Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (May 12, 2018 – Source: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America)
This past week hasn’t been the best one for the Boston Red Sox. After losing two of three to the rival Yankees, the Red Sox found themselves in second place for the first time since March. Fortunately, the Sox were able to come back and share first with the Yankees, but the dogfight for the division has officially begun. Let’s take a look at the last week of Sox baseball in the Boston Red Sox Week Seven review
Boston Red Sox Week Seven Review – The Good
After a relatively slow couple of weeks, Hanley Ramirez is finally looking like his old self. El Trece went almost a month without hitting a home run, but the slugger knocked three shots out of the park over the past week.
Digging into the data shows that Hanley has consistently made solid contact all week long. Per Fangraphs, Ramirez has only made soft contact 21.4% of the time, which is an absolutely fantastic figure. He boasted a wRC+ of 131, meaning that he’s 31% better than the league average hitter. Again, this is a great number.
While the Boston Red Sox offense has been great as a whole, it has gone through its’ cold stretches. If Hanley can return to being a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup, these cold stretches will be fewer and farther between. Every game matters with the Yankees right on the Sox tail, even though it is only May.
After starting the year relatively slow, left fielder Andrew Benintendi looks like he’s finally found the swing that made him one of the most exciting prospects in recent memory. Benintendi had his best week of the season, collecting seven hits in 22 at-bats, including two doubles and his second home run of the season.
Much like with Hanley, the advanced statistics imply that this week of success didn’t have that much to do with luck. While his .400 BABIP is unsustainable, he posted a 151 wRC+, which is incredibly good. He only made soft contact 31.3% of the time, which shows he’s consistently making solid contact. If Benintendi can continue to play up to his potential, then the Sox have one of the strongest top-six lineups in the major leagues.
The Boston Red Sox bullpen was always the weakest link of the team, but they were especially bad this past week. The bullpen gave up a lead in all three games of the Yankees series and allowed a walk-off home run in the first game of the Toronto Blue Jays series. With a better bullpen, the Sox probably sweep the Yankees in New York.
Heath Hembree, in particular, has been absolutely brutal. In the past three games in which he’s pitched, he’s loaded the bases while getting one or no outs. Letting go of him and promoting Bobby Poyner is just one of a few moves the Sox can make to improve the bullpen. Tyler Thornburg can’t come back soon enough.
Aside from Hembree, former spot starter Brian Johnson has not adjusted well to life in the bullpen. While he did pitch 1.1 scoreless innings against the Yankees, he’s mostly looked lost in relief. He allowed the walk-off home run against the Blue Jays, and with Steven Wright on the mend, Johnson may soon be out of a job.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
The Jackie Bradley Era in Boston may be reaching its end. After years of watching incredible defense with inconsistent offense, Bradley has been astonishingly incompetent at the plate this season. This week showed that the lefty may finally be at the end of his leach.
After going hitless in the series opener against New York, Bradley was benched for the next three days. Hoping that the break from play would clear Bradley’s head, manager Alex Cora inserted Bradley back into the lineup for the last two games of the Blue Jays series.
The plan didn’t work. Throughout the past week, Bradley made it to the plate 11 times and only reached base twice, with one of those times coming on a hit-by-pitch. The center fielder struck in six of 11 chances, and his slash line on the season is now a ghastly .171/.263/.256.
No amount of defensive prowess or advanced statistics can justify how bad Bradley has been offensively. His glove doesn’t justify his offensive ineptitude, and it’s looking as though he’s should be used solely as the fourth outfielder going forward.
The Mixed Results
While the Yankees series was mostly bad for the Red Sox, one of the silvers linings came from left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz missed the start of the season and looked rusty in the first three starts of the season. His fastball was down, his curveball wasn’t moving, and not much was going well for the young southpaw.
However, Pomeranz pulled his season around Tuesday, going six innings while allowing just two runs, both solo shots to Giancarlo Stanton that aren’t homers in most baseball parks. It was a great outing in its own right, but it’s more impressive given the circumstances. Pomeranz lost a fingernail midway through his start, yet he gutsily pitched through, showing tremendous grit.
Unfortunately, Pomeranz couldn’t repeat his success against the Toronto Blue Jays. Pitching the final game of the series, Pomeranz went just four innings while allowing two runs. The damage could have been much worse, as he allowed runners to get into scoring position in each inning. Were it not for some amazing defensive plays, the outing could have gone horrendously for the southpaw.
Pomeranz started off 2017 slow before becoming the second-best pitcher on the staff. While Sunday’s outing was disappointing, Tuesday’s start showed Pomeranz still has that 2017 magic in him. If he can find last year’s form, then the Red Sox rotation might be the strongest unit in all of baseball. Pomeranz, Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez all have top of the rotation stuff and could power this team going forward.