The End of the E-Rod Era for the Red Sox

Despite efforts to re-sign the lefty, the Eduardo Rodriguez tenure with the Boston Red Sox is over. It’s reported that E-Rod received a 5-year, $77 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. The $15+ million per year contract makes some sense for the relatively young lefty who has been up and down over his career in Boston, but has shown promise throughout. It’s probably in E-Rod’s best interest to get a change of scenery and see if he can finally put it all together and be consistently a top-end rotation talent.

After a career year in 2019, E-Rod sat out 2020 with myocarditis which emerged following a COVID-19 diagnosis. Thankfully, he was able to get back on the mound in 2021 and once again showed some flashes of being a top-end rotation arm. He also continued his consistent inconsistency and ended the year with a 13-8 record and a 4.74 ERA. He was able to rebound after building his ERA up over 6 in June thanks to his final 5 appearances of the regular season in which he didn’t allow more than 2 earned runs.

After a tough first outing in the postseason, E-Rod bounced back and finished his career in Boston with 2 strong outings against the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros, striking out 13 and allowing 5 earned runs over 11 innings. He declined his $18.4 million option to stay with Boston for 2022 in order to try and get some long-term stability and that bet paid off. While the annual salary is $3 million less than his option, he is now guaranteed a really solid salary until age 33.

I’m happy for him given his health struggles in 2020. His future as an MLB player was hanging in the balance and it was a really great story to watch him rebound and turn in his second highest innings total and games total this past season. That being said, I’m not sure I would have paid $15.4 million per year for his level of inconsistency. I’m not going to dig in again, but if you’re curious on my feelings about E-Rod, I wrote this back in September. To me, he’s a middle to back-end of the rotation talent at this point and the Red Sox should be able to find a replacement.

The Red Sox are obviously in need of starting rotation help going into 2022 and have several decisions to make on whether to move certain pitchers into the rotation (i.e. Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock). They reportedly had offered a multi-year deal to E-Rod, so I’m sure to some degree were waiting for this chip to fall. A quick resolution to the Eduardo Rodriguez situation will help them move on and pursue other opportunities.

Buenos Noches, Jerry!

On Sunday morning, word spread throughout Red Sox Nation that Jerry Remy had finally lost his battle with lung cancer. At his passing, my birthday buddy was just 10 days shy of his 69th birthday and in his 33rd season as a Red Sox broadcaster while battling his 7th recurrence with the terrible disease over 13 years. It was a challenging stretch for Remy, but the Massachusetts native was a fighter and tackled each reoccurrence head-on, even when things weren’t looking great. Remy love being the voice of the Red Sox and was a Bostonian through and through. He will be sorely missed.

After a few years playing for the California Angels, the Somerset, MA native was traded to the Red Sox in 1977. Growing up a Red Sox fan, the trade made Remy “ecstatic” and his play on the field benefited from the move as 1978 became one of his best seasons, including an All-star selection. The trade worked out pretty well for him beyond 1978 also, because he played a solid 7-seasons with the Red Sox and parlayed his fan-favorite persona into a 33-year broadcasting career for his hometown team. Once he was traded back home, he never looked back.

“I was ecstatic. How many people get a chance to come back home and play for the team that they grew up watching, adoring, and loving? I couldn’t believe I was going to be playing with guys like [Carl] Yastrzemski — he was my idol as a teenager — [Carlton] Fisk and [Jim] Rice, [Dwight] Evans, [Fred] Lynn, all those guys.”

Jerry Remy talking about his trade to the Red Sox in 1977

The past few days have resulted in countless people talking about Remy and his strong, positive presence. One of his broadcast partners and favorite people to banter with, Dennis Eckersley, recalled his favorite quality of Remy: his laugh. “Man, I loved his laugh. When he’d get rolling and couldn’t stop himself from laughing, you know? I tried like hell to get him to laugh just to hear it.” Another of his longtime broadcast partners and friends, Red Sox fan-favorite Don Orsillo, credited Remy as the one who “Showed me the right MLB way.” The messages are different, but all have a common theme: Remy was a respected, genuine and special human being.

The man most commonly know as RemDawg has left a deep legacy and a significant positive mark on a franchise that has had so many greats over the years. His voice will be forever linked with the Red Sox, having called the darker depths of the tail end of an 80+ year championship drought, triumphantly celebrating four world series titles, and contributing to numerous other critical moments over three decades on the microphone. His ability to tell stories and go off the rails in blowouts and his honest, straight forward analysis of a tough situation are unrivalled. His voice will truly be missed on the NESN telecasts.

