The helter skelter opening to the 2023 Red Sox season continued this past week.
The only thing Boston fans have been able to expect is the unexpected. Once you think the offense will be able to weather most of the storms they’re set to face, the Pittsburgh Pirates shut them down on their own home field in a three-game sweep. Once you think the pitching staff will be showing plenty of warts, they have themselves a great series in the Motor City against the Tigers. Once you think that Adam Duvall’s gonna win the MVP award, he hurts his wrist.
The “It’s So Over/We’re So Back” meter has been teetering back and forth like a metronome during these opening weeks.
So it’s quite fitting that the Red Sox enter the new week with a record around .500, following two sweeps going one way and the other. Water does find its own level, after all.
It’s still early in the season—you’ll be hearing that phrase until around Memorial Day, I’d imagine—and it’s tough to read what Boston’s destiny will be in this campaign, given the highs and lows we’ve already seen. Nevertheless, there are some takeaways I had after the first full week of the new season.
It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.
One Half Teaspoon For Fast, Effective Relief
So far, the new-look Red Sox bullpen has been pretty solid! A number of relievers finished the week with a clean slate—I particularly like what I saw from Kenley Jansen (even with the hiccups he had Sunday), Zack Kelly, and Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin. My fuzzy math shows that the bullpen’s collective ERA when not accounting for He Who Shall Not B(rasi)e(r) Named on the week was 1.71—very nice! Even Voldemort himself had a couple of solid appearances (don’t look at what happened Saturday, don’t subject yourself to that).
The lion’s share of the relief pitchers providing quality innings is especially important given some continued struggles from starters. If Chris Sale keeps hitting some bumps in the road, if Tanner Houck can’t consistently get through the opposing order the third time he faces them, or if Kutter Crawford repeats whatever the hell that was against Pittsburgh last Monday (shoutout to him tossing five strong innings on Sunday though), being able to trust multiple firemen out of the ‘pen is paramount.
Perhaps this is the path for wins this season: don’t get your ass kicked for five or six innings to open the game and trust the bullpen to get you to the finish line. 2015 Royals type beat, y’know? It’s not exactly a novel idea, but it’s one that just might lift the Red Sox’s ceiling going forward.
Don’t Get So Defensive
Our very own Bob Osgood dived into this topic already—shameless plug tiiiiime!!—but it bears repeating: the Red Sox defense has been, as the kids would say, dog water. Just real poopy.
You don’t need to be an expert to diagnose the defensive woes thus far if you’ve been watching, but in case you want some cold hard data on the matter, ESPN’s Buster Olney has ya covered.
After a one-week sample, there is a clear leader in team Defensive Runs Saved.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 7, 2023
1. Brewers 13
2. Diamondbacks 8
3. Dodgers 6
28. Giants -6
28. Athletics -6
30. Red Sox -10
Now I’m no mathematician, but being ranked 30th out of 30 teams in Defensive Runs Saved seems less than ideal. As a matter of fact, I’d venture to say that it’s bad.
Some simple, fundamental plays have been botched due to brain farts. There’s really not a ton to say outside of that—the defense simply needs to be sharper. Just look at that diasterclass of a display put on against Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The only thing that was missing was the Benny Hill theme song playing in the background.
What exactly did the Red Sox do for those six weeks in Florida? pic.twitter.com/vTiZMQkoYL— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) April 5, 2023
Trevor Story’s range up the middle sounds mighty fine right about now. Until then, let’s clean it up a bit fellas, eh?
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
Can I use this time to gush about Rafael Devers? Is everybody here fine with that? Good.
The power came in bunches for the face of the franchise this past week, as Raffy knocked four homers while chipping in eight runs.
It’s just a pleasure to watch this guy at the plate. When he’s locked in, there aren’t many hitters in all of Major League Baseball that I’d take over Devers.
The grand slam on Saturday—his first of two dingers on the day—is what got the party started against Detroit in their 14-5 win. Just look at how he’s able to muscle it out.
It's a GRAND SLAM for Rafael Devers! pic.twitter.com/b9UPmP2PSA— NESN (@NESN) April 8, 2023
That wasn’t even a cookie from Hill. Hell, that’s a pretty solid pitch! Not sure if going low and outside with a 2-1 count and the bases drunk after walking two straight runs in was necessarily the best option, but the pitch itself was executed well. That’s 85 with some tail, and it didn’t catch much of the plate—if it even did clip the zone at all.
Doesn’t matter! It’s Rafael Devers, baby!
To sit back and ride with that pitch and to smack that out to the opposite field of a park that doesn’t have the reputation of being a hitter’s paradise, that’s pretty damn impressive. Luckily for us, Devers is a pretty damn impressive hitter.
Song Of The Week: “As” by Stevie Wonder
I’ve been on a big Stevie kick recently, so this masterpiece of his gets the nod. Bet you thought I was gonna go with “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” huh?
Same time and same place next week, friends. Go Sox.