Red Sox: Boston must fix their defense before it ends their season
Defensive woes continue for the Red Sox.
After losing their weekend series against the Chicago White Sox, the Boston Red Sox are currently tied for an American League Wild Card spot with the red hot Toronto Blue Jays. While COVID-19 has hurt the starting lineup in recent weeks, they have been able to stay afloat in the highly competitive Wild Card race. However, if they really want to make a statement this October, they will have to improve upon their lackluster defensive performance.
The Red Sox have 98 errors so far, the second-highest in the league, and a fielding percentage of .981, the second-worst in the league. A look at advanced defensive metrics doesn’t help the Sox’s case either. This season, they have the worst defensive efficiency, measured as the percentage of balls in play that becomes an out, in baseball at .658.
While there have been many games this season that help support just how poor the Red Sox defense is, one, in particular, is worth calling out. Their 10-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on August 21st was one of the sloppiest performances of the year. Facing one of the worst offenses in baseball, the Red Sox committed five errors, the most in a game since 2017, and allowed the Rangers 17 hits, the most they have had this season.
Although Red Sox manager Alex Cora was extremely vocal following the game, calling the performance “embarrassing” and “not acceptable,” there hasn’t been a substantial improvement in their defense as we enter that last few weeks of the regular season.
When it comes to analyzing the team’s individual defensive performances, it is fair, to begin with, Rafael Devers. While the third baseman is clearly one of the best hitters in baseball, it is no secret that he has consistently been a defensive liability at the hot corner.
His fielding error at third base during last Saturday’s contest against the White Sox was his 20th of the season. He leads all third basemen in errors committed and is tied for fifth out of all big-league players. In addition, Devers has a career DRS of -33 runs, the worst out of all third basemen from 2017 – 2021. DRS stands for defensive runs saved and measures how well players are above or below average on defense. His 2021 DRS of -8 runs, meaning he is 8 runs worse than the average third baseman, is tied for the third-worst out of all third basemen this season.
It’s not just Devers either. Despite outfielder Hunter Renfroe’s amazing throwing arm, he still leads all outfielders in errors committed with 9. First baseman Bobby Dalbec’s bat has been hot since August however, on the defensive side he has committed 11 errors and has a season DRS of -6 runs, ranking the second worst out of all first basemen in both categories.
With the addition of Kyle Schwarber sharing time at designated hitter, an outfield of J.D. Martinez, Renfroe, and Alex Verdugo (with Jarren Duran likely playing as well) won’t solve any of the team’s defensive issues. There is not really a spot for Devers to play designated hitter unless Triston Casas or Dalbec plays third base. Even with that scenario, I wouldn’t trust that would really solve the problem.
The only bright spot on the defense this season has been Kiké Hernández. Primarily playing center field and second base this season, Hernández provides a Gold Glove level of fielding to this otherwise struggling defense organization. He leads the team in DRS with 10 runs as an outfielder. His return from the COVID-19 injured list last week will hopefully provide him enough time to warm up before October.
I remain confident that the Red Sox have the ability to make and progress in this year’s post-season battle. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if key defensive mistakes cost the team from achieving their October goals. Regardless of how the season ends, it’s crucial that the Red Sox prioritize fielding and defensive ability come this off-season.