We are about three months into the MLB season, but the Boston Red Sox’s season has just begun. The Red Sox are neck and neck with the Yankees in the American League East and are tied for the best record in the American League with the Houston Astros in their last 30 games.
There were several question marks going into the season for Boston. Would they be able to put up strong offensive numbers in the absence of recent retiree David Ortiz? Could Pablo Sandoval return to his old form after getting into better shape? How would the pitching staff be improved with the addition of Chris Sale? This season has been telling about the future so far for Boston, with some surprising turnarounds which come in addition to other disasters.
Last season, the Red Sox batted .292 with 103 home runs total before the All-Star break. Although we are still about three weeks from the All Star break this year, the Red Sox are currently batting .266 with 68 home runs. This is a considerable change in numbers, especially looking at the dip in batting average. One of the main reasons for this is the retirement of David Ortiz. Big Papi batted .322 with 22 home runs going into the All-Star break last year. Having Ortiz in the lineup forced pitchers to challenge hitters in front of him as if to pitch around them, at which point Ortiz could make them pay. Also, Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have all showed drops in their statistics compared to last year. These numbers could be affected because they are seeing worse pitches due to the drop in talent in the Boston lineup, which pitchers are no longer intimidated by. Their dip in production, combined with Ortiz’s absence has caused the Red Sox offense to suffer the consequences. They are 18th in the league this year in runs per game, averaging 4.68 compared to a lead leading 5.45 last year.
One of the most disappointing parts of this season has been the performance of Pablo Sandoval. He cannot hit or field, and every time he enters the game, he causes a problem for his own team. Sandoval has been so unsuccessful this season, that it is causing the Red Sox to start Josh Rutledge at third base. Rutledge is a solid backup, but should not be starting for any team in the MLB. The Red Sox mysteriously put Sandoval on the disabled list for an “ear infection”. There is no way he actually has an ear infection. They want him as far away from this team as possible right now while they can decide how to handle his future. If it was up to me, I would put him on waivers and then release him. Sandoval is not showing any promise, and his roster spot could be used for someone else who could provide more value.
The pitching rotation has been somewhat of a letdown so far. Chris Sale has been exciting to watch, and his numbers have been phenomenal. Eduardo Rodriguez was pitching well until a freak injury put him on the disabled list. He is only 24 years old at this point in time and has the potential to be a great baseball player for a long time. It will be a nice boost for the team once he is back in action. Drew Pomeranz has played as expected going into the year. He strikes out a lot of batters, but gets in trouble often and usually accumulates over 100 pitches by the fifth inning. The real disappointments in the rotation have most certainly been David Price and Rick Porcello. Price is making $30 million this season, making him one of the highest paid pitchers in the MLB. After suffering injury for about the first two months of the season, Price has looked awful in the starts since his return. He is not hitting his locations and has been frustrated with himself and the media. If the Red Sox want any shot at going far in the playoffs, they need Price to get back into form. Lastly, Rick Porcello has been a huge letdown this year. After winning the Cy Young last year, he has pitched terribly with a 5.15 ERA. Porcello seems like he has no confidence when he hits the mound and is not the same pitcher as he was last year.
So, if there has been so many problems with this team, how are they winning games? The answer to that is the bullpen. The Red Sox bullpen has a 2.85 ERA this season. The closer of the team, Craig Kimbrel, has a 0.85 ERA with 20 saves. The setup man, Joe Kelly, has a 1.20 ERA and can throw a fastball up to 102 mph. Left-hand specialists Robby Scott and Fernando Abad have respective ERAs of 1.56 and 2.66. The bullpen has kept the Red Sox in every game and has preserved leads when games have been close. This makes up for the offensive decline that has been seen in addition to the lack of stability shown by the starting rotation.
The Red Sox will continue to win games and I predict that their starting pitching will improve throughout the season. It will be interesting to see how they decide to address their problem at third base, and I will not be surprised if they make a trade at the deadline. Mike Moustakas, the third baseman of the Royals would be an excellent addition and would add a big bat to the lineup. Another starter will most likely be added at the deadline for increased depth. I would not be surprised if the Red Sox try and acquire Julio Teheran from the Atlanta Braves. He has not played up to his skill level this year but has put up excellent results in past years and has a lot of potential. The Red Sox have a legitimate chance of winning the division right now and either of these two moves will improve the overall team. The Yankees are the Red Sox’s biggest competition in the division, but have struggled as of late. If the Boston wants to make a deep playoff run this year, they need to consider adding depth to their starting pitching and figuring out their third base issues.