs from 2000 until 2004, with 105 RBI in 2003. Lowell has home run potential for the Boston Red Sox, having clobbered 32 in 2003 and hitting over 22 on four different occasions. He has hit only three this year, but is batting .325 with only 12 strikeouts. Lowell won a Gold Glove at third last year, and has been excellent for the Boston Red Sox in 2006.
J. T. Snow and Alex Cora are the infield subs for the Boston Red Sox; Cora has hit only 30 home runs in 2,211 at bats lifetime and Snow is used mainly for defensive purposes. It is hard to imagine the Boston Red Sox infield catching and throwing the ball any better than they have, but if you are waiting for these guys to hit one over the wall, don’t hold your breath!