The Red Sox enter the all-star break with a record of 50-39, good enough for 1st in the AL East. Although the Sox garnered a 1st place record and are 3.5 games up of the Yankees, there is still a lot of room for this team improve, which is a good sign. This has been a 1st half of some good surprises, but also some not-so surprising let downs. This is the first time a Sox team has been in 1st place entering the break since the 2013 World Series team, so they’ll win the World Series again this year, right?
Now I’ll break down a couple disappointments for the team:
Pablo Sandoval… This comes to no surprise as Sandoval has yet again let the club down. President of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski went all in on Pablo this past offseason, trading away Travis Shaw. With Shaw departing, Sandoval was the only 3B on the roster. Of course they had Brock Holt who could also play the position in a utility role, but he’s missed the majority of the season thus far with vertigo. Then in the minors they had one of their top prospects, Rafael Devers, who still isn’t major league ready yet and Dombrowski knew this. And also Deven Marrero, who is a solid defensive player, but never had any luck with his bat when called upon for the Sox. So naturally, let’s just invest everything we have at 3B in Sandoval, what could go wrong there? Well for Sandoval, everything has. He came into camp with everyone talking about how he lost some weight, but still not enough to be a 3rd baseman. Then following a solid spring training, there was a slight bit of hope in Pablo. However, Sandoval only played 32 games in the 1st half, hitting only .212 and playing some horrible defense, costing the team runs and wins. Eventually Sandoval was placed on the DL with an “inner ear infection” which was just one of those you suck type of DL placements because Sandoval was awful. Is it time to just take your losses and cut Sandoval? Probably.
Another disappointment this season has been Carson Smith. Is this guy ever going to pitch in a Red Sox uniform? I wish I could answer this question. I was excited when the Sox traded for Smith prior to the 2016 season, as he was very impressive with the Seattle Mariners. He was a young relief pitcher with a ton of upside. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Smith has still yet to pitch for the Sox outside of spring training. News kept coming out that Smith was upping his rehab from throwing at longer distances, to throwing off a mound, but after feeling setbacks, Smith never made a rehab assignment, which was expected to happen by now. Hopefully Smith will be back and pitching by August or September to contribute to the team come playoff time, but I don’t think the Sox would trust giving him the ball in the playoffs after missing this much time. At this point, it would just be nice to see Smith get healthy and bolster the Sox bullpen.
Tyler Thornburg… This one is frustrating. Dombrowski traded away a haul for Thornburg who also hasn’t pitched in a game yet this season. The Sox trade Travis Shaw, prospect Mauricio Dubon, Single-A pitcher Josh Pennington and their #25 overall prospect Yeison Coco. This trade especially hurts because as I said before when I stated the obvious, the 3rd base situation has been awful for the Sox and Shaw has straight up raked this year. Shaw is enjoying Milwaukee as he’s hitting .299 with 19 HRs and 65 RBI and really should be in Miami right now as an all-star. Thornburg pitched in just two spring training games for Boston before feeling shoulder discomfort and getting shut down. After setbacks kept happening, the Sox announced in June that Thornburg would have season-ending shoulder surgery. Of course.
Coming off an American League Cy Young Award, Rick Porcello has not been anywhere near what he was last season. Porcello enters the break at 4-11 (most losses of anyone in the majors) with a 4.75 ERA. In 119.1 innings pitched, Porcello has given up 147 hits (had 193 all of last year) which is an insane amount. Porcello has also given up 19 home runs in 19 starts this season. He did show improvement leading into the break though, so hopefully that will carry over into the 2nd half. A good takeaway from Porcello is how he will give the Sox at least 6 innings in almost every start (averages about 6.2 innings per start) so when he gets the ball on his starts, John Farrell won’t have to dig deep into the bullpen, which is very important.
And when talking about disappointment, you have to look at the lack of power in the Red Sox lineup. The Sox rank 26th in all of the MLB with just 96 home runs on the season. Without power and the ability to hit balls out of the yard comes stranding many runners on base. With a lineup full of hitters, it has been disappointing to see the reduced power numbers. Their leadoff man, Mookie Betts leads the team with 16 home runs. Mookie is much more comfortable hitting atop the Red Sox order, but his numbers resemble those of a 3 or 4 hitter in a lineup. Mookie’s power will always be there, that’s no question. But at this point of the season, the Sox expected more from Hanley Ramirez (.261 with 13 HRs) and better power numbers from Xander Bogaerts, who has hit just 6 home runs. Will they add a power bat before the deadline? Mike Moustakas would be a great fit for this team, hitting .275 with 25 home runs, and he plays 3B, which the Red Sox desperately need offensive production from.
