We really weren’t sure of what to make of the 2016 Red Sox coming out of Spring Training. There were a large number of unknowns to consider. It would have been a very good year, or yet another really bad year. So far it has been a good but frustrating year for the Red Sox. They are only 2 games out of first place, and in some ways it could be worse, but in others it could be better. That has been the story of this season so far.
The Kids Are Alright!
The Killer B’s have been producing for the Red Sox at a very good pace to say the least. JBJ had one of those months in May, but after a slow June is still hitting .296 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 14 HRs and 55 RBI. Bogaerts has been mostly steady, and was hitting over .340 for a long time. He’s down to .329 with 22 doubles, 10 HR and 56 RBI. Betts started slowly but has come on strong lately to clock in at .304, 23 doubles, 4 triples, 18 HR and 59 RBI. Toss in 15 stolen bases and Betts is worthy of his All-Star selection. All of them are worthy of the All-Star selection. Their defense has also been excellent (aside from a few off games for Xander).
The Old Man Keep Rolling
Big Papi seems untouched by time. It is an illusion of sorts as he gets extra games off to protect his feet/Achilles’. But his production has been amazing: .332 with 34 doubles, 22 HR and 72 RBI. Toss in 2 SB and 48 walks.
These 4 guys have been largely responsible for a potent offense which has sustained the team, flashing dominance at times. Pedroia has had a very good year so far as well. He’s been healthy and hitting like he used to hit.
The Fair to Middling
Shaw started the season strong, but slowed down. He’s been largely underwhelming. We are not in Will Middlebrooks territory for a sophomore season. He’s had some nagging injuries but still has 48 RBI despite a .269 average and only 9 HRs (not enough for the mayor of Ding-Dong City).
Ramirez has done a good job at first base. Capable might be a better word. His defense will only make you forget how horrible he was in left field last year. Offensively, he has only shown glimpses of his former self at .288, 19 doubles, 8 HR and 48 RBI.
The big problem in the everyday line up has been left field. Brock Holt started strong, and the Red Sox are far above .500 with him starting in left. But he did have a slump in May followed by a concussion that kept him out much of June and sprained his ankle stealing a base shortly after coming back. This has created a revolving door in left. Blake Swihart took over, seemed to start hitting and promptly destroyed his ankle hitting a wall. They are pleased with his recovery but we probably won’t see him until August at best. Enter Chris Young who really started stroking the ball until he too fell victim to an injury: a hamstring. So left fielder #3 went down too. Currently Bryce Brentz, who played right field in the minors, has been playing the majority of left and hitting well in a small sample size. If this position can become consistent, things will be better for the Red Sox.
The injury to Holt, and the nagging injuries to Shaw and Ramirez as well as Pedroia’s extra days off due to age create a need for utility infielders. A number of minor leaguers have been called up to fill that role, but Dumbrowski finally made a trade for Aaron Hill. This should help stabilize the infield in case of injuries and for pinch hitting.
The Really Frustrating
Catching! Swihart started out of the gate and was sent down to AAA as soon as Vazquez was healthy enough to play most of the time. He wasn’t much better as pitchers started to wave him off too. Hanigan hurt himself catching Wright so we had to turn to Sandy Leon. Last year Sandy was a solid defensive pitcher and an offensive black hole. So far Sandy has been stroking the ball (small sample size) as our 4th catcher. When Hanigan was reactivated, it was Vazquez who got sent down to AAA, not Leon. In a CSNE report, he credits a change in his stance and better plate discipline- he’s not chasing pitches out of the zone.
Pitching! Steven Wright and Rick Porcello have been the outliers here. Wright won a spot on the All-Star team and his knuckle ball has been dominating except in rain or very humid conditions like in Texas. Porcello has had the occasional bad inning, but overall has been worthy of his contract.
Price has had some problems. He’s been fixing his delivery, had some really bad innings, and outings. He’s also had some good and outstanding outings. He’s been inconsistent which really isn’t David Price. We hope the real David Price shows up for the rest of the season because DD wants this team 1) in the playoffs and 2) deep into the playoffs. With this offense we just need a passable rotation. So far it hasn’t been.
Rodriquez got hurt and missed Spring Training. He has yet to get his mojo back and was sent to AAA to get his mechanics sorted out. He’s a question mark. Crazy Clay has been at his frustrating best, which is bad. He’s been sent to the bullpen, twice because he lacks confidence and gives up big innings, frequently. Too frequently. Especially for a guy so incredibly talented.
Joe Kelly is also incredibly talented but just can’t seem to get that whole starter thing down. The end of last season provided hope, sadly a false hope, as he has struggled this season with the exception of one start. He’s been to AAA on rehab assignments twice and has been banished to the bullpen.
The bullpen …. inconsistent. Carson Smith was injured early and had Tommy John surgery which really messed things up. Then with large leads the wrong guys were pitching late so Kimbrel didn’t get the work he needed. That led to some non-save situations mishaps and even some blown saves. At other times he’s been dominating. He’s currently on the DL after knee surgery after a mishap shagging fly balls. Uehara is just plain old and can’t be overused. Tazawa has been over-used in the last few seasons and currently has some shoulder issues we hope don’t become a big issue. Barnes has pitched well, but trusting him with a vital role is still a risk due to his lack of experience. Any number of guys have been rotated through from AAA to little or no avail.
In deep need to save the pen, DD traded for the D’Backs closer Brad Ziegler. He should help stabilize things until Kimbrel is ready to pitch in late August. To save both the rotation and the pen, DD dropped the bomb by trading much-heralded prospect Anderson Espinoza for Padres’ All-Star starter Drew Pomeraz. It has risks. Drew has yet to throw 200 innings, and is setting new career highs in innings pitched with each start. He was helped by the hitters’ hell they Padres play in. He is under control for 2 more seasons though. This year his job is to help the Sox get to the playoffs. Hopefully Price, Porcello, Wright and Rodriquez can carry you then. Espinoza has been struggling this year, and we see that prospects don’t always pan out. Guys with great stuff don’t always become great pitchers (see Crazy Clay and Joe Kelly).
John Farrell drives many of us crazy. Early on it was pinch hitting Young for Shaw. Shaw was hitting well at the time, including against lefties. So it made no sense. He leaves Wright in when it rains, knowing it destroys his bread & butter pitch. He makes this really strange moves on a consistent basis. Thanks to DD he no longer has to play the high priced guys, but can play the best guys, but his in-game moves leave many people scratching their heads, frequently. If we are scratching our heads, are the players? I’m ready for him to be gone, but the Red Sox are more successful than they have been in since winning the World Series.
What will the rest of the season bring? Depends on health, and whether or not Price and Rodriquez can be the pitchers we know they can be.