By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s really something that 10 years ago would have been unfathomable, but it’s nevertheless true: the Red Sox are borderline irrelevant in the Boston sports scene.READ MORE: Red Sox-Twins Game Postponed In Minneapolis After Daunte Wright Shooting
That’s not a scientific assessment or anything, but compared to the way this team was followed and consumed 24 hours of every single day of every single year for a long time, it sure feels like we’re living in a post-Red Sox reality here in Boston. Back-to-back bad seasons can have that effect, especially when the latter of those two is historically bad and involves the trading away of one of the best home-grown players in franchise history.
It can change, though. Because while the city’s appetite for the baseball team certainly wanes when times are bad, there’s still nothing this city likes more than a winner.
Can the Red Sox pull a 2013-esque Lazarus act and contend for a World Series in 2021? Eh … no. Probably not with that rotation.
But at the very least, the Red Sox have enough pieces in place to be a viable baseball team that competes most nights of the week. That may not be a lot, no, and it’s not going to vault the Red Sox to to top of the imaginary Boston Sports Fan Interest Rankings. But it figures to be a step forward from last year’s punt of a season.
With opening day now just one week — ONE WEEK?! — away, here’s an update on how the Red Sox have been doing down in Florida during spring training.
THEY HAVE WON MORE THAN THEY HAVE LOST
The win-loss record in the spring is largely meaningless. But hey, the Red Sox are 13-8! That doesn’t mean they’ll have a .619 winning percentage in the regular season and thus win 100 baseball games. But it’s probably better than the alternative, yeah? Yeah.
This should come as no surprise, but the Red Sox can hit the baseball. As a team, they have an .836 OPS, which is the this-best mark in MLB this spring, and second-best in the AL (just one point behind Kansas City). Their team batting average is .270, one point shy of the best mark in MLB.
They’ve scored 130 runs in 23 games, which is tied with Kansas City for the most in MLB.
They’ve socked their fair share of dingers with 34, tying them for fourth-most in MLB and putting them second in the AL behind … the Royals.
Based on preseason prognostications and the early returns in spring training, it does not appear as though offense will be this team’s issue.
Michael Chavis leads the team with 13 hits, as he’s put together a solid spring at the plate (.277/.333/.702). He’s also clubbed six home runs, tying him for the team lead with Bobby Dalbec.
Dalbec has impressed, too. He’s hit .308 with a 1.221 OPS with his six homers, two doubles, and six walks.
In terms of key starters, here you go:
Xander Bogaerts: .200/.286/.440
Michael Chavis: .277/.333/.702
Franchy Cordero: .429/.500/.429 (in 3 games)
Bobby Dalbec: .308/.400/.821
Rafael Devers: .190/.244/.429
J.D. Martinez: .268/.311/.341
Marwin Gonzalez: .282/.349/.487
Enrique Hernandez: .324/.468/.514
Hunter Renfroe: .273/.304/.500
Christian Vazquez: .286/.355/.393
Alex Verdugo: .226/.342/.258
Jonathan Arauz also had five doubles and an .864 OPS in 20 spring games, and Jaren Duran has a triple and two homers.
The bats seem ready to go.READ MORE: Why Red Sox Hitters Go For A Ride In A Laundry Cart After Every Home Run
PITCHING IS … A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT STORY
But you knew that, right? The Red Sox went into four-game series last year with one named starter and three “TBD” spots. They were plucking guys out of thin air and asking them to pitch Major League Baseball games. It was wild. And it’s almost a shame that you and I didn’t get a crack at it, come to think of it. Couldn’t have been much worse.
Last year, Boston ranked 14th (out of 15) in ERA in the American League. They were dead last in WHIP and dead last in opponents’ batting average, both by significant margins.
They got just 246 innings out of their starters (second-fewest in the AL), which was likely due to their collective 5.34 ERA (third-worst in the AL). The bullpen wasn’t better, with a 5.79 ERA (second-worst).
All of that is to say, the Red Sox pitching staff was abhorrent last year. Repugnant. Revolting.
It was gross
And that kind of thing doesn’t get cured in one offseason. Especially when the only moves made for improvement are the addition of Garrett Richards and the re-signing of Martin Perez. BUT! Eduardo Rodriguez is back after missing all of least year due to COVID-19 complications.
Spring training pitching stats aren’t gospel, as the pitchers are mostly getting their work in. (Keep that in mind with some of those aforementioned offensive stats, too.) Nevertheless, here’s how the starting rotation has performed in the spring.
1-0, 6.60 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 13 SO, 3 BB, 15.0 IP
2-1, 5.93 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 14 SO, 11 BB, 13.2 IP
3-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 15 SO, 2 BB, 13.2 IP
1-2, 6.23 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 11 SO, 4 BB, 13.0 IP
2-1, 4.09 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 8 SO, 6 BB, 11.0 IP
All together, Red Sox starters have a 5.35 ERA, which ranks 11th in the AL. It’s probably not incredibly encouraging that the Yankees (2.49) rank first in that category, the Blue Jays (2.71) rank second, and the Rays (4.25) rank sixth.
Boston’s relievers have done better. They have a 4.25 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP, both of which rank fifth in the AL.
Adam Ottavino has a pristine 0.00 ERA in his five appearances (5.1 IP), with six strikeouts and one walk. Matt Andriese likewise has triple zeroes for his ERA through five innings over two appearances.
Matt Barnes in the triple-zero club too, allowing no earned runs though 4.1 IP in four appearances, with eight strikeouts and two walks.
And nobody’s having a better spring than Garrett Whitlock, who has a 1.00 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in his nine innings of work across four appearances. He’s allowed eight hits while striking out 12 and walking nobody.
THEIR MANAGER HAS A PULSE
Poor Ron Roenicke. Nice guy. A baseball lifer type. He was set up to fail last year, though. Seemed lousy.
Anyways. Alex Cora is back from his one-year suspension from baseball, and he’s got a new type of energy that’s going to breathe some life into a team that was sleepwalking through much (all?) of last season. He can’t pitch and he can’t hit for the team, but the reunion is certainly a positive for Boston.MORE NEWS: Red Sox Have A Whole Lot Of Day Games This Week
So, at the very least, there are some bright spots on the pitching staff that lend some promise to the idea that 2021 ought to be better than 2020. Perhaps that’s not enough to make the Red Sox the top story in town, but based on Chaim Bloom’s observable approach to management, slow and steady progress may be the theme in the coming 36 months. We’ll see phase one in that plan a week from today.