Time machine: A look back at the Red Sox All-Stars from 2008-2018
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (July 15, 2018 – Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)
Chris Sale is starting the All-Star Game for the American League for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts is also in the lineup for the second year in a row, but has moved from ninth in the lineup to batting leadoff this year. Lastly, J.D. Martinez is batting cleanup for the A.L. in his first year in a Red Sox uniform. In other words, Boston has the American League starter, leadoff hitter and cleanup hitter for the 2018 All-Star Game. When your team is 68-30, it sort of makes sense.
The Red Sox have three of the game’s biggest stars after seemingly hurting for one when David Ortiz called it quits in 2016 (sans Chris Sale). Mitch Moreland and Craig Kimbrel are also joining these three as Red Sox All-Star representatives, with the latter not shy to stardom himself. This brings Boston’s representatives total to five, which ties the Houston Astros for the most in the AL.
With tonight’s 89th All-Star Game just a couple hours away, this seems like an ideal time to look back at the Red Sox All-Star groups from the last decade. Obviously, a decade is an arbitrary endpoint but it seems like a logical starting/stopping place.
Anyway, which Red Sox All-Star groups were the strongest? Which Sox players had the best first-half numbers? Who deserved to make it and who did not? These are just a handful of sample questions that are about to be answered right now! Let’s start with 2008 and make our way up.
Disclaimer: I have opted to use first-half stats, instead of pre-All Star stats, because it was entirely more convenient. As such, the numbers will not be completely on the nose of how they performed coming into the break, however, they will be incredibly close.
[table id=2 /]
This was Manny Ramirez‘s last All-Star season as a Red Sox and he seemed like a deserving candidate. J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis had the best first-half numbers, though, hitting for enormous power. All three of these sluggers had 15+ homers in the first half, which is very impressive. Meanwhile, Dustin Pedroia got off to a pretty good first-half start en route to his eventual 2008 AL MVP. Lastly, Jason Varitek and David Ortiz did not really earn their AS appearance, rather, it seems like name recognition got them into the dance. Six hitters, however, are the most the Sox have had in an All-Star game over the last decade.
[table id=3 /]
In the first half, Papelbon struck out 11.29 batters per nine inning while converting 28 of 32 save opportunities. Also, how lucky are the Red Sox to go from Papelbon to Uehara to Kimbrel. Blessed.
In total, the Red Sox had seven All-Stars, which is also the most they have had in the last decade. Arguably, they easily could have had eight, with Josh Beckett pitching extremely well in the first half (2.3 fWAR).
[table id=4 /]
Youk snags his second straight All-Star nod, here, and there is no doubt he warranted a spot. He was even more valuable in this first half than in the 2008 one. Pedroia also returned for another season, despite belting just four homers in the first half.
Remember when Jason Bay played for the Red Sox? Yeah, the brevity of that was hilarious but there is no denying how impactful he was in 2009. He smoked 20 bombs in the first half. That is not J.D. Martinez level, but damn.
[table id=5 /]
Like Youkilis and Pedey, Papelbon made it for the second year in a row. With that said, he was not nearly as dominant in the first half of 2009. Sure, his ERA is even better but his underlying numbers suggest he was benefiting from some luck. His strikeout numbers fell considerably and he was worse for the wear. Also, this was the year Brad Penny played for the Red Sox. Lol.
Beckett received the honors, after probably being snubbed the year prior. He had a sick first half with an ERA that matched his FIP. Wakefield also made it to the Game, even though his ERA was north of 4.00.
[table id=6 /]
It is extremely hard to have a quiet and underrated season in Boston, yet that is exactly what Beltre managed to do. He was an absolute doubles machine, putting together one of the best Red Sox seasons in recent memory.
Ortiz made the 2010 squad. He was straight up mashing in the first half, although not quite to the level of Youk (160 wRC+), who was snubbed HARD.
Pedroia’s third year in a row is not shocking, with an extremely torrid start to the 2010 season (we miss you). V-Mart excelled in his short time in Boston and it culminated with this recognition.
[table id=7 /]
Finally! Lester came so close the last two seasons, so it was nice to see him make it here. His first half was scary good, as he struck people out, limited walks and induced weak contact. You know, all the things an ace is supposed to do. Meanwhile, the enigmatic Clay Buchholz had a stellar start to the 2010 season, as well, with a low ERA that was unsustainable.
