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Red Sox Giving Fans Reasons for Optimism

April is in full swing, which means good weather is right around the corner. However, it also means that baseball is back. For many, the baseball season is one’s saving grace from those hot summer days. As a kid from New York, I will always remember putting on my Derek Jeter jersey and fielding ground balls in my street, trying to imitate my favorite Yankee. However, since I am now located in greater Boston, my Yankee paraphernalia will rarely make an appearance. Since the Red Sox are and always have been New England’s team, let’s look at their progress so far.

As I write this, the Sox have played their first thirteen games, and the team finds itself at 8-5, good enough for third place in the always competitive American League East. Reporters from all different media outlets are certain the Red Sox will be competitive this year. In fact, many baseball writers have the Sox finishing first in the A.L. East, capping the season off with a record of 95-67. Other writers have the Red Sox taking one of the wild card spots, with their total wins sitting in the low nineties. This competitive atmosphere is a result of some key off-season acquisitions.  The Red Sox’ front office acquired some big names, including premier left handed pitcher Chris Sale, who joined the Red Sox in a trade with his former team the Chicago White Sox.  The Sox also picked up a serviceable, hard throwing, right-handed pitcher, Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers. Both Sale and Thornburg are going to continue to make deep impacts for the Red Sox pitching staff.

But as fans know, the team has suffered some major losses. The most notable one, which will undoubtedly affect the 2017 season,  is no longer having the king of Boston, David Ortiz. At 41 years of age, Ortiz decided to retire, even after a remarkable 2016 season. His loss comes with great consequences for the Red Sox. In his 20 years at the professional level, Ortiz had a .286 batting average, .380 on base percentage, a .552 slugging percentage, and an outstanding .931 on base plus slugging percentage. What does all of this mean for the Sox? Primarily, it means that they are losing one of baseball’s most premiere, and most reliable, bats. However, it also means that they are losing a player who averaged 5.1 wins above replacement. Without Ortiz, there is a chance, that the Sox will have about 5 fewer wins. In addition to Ortiz’s retirement, the back end of the Sox bullpen faced some decimation in the off-season. This includes the departures of relief pitchers Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Brad Ziegler. However, with the Sox starting rotation having an incredible amount of depth, there may not be as much stress on the bullpen, since these starters can carry the team deep into games.

The Red Sox lineup looks to be able to produce at the same level as last year. Averaging just over 5 runs per game last year, offensive production was rarely a problem. To start 2017, the Sox have averaged 3.5 runs per game; this is not great, but it is still very early, so no need to worry. The lineup has a solid mix of speed, power, and aggression. In some form or another, it has been,

  1. Dustin Pedroia – 2B
  2. Andrew Benintendi – LF
  3. Mookie Betts – RF
  4. Hanley Ramirez – DH
  5. Mitch Moreland – 1B
  6. Xander Bogaerts – SS
  7. Jackie Bradley, Jr. – CF
  8. Pablo Sandoval – 3B
  9. Sandy Leon – C

In addition to the starting nine comes a versatile bench, which consists of the young catcher Christian Vazquez, infielder Josh Rutledge,  and outfielder Chris Young. All three have played up to their expectations to this point in the year and will look to keep at it in order to help the Sox reach key victories. This bench looks to serve as the backbone for the team when starters need a rest. Key bench player will be Brock Holt, as he will take on a big role filling multiple positions during the week. Moreover, rookie sensation Andrew Benintendi should maintain his steady level of production both in the outfield and at the plate, especially after the injury to Jackie Bradley, Jr. Nevertheless, the newly acquired first basemen has been outstanding in the early part of the season as he maintain a solid .356 batting average. So far, the Sox have managed to find guys step up when needed in their biggest early season moments.

Overall, the Red Sox have extremely high expectations around them. From the writers to the fans, the Sox have big things ahead. As the season moves forward, they will need to mold as a cohesive unit that consists of a combination of power pitching and a dynamic offense that can produce runs in many different ways.  So far, even without David Ortiz, the Red Sox are showing many positive signs.  So, keep an eye out for New England’s team!

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