Let’s start off by saying that the Boston Red Sox have 73 wins, which ties them for the fourth most wins in the MLB this season. They also have the top starting pitcher in MLB with Chris Sale, and arguably the best closer in the MLB with Craig Kimbrel. Overall their pitching is 3rd in the MLB with 20.6 fWAR, and is looking great Where it starts looking troubling for the Red Sox is their offense, with just a 93 wRC+, 18th overall.
It gets even worse if you take out Boston’s newest additions Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers; They would not have a single player with over a 110 wRC+ and at least 100 PA.
Red Sox Bats Not Meeting Expectations
While looking at Red Sox pitching, there is a lot to like. Obviously, Chris Sale is the best pitcher in MLB this season, but Drew Pomeranz has done very well this season with a 3.18 ERA and 3.62 FIP in 136 IP. While David Price is not pitching like a former Cy Young winner, he and Eduardo Rodriguez are putting up more than acceptable mid-rotation numbers themselves. Rick Porcello has put up a terrible follow-up season to his 2016 Cy Young campaign, but a very good bullpen has done well to make up for some of that.
The problem, as mentioned at the start, has been the on the offensive side. Of any Red Sox player with more than 200 PA, meaning guys who have been here all year, not a single player stands out. Dustin Pedroia leads the pack with a 107 wRC+, then you get a 103, 102, 102, and 100 from Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Mitch Moreland respectively. From there on down you have a 95 wRC+ from Hanley Ramirez, 94 from Xander Boegarts, 92 from Chris Young, 86 from Christian Vasquez, and 73 from Sandy Leon.
2016 to 2017
After a tremendous 2016 season with their bats, the expectations in Boston were very high. In 2016 you had a 135 wRC+ season from Betts, 127 from Hanley, 125 from Young, 123 from Leon, 120 from Pedroia, 120 from Benintendi, 118 from Bradley Jr, and 113 from Boegarts. All of them at the very least were above average, with some being very good. Below are the comparisons from last season to this:
Player – 2016 wRC+/2017 wRC+
Betts – 135 wRC+/102 wRC+
Hanley – 127 wRC+/95 wRC+
Boegarts – 113 wRC+/92 wRC+
Bradley Jr. – 118 wRC+/102 wRC+
Benintendi – 120 wRC+/103 wRC+
Pedroia – 120 wRC+/107 wRC+
Young – 125 wRC+/86 wRC+
Leon – 123 wRC+/73 wRC+
Not a single one of these guys is coming close to what they did last season with the bat, and it’s what is holding the Red Sox back from being at the level of the Dodgers or Astros.
Core of the Red Sox Lineup
The biggest difference from the Red Sox lineup from this year to last has got to be losing David Ortiz from the lineup once he retired. This took away a 163 wRC+ bat from the middle of the lineup without a star to replace him with. What the team needed with the departure of Ortiz was their young players like Mookie Betts, Xander Boegarts, Jackie Bradley Jr and Andrew Benintendi to step up and fill the void.
The good news for them is that rookie Rafael Devers has plugged the massive hole the Red Sox have faced at 3B the last few seasons with a 137 wRC+ in 28 games, but the rest of the young players have regressed since last season. None of Betts, Boegarts, Bradley Jr, or Benintendi have stepped up this season. In fact, they’ve done worse as time has gone on.
Second Half Struggles
In the first half, Boston was higher up in the middle of the pack sitting tied for 11th with a 97 wRC+. In the second half, the situation looks dire down at 28th with just an 84 wRC+ as a team. While there have been some signs of life in the second half, with Devers, Nunez, Vasquez, and Pedroia all doing well with the bat, everyone else has been terrible.
Benintendi – .262/.343/.416 97 wRC+
Betts – .250/.323/.335 70 wRC+
Bradley Jr – .227/.304/.318 64 wRC+
Boegarts – .221/.292/.329 60 wRC+
The guys that are supposed to be the core of this offense have been average at best with their bats this season, but in the second half have been complete no-shows. Despite more than half of the lineup being a near-automatic out each time up, the Red Sox are still five games over .500 since the All-Star break, however. They are doing a good job of keeping their head above water, but if these struggles continue past September and into October, the fans in Boston should be very worried.