At the All Star break, the Boston Red Sox provide one of the more interesting scenarios to analyze in Major League Baseball. They currently rank last in the American League East at 42-47 and sit six and a half games behind the first-place Yankees and 6 games behind the nearest wild card spot. The season began with high expectations for the Red Sox with the signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. They were expected to have a powerhouse lineup of veterans and younger players that would cover their expected shortcomings in the starting rotation. However, that has not materialized.
On paper, the Red Sox still have a slew of players who have performed strongly in the past. Their core of position players has been plagued by injuries, but the All-Star break should bring back some of the cogs they need to make a strong second-half run. Dustin Pedroia (right hamstring) will return immediately after the All Star break. His return should bolster the beleaguered Red Sox lineup that has been anchored by David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, and Mookie Betts. In the second half, David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval will need to return to their old numbers if the Red Sox expect to make a run.
As for the team’s pitching, the bullpen has been excellent behind Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. However, the starting rotation has been plagued by injuries (Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz). The emergence of Eduardo Rodriguez has been one of the major surprises of the season. Along with Buchholz and Kelly, he represents the key people in the Red Sox starting rotation.
Graphic via zimbio
The bullpen has been the one bright spot for the Red Sox this season. While the starting pitching and the offense have let them down for the majority of the first half, the bullpen has held strong for most of the season. It is definitely a strength for them going forward.
The offense has become better over the past month. While it would not necessarily be considered a strength that can be depended on, it definitely cannot be called a weakness at this point. The return of Dustin Pedroia should cement this as