Watching Remy get a standing ovation from a packed Fenway Park as he took a golf-cart ride around the stadium to throw out the first pitch of the 2021 AL Wild Card game was a moment I won’t forget. It felt reminiscent of the Ted Williams golf-cart ride at the 1999 All-Star Game, just a few years before the legend’s passing. It was a final hurrah for a man that devoted damn near his entire life to the Red Sox franchise and poured his heart and soul into his job.

To me, there is only one way to end the RemDawg era in Boston, by using the line he said hundreds, maybe thousands of times over his career when introducing the ability to watch the broadcast in Spanish. Buenos Noches, Jerry.

The End of an Improbable Run for the Red Sox

The season is over for the Boston Red Sox, much later than nearly everyone predicted. An unreal, improbable deep postseason run was bonus baseball in a year following an absolute dud of a season in 2020. There are a lot of things to reflect on at this moment: defensive woes, offensive bi-polar production, a play here or there in the ALCS, but the thing that hurts the worst? This team never had a chance, but made us all believe a championship was possible.

Coming into the season, everyone expected a rebound for the Red Sox who were coming off of a 24-36 shortened-season last place finish in the AL East season. The general consensus was a .500 season was likely, somewhere around the 80-82 win threshold, missing a spot in the postseason. After an absolutely torrid first half of the season, expectations began to shift, but then reality hit and the Red Sox came back to earth. They needed every bit of 162 games to sneak into the postseason and and win their 92nd regular season game.

The playoffs began with a huge win over the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card at Fenway Park and it felt like that was a big accomplishment regardless of what came of the ALDS against the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays. After a tough first game offensively, the production began and the Red Sox won 3-straight games to send the Rays packing. Shockingly, the Red Sox were one of 4 teams still remaining in the postseason. Once again the Red Sox offense wasn’t good enough in a game one, but turned it on for games 2 and 3. Once the Red Sox won game 3, it felt like this team had a special quality and was peaking at the right time. The mentality was to win the next two at home and never have to return to Texas, but obviously that didn’t happen.

We all believed that despite the up-and-down season and the struggles offensively in the final week of the season when everything was hanging in the balance, in October this team could beat anyone. At times, they showed us that their offense was all-powerful and could hit anyone, at any time and then other times they made opposing pitchers look like Cy Young winners. We built ourselves up to believe that this team had an x-factor and was a runaway train barreling down the tracks with nothing that could stop the momentum. Just when we felt the magic and believed, this team showed us exactly what we saw down the stretch of the regular season: inconsistency and an inability to put anyone away. It was never gone, just took a short break.

This team was never good enough to win a championship, but I certainly believed they could and I know I’m not alone. The pitching staff was held together with glue and duct tape and Cora was able to squeeze every last ounce out of each person on the roster to even get to an ALCS game 6. This may be one of the greatest managerial performances of the last decade, but it will be overshadowed by not making the World Series. Alex Cora did what he could with the roster he had, and it wasn’t enough, but it was damn close.

The future is certainly bright in Boston. Several young players made significant contributions to this team and will only continue to improve next year and beyond. In 2022 the Red Sox will have one of their strongest rotations in a long time if everything shakes out as expected and the rookie arms continue to improve. The offense needs to fill a few holes and gain greater depth on the bench, but overall is pretty close to being great without much work. The defense needs to be a huge priority this offseason, because they handed opponents run after run this season with bad plays and errors.

There will be a lot of commentary this offseason on this team, some positive and some negative (and a lot of it from me), but despite feeling the hurt of a tough series loss, I wouldn’t trade this improbable run for anything. Just 114 days until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers.

Postseason Fever Back for the Red Sox

The last few months for the Boston Red Sox have been filled with challenges, injuries, and underwhelming performances. Down the stretch, most every member of the offense had (or is having) a dry spell and the pitching staff has been a bit all over the map. The Red Sox season came down to game 162 and thanks to some timely hitting leading to a big comeback, postseason baseball is back in Boston. After the high of the win, reality sunk in that their triumphant return to the postseason would be shaped by a 1-game wild card showdown with none-other-than their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees.