[table id=8 /]
Back in the day, I was infuriated that Pedroia did not make it to the 2011 All-Star Game after a 4.1 fWAR first half and those feelings have been resurfaced. This was the most egregious omission of our time and, while there are probably worse things in the world that have happen, this was an unforgivable sin.
Anyway, yeah, Ellsbury had his should-have been 2011 MVP season, kicking off with a robust beginning half. Ortiz made it again (shocker), hitting the piss out of baseballs. A-Gon started his (also short) career in a Red Sox uniform with an average north of .350 in the first half. I normally do not care much for average as an indicator of value, however, that is insane.
Finally, Youkilis made it for the third time in the last four years. It is easy to forget just how good he was from 2008-2011; he was incredible.
[table id=9 /]
Beckett and Lester are back at it again in the AS Game. Both had a strong first half, with Beckett performing a bit better. It was nice to get one more vintage-Josh season from him before, ya know, the trade.
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2012 was one of two seasons over the past decade when Boston only had one obligatory All-Star representative. Ortiz decidedly deserved it because the man was single-handedly trying to lift the Red Sox past the impediment of having Bobby Valentine managing your team. Honestly, of all the first-half All-Star seasons that we have looked at with Big Papi so far, this was markedly the best. 22 moonshots with a slugging percentage over .600? Yeah, that is future Hall of Famer stuff.
[table id=11 /]
2018 feels a lot like 2013 with magic in the air. Ortiz and Pedroia, however, were two of just three All-Stars for this eventual World Series club, which seems pretty light. Pedroia had one of his typical seasons, featuring an OBP just shy of .400.
Papi did essentially the same thing he did in 2012, putting up big-time numbers in every offensive category. Did you expect anything less?
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Peak Clay Buchholz was a wonderful thing. For all his inconsistencies, when he went on a rampage like this, it was nearly impossible to stop him until, well, he faltered or succumbed to injury.
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This was the only time in the last ten years when the Red Sox did not have a hitter in the All-Star Game. Instead, they sent two top-of-the-line pitchers to represent the club. Lester’s 2014 dominance was remarkable and probably the best half of a season he has ever had. He was close to a 4-win pitcher in less than 20 starts, which is extremely impressive to do. Sadly, this stretch came right before he was traded to the Oakland Athletics, leaving the Red Sox for (probably) eternity.
Koji was undeniably worthy of this selection, especially on the heels of his ’13 season. They found him out of the bargain bin and, man, did they reap tremendous rewards.
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In what was one of the most star-less seasons in Red Sox history, Boston sent Brock Holt, as their lone wolf, to the Game. He put together a nice season, with desirable versatility, but he did not light the world on fire by any stretch. This was the year we started to see Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts break out, so it was not all bad. Just mostly bad.
[table id=16 /]
After having zero All-Stars the year before, the Red Sox decided to have SIX in 2016. This was the year everything started to come together, with their prospects breaking into stardom and their veterans still enjoying solid seasons. Betts, Bradley Jr. and Bogaerts (the killer B’s) destroyed every ball in their path, combining their offensive prowess with exquisite defense.
Remember a few seasons ago when I said something along the lines of “this was decidedly the best first-half we have seen from Ortiz so far?” Well, holy crap, he outdid himself in a big way, with a slugging percentage close to .700! The elder statesman hit 22 bombs in the first half, going all out in his final season with the Red Sox. Obviously, it was his last All-Star Game. He will forever be in our hearts.
[table id=17 /]
Kimbrel made it in his first season as a Red Sox, although it was, admittedly, a down year for him.
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I fully expect we will never not see Mookie Betts as an All-Star again. Just kidding, kinda. Anyway, even though his offensive numbers were down (like everyone on the Red Sox), he churned a very valuable mix of stellar defense, above-average hitting and methodical baserunning for over 3 wins in the first half.
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I do not know what was more impressive: Sale or Kimbrel’s first half of last season. I thought Jon Lester‘s 3.7 fWAR in the first half of ’14 was jaw-dropping until I remembered what Sale did to start the season. We are definitely witnessing the best Red Sox starter since Pedro Martinez. Does anyone want to argue otherwise?
Kimbrel, though, ended the first half with a 0.79 FIP! He had over two wins as a closer, cementing the notion that the Red Sox won this trade with the San Diego Padres. Dude’s a beast.