Is the following statement profound, completely obvious, or completely wrong:
Chris Sale, Garrett Whitlock, and Brayan Bello are the three players who will determine the fate of the 2023 Red Sox.
The Red Sox offense currently looks like a juggernaut: third in OPS, fifth in home runs, second in OBP, third in slugging, second in batting average, and second in runs scored.
The bullpen currently looks like a solidly average unit: just 22nd in ERA, but seventh in xFIP, 8th in fWAR, 16th in strand rate, and 2nd in save percentage, with just two blown saves all season.
And there is plenty of reason to believe that both the offense and bullpen should remain relatively consistent all season long. Sure, on the offensive side of things, we should absolutely expect that sluggers like Alex Verdugo, Jarren Duran, and both catchers will be unable to maintain their torrid performances as the summer rolls on. But at the same time, it’s reasonable to expect that players like Triston Casas, Christian Arroyo, and even Rafael Devers will see improved performance that will pick up the slack amidst their teammates’ regression. (For as strong of a season as Devers is having in the power department, he’s actually been struggling in other areas at the plate, with an OBP that currently sits a whopping 67 points below where he finished the season last year.)
In Kenley Jansen, the bullpen is anchored by one of the best closers of the past decade, who appears to be pitching as well as he ever has in career. And the pen hasn’t even gotten much from guys like Chris Martin and Joely Rodriguez yet, while it’s also possible that they are soon joined by someone bumped form the rotation, likely Tanner Houck or Nick Pivetta.
So, if it’s reasonable to assume that the offense and bullpen can consistently produce throughout the season (even if the offense drops from one of the top three in all of baseball to merely one of the top ten), then it would seem that the starting pitching is, as is so often the case, the key to the ultimate success or failure of the 2023 Red Sox. And given the limited ceilings of Corey Kluber, Nick Pivetta, and Tanner Houck, then that would make Sale, Whitlock, and Bello the three most important players on the team — by far.
That’s what Dan and Bryan debated to open the latest episode of the Monsters of Sox podcast. They also discussed:
- How to put Chaim Bloom’s performance in the proper context;
- Whether Brian Cashman is overrated or underrated as a GM;
- Masataka Yoshida’s and Triston Casas’s attempts to bust out of their respective slumps by going to other way;
- Which city has the worst traffic, and why it’s not yours; and
- Bryan’s formerly illustrious stickball career on the streets of New York.
As always, thanks for listening!