A Red Sox first-half look at strengths and weaknesses
The 2021 Boston Red Sox team has stunned, shocked, baffled, and surprised me. There is absolutely no way I expected this team to be in serious contention, but here they are at the halfway point in first place. The team has strengths and weaknesses, as all teams do. Now a look at some of my personal observations.
The lack of team speed is noted and is a weakness. When a 230-pound catcher leads the team in steals with seven you know an SB is not much of an offensive weapon. This is symptomatic of the lineup lacking a burner in the mold of Jacoby Ellsbury. A player who sets the defense in motion and psychologically wears at a pitcher just being on first base.
Conversely, a baserunning strength does exist. This is a team that takes a risk factor in pressuring the defense when on the bases. Rafael Devers scoring on a sac fly popup. The same applies to taking the extra base on a hit. I like that this team challenges the defense to make mistakes. Yes, at times it will be a bonehead play, but that mentality sits in the brainpan of the defense. You sleep and these guys take advantage.
The number to note is .632. That is the road winning percentage. The home record has improved substantially as the season has progressed and is well above the .500 mark. A balanced team will accomplish this. A sure strength is that factor and winning within your division. This Red Sox team has accomplished that.
Remember that baseball phrase “June Swoon” where a team starts to fold? Not this one. Strength has been the month-to-month consistency. Toss in the ability to win one-run games and we have that sweet smell of success.
The rotation is an obvious weakness. The latest social media casualty is Garrett Richards who was being targeted for the scaffold against the Royals. Like the other starters, Richards suddenly got his pitching mojo back and went five. The description of nothing is more consistent than inconsistency applies to this rotation.
Mention of the Royals harkens back to their last championship when the rotation was a train wreck and the bullpen magical. I can see a similarity with Boston’s rotation – bullpen situation this season. The bullpen is a most obvious strength and for me, an enjoyable diet of eating crow. I had Josh Taylor, Adam Ottavino, and Matt Barnes on my you know what list. Now? Alex Cora has several who can slip into high leverage situations without my needing a portable defibrillator.
Pitching is the most important part of the defense, but the second part is an abomination and that is catching that little white sphere. I will squeeze out a positive from this defense in that the errors are primarily physical and not mental. This defense is a sure candidate for a Gold Gove Weakness Award.
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Top of the order is a continual dog and pony show. Many have tried and they have all failed. Miserable OBP, lack of speed, terrible batting averages, and on and on. The only one that even comes close to a warm and fuzzy feeling is Christian Arroyo who needs body armor when he hits. Arroyo gets nicks and dents faster than a Rent-a-Wreck rental. Somehow the team has survived the revolving door at the first spot. It’s possible Jarren Duran will be released from WooSox house arrest and brought in as a cure. Just my opinion is that Duran could flip that weakness.
This is a very dysfunctional lineup. The core players are solid and have carried quite an offensive burden. Is there some baseball God we can thank for Hunter Renfroe? Meanwhile, the lineup contains some real dead weight. As long as you win Cora can trot out Marwin Gonzalez, Bobby Dalbec, Danny Santana, and Michael Chavis. Like the proverbial blind squirrel, it appears each finds a nut at least once a game.
A friend says that bias makes you stupid and I do have a bias with Cora. That revolves around actions that are quite plainly known as cheating. That said, Cora has done a terrific job of managing this crew. Players have apparently embraced Cora’s mix and match strategy. Pitchers are given enough rope to work their way out of jam city or get smoked. Cora’s game management is solid. The clubhouse situation resembles 26 Gandhi’s wishing good vibes to one and all.
Chaim Bloom has certainly been a positive strength. Last season Bloom’s hirelings were a dismal failure. Phillips Valdez was the only one that had any traction and now he is gone to Worcester. This season there have been some hits and misses – just think Franchy Cordero, but overall the outlook is positive. No stripping of the farm system and they have remained under budget while winning. This is not a bridge year.
Real strength is now Fenway Park. On a recent ballgame I attended against the Yankees (6/26) the place was as raucous as any game I have seen. And the beauty was despite a large number of Yankee fans in attendance there were no discernible incidents. Players feed off of that.