Red Sox, Phillies Offensive Struggles: Predictions, Betting Advantage

Action Network’s MLB analyst takes a look at two teams struggling as the 2022 season begins.

Red Sox

No offense has lived up to expectations more than Boston, who are bottom in the AL East at 10-19. It’s important to remember when discussing the Red Sox that they faded quite a bit ahead of the 2021 playoffs before making a run to the ALCS, beating the Yankees in wild card play and Rays in the ALDS defeated.

Boston rode its hot bats well into October and was only a few games away from the World Series, but the Red Sox started last season 54-32 and finished 38-38 because the offense stopped, to be by far the best offensive hitting the clutch ever in baseball. Regression was inevitable on offense, and now the pitching staff is seriously lacking in depth beyond Nate Eovaldi and encouraging young arms Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck.

The Red Sox lost Kyle Schwarber in a free hand and added Trevor Story to the lineup. Story is just 0.748 career ops from Coors Field, and while he’s not as bad as his start in Boston might suggest, I don’t think Story is really the determining factor at the top of the lineup like some thought he was would.

Trevor Story reacts after striking.
Trevor Story reacts after striking.
Getty Images

Boston ranks 25th in clutch hitting, so positive regression comes for the Red Sox in high-leverage hitting situations. But there are also some big, big concerns.

No team swings with a higher percentage of courts outside the zone than the Sox at 35.4 percent. For a lineup that thrived on record discipline last season when it did well, Boston was surprisingly undisciplined. The Red Sox are ninth in CSW% — called strikes plus touch percentage — because the offense is swinging and missing a ton. Only Tampa Bay and Atlanta have swung and missed more on courts within the striking zone than Boston this season.

Even if they do get in touch, the contact wasn’t really good either. Boston ranks 13th in hard hit rate, 14th in barrel rate, and only 20th in BABIP (batting average on balls in play). All of this puts him 25th in the xwOBA (Expected Weighted On-Base Average), ahead only of the Royals, Tigers, Reds, Athletics and Cardinals.

Bring away: The only argument to expect Boston’s offense to reverse it would be the past. Because if you look at the Red Sox’s plate discipline, approach, and contact numbers, this offense is mediocre at best. They may improve a little more in clutch situations, but the back half of the lineup is riddled with holes and there isn’t a one-hitter in the batting order that Statcast data says is poised to break through. I’m not betting on a Boston renaissance at all.

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Philadelphia built its all-offensive, no-defense lineup through free agency by adding Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Results are mixed at this point in the season. The Phillies underperformed with their 12-16 record on Monday night, although their run difference suggests they should be .500 at worst based on the Pythagorean winning model.

The Phillies rank seventh in OPS, but the offense is only 11th in runs scored per game. There is reason to believe that this should better lead to more runs going forward as the offense has been very poor in high leverage situations. They are 30th in clutch hit based on added winning probability, per FanGraphs. The lineup wasn’t good with runners in goal position, for example, and that’s an indicator of regression.

Philadelphia will swing and miss heavily — the eighth highest batting rate — but its numbers in the plate discipline are only slightly below average, with the eleventh highest swing rate on out-of-zone courts. But the Phillies hit the ball really hard. They rank 10th in barrel rate, fourth in hard hit rate, and seventh in xwOBA.

Bring away: The Phillies’ offense is probably too strong to be a top 4-5 unit, but they will be better than 11th in runs per game given their past processes. Red Sox, Phillies Offensive Struggles: Predictions, Betting Advantage


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