Two of the biggest stories so far this year have been the ineffectiveness of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. Both were again picked to contend in their respective divisions. Both have traditions of winning. Both have huge home advantages over the years. Both teams draw extremely well. Both both teams are really struggling out of the gate. Let's look at both teams and see which team has a better chance of overcoming their slow start.
The Red Sox:
Overview: The Red Sox have a losing record at home which is unheard of. They have a losing record against the AL East. They are only .500 on the road. The pitching, supposedly a strength, has been rocked. Their defense, which they focused on in the off season, has been porous. Their catchers have not shot to throw anyone out stealing. Are they going to turn it around?
The Positive: Kevin Youkilis is back in the hitting zone we are accustomed to after a slow start. He is an amazing force in that line up and can beat you in so many ways. Dustin Pedroia is off to a good start and is hitting for power more reminiscent of 2008 than 2009. Hermida has been a nice surprise and has a very positive OPS+ thus far. Varitek has been hitting extremely well after several down years. Clay Buchholz has shown solid improvement and maturity and has been their best starting pitcher. Schoeneweis has been very solid in relief.
The Negatives: David Ortiz and J. D. Drew have a combine 48 OPS+. Between the two of them, they have been striking out at a 33% clip. Beckett and Lester have been ineffective thus far, though Lester did have a better outing last time. The bullpen, a supposed strength, has walked far too many batters and has blown several leads. Papelbon, while still impressive most of the time, has walked seven in ten innings of work and has a 1.50 WHIP. The team as a whole is walking batters at a clip of 4.1 per nine innings.
Outlook: The Red Sox rotation is filled with smart, experienced starters who have had success in the past. There is no reason to doubt that they will rebound. Bard, Okijama and Papelbon will round into shape as a very good triad of relievers. It remains to be seen if Drew and Ortiz will come back strong. The feeling one gets is that the Red Sox are starting to lose faith in Ortiz but have no doubts about Drew. We'll see. The team needs Ellsbury back and for role players like Cameron and Beltre to hit more. This observer feels that replacing Wakefield in the rotation with Dice-K is a mistake. Wakefield is solid and his value is diminished in the bullpen. Dice-K is too big a risk right now. Scuturo looks more like a number eight hitter than a leadoff guy. If Ellsbury isn't back soon, they will have to make some decisions there. Overall, the team doesn't look like it can hang with the Bay Rays and the Yankees and will finish third. But this is a proud and dangerous team.
The Los Angeles Dodgers:
Overview: The Dodger are playing terrible on the road (4-8) and have played .500 ball in their last ten games. The team had hoped that Padilla would be a good pitcher for them this year but he hasn't been and now he is on the DL. Their other starters strike out a lot of guys but walk way too many along the way. Other than Broxton, the bullpen has been a complete mess. The team is hitting well, but can be shut down in far too many games, which is a mystery. And their defense has been the second worst in the league so far.
The Positives: Kemp and Ethier have been terrific and is one of the best one/two punches in the league. Russell Martin has bounced back offensively after a down year. Furcal is hitting well and getting on base consistently. Casey Blake has been a nice surprise at the plate so far too. Kershaw has pitched deeper into the game his last two starts. Kuroda has been an effective starter.
The Negatives: Manny has missed too many games. When he plays, he hits. When he doesn't, then we get Garret Anderson, who can't do anything at the plate. DeWitt has only one extra base hit all season (a double) and is slugging .283. Ouch. Loney is hitting for average, but has no homers and a .400 slugging percentage. The Dodgers' starting rotation is shaky at best. If they could throw more strikes, they could be a lot more dangerous. Broxton has only had one save opportunity. That's unbelievable. Haeger is getting his big chance, but can't find the strike zone consistently.
Outlook: This doesn't look like a team that can maintain a hot streak with their pitching and defense. They can hit enough but not consistently enough. So they either lose low scoring games or win with a blowout. They need to win more low scoring games. Nobody is running away with the West, so if Manny can get back and if they can at least pitch decently, they can still contend.
The Red Sox and Dodgers have certainly underwhelmed to this point. The Red Sox problem is that they have dug a deep hole and the two top teams in their division are super strong. The Dodgers have stayed close enough to the top despite their 8-10 record that they can still put a winning streak together and make it interesting. The Fan wouldn't bet against either team, but wouldn't bet for either one on the other hand.