I’ll talk about some good surprises for the Sox in the 1st half:
The first person I want to mention is David Price. He takes a lot of heat from the media and fans because he’s clearly not great at handling the crazy Boston media, and the fact that a lot of fans were disappointed in him for his first season with the Sox, which was actually a pretty solid year, maybe not worth the $30 million he received on the season, but still solid. And then there’s the fact that he was shut down this spring with elbow and forearm discomfort, which gave everyone a TJ scare. Then during Price’s rehab starts he was nowhere near impressive. Nonetheless, he has been very good for the Sox in 8 out 9 starts after returning from the DL. Price enters the break 4-2 with a 3.91 ERA. His ERA is inflated by his 3rd start clunker against the Yanks, where he allowed 6 runs in 5 innings, but aside from that one start, Price 3 earned runs or fewer in all of his other starts.
Deven Marrero has been a solid 3B filler after the disastrous play of Sandoval. Marrero solidified himself as a good option for 3B after Sandoval’s DL placements, Holt’s vertigo and Marco Hernandez’s season-ending surgery. What Marrero brings to the table is his glove, as he’s a very good defensive player, even at 3B when he’s primarily a SS. He is also very capable with his bat, and I know he’s only hitting .225, but I’m talking about doing the right things when there are runners on base. Marrero does have 20 RBIs so he produces runs, much more than the average would suggest. He takes productive outs with runners on. Whether it’s hitting sac fly’s or just grounding the ball to the right side of the infield with runners on 2nd or 3rd. Marrero has solidified the 3B position after the Sox were lost there, he also played a few games at 2B, filling in for the injured Dustin Pedroia, showing his versatility.
Tzu-Wei Lin in just 15 games has been a major impact on the Sox and the fanbase. Through those 15 games, Lin is hitting .333 (13-for-39) with also 7 runs scored. Jumping straight from AA Portland, Lin has contributed to the Sox, and the pair of him and Marrero will continue to split time at 3B, impacting the team as much as they can, unless Dombrowski makes a trade prior to the deadline.
Dave Dombrowski traded away pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to acquire Drew Pomeranz from the Padres last season and it was a nightmare. After injuries and rough starts from Pom, it looked as though leaving pitcher-friendly Petco Park, entering Boston’s market and pitching against the AL East, that Pomeranz just couldn’t handle it. Then a report came out that San Diego didn’t inform the Sox about some of Pomeranz’s injuries, so Dombrowski was given the option to rescind the deal, but ended up keeping Pom and facing a lot of speculations after making that decision because Pomeranz had been pretty bad for the Sox. But what a surprise he’s been for the club this year. Pomeranz is 9-4 with a 3.60 ERA on the season. He’s also recently began pitching deeper into games, which had been a major issue of his. Pomeranz last year and to begin this season seemed to always pitch around 5 innings and throw upwards of 100 pitches, while having one of the slowest paces in all of the majors, making him dreadful to watch at times. The gopher ball was also a concern from Pom, as you could usually pencil him down for at least one per start, but he hasn’t given up a long ball in his last 4 starts. Pomeranz has looked awesome lately, and with an injured rotation this year, he’s stepped up in a big way.
Getting away from all the surprises and disappointments now, I’m gonna talk about the front-runner of the AL Cy Young Award, Chris Sale. Sale is starting the all-star game for the American League and he’s more than deserving. Sale is 11-4 with a 2.75 ERA and he also leads the majors in strikeouts with 178. He’s by far been the most dominant pitcher in the AL, and he’s up there with Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer for the best pitchers in the league. Sale is a psycho on the mound (bashing a baseball against his head after being disappointed in himself in a start vs TB) and is one of the most intimidating pitchers in the sport. Hitters are probably satisfied if they can put a ball in play against him at this point with all the players he’s been striking out. He’s exceeded all expectations Red Sox nation has had of him in a big way. Simply put, he’s been amazing, and without him, the Red Sox would not be in 1st place.
Another dominant player on the Sox has been their closer, Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel has been untouchable this season. Any time Kimbrel gets the ball handed to him you just have complete confidence the Sox will get the W. Kimbrel is 2-0 on the year, converting 23/25 saves. He’s pitched in 36 games (37.2 innings) and he’s just allowed 5 earned runs, given up 14 hits and just 2 walks, while striking out 68 batters. Those numbers are absolutely insane. Kimbrel is putting up an amazing season right now is no doubt the best closer in the AL and in conversation for best in the league with Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen.
Entering the break, 1st in the AL East, with the 2nd best record in all of the AL (behind the Astros), the Sox will look to continue their success for the remainder of the season. It’s kind of been an up and down, streaky year for the Sox, but the club looks good heading into the break and hope to finish the season atop the division.