Boston Red Sox are approaching panic button time
By Rick McNair
Can you panic with only 40 games played? The Boston Red Sox are showing some signs that this may be a season on the brink of failure.
The fortuitous 17-2 beginning romp to the 2018 season created a myth of invincibility that has now collapsed under the strain of injuries, questionable performances, and opposition that takes the Red Sox seriously.
The Red Sox have now become a .500 team since the surge. Is that the real Red Sox? The 17-2 is not the real Red Sox nor would it be real for any team. This current team is certainly not fodder for the cellar. They should win another 93 games in their sleep and based on the baserunning of late may actually be playing in their sleep.
The engine that drives the beast is pitching and that is where success and failure will reside. Chris Sale continues to amazing despite being the designated fall guy for selected offensive ineptness. The rest of the rotation is a giant question mark and will be for the balance of the season. David Price and Rick Porcello are competent starters whose ace status is no longer valid. Eduardo Rodriguez may be just a wishful thought regarding his elevation within the rotation. And Drew Pomeranz? I will welcome his departure via free agency. But I have minimal worries regarding the rotation.
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The Red Sox starters will accumulate productive innings. At times it may not be pretty, will frustrate, issue too many walks, but collectively I expect them to be among the best in the American League. Nor do I discount the potential contributions of Steven Wright and Hector Velazquez. Of course, all can dramatically change with a sudden damaged elbow or two or even three. The bullpen is the pitching concern.
In the world of senior management, the bullpen is of no concern as filtered down from Dave Dombrowski sitting in perch as president of baseball operations or some other nonsensical moniker. Yes, Mr. Dombrowski, the bullpen is of concern. The bullpen is tattered and the only reason metrics seem somewhat positive is that others are far worse.
Dombrowski does have a few trading chips, most notably the unproductive Jackie Bradley and possibly even Sam Travis at Pawtucket. The Red Sox will eventually pay a high price based on market conditions and need. Expect other GMs to take full advantage of the dire circumstances the Red Sox will face as the schedule moves forward.
The pitching is one issue and the offense is another. The addition of J.D. Martinez is a resounding success so far. Martinez is delivering as promised and his hitting leadership is reverberating throughout most of the lineup. And most is being a keyword in any offensive assessment.
The regression of Christian Vazquez is noted and apparently, Vazquez has returned to his good field/no hit status that existed before his .290 of 2017. Vazquez and catching partner Sandy Leon provide no substance in the lower part of the order. They are joined by Bradley who will need a Joe DiMaggio like streak to get back to .250. The team is simply giving up outs.
That is the purely negative and fortunately it is outweighed by the positive. The youthful triumvirate of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts are providing some splash. Rafael Devers‘ fielding may not be stellar and his batting average a bit shaky, but the kid produces runs. The return of Dustin Pedroia can add some valuable defense and more timely hitting. No, the offense is not perfect, but it is solid.
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To answer the original premise regarding panic. With Red Sox fans panic can be a single at bat let alone a losing streak. The key will as invariably it is – pitching. The Red Sox have enough right at this time for me to feel comfortable projecting another winning season and a visit to the playoffs. And that visit is where my optimism screeches to a halt. This team is good enough to win in the regular, but not the postseason.