One of the biggest storylines this past offseason was who in the Red Sox lineup would step up in the absence of David Ortiz. Would it be Hanley Ramirez now that he could slide into the DH role? How about Mookie Betts, coming off the heels of his 2016 campaign that saw him finish runner-up to Mike Trout in the AL MVP race? Well, unfortunately, neither of them – nor anyone else – put together anything resembling a standout offensive performance.
This year the Red Sox relied on aggressive base running, doubles, and stolen bases to put runs on the board. It was the first time in recent memory the team took more of a small-ball approach to scoring as opposed to waiting for the three-run home run. Without any player on the roster hitting 25+ home runs, in what equated to the year of the home run across the league, that the Red Sox still managed to win 93 games, the AL East, and stay in the top half of the league in terms of offense is quite the accomplishment.
For what this group lacked in home runs and slugging, ranking both 27th and 26th out of 30 teams in each category, they made up for in bases stolen, OBP, and doubles, coming in at 6th, 12th, and 7th in those respective categories. While they scored runs in a manner far different than the other three teams left in the American League playoff picture, the fact that this group went 22-19 in one-run games and 15-3 in extra-innings contests proves they can put together runs at the most crucial times.
It may be unconventional in this newfound era of long ball dominance to count on doubles, steals, and savvy base running to push your way through October, but it’s worked for these Red Sox so far. With this new small ball identity they’ve crafted for their offense, we shouldn’t be so quick to count them out yet.