The rookie Red Sox manager has done things his way, but is it detrimental to the lineup moving forward?
Rookie manager Alex Cora will have a plethora of decisions to make throughout the season.
And there will be opportunities to praise or criticize all of them.
There’s not much room for criticizism when it comes to Cora’s rest strategy after a 5-1 start to the season for the Red Sox.
Well, other than the ongoing horrific base running.
But one interesting strategy Cora has implemented for the Red Sox is rest — early and often.
Starting pitchers have been on a very tight leash, which was evident when David Price was yanked after seven innings while only throwing a mere 76 pitches.
Cora also isn’t afraid to take some of the best bats out of the lineup in order to keep players fresh. Through six games, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr. and even prized free agent J.D. Martinez have all sat.
Not counting tonight’s game, the Red Sox are currently 16th in the majors in team average. Boston is also tied for 19th in RBI and tied for 14th in HR. However, the Red Sox are only one dinger above 22nd, and the one HR difference is a result of an inside-the-park by Eduardo Nunez. If not for poor fielding by the Rays’ outfield, the Red Sox would be at 22nd.
Without ripping Cora’s strategy through a small sample size of six games, one has to question the high volume of rest moving forward.
The Red Sox have won three/four one-run games thus far. While winning close games is important, it’s not a lifestyle the Red Sox want to depend on. No one can argue with victory, but the glaring troubles the lineup has had thus far is worrisome. The Rays and Marlins are borderline Triple-A ball clubs, and the Red Sox have struggled to produce offense.
Which begs the question: Should Cora be sitting players so early in the season, especially when the lineup hasn’t produced?
Regardless of Tuesday night’s victory, one run through nine innings against Miami is underwhelming. The Red Sox certainly could’ve used Betts’ bat. Sitting a team’s star bat (Betts) after he hit a home run last night, seems a bit head-scratching. In the end, Cora pinch hit Betts anyways, so what was the point of not starting him in the first place?
Despite the team’s 7-3 victory last night, sitting Martinez after he showed signs of life the last two games against Tampa Bay seems odd too.
Betts and Martinez are arguably the two best hitters in the lineup and should rarely be sat — even if the Red Sox lose the DH spot against NL competition.
While Benintendi and Devers have both had slow starts to the season, sitting them is understandable but not shrewd. These young players need to work through slumps and continue to grow, especially when they’re a vital part of Boston’s future.
If star players struggle mid season, sitting them is fine.
But through six games?
The early sample size isn’t necessarily the permanent strategy for this season, so Cora deserves the benefit of the doubt. Judgment should be reserved until the season further progresses. The offensive struggles shouldn’t be completely pinned on Cora.
However, if Cora proceeds to sit stars for rest in the midst of an offensive struggle, these victories against inferior teams could pile into defeats against respectable competition.