By: Jake Perda
Coming into the 2017 season, this Red Sox team was supposed to be among the best in baseball. After winning 93 games on their way to an American League East title, it seemed as though they more than made up for the loss of David Ortiz by acquiring Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, and Mitch Moreland. As we now know, injuries to Brock Holt, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Hernandez, Hanley Ramirez, David Price, Steven Wright, and Tyler Thornburg along with the continuation of the Carson Smith saga have put the Red Sox in a tough situation in which they have been forced to thrust sub-par players such as Deven Marrero and Hector Velazquez into starting roles. While I may seem stupid for complaining about a team sitting one game above .500, it’s been beyond frustrating to watch a team built to win now struggle to do so. This begs the questions, is this team actually worth watching?
Obviously as a die-hard fan, I’m going to watch every game that I possibly can. But what about the casual fans? The ones who decided to tag along in September of 2016 when the team really started to heat up. The ones who only watch when the team wins because they find watching the win dance more entertaining than the actual game. What’s going to keep them watching?
Well, Chris Sale will get them to watch once every 5 games. From the beginning of the season to now, Sale has been the only player, with the exception of Craig Kimbrel, that has yet to underperform at any point. Sale has struck out 95 batters in 65 ⅔ innings this season. If you do the math, that’s a K/9 of 13.00. That’s what you’d expect from an elite major league relief pitcher, so the fact that Sale has been able to do this as a starter while still going deep into games is beyond impressive. On Wednesday night, he will be attempting to break a record that he already shares with Pedro Martinez by striking out 10+ batters for the 9th consecutive start. I can assure you that even the most disinterested Red Sox fans will be tuning in to watch that one.
Outside of Chris Sale, it has become increasingly difficult to find reasons to watch this team. Sure, Eduardo Rodriguez has been having a great year. He’s made a ton of progress over the last 10 months, and I’ve found it really fun to watch. But is 6 innings of 2 earned runs really going to wow anyone? No. On the bright side, the Sox are 6-2 in games that E-Rod starts. So even if he isn’t getting recognition for it now, he’s been keeping the Red Sox in games. If the offense can finally start clicking at some point in the near future, Rodriguez could start looking a lot like Rick Porcello did last year when it was an automatic win nearly every time he took the ball.
On the offensive side of things, there has not been a ton to get excited about. All season long it’s been a frustrating cycle in which they either hit the crap of the ball and rack up a bunch of runs, or they can’t hit to save their lives regardless of who is on the mound for the other team. Xander Bogaerts is the only player hitting above .290; however, even with a .320 average, his OPS is below .800. Mookie Betts has been heating up as the season progresses, but it would’ve been ideal if he could’ve produced like this when he was in the 3-hole instead of doing it out of the leadoff spot. It’s honestly hard to tell if Mitch Moreland is getting hot again or if he just really likes Oakland. Going into the Oakland series, Moreland was 3 for his last 25 with just one extra base hit, whereas during the Oakland series, he went 3-13 with 3 home runs. The consistency still isn’t there, but at least the power seems to be coming back.
I’m really having a hard time understanding what’s going on with Andrew Benintendi. Although Benny has hit .211 in the month of May, he has still managed to maintain an On Base Percentage of .310 during that span. Despite the fact that he’s in the worst slump of his Major League career, he is still getting on base. I find that very encouraging.
Back to my original point, is this team worth watching? The obvious answer is yes. They have some key pieces coming back from injuries, and it is far too early give up on a team with such potential. That being said, if this team continues to underperform, then I don’t see why people would bother watching. I don't particularly want to watch Jackie Bradley Jr. hit .208 either. The Celtics are on the verge of being knocked out of the playoffs (Sorry, Celtics fans.), so the Red Sox need to prepare to be thrust into the spotlight. Let’s see how they handle it.
P.S. The outfield should not be dancing after losing 3 straight games to the A’s. Maybe I’m being cynical, but that’s just embarrassing.
Photo: (Boston Herald)