Underperformance is the biggest problem.
JD Martinez, who averaged 35 homers in his previous six full seasons, arrived at Fenway Park for Saturday’s game against the Texas Rangers with just 11.
He was the victim of bad luck. Based on how hard and how far he’s hit balls this season, Martinez is expected to have 15 home runs this season, according to Statcast data,
But even 15 would be way short of what the Sox were expecting. More hits were needed from a player who is now a full-time designated hitter. He doesn’t put the ball in the air like he used to.
“It’s been a chore,” said Martinez, who never misses an opportunity to strike more before games. “I didn’t understand.”
Xander Bogaerts, who hit 23 homers a year ago, has 12. Trevor Story, who missed 37 games with a broken right wrist, has 15.
Christian Vazquez hit eight for the Sox before being traded to the Houston Astros on August 2. It’s as much as Alex Verdugo.
Rafael Devers has 25, down 13 from last season with 28 games left.
Devers, Bogaerts and Story entered Saturday’s action with only one more combined homer than Yankees star Aaron Judge had on his own.
Manager Alex Cora was surprised. The Red Sox are usually a team with a lot of power threats and this year it has been sporadic.
“If only I knew [why]. We would have fixed it a while ago,” he said. “It just happens.”
Cora wonders if the new structure built behind the right-field bleachers at Fenway Park has affected ball flight for right-handed hitters going the other way.
“We have to see if anything happens in the stadium,” he said.
This does not seem to be the case. Fenway has averaged 2.22 home runs per game this season. The average was 2.43 from 2018 to 21, not taking into account the shortened 2020 season.
The other factor for the Sox was two decisions made in the offseason.
Hunter Renfroe, who hit 31 homers last season, was traded to Milwaukee for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects. Renfroe has 23 homers with the Brewers. Bradley had three for the Sox before being released.
Kyle Schwarber, who hit 32 homers last season for the Nationals and Red Sox, left as a free agent and has since hit 36 for Philadelphia.
Retaining Schwarber to play left field or first base would have meant more power. The Sox instead relied on Bobby Dalbec, who had a strong second half last season and finished with 25 homers and .792 OPS.
That dropped to 11 home runs and a .644 OPS this year.
With Bogaerts and Martinez entering free agency, adding power to the 2023 roster should be a priority for the Sox. Whether through trade or free agency, the Sox need a little punch in their lineup.
Retaining Bogaerts would be a good first step. Trey Mancini, whose swing would be perfect for Fenway, is feeling great. Just like outfielder Mitch Haniger.
Triple A first baseman Triston Casas will help, but he’s more of a double hitter.
Either way, the Sox need power.