Looking at what the Boston Red Sox have done so far this season, there is little to complain about. At 68-30 the 2018 Sox have set the record for most wins by a team before the All-Star break.
All around, the Red Sox have been a pretty complete team this year but how did they grade out in the first half?
Coaching: Alex Cora has done little wrong since becoming manager of the Red Sox. In his first season as skipper, Cora has helped guide the Red Sox to the best record in the majors. It’s hard to give Cora any other grade than an A.
Lineup: Last season the lineup disappointed. The first year without David Ortiz gracing the batters box at Fenway Park proved to be very rough. They did finish 2017 tenth in runs scored, but they also finished 27th in home runs. They weren’t scary at all. With the addition of J.D. Martinez, that has changed.
Martinez has helped unlock the potential of the entire lineup. At the break, they lead the league in runs scored by 30, have the highest team average, highest team OPS, and are second behind the Yankees in home runs.
Mookie Betts has also been on another level, leading the league in average and slugging percentage.
If we want to nitpick, the bottom of the order has been really weak. At points it seems that there are only 5 reliable hitters in the Red Sox lineup. Albeit those 5 hitters are all All-Star / MVP caliber, but the bottom of the order was creating automatic outs. Jackie Bradley was batting under .200 for most of the first half, Eduardo Nunez gets on base only 28% of the time, Rafeal Devers has had his growing pains, and catcher has been catcher.
Bradley, Nunez, Devers, and the combo of Leon and Vasquez have gotten better as the seasons worn on, but it’s tough to continue to win against the best teams in baseball. It almost seems like they are just waving the white flag at times sending Bradley up to the plate.
Still, the lineup is a non-issue. The Sox have two legit MVP candidates in their lineup, to go along with the solid bats of Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, and Mitch Moreland.
This new offense under the direction of Cora and hitting coach Tim Hyers has exceeded expectations and it has been fun to watch
Starting Rotation: Overall the Red Sox rotation has been very good. Chris sale has benn, well, Chris Sale. He is having yet another Cy Young caliber season. The question now becomes whether or not Sale will be able to continue his dominance as he is become notorious for fading down the stretch. Alex Cora used him lightly at the beginning of the year, so we will see if that helps.
After Sale, Rick Porcello is having a great season (besides his last start) after struggling in 2017.
David Price has been a disappointment dealing with some more arm issues while posting a 4.42 ERA. Still, Price has shown flashes of the $30 million a year pitcher the Red Sox acquired a couple offseasons ago.
Drew Pomeranz has been hurt most of the season, but even when he has been on the mound it has been difficult to not pray to see Cora walk out of the dugout and snatch the ball out of his hand. His control has been off, and the velocity on his pitches has hovered around 88-89 mph rather than the 90-92 he was tossing last year. His Injuries have also created a revolving door, in the fifth rotation spot with Brian Johnson, Steven Wright, Hector Velasquez, and Jalen Beeks.
Eduardo Rodriguez has been a pleasant surprise, but he suffered yet another injury that is going to put him into a walking boot for who knows how long.
Like I said its hard to critique a team that is 38 games over .500, but the rotation has been slightly injury prone. Still, the main issue is how these guys perform in October.
Bullpen: Considering what the pen is made up of, they have been fantastic this year. But for a World Series contender, they have to have more reliable pieces. Dave Dombrowski will most likely make a move at the deadline, but if he doesn’t the Red Sox are going to have some issues when meaningful baseball is being played.
The Red Sox have had a great 2018 season but this season becomes a failure if they can’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs once again. With J.D. and Mookie Monster leading the offensive charge, Sale leading the rotation, and Kimbrel locking down the bullpen, the Sox have the leaders to continue to win, they’ll just need the complimentary pieces to perform for them to have a great October run.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)