After two straight last place finishes, it’s exciting to see the Red Sox competing for, not only a wildcard spot, but also the division lead. They sit two games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the division lead and are tied for the number one wildcard spot with the Toronto Blue Jays. In order for them to keep fighting for a playoff spot, they still need improvements on both sides of the game. The Red Sox second half is going to be interesting to say the least.
Needs For Improvement: Pitching
The pitching not been the strongest part of the team to say the least. Newly acquired ace David Price has not lived up to expectations, and it seems like every start he is always saying this is not his best start and he can do better. Well, it’s July now David, where is your best stuff? It’s time to start playing like the ace you are.
Steven Wright, God Bless You. This man has been the workhorse for the team, and he is currently holding the lowest ERA in the AL. The knuckleballer wasn’t even in the starting rotation to start the year, and now he’s the Red Sox current best pitcher. If he keeps this sub three ERA going for the rest of the year, it will help out the team drastically. Who knows? Maybe even a Cy Young? (JK Chris Sale already won).
Pretty Ricky Porcello has bounced back after a horrible season last year to a great one so far. He is fourth in the AL in wins with 11, and has a 3.66 ERA, which is quite an improvement from last year. It’s nice to see him pitch like the starter we thought he was going to be. The second half last year was the better half of his season, so let’s see if that trend continues.
Now, this is where the real improvement comes for pitching. The 4th and 5th starter spot is the biggest weakness on this team by far. They have not found anyone consistent all year to pitch in the final two spots in the rotation.* To start the Red Sox second half, it seems like they are putting E-Rod and Buchholz in the rotation. E-Rod hasn’t showed any flashes of the great pitcher he was last year. He is coming back from an injury, but that’s still no excuse for how bad he has been. With the All Star break, I hope to see a bounce back from him. Clay Buchholz, ugh. I don’t know. Just don’t suck too bad?
The bullpen hasn’t been great either, but it has a chance to be one of the best in the AL if they stay healthy. Losing Kimbrel for three to six weeks didn’t help the case at all, but adding Ziegler did. If Kimbrel can come back and perform at a high level, this bullpen is no joke. They also could still find another arm before the trading deadline. The same goes for a starter that is better than the bums they have at the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation.
*The Red Sox traded for Drew Pomeranz while I was writing this. This definitely helps the team right now for sure, but they had to give up Anderson Espinoza, their top pitching prospect. Pomeranz has had a great year, but career wise, he hasn’t been consistent. He now has the lowest ERA on the team at 2.47. Hey, anything beats Clay Buchholz, who they might DFA for Pomeranz, or throw him in the bullpen. The other option is to send down E-Rod again and hope to God he finds someway of improving.
Keep it Moving: Hitting
This first half of baseball for the Red Sox has been historic from an offensive standpoint. The team is first in runs, first in hits, first in doubles, and first in RBIs. The team also has the best average in the MLB at .292. It seems like everyone has had a hot streak of raking the baseball. Even Sandy Leon has been hitting! Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley have been the stars of the year and were credited with an All-Star appearance. The only dull spot has been that they haven’t had a consistent LF all year, but it seems like Bryce Brentz has turned it on five years too late. When Swihart comes back, he can swoop in and get the job done. I want to see more out of Hanley Ramirez. His power has been declining since the beginning of last year, and he can’t hit with RISP. His defense has been awesome, which is the biggest surprise of the year, but his offense has been disappointing.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has had a great first half which included that 26-game hitting streak. Since that hitting streak though, his averaged has dipped. If he keeps his power numbers up and still plays excellent defense, I’m fine with the average dipping.
Xander Bogaerts is having an MVP caliber season, and I don’t see that changing. He just always finds a way to get on base, and his power hasn’t even peaked yet. Don’t be surprised to see his power numbers go up this second half.
The acquisition of Aaron Hill is more important than you think. The bench for the Red Sox has greatly improved, and his versatility to play 2B and 3B will become key in the second half. He gives Brock Holt the chance to become the starting LF again, or at least gives him a break from his super utility abilities.
What to Expect
The Red Sox second half of the season is going to come down to timely hitting with good pitching or overwhelming offense with decent pitching. They need to find a balance between the two in order to stay in the same spot they are currently in, or if they want to climb the ladder. The offense has been a firework show all year, and the pitching has been a dumpster fire. These next couple months of baseball are going to show if this team can perform at a higher level when the games matter more. The Orioles have been a surprise team to top the AL East this year, but I don’t see them keeping it going. The real battle is going to be between the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. These two offensive juggernauts are going to battle it out through October, and I expect the Blue Jays to finish…in the wildcard spot while the Red Sox steal the AL East by one game.
Thank you for reading!