Red Sox Second Half Preview

Jul 10, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (25) reacts with designated hitter David Ortiz (34) after hitting a two run home run during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (25) reacts with designated hitter David Ortiz (34) after hitting a two run home run during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

The Red Sox are a contending team going into the second half of the season. Will they remain so as they enter the final stretch?

This year’s All-Star Game has come and gone. Baseball’s biggest stars have said their goodbyes to San Diego and second half of the 2016 season is about to begin. With the road to the playoffs about to heat up, will the Boston Red Sox be able to finish on top? Or will this just be another season to eventually end in disappointment?

Boston entered the All-Star break with a 49-38 record. They currently sit tied for second place with the Toronto Blue Jays, and are two games behind the division leading Baltimore Orioles. The team is drastically better off than where they were a year ago at this point. Last season, the Sox entered the break with a dismal 42-47 record and in last place in the division. Things have definitely changed for the better.

The big question, however, is where will they go from here? The Red Sox have a chance to compete in David Ortiz’s monumental final season and are going to do everything they possibly can to make that happen. To finish the season on top, it is going to take a whole lot of talent and determination, as well as a good amount of luck. The luck factor plays in on two fronts: injuries and schedule.

As far as injuries go, the Red Sox have been rather unlucky in that area recently. Learning that Carson Smith would be out for the year was one thing, but the fact that Craig Kimbrel is now going to be out for somewhere between 3-6 weeks is really going to put stress on the bullpen for the next month or so. Bringing in Arizona’s Brad Ziegler was a nice addition, but the unreliability of the current bullpen remains a question. Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa both tend to be hit or miss. Matt Barnes and Robbie Ross, Jr. are not names you really want in high leverage situations. So watching the bullpen going forward will be interesting, but the prediction here is that it will continue to be unreliable until Kimbrel’s return.

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While Kimbrel’s injury will likely have the biggest effect on the team going forward, other injuries that have taken their toll on the Red Sox have been those of left fielders, Chris Young and Blake Swihart. Left field has seemed like a revolving door for the Sox all season. Every time a player steps in to fill the role, they find a way to get hurt. The prediction for left field going forward however, is that it will be somewhat stabilized. With the solid additions Dave Dombrowski has brought to fill the bench this month, along with the fact that Brock Holt should be available to play most days, it should give the team a somewhat consistent level of production at the position.

Finally there is the injury to pitcher, Sean O’Sullivan. This may seem minor but it does greatly impact the starting rotation in the immediate future. Without O’Sullivan to fill the 5th starter spot, it means that Eduardo Rodriguez will once again be moving back into the starting rotation. O’Sullivan was by no means a good starter, but the Red Sox still would manage to win with him on the mound. Rodriguez however, just has not seemed like himself since returning from injury. He will probably return to form at some point, but this just does not seem like it is his year.

Drew Pomeranz is a nice addition to the staff, but the Red Sox could still use one more arm. The prediction here is that the back end of the starting rotation will continue to be a black hole for the rest of July, until the Red Sox trade for a reliable starter near the deadline.

Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

With the current injuries out of the way, all that’s left to look at is the schedule for the second half. The remainder of July is going to be a time where Boston must be able to dominate. Before the month is out, they will face several mediocre-to-bad teams such as the Yankees, Twins, and Angels. Those are all series that the Red Sox have no reason to lose.

August get’s a little tougher with much of the month being spent on the road. The plus side is that the Sox will continue to play only mediocre teams throughout the majority of the month. A series against the Dodgers appears to be the only one to really cause the team much trouble. The rest of the month is highlighted by teams such as the Rays, Diamondbacks, Tigers, Mariners, and Yankees.

September will most likely be the toughest and most important month the Red Sox have left. Within the final month of the season alone, Boston will play 21 games within its own division. Unless the Red Sox, completely blow away the competition during the remainder of the summer, September is going to be the time for them to make it or break it. With multiple series against Baltimore and Toronto, Boston is most likely going to have to come out of September with a winning record for the month if they want to end the season atop the AL East.

Next: Was Pomeranz trade a mistake?

All in all, the second half is looking bright for Boston. Injuries may be a factor for a while, but should stabilize soon if all goes well, and the upcoming schedule appears to be easier than not. There is a great deal to be hopeful about for Red Sox nation in the second half, and it is certainly going to be interesting to watch play out.