As a Red Sox fan, last night’s AL Wild Card game was a thing of beauty. With a battle of the two staff aces, Gerrit Cole for the Yankees and Nathan Eovaldi for the Red Sox, you knew runs would be at a premium. Thankfully, one of the slumping Red Sox bats, Xander Bogaerts, turned the page and crushed a 2-run HR in the 1st inning to give the Sox an early lead. Not to be forgotten was the Rafael Devers walk, battling back from a 1-2 count, in the at-bat before to keep the inning alive. When Xander hit the HR, his reaction said it all. I haven’t seen him that excited in a loonnnggg time and it absolutely set the tone for the entire game. Xander is generally a quiet leader who lead by example. Last night, he led by example, but was anything but quiet.

There were so many important performances and moments in this one game that there isn’t time to recap them all (and there are plenty of other places to get that coverage), but the thing that impressed me the most about last night was the players resilience and belief. It sounds cheesy, but every time the Red Sox got in a jam, or a pitcher gave up a run, the players seemed to rally behind each other and believe in each other. They limited damage and extended the lead when the Yankees put pressure on, which is something they struggled with most of September.

The best example of limiting damage and playing together was in the 6th inning right after Eovaldi was replaced by Ryan Brasier and Giancarlo Stanton crushed his 2nd ball off the monster in the game (despite what John Sterling thinks, they both went OFF the monster, not OVER). Alex Verdugo misplayed the carom angle (which to be fair is a near impossible read), but Kike Hernandez was there to back him up, got the ball quickly in to Bogaerts and X-man threw an absolutely perfectly placed laser to home where Kevin Plawecki beautifully tagged Aaron Judge to cut down the run.

If that play doesn’t happen, then the score is 3-2 with a runner in scoring position and just 1 out. Momentum, if not the lead, would likely have shifted to the New York dugout and the intensity, and pressure, would have risen. The Red Sox needed everyone to be alert and play their positions in perfect harmony and when they did that, they finally succeeded in the elusive area of defensive fundamentals. I’ve been harping on their lack of defensive consistency all year and the numbers show they are one of the worst defensive teams in baseball and frankly, I don’t fully understand why. They have some weaker spots on the field but for the most part, they have talented players who should be at least average at their positions. All can be forgiven if they turn the page in the postseason and play clean, smart baseball.

If the Red Sox are confident and can consistently hit, pitch pretty well, and play solid defense, they have the talent to make a deep run in the playoffs, but those are big ifs. They passed their first test on Tuesday, now they have an even bigger test upcoming with the 100 win Tampa Bay Rays.

And hey, if you’re a Yankees fan, don’t get too sad because there is still something to look forward to. On Valentines Day, February 14th 2022, pitchers and catchers report.

The Crazy AL Wild Card Race

From 3-way ties to AL East dominance, the AL Wild Card race is proving to be high drama in 2021. As it sits on the morning of September 17th, it is a a battle between the Toronto Blue Jays (82-64), the Boston Red Sox (83-65) and the New York Yankees (82-65, 0.5 games back), with the Oakland Athletics (79-67, 3 games back) and the Seattle Mariners (78-68, 4 games back) hoping for a slip from the teams above. With between 14-16 games remaining for every team, the final 2 weeks are absolute must-watch baseball every night.

As a Red Sox fan, it’s frustrating that the team is even in this position fighting for a playoff spot. Putting that aside, let’s take a closer look at the race, see what the next few weeks will look like for the 3 AL East teams, and make some predictions on the outcome.

Toronto Blue Jays

Playoff Odds: 84.0%

The Blue Jays have the 2nd best run differential in the AL and 4th best in the MLB this season. They have been on an absolute tear the last month or so, going 16-3 over their last 19 games, including an 8-game winning streak and a 4-game sweep of the New York Yankees about a week ago to make this race even more interesting. Their surge has been marked by tremendous offensive production. In the 15 games so far in September (13-2), the Blue Jays have scored fewer than 5 runs just twice, and have scored 10+ runs in 5 games. If they continue scoring at this same level, it will be incredibly hard to see them not getting one of the 2 wild card spots in 2 weeks. They will also be a very difficult out in the wild card game if they can continue to score in bunches.

