It is hard to believe that we are just about at the quarter pole of this 2016 season. Without any further ado and because your parents never bought any excuses as to why you didn’t have your report card, I give you my Red Sox 1st Quarter Report Card.
What can you say about the way this team has swung the bat? Leading the league in: runs, hits, doubles, total bases, RBI, AVG., SLG., OBP and OPS. Bogaerts, Bradley Jr, Shaw and Ortiz are all in the top 10 in the league in batting average. If this were school, then the Red Sox aced their 1st quarter mid-term exams by scoring 51 runs over 4 games vs Oakland and Houston.
Chris Young has started hitting with increased playing time versus left-handed pitching and Josh Rutledge has been pretty capable as the infield super sub now that Brock Holt is getting regular reps in left field. Ryan Hanigan has proven he can be a solid backup catcher, but hasn’t regained the offensive form that he showed last season before his concussion.
The Red Sox are tied for 2nd in all of baseball in errors with 14 and tied for 2nd with a .929 fielding percentage. Of all areas of this team, I think the most unrelenting strength of this club is the defense. I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch to say that the everyday lineup could have 5 gold glove winners. (Pedroia, Bogaerts, Betts, Bradley, Jr and Vazquez. Thought probably not all this season.) The addition of Christian Vazquez behind the plate seems to have done wonders for the defense and the pitching staff. The team was 4-4 before Vazquez was called up and 18-9 since his promotion.
Starting Pitching- B-
This is the area with the most volatility going forward. Steven Wright and Rick Porcello have been outstanding while Buchholz and Price have been both part-time brilliant and full-time frustrating. Price is 5-1 and is striking out his fair share but nobody expected him to start May with the worst ERA in the American League. The 5th spot has been a total mystery since Joe Kelly left his 3rd start of the year. Former top pitching prospect Henry Owens worked with the tempo of Clay Buchholz and the aggression of Dice-K. Sean O’Sullivan threw a workman enough start in his first outing, at least it looked workmanlike mostly due to the fact that the Sox scored a bundle of runs for him. Say, whatever happened to Brandon Workman??? The good news is that Kelly seems to be close to making his return, even though he hasn’t been overly sharp in rehab starts. Eduardo Rodriguez’s injury is taking a lot longer to come back from than I think anybody imagined when it was first reported that he wouldn’t be ready for opening day. The next quarter is going to be pivotal for the prospects of his season.
This is a case where the numbers don’t really tell the story of the Red Sox bullpen. They’re 6th in the AL in ERA (3.42) and 5th in BAA (.224), but they’re 2nd in strike outs. Kimbrel after a couple of rough outings seems to have settled in (especially after Farrell stopped bringing him into non-save situations) which has solidified Tazawa and Uehara’s roles. It seems that Carson Smith has been the most talked about member of this bullpen. During the early bullpen struggles, strains of “Wait until Smith gets healthy” was heard more than “I can’t believe Trump is going to get the nomination.” I think they’re going to need a dependable lefty, Ross has been used as a mop up guy and Layne has been used very sparingly so far.
The Manager- A-
John Farrell started the season on the hot seat, but made a couple of tough decisions. 1. That he would platoon Holt and Young in left field while benching Rusney Castillo. 2. That he would start Travis Shaw at third base while benching Pablo Sandoval. Both moves have earned huge dividends thus far, with Holt looking like he’s been playing balls of the Green Monster for a decade while Travis Shaw is batting .320 and was unanimously elected “Mayor of Ding Dong City.” (Where I am considered a Super Delegate by the way.) Farrell has juggled the line up well and has found good times to get guys nights off. My biggest critique of Farrell so far was his use of the bullpen early when it looked like he was going to burn through Kimbrel, Taz and Koji by the All-Star break, but even in this area he has found his groove. It’s hard for a manager to turn the tides once they’re against you, but after this first grading period, it seems that John Farrell has done just that.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive weekdays on 92.9fm The Ticket. Follow The Drive on Twitter @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine. Stream The Drive live at 929TheTicket.com.