When you think of the all-time great Boston Red Sox, there are many players that come to mind. The organization has been blessed with an absurd amount of legends in its long history, from Ted Williams, to Carl Yastrzemski, to Carlton Fisk, to David Ortiz, and countless more. While all those legends are separated by decades, there is one thing that most of them share in common. Outside of Pedro Martinez, the best Sox players were always hitters. Looking at 2018, that probably won’t be the case. The Red Sox are trying something new this season – and that’s ok.
The Red Sox Are Trying Something New
It may not look like the normal Red Sox team, but there should be a lot of dancing this season
Image credit: SI.com
Historically, the Red Sox have never made acquiring top pitchers their main priority. Of course, they’ve never turned down signing a good pitcher if one fell into their lap, but generally speaking the organization has always put the focus on getting the best bat instead of the best arm. In 2016, the Red Sox took a turn from history and put more of the focus on pitching. With Ortiz retiring, they knew there would need to be a change in organizational philosophy.
With Ortiz’ departure imminent, the Sox went all in on pitching. Within two years, the Sox had remade their starting rotation. Boston added Chris Sale, David Price, and Drew Pomeranz to join Eddie Rodriguez and Rick Porcello. Additionally, the bullpen has added a series of hard throwing late inning arms to replace the likes of Jean Machi and the corpse of Junichi Tazawa.
Despite winning 93 games and the division title, the Red Sox 2017 season didn’t go as planned. Overall, the pitching held up its end of the bargain, but the offense lacked pop due to the absence of Ortiz along with some regression from the young core. Meanwhile, the Yankees young core had spent all of 2017 destroying baseballs, coming one game shy of the World Series.
Red Sox Nation freaked when the Yankees acquired NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The most power happy offense had added the best power hitter from the 2017 season. With all that firepower, there’s no way to think that the Red Sox can produce an offense that could match the Yankees. They can’t, but that’s fine. The Red Sox aren’t trying to, and they shouldn’t.
Where the Red Sox Stand Now
Adding J.D. Martinez would help Boston, but it’s not going to make or break the season. With or without him, Boston will not be able to match the Yankees lineup bat for bat. That’s where the pitching staff comes in. The Sox have a rotation led by two true aces in Chris Sale and David Price. Drew Pomeranz put together a great season last year, and Alex Cora should be the fix that lets Eddie Rodriguez make the leap. Rick Porcello is just one year removed from a Cy Young and will probably be better this year than last.
The bullpen is looking great too. The Sox should look to add another late inning arm, but the bullpen still figures to be a big strength. Craig Kimbrel was the best closer in baseball last year, and Carson Smith looked good in a small sample size. Tyler Thornberg still exists and will be pitching at some point. Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes should never be the top arms in the bullpen, but they’re great depth to have.
The Winning Strategy
Chris Sale’s arm will play a big role in this teams success
Image credit: NESN.com
The pitching will be enough to keep games close, so the offense doesn’t need to be a juggernaut to win games. Let’s assume the worst case scenario that Martinez doesn’t sign and nobody else is brought in. There would be a relative lack of power, but the Sox would still be in good shape.
Mookie Betts is an annual MVP candidate and will almost certainly be better in 2018 than 2017. Jackie Bradley Jr is streaky, but when he’s hot, he’s nearly unstoppable. Xander Bogaerts won’t ever hit 30 home runs, but he’s got amazing hands and is one of the best at making solid contact and getting on base. His innate ability to get on base and hit to all areas of the park makes him a great fit for the lead-off or second spot. On top of that, his annual second half slump could be a thing of the past now that the Sox have a manager that actually knows when a player needs a rest day.
Expect this guy to become a household name before long
Image credit: Boston Globe
The established players should bounce back, but the younger players should add a kick of their own too. Andrew Benintendi played incredibly well for a rookie, but he did have his ups and downs. With a full year of the majors under his belt, he should continue his upward trajectory and could even push for the MVP if everything breaks right.
Third baseman Rafael Devers had a steep learning curve in 2017 and played incredibly well. Devers was promoted to the majors after just a week in Triple A after spending the first half of the season in AA ball. Somehow, the jump from AA pitching to major league didn’t affect him. Devers was one of the best power hitters on the team last year, and was responsible for some of the best moments of the season. His defense needs work, but his bat and athleticism have unreal potential.
All in all, this shapes up to be a good offense without accounting for Martinez or another power bat. It’s certainly an offense that’s good enough to compete with a good pitching staff to compliment it. When paired with a great pitching staff, it’s downright scary. It’s not a lineup that looks like a typical Red Sox lineup. It’s something new, but it’s something that should lead to serious World Series contention.
Cover image courtesy of Boston.com.