Well, another season is in the books. This one ended earlier than we were hoping with the Red Sox sitting out of postseason play for the first time since 2015. The day after the season kind of marks a weird transitionary period where I’m still feeling like it’s the season but also trying to get into offseason mode. So, I’m going to get through the murky feelings with a scattered thoughts post in which I look back and, hopefully by the end, venture ahead.
- So, first thing’s first. Take a deep breathe, because it’s over. The season, whether it ends at the end of September or the end of October, is a long, everyday process. So many of you have been with us night in and night out since the end of March, and we want to extend another sincere thank you. We’d all be shouting into the abyss without you, so thanks for not forcing me to do that.
- Now, on to the actual season that was. No sane person could argue that it was not a disappointing year. Even with the acknowledgement that just about everything went right for this team in 2018, a drop this precipitous seemed unfathomable. Changes need to be made, clearly. That being said, this is not the kind of unmitigated disaster from which they cannot really recover like 2012 or even 2011. Those felt like blow-ups were necessary. This team has the talent to compete with smart tweaks, not a full tear down.
- The disappointment for this season, of course, begins and ends with the rotation. The bullpen certainly had its moments throughout the year and I would argue that the offense wasn’t as consistently great as the numbers may suggest, but the rotation was this roster’s downfall. It was clear in 2018 that the team would go as far as the rotation took them, and those guys took them all the way. It was the same this year, and they didn’t take them very far. Moving forward, I’m more optimistic about the three high-paid starters than most seem to be. The injuries to Chris Sale and David Price haven’t come out to be any more serious than we originally thought, and Nathan Eovaldi has shown enough flashes that I am staying cautiously optimistic he can be helpful, if not a stud. As far as 2019, though, this group deserves all of the criticism it has gotten and will continue to get.
- How about that end of season for Mookie Betts. I’m not going to talk about trading or not trading him as there is going to be plenty of time for that in the coming weeks and months. Let’s for the sake of conversation, though, say he will be traded this winter. Could he have gone out on a more Mookie kind of note? Betts is an incredible player for a lot of reasons who excels at everything, but nothing exemplifies Mookie Betts to me more than his work on the bases. He is an incredible athlete with big-time speed, which clearly helps. More than that, though, he has superhero instincts and makes the right, aggressive choices basically every time. If that was indeed it for Mookie in Boston, it’s the types of plays that won Sunday’s game that I’ll miss the most.
- Lost in the chase for 20 wins for Eduardo Rodriguez was Rafael Devers’ chase for 200 hits. He did accomplish that goal, with the game-winning hit being his 201st on the year. For as disappointing as the year was, there were plenty of positives on top of it and Devers outweighs them all. This was the coming out party for Boston’s young third baseman, and there’s a good chance we look back in ten or fifteen years at 2019 as the year Devers became a start. At 22 years old he put himself third on the all-time franchise leaderboard for extra-base hits in a season, finishing with 90. He is also the only player in the top seven on that list with 200 hits, and only the 20th player in team history to hit that mark. There’s not much as a sports fan that compares to seeing a player put it all together in plain view like this.
- Another guy we could be looking at in the future with 2019 being their coming out party is Christian Vázquez. He is the player I am most fascinated by on this roster moving forward, at least on a strictly performance basis. He was clearly a different guy at the plate this year, but he also undoubtedly benefitted from the juiced ball. Of course, everyone was playing with the same ball so it’s hard to say for sure he benefitted any more than others. He ended the year as a league-average hitter, which is very good for a catcher. I tend to think he settles in somewhere in the 90-95 wRC+ range, but there are wide margins for error on that prediction. One other unrelated point I’d be remiss to leave out of this discussion is that Vázquez also showed defensive versatility this year that could prove extremely valuable if his strides at the plate indeed prove to be real.
- On the pitching side, Brandon Workman’s breakout was not quite up to the level of Eduardo Rodriguez, but damn was it impressive. I was long among the lowest on the righty, and he clearly proved me wrong this season. The way he was able to use his secondaries to turn his middling fastball into a legitimate weapon is one of the more incredible feats from a Red Sox pitcher in recent seasons. It’s one thing to succeed with huge stuff. That’s the expectation. Workman took solid but unspectacular stuff and turned in one of the best relief seasons in baseball this year. I’m still not necessarily sold on him being a guy who can carry a bullpen moving forward, but I’m also not sure if I’m just being stubborn.
- I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Alex Cora didn’t have a good season. I certainly don’t think he was a disaster or anything, nor do I think he was the main reason this season didn’t go the way we’d hoped. I also don’t think it should be any consideration to let him go, which they aren’t going to do. However, from the moment spring training started he took the wrong approach. I thought he was doing the right thing at that point, for full disclosure, but it clearly set them down the wrong path early and they never recovered from that. It’s easy to forget since he already has a ring, but Cora was still a relatively inexperienced manager coming into this season. Year Three is going to be a big test for him. I’m extremely confident in his abilities.
- So now, we head into the abyss that will be the 2019-2020 offseason. We hope you’ll stick around with us all winter, or at least check in every so often. It’s going to be a wild one.