Offense- 1st quarter grade A+, 2nd quarter grade A-, 3rd quarter grade B+, 4th quarter grade A-
The best subject for the 2016 Red Sox has been offense. We’ve seen dips and dives during the season, but when they were good in April/May, they were really freaking good. When they dipped in June, it wasn’t that bad really. Travis Shaw is the only one who never found the heights of May again, but Xander Bogaerts season has been an interesting case. As June got under way it appeared that Bogaerts was on course to contend for a batting title as he was using the whole ballpark with regularity. He finishes the season batting .293 with 190 hits, this is the second straight year he will narrowly miss getting 200 hits. His power continues to develop, I think this is a good place to remember that he turned just 24 on Saturday.
Bogaerts may have fallen out of the race for the batting title, but this is a lineup that features 3 names in the top 5, although all 3 are behind Jose Altuve of Houston. Pedroia at .318, Mookie at .318 tied for second while David Ortiz tied with Mike Trout at .316. And it’s been this trio that when things got tight kept this team afloat. It’s almost a perfect amalgamation of the 2016 Red Sox, that when so much has been made of the young talent, that the ones steering the ship offensively are a 40-year old legend in his final season and the 2008 MVP. In a year of pomp and circumstance for Big Papi (that was probably a headline at some point this eason) it’s been a breakout year for Mookie Betts. The funny thing is that it hasn’t been that big of a surprise, there were a lot of predictions before the season that he was primed to make “The Leap”. Travis Shaw, when he was hear at the Gracie Theatre in January said of Betts “That he has no idea how good he can be.” I think this year we are getting a taste of that. I for one, never saw this kind of power from him, I was perfectly willing to watch him hit for a good average and run the bases with abandon, but 31 home runs? I don’t know if I ever imagined he’d have that kind of power production. And it isn’t just the number of home runs that he’s hit this year, it’s the way he’s hit them in bunches. Two 3-home run games, hitting lead off home runs in back to back games in Baltimore and winning a game in Seattle with a late inning laser that could put the MVP award on his mantle.
Bench- 1st quarter grade B, 2nd quarter grade B-, 3rd quarter grade C, 4th quarter grade B-
A fairly weak area for the team. The Red Sox haven’t been able to find a lot of quality depth. Moncada was looked at as someone who could add at the very least a quality pinch runner when he was called up but he didn’t escape a rough west coast trip and now he’s on his way to the Arizona Fall League. It appears heading into the post season that Marco Hernandez, Aaron Hill and Chris Young are going to be your primary subs. Travis Shaw could also find himself on his list if Brock Holt does get the starting nod at 3rd base as it appears that he is. The most intriguing spot to me is catcher, even with his latest skid, Sandy Leon will be the starter behind the plate, but who will the backup be? We got a brief glimpse of Ryan Hanigan in New York when the Red Sox played their split squad and Holiday has only appeared sparingly as well. Christian Vazquez since his called up has caught a few games recently for Eduardo Rodriquez, which if he is your 3rd starter in the post season might mean that Vazquez could get the spot.
Defense- 1st quarter grade A, 2nd quarter grade A, 3rd quarter grade A, 4th quarter A
I’m never optimistic about Sox players winning gold glove awards. It’s an award that seems to come via subscription service. I mean Derek Jeter won 5 gold glove awards? How is that possible? If you look at the list of winners, someone wins at their position for 2 to 4 years in a row, then someone else snags one and then the perennial choice wins 3 more years in a row. Defense is an area that advance stats is always trying to quantify because this an award voted on by managers and managers assume that because the guy they voted for last year is still playing, he should probably get the award again. That being said, I am very bullish that the Red Sox have 3 gold glovers on this team. Pedroia has won 4 gold gloves, though Altuve won it last year, (Pedroia won 3 out of 4 before that.) There’s no question in my mind that Betts and Bradley Jr. are deserving and will take home their first pieces of gilded gear because I don’t think I’ve ever seen two better defensive outfielders day in and day out. If BOTH guys don’t win, there should be riots on Yawkey Way! (Riots on Yawkey Way, hosted by Dining Playbook and sponsored by Remdawg’s!)
Starting Pitching- 1st quarter grade B-, 2nd quarter grade D+, 3rd quarter grade B+, 4th Quarter Grade A-
Price and Porcello have evolved into a very legitimate 1-2 punch, although one could argue that it’s been a 1-1a punch, but then nobody would know what that means. (There’s no such thing as a 1-1 punch, you can’t throw the first punch twice.) The other 3 sports in the rotation have been a competition for who could be the third starter in the playoffs and it seems that at the same time that nobody wants to grab that brass ring. Pomeranz’s innings total seem to have finally caught up with him at the end of September. Rodriguez and Buchholz have been dueling over the role all month, where whenever one takes a step back, the other one takes two. Buchholz has been the veteran hand to not only the rotation, but the entire pitching staff. When Clay pitches well, you see the glimpses that we’ve seen since his 2007 no-hitter and you remember how far back we go with this guy. Where on pure stuff, Rodriguez stuff can be electric and at worse lacks the command necessary to harness it.
I get the feeling that this team can go as far as their starting rotation can take them in the post season. If the top of the rotation can give them a boost, you have to feel more confident that the offense can make some noise. Also, quality starts from the rotation can organize what has been a chaotic bullpen. Speaking of which…..
Bullpen- 1st quarter grade B+, 2nd quarter grade C-, 3rd quarter grade D-, 4th quarter grade B
This grade might be the most harsh that I’ve given out. In the month of September, the Red Sox bullpen has been the best in baseball. Koji has awoken from his July-August malase, and seems to have rousted Tazawa up too. The reason this grade isn’t an A, is that in the wake of the Sox 11-game winning streak I can’t help but shutter at the images of the 6 games since the streak was snapped; Kimbrel and Kelly combining to blow a 3-0 lead in the Bronx, Kimbrel giving up the go ahead run Saturday night vs Toronto and Ziegler losing hold on Sunday against the Blue Jays. My rule is always, when your bullpen is a roller coaster all season, it’ll only be magnified in the playoffs.
Manager- 1st quarter grade A-, 2nd quarter grade C, 3rd quarter grade C-, 4th quarter grade B
It’s tough to see this kind of deviation between the grades of the manager. Farrell has had a very solid quarter, but it’s been hard to determine what can be credited to the skipper and what can be attributed to player performance. The biggest tell this season has been the handling of the pitching staff as a whole. The bullpen had a good month which could be attributed to how the manager used them, or it could be because the starters went deeper into games and made a lot of late game decisions “idiot proof.” The latest managerial idiosyncrasy that has surfaced is Farrell’s attention to the pitch count, with particular care to the number 100. One need look no further than last Tuesday night in New York when David Price had been largely ineffective through 6 innings giving up 4 runs (all of home runs) on 10 hits, but had only thrown 72 pitches. Farrell brought him back out for the 7th inning in a tie game at which time Price promptly gave up a two run homer. Where it was surprising that Price’s pitch count was so low, the eye test said that he didn’t need to come back out for another inning. The numbers haven’t always been the best barometer for this particular Red Sox team whether it be pitch count or run differential. The eye test seems a much more accurate examination and with the playoffs looming, it’s time to go to school.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree) is a Co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow The Drive on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.