Their schedule going forward isn’t terribly difficult, but has a few potential hurdles. They face the 64-83, 5th place in the AL Central Minnesota Twins 7 times in the final 16 games, including a 4-game set on the road at Target Field and a 3-game set to end the season at home against the lowly Baltimore Orioles. They do have 3 games at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay against the Rays and a huge 3-game set at home against the New York Yankees, but overall that’s a fairly light schedule for the highly potent Blue Jays offense. Overall, I think the remaining games are favorable for Toronto assuming they can beat the teams they are supposed to beat and not get swept by the Rays or Yankees. Their playoff odds have jumped a massive 42.5% in 30 days and it’s looking better and better for the team north of the border.

Boston Red Sox

Playoff Odds: 71%

The strange rollercoaster of a season continues in Boston. The most dominant and surprising team early on in the year is now in the mix to miss the playoffs all together with 2 weeks remaining. The Red Sox went from first place on July 30th to 8 games back tied for 2nd as of writing this, which is amazingly and improvement after spending 19 games in 3rd place in the end of August and into September. The September schedule for the Red Sox has been tough, with all but 3 of the 14 games against above .500 teams and the other 3 games were against Cleveland who are 71-73 and 2nd in the AL Central. The Red Sox went 8-6, which while not amazing, has kept them in the hunt for a wild card spot.

The good news for Red Sox fans is their schedule. They face the lowly Baltimore Orioles 6 times (3 at home, 3 on the road), the New York Mets 2 times at home, and the Washington Nationals for 3 on the road to end the season. The biggest three games in the middle are a homestand with the New York Yankees. If the Red Sox can win the majority of the games they are supposed to win against lesser opponents, they may have a chance to sink the Yankees chances with a series win at Fenway September 24-26. The Red Sox are 21-12 against their remaining opponents (they haven’t play the Nationals yet) and have the most favorable schedule of the 3 AL East teams fighting for the 2 wild card spots.

New York Yankees

Playoff Odds: 36.4%

After an incredibly hot August, the Yankees are struggling in a big way in September. In August the Yankees went 21-8 and climbed as close as 4 games back in the division race and 2 games up in the top wild card spot on August 27th. Now 15 games into September, the Yankees have fallen to 9 games back in the division and are 0.5 games back of even the 2nd wild card spot. According to Baseball Reference, over the last 30 days the Yankees playoff odds have dropped 12%, which is a tough spot to be in with 2 weeks remaining. That being said, if they get hot and start rolling, they have a reasonable shot at the 2nd wild card position and even the top spot if Toronto and Boston falter.

The upcoming schedule is really tough for the Yankees. On one hand, they have the opportunity to face the Blue Jays and Red Sox head-to-head which could change the race dramatically, but on the other hand, they finish the season with 6 of 9 on the road and all 9 against teams in the division fighting for a playoff spot. This season, the Yankees have been outscored in games on the road (322-321) despite a 41-34 record and more importantly, they are 19-29 against the Rays, Blue Jays, and Red Sox combined. If the Yankees want to put themselves in a better position, they need to take care of business at home against the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers over the next 6 games. Both teams are under .500, although Cleveland just barely, and the Yankees have gone 6-2 against the 2 clubs so far this season. The wild card will likely be decided in games 154-159 on the road in Boston and Toronto.


Prediction

  • 1st Wild Card – Toronto Blue Jays
  • 2nd Wild Card – Boston Red Sox
  • Wild Card winner – Toronto Blue Jays

While I think this will be a battle until the bitter end, the Blue Jays and Red Sox have the advantage going into the final few weeks. The Yankees are more than capable of making a run and stealing a spot from one of the 2 teams, but the way they have been playing and their schedule will make it a tough task. When it comes to the actual Wild Card game, I give the advantage to the Blue Jays regardless of location, but an even more significant advantage if they are playing in the Rogers Centre. If the game were to be at Fenway, it would be a closer call for me, but I always favor the hotter team and it’s hard to find a team with more momentum (as of today) than the Blue Jays. With all that said, a LOT can happen in two weeks of baseball and the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners are not going to sit back and watch the battle in front of them passively.

*All playoff odds are from Baseball Reference.

Is Eduardo Rodriguez a Front End Starter?

Before every season when making predictions about the upcoming Red Sox campaign, I tell myself that this is the year Eduardo Rodriguez will live up to his potential and become the #2 starter the team desperately needs. And most every year around September, I look back and contemplate what went wrong with my prediction. To me, a #2 starter is a really strong pitcher who gives the team a chance to win every 5th day with only an occasional hiccup or rough patch. E-Rod has stretches of dominance that are bookended by duds and disappointing streaks.

