Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (March 31, 2018 – Source: Brian Blanco – Getty Images North America)
After months of anticipation, the Boston Red Sox are finally playing meaningful baseball again. After one week, the Red Sox find themselves 3-1 and kings of the AL East. Through the first four games, several players have exceeded expectations, while others have underperformed. Here is the Boston Red Sox Week One review.
Boston Red Sox Week One Review – The Good
The Starting Rotation
Entering the season, the starting rotation was expected to be the strength of the 2018 Red Sox. After one week, the unit showed why expectations were so high for this unit. Team aces Chris Sale and David Price both pitched phenomenally, throwing for a combined 13 scoreless innings.
However, the depth of the rotation also performed admirably. Rick Porcello pitched 5.1 innings, allowing just one run and earning the win. Even spot starter Hector Velazquez – whose presence in the rotation justified this article – had a great game. Velazquez pitched 5.2 innings of one-run ball, striking out five while only giving up one walk.
Obviously, the Tampa Bay Rays lineup isn’t the strongest in the league, but these performances are impressive nonetheless. The starters pitched a combined 24 innings and allowed just two runs, good for a 0.75 ERA. It doesn’t matter how bad the Rays are, that’s an impressive stat. The unit should only get better as Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright return. If this group stays healthy, it could be one of the best rotations in baseball.
The 2017 season was a rough one for the longtime Red Sox shortstop. Injuries and poor coaching philosophy led to Bogaerts putting up the worst season of his professional career since 2014, his first year as a regular starter.
So far, it looks like a clean bill of health and a new manager were the cure to all his woes. A wrist injury severely limited Bogaerts’ power last season, and he’s clearly healthy again. Bogaerts has been driving the ball all over the field, and has a team-leading five doubles to go along with the squad’s only outside-the-park home run.
Additionally, Bogaerts has been far more aggressive at the plate this season than in years previous. Former manager John Farrell obsessively believed in working the count, which had a negative effect on hitters like Bogaerts. Opposing teams knew that Bogaerts wasn’t going to swing at early pitches, and he let a lot of meatballs go. This year under Alex Cora, he’s not letting those easy pitches go. Bogaerts is attacking pitches earlier in the count, and it’s led to his power numbers and batting average soaring. Despite going 0-5 in Sunday’s matchup, Bogaerts still has a team-leading .471 batting average.
The Rest of the Offense
While Bogaerts has started off red-hot, the rest of the team has struggled with the bat. Through their first four games, the Red Sox are averaging just 2.5 runs per game. Of the ten runs scored, five came from Bogaerts in some way, shape or form. That means the non-Bogaerts offense is averaging just over one run per game.
Most of this can be traced to Boston’s terrible average with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox have put players on base, but have consistently failed to capitalize. Last week, Boston hitters have just a .154 batting average with runners in scoring position.
This trend is likely to improve as the season progresses. The Red Sox offense is, on paper, stacked full of talent. At the very least, each player in the lineup is better than a .154 hitter. Eventually, this trend will reverse, and the Red Sox should start putting more runs on the board.
The Red Sox Bullpen
The Red Sox currently sit 3-1, but could very easily be 4-0 were it not for a catastrophic bullpen collapse in Game One. Boston held a 4-0 lead in the top of the eighth, but the bullpen gave up six runs to blow the game. Joe Kelly couldn’t find the strike zone, and Carson Smith couldn’t minimize the damage.
There’s no denying the bullpen cost the Red Sox that game, but the unit has actually performed incredibly well since that moment. The relief corps has allowed just one run in a combined seven innings since that fatal eighth inning, good for a 1.29 ERA.
Craig Kimbrel has been lights out in his two appearances, picking up two saves and looking like his dominant self, despite missing most of spring training. Matt Barnes has been a pleasant surprise, making three appearances without allowing a single runner to get in scoring position. Cora’s trusted him as the second-best arm in the bullpen, and Barnes has rewarded that faith.
Even Smith and Kelly have redeemed themselves since that initial collapse. Smith picked up two crucial outs in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, bridging the gap to Kimbrel. Kimbrel was unavailable for Sunday’s game, so Cora turned to Kelly to pick up the save. While he made it interesting by allowing the tying run to reach third base, Kelly managed to pick up the save and secure the victory.
The Final Result
While it wasn’t always pretty, the Red Sox find themselves at the top of the division with a 3-1 record. The starting rotation has been dominant, while the offense has struggled and the bullpen has given mixed results. Nonetheless, first place is first place, and the Red Sox will take that every day of the week.