Last year, the Red Sox had one of the strongest lineups in the league thanks to the consistency at top of the order. It had Ellsbury leading off, and depending on the night, Victorino and Nava hitting either two or five, Pedroia hitting two or three, Ortiz three or four, and Napoli four or five.
All these players had very high OBP and were very tough on opposing pitchers. This year, the top of the lineup has failed to find any consistency because nobody has been able to fill the role left behind by Ellsbury since his departure during free agency.
During spring training, many expected Victorino to be the lead off hitter. He did it in the past and said he was comfortable with it. His ability to get on base and his speed on the base paths is an asset in the role. Unfortunately, he has since gone down with an injury and is currently out of the lineup.
Farrell then hoped that Nava would be able to fill the role. Nava had a breakout season last year, posting a .382 OBP and an OWAR of 3.4. Early this year, he has not had the same success. He has just 5 hits in 35 total at bats and does not look comfortable at the plate. He should move down the order, at least temporarily, until he finds some consistency—because it doesn’t make sense to have a guy with worst OBP in the lineup to be at the top of the order.
The Red Sox have recently put Johnny Gomes in the leadoff position. Gomes has a reputation for being tough on pitchers, but with a lifetime batting average of .244, he’s not the guy I would want getting the most at bats.
They have even tried Grady Sizemore, who leads the team in OBP, HR and is second in BA. But in three games in the leadoff role, Sizemore has gone 0-8 with a walk.
A big part of the reason why they Red Sox are 17 in the league in runs, 15 in OPS, and 9 in OBP is because they cannot find this consistency at the top of the order. Each time somebody new shifts into the leadoff spot, it shifts the whole line-up around. This could explain the Red Sox’s abysmal .190 batting average with runners in scoring position. Also, the more new players moves into the leadoff role and struggle, the more it shatters their confidence. Consistency starts at the top, and the longer it takes for the Red Sox to find their leadoff hitter; the longer fans will continue to see them struggle to score runs.