Major league batters are on pace set a record for most strikeouts in a season  for the 13th consecutive year. Elise Amendola/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox entered May with the best record in baseball. Even those of us who thought this team would be competitive didn’t expect them to be the best team in baseball.

Two days into May, we’ve been reminded that there is a lot of baseball still to play. The Red Sox dropped to 0-2 for the month after Brock Holt drove in the game-winning run off Matt Barnes in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon.

Brock Holt? As legendary Boston sports anchor Bob Lobel used to say, “Why can’t we get guys like that?”

Sunday’s game was a reminder of all the things we worried about coming into the season. The starting pitcher couldn’t go deep enough. The bullpen couldn’t hold a lead. And the bottom of the order couldn’t produce.

Boston’s No. 7 through 9 hitters went 2 for 10 on Sunday, stranding five hitters in the process. That continued a concerning trend of anemic offense from the bottom third of the lineup. They haven’t been hitting, and they’ve been striking out at a staggering rate.

Boston’s OPS from its No. 6 through 9 hitters is in the lower third of baseball. It’s been covered up by outstanding production from the top five hitters, but was exposed in Texas. Saturday night, the Sox went 4 for 13 with runners in scoring position in an 8-6 loss to the Rangers. The bottom three spots in the lineup went 2 for 13 with six strikeouts. They left 11 runners on base in the loss.

There were swings and misses galore. Something we’ve seen across the game through the first month of the season. Major League teams are on pace to strike out a record number of times. That would mark the 13th consecutive year a new strikeout record has been set.

The major league batting average is the lowest it has been since 1968, when there was enough of a lack of offense that mounds were lowered.

“As a baseball fan, as I’ve told you guys before, it’s not fun,” said Red Sox Manager Alex Cora. “You sit there and you see walks and strikeouts and there’s no action. Not too many balls are put in play.”

You could make the argument that the Red Sox have been able to use all of this to their advantage. Red Sox pitchers have struck out the second most hitters in the American League. But they are paying the price at the plate.

Franchy Cordero has struck out a stunning 41.9% of the times he has stepped up to the plate this season.  That’s nearly twice as often as the league average. Bobby Dalbec, who wowed us with eight home runs in 23 games last season, has struck out 38.7% of the time since his August call-up.

Both have undeniable power, and can impact the game with one swing of the bat. Yet both swing and miss far too often. And with pitchers throwing harder, and with better stuff, than ever before it’s going to be difficult to get those numbers moving in the right direction.

“There’s no 87, 88 (mph) anymore,” said Cora. “The last guy on a staff either has a nasty secondary pitch or a plus fastball. The ball is doing stuff that I’ve never seen before  upshoot fastballs and cutters that are actually upshooting now. It’s a grind for hitters. It’s not easy. I think pitchers are ahead. Way ahead.”

The industry hasn’t helped the hitters’ cause. Major League Baseball deadened the baseballs this season, hoping to keep more balls in play and create more action. Instead the game is just seeing fewer hits, and fewer runs.

Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. Hitters are trying to adjust to this new pitcher-friendly reality. For now, they are failing. At a record-setting rate.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN and a Lewiston High School graduate.


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