After a rough year in 2020, where a complication from COVID forced E-Rod to sit out the year with a heart issue, myocarditis, he came into 2021 with a lot of promise and hope. In both 2018 and 2019, E-Rod had a solid ERA in the upper 3s (3.82 in 2018 and 3.81 in 2019) and finally broke the 200 inning mark in 2019 for the first time in his career. Prior to 2019, E-Rod had never started more than 24 games in a season due to injuries. In 2018 alone, he began the season on the DL after knee surgery, then a few months after being activated, landed back on the DL with an ankle sprain in July and didn’t return until September.

In between injuries, E-Rod has had masterful stretches of pitching. Between May 5th and June 17th 2018, E-Rod had 9 straight starts that lasted at least 5 innings and he went 8-1 with a 2.98 ERA and 61 Ks to just 13 BBs. His batting average against was a stingy .239 and he gave the team a chance to win in every single appearance. Just a few weeks later, the 3 starts prior to his 2nd DL stint of the year, he didn’t allow a run, going at least 5.1 innings in all three games. That is what you want out of a #2 starter.

This season has had stretches of strong pitching from E-Rod followed by unexplained struggles. After a 4-0 April with a 3.52 ERA and a .209 opponent batting average, he went 1-4 in May with a 7.28 ERA and a .360 opponent batting average. Then in June he went 1-0, but had a 6.23 ERA and didn’t even reach the 5th inning in 2 of his 5 starts. Not to belabor the point, but then in July, he had an improved ERA thanks to 2 shutout performances of 6 and 5.2 innings, followed by a 6-run 3.1 inning stinker against the Toronto Blue Jays to end the month. On any given day, you don’t know which E-Rod will show up.

It’s getting harder to see E-Rod as an option for the #2 spot in the rotation on a contending team going forward. He has the ability to perform at an incredibly high level, albeit not getting past the 6th inning in most cases. Since July 1, he has 5 appearances where he went at least 5 innings and allowed 0 runs, but has also had 6 outings in 2021 where he allowed 5+ runs. The inconsistency is the only constant with E-Rod and it’s frustrating to watch him continually not reach the level I feel he can reach.

E-Rod is still an asset to the Red Sox, especially if he can stay healthy and start 30+ times a year, but I can’t consider him a front-end starter anymore. He’s pitching more like a #4 or #5 starter on a contending team, with some great surprise performances followed by some less-than-stellar games. As of today, he has the highest ERA of any regular starter on the Red Sox, which is hard to swallow when you consider what the rotation looks like.

I suppose it’s finally time to temper my expectations and not expect E-Rod to be a front-line starter.

Is this Rock Bottom for the Red Sox?

The first 3 and a half months of the MLB season were incredibly fun to watch. The Red Sox were surprising just about everyone and winning games in every way possible. They led the league in come-from-behind wins and it seemed that they were never out of contention regardless of score or inning. In the 6 weeks since the All-Star break, things have gone from ok, to bad, to awful in rapid succession and the current series with the Tampa Bay Rays may be rock bottom. In the middle of losing their 2nd straight game to the division leading Rays, SS Xander Bogaerts was pulled from the game due to a positive COVID test result becoming the 6th player to go down with the virus in a few short days.

On Wednesday, we learned that there was a 7th positive test result, and likely not the last, in INF Yairo Munoz. Munoz was already a replacement for Christian Arroyo who contracted COVID. At the rate in which the Red Sox are forced to call up players from the WooSox, it would be best to just park a bus outside the WooSox locker room and keep the engine running for when, inevitably, the next player lands on the COVID-IL.

While many of the players contracting COVID were vaccinated, according to Chaim Bloom the “majority”, the outbreak shines a bright light on the fact that the Red Sox are 1 of 6 teams under the 85% vaccinated threshold in the MLB. No one can force anyone to get vaccinated, but the low rate reflects really poorly on the team’s leadership, whether fair or not. It’s raises a ton of red flags and concerns around Alex Cora, Chaim Bloom, and the other leaders in the clubhouse, players and coaches. I don’t know who is or is not vaccinated on the roster, nor do I need to, but this outbreak situation is rock bottom for an already pathetic-looking team.

Recently, even when it kept getting worse, I believed hope was still alive and this team could sneak into the playoffs and maybe make a run if the stars aligned perfectly. After all, they still have a really strong record and are technically in a playoff spot if the season ended today. After watching the last few games and seeing player after player go down with COVID and be out for likely at least 10+ days, I’m not sure sneaking into the 2nd wild card is even the most likely scenario anymore. Alex Cora looks dejected and admitted he was “exhausted” the other day and the team is reflecting that energy.

I learned a long time ago to never say never when it comes to sports, but this is the lowest I’ve felt about this Red Sox team all season. It’s hard to find the joy in each game and as more and more of the WooSox roster gets called up the the majors, it’s hard to see this team legitimately competing in the crucial short-term stretch. I hope I’m wrong, but I think this is rock bottom for the 2021 season.

Bobby D is on 🔥

Since shortly after the trade deadline, 1B Bobby Dalbec has been tearing it up at the dish. The Red Sox brought in OF Kyle Schwarber with the intent on moving him to at least platoon at 1B with the struggling Dalbec. To add even more depth at first, the Red Sox then later added the veteran 1B Travis Shaw (and he has already made a big contribution). However, since August 5th there is no one hotter on the roster than Bobby Dalbec. Over that span, he has appeared in 17 games (13 starts) and is hitting .386 with 5 HRs and 19 RBIs. Whether it’s in response to being pushed by Schwarber and Shaw, a tweak in mechanics, or just a much-needed boost in confidence, the Red Sox are benefiting from improved production out of the young first baseman.

Bobby added to his extra base total on Thursday with a career night. He hit 2 HRs and drove in 7 runs in 4 plate appearances. You’d be hard-pressed to find a hotter hitter over that stretch and the offensive success is bleeding into his defensive play. He has just 1 error over that span of games and made a beautiful pick on a tricky ball down the line early in Thursday night’s game. In a surprising twist of fate, since August 5th, Bobby has 5 more HRs, 8 more extra base hits, and a nearly .300 point higher batting average than the New York Yankees 1B acquisition Anthony Rizzo. To be fair, Rizzo was out on the COVID IL for a stretch in there, but it’s still a win for the Red Sox (in a period of very few!).

Dalbec’s success has a ripple effect and opens up the option for Kyle Schwarber to stay in his natural position in the outfield or as an alternate DH, rather than primarily at 1B. As we have seen, it’s important to keep Schwarber in the lineup given his plate discipline and knack for getting on base. If Bobby can play most games at first and be given a spell by Travis Shaw or Kyle Schwarber, it makes this Red Sox lineup stronger top to bottom. With Schwarber being freed up to play more outfield, it allows the Red Sox to move OF Jarren Duran back to AAA to give him more regular at-bats and not keep him in situations where he looks overmatched.

The Red Sox are hanging on to the 2nd AL Wild Card spot and will need to consistently score runs to remain in the hunt. A hot #8 or #9 hitter in the lineup in Bobby D helps everyone top to bottom. Keep the Bobby 💣s coming.

Orioles Just What the Doctor Ordered

The last three weeks have been brutal for the Boston Red Sox. From July 24 through Aug 12, the Red Sox went 6-13 and went from being tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for 1st in the AL East to 5 games back. Other than one 20-run outburst on August 11 against the Rays, the Red Sox bats went cold and the pitching staff was struggling to keep opponents off the scoreboard. Then the Baltimore Orioles came to town.

When a really good team is struggling, sometimes it takes a little spark, and a terrible opponent, to right the ship. In a 3-game set at home against the Orioles this past weekend, the offense exploded for 30 runs and the pitching staff held the lowly Orioles to just 5 total runs in the series. While the results are in no way surprising since the Os sit at 38-78 on the season, a whopping 24.5 games out of 4th place in the AL East, the course correction couldn’t have happened soon enough. The Red Sox are talented, but were struggling top to bottom this past month.

Hopefully seeing the bat hit the ball and the K’s pile up will instill confidence across the roster for a team that was overflowing with it the first half of the year. The return of ace SP Chris Sale on Friday for the first time in two years was definitely a moment for the team to step up and it caused an energizing jolt. Sale’s 5 IP and 2 ERs were a welcome sight and hopefully the beginning of a slow build to the postseason for him and consistent starts every five days. The official Red Sox debut of DH/OF/1B (maybe) Kyle Schwarber also provided an offensive kick with 2 BBs on Saturday and 2 doubles on Sunday. The long overdue move to put young SP Tanner Houck in the rotation permanently also helps to solidify a struggling group and moves a few decent arms into the bullpen where they are more likely to have success.

It’s just three games against the worst team in baseball, but the jolt in confidence will hopefully carry over going forward. The Red Sox schedule continues with a 3-games set in the Bronx against the New York Yankees beginning Monday, which will be hard-fought. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they will have a tough time gaining ground in the AL East the next few weeks because the 1st place Rays are playing the Orioles 6 of their next 11 games.

Can the Bleeding Be Stopped for the Red Sox?

The last few weeks have been an abject disaster for the Boston Red Sox. The team has gone from an over-achieving, likable contender that was fun to watch to an under-achieving, disappointing mess that makes me want to turn off the TV at least twice a game. Since July 28th, the Red Sox are 3-10 and have gone from 1st place in the AL East, 2.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and 8.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees, to 2nd place in the AL East, 4 games back of the Rays and just 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees. The team is collapsing in every aspect of play with less than 50 games left. Can the season be salvaged at this point?

The 2021 season has been a tail of two halves (pre/post All Star game). The 1st half saw the Red Sox surprise everyone with a 55-36 record and a +57 run differential. After a sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles to start the year, the team turned on the jets and were winning games in every way, including 30+ come from behind victories. It felt like this team had the championship contender x-factors: grittiness and never-give-up-mentality. Then the 2nd half of the season kicked off and the team has lost the qualities we fell in love with earlier in the year. Their 10-13 record in the 2nd half is highlighted by a -24 run differential.

The biggest issue with the team right now? It depends on the game, but basically everything. For most of the season the starting pitching has been just OK but the offense has more than made up for poor starts. The offense overall was averaging a very strong 5.1 runs per game before the All-Star break, but since the break, that number has dropped more than a run per game to 3.8. On the pitching side, the staff was allowing 4.0 runs per game in the first half and have been allowing 4.6 runs per game since the break. While the pitching jump isn’t as drastic as the offensive production drop, the combination of the two is dramatic.

The struggles on offense can be directly linked to the top two hitters in the lineup, J.D. Martinez (.253 in 21 games in the 2nd half with just 3 HRs and 9 RBIs) and Xander Bogaerts (.221 in 20 games in the 2nd half with 1 HR and 5 RBIs). During the 1st half of the season, Martinez’s average was .046 points higher and Bogaerts’ average was .100 points higher than the 2nd half. Overall, the team average dropped .009, which doesn’t seem significant in a small sample, but is obviously showing itself in runs scored. There is also some diminished power in the 2nd half of the season with the team’s HRs per game number dropping from 1.26 to 1.13, but even the 1.13 is inflated thanks to a 6 HR and 5 HR game on July 19 and 21. Since July 21, the Red Sox are hitting just 0.72 HRs per game.

The the pitching side, it’s a different chapter of the same story. Only 2 of the 5 primary starting pitchers on the Red Sox has an ERA at or below their career average, meaning that based on ERA alone, 3/5 of the starting rotation is underachieving this season. Since ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, a look at WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning) confirms the struggles with 3/5 of the rotation above their career average. While the overall picture isn’t great, the 1st half vs 2nd half disparity is even worse. The ERA growth in the 2nd half of the season is absolutely crushing the team right now. All but one starter’s ERA has grown since the All-Star break, and the lone exception, E-Rod, was already so high at 5.52 before the break that a drop isn’t shocking (Garrett Richards +1.84 ERA, Nathan Eovaldi +2.30, Eduardo Rodriguez -1.32, Martin Perez +4.78, Nick Pivetta +0.20).

There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of talk around the inactivity at the trade deadline for the Red Sox, but I’m honestly not sure it would have made enough of a difference. As the offense has come back down to earth and the pitching staff has struggle a bit more, one more starter and one more offensive player weren’t going to turn around the fortunes of this club, but could have helped win a game or two. It’s an overall team struggle at the moment.

There were a few encouraging offensive signs in the series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays. If the bats can come alive and return to form and the pitching staff can begin to right the ship just a little, even just a little, they can recover. The addition of a 75% Chris Sale will help significantly by moving a starter to the bullpen helping to alleviate some strain there. The Red Sox are still 16 games above .500 despite the horrible slide, so a course correction could leave them in the hunt. I don’t think they are good enough to be a legitimate championship contender anymore the way the roster stands, but some competitive postseason baseball would be nice…please.