Is it a false assumption expecting the Red Sox bats to carry the day?
The offseason focus should be pitching as the primary concern. In the 2020 season, the Boston Red Sox completed their trek to last place with a staff -0.2 fWAR, the worst in the American League. There was no redemption either in the bullpen or the rotation but the promise is in the air. Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to return and Chris Sale will not be far behind. Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, and Nathan Eovaldi all gave a glimmer of better days ahead.
Is the offense being neglected? Are certain assumptions – as with pitching – clouding our view of another potential pratfall in 2021? The Red Sox always hit – that is what they do. Bats seem to surface to pacify the damage done by the moundsmen. The rarity is a season when the bats slumber or go into a collective funk. I have concerns. Blame it on lingering issues with the Fellowship of the Miserable.
In 2020, the Red Sox produced 292 runs and the Yankees a league-best 315. Not too shabby considering J.D. Martinez placed his bat in hibernation. And that may be the key for 2021 as the assumption is a Martinez recovery. Just an anomaly for the prodigious slugger. But what if it was a painful look into the future? Careers suddenly can evaporate and Martinez’s would just be another expensive footnote in team history. In 2020 a -1.0 fWAR is embarrassing. I would lay wagers on a rebound.
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The Red Sox have run producers led by the left side of the infield. The Rockies may have Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado – both supposedly on the trading block. Boston can counter with Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. Any respectable Red Sox fan would take “our guys” to demonstrate local provincialism. But is more is needed?
There are mysteries afoot in the lineup with the foremost being Andrew Benintendi after Martinez. If 2019 showed slippage for Benintendi then 2020 was the Marianas Trench. How can such a sweet swing suddenly go bonkers? A few years back arguably one of the best outfields has suddenly become a potential issue.
The Red Sox outfield is missing (so far) Jackie Bradley Jr. who had one of his more proficient seasons. The acrobatic fielder with the cannon arm hit a career-best .283. An illusion or is the .225 the previous season the real Bradley? I select somewhere between the two. But if Bradley departs or Benintendi flounders we have Hunter Renfroe. Hopefully, his career average will substantially improve over .228.
The Red Sox have Alex Verdugo and he may not be the facsimile of Mookie Betts. That said, the lefty proved his value with a steady bat. Verdugo has mashed lefty pitching with gusto in his short career. A positive trait. Missing, however, is “The Bat” as in even a Jason Bay. Oh, please, let J.D. figures it out.
Just what will happen to Michael Chavis? The slugger hits tape-measure home runs, but a full slate of games and Chavis could lead the league in whiffs. The 2020 version was Bobby Dalbec. Dalbec slugged to a 152 wRC+ and a 42.4 K%. A lot of holes were found to register that number. Even Chavis checked in at “only” 31.6 K%. If Chavis continues to slumber instead of lumber a lineup hole exists. If Dalbec is a mirage the hole becomes cavernous.
The infield is missing something at second base. Many have come only to sulk away after failing to nail down a job. The position is one with a plethora of candidates and one may actually surface to provide security to the position. Otherwise, another potential gap in the offense.
The Red Sox offense gives to me the appearance of being unbalanced. The offense is in the bats of a select few and not the expected top to bottom dynamism. We are spoiled somewhat. No Bill Mueller in the lower part of the order. No linchpin like David Ortiz.
The Red Sox will produce runs, but far too much is dependent upon Martinez and a subtext of Chavis, Dalbec, and even Devers picking it up a notch or two. This is and will especially be noticeable if the pitching falters significantly. I may be all Mr. Negative but I am all with a great philosopher on this. Luke Skywalker stated, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Too many good things have to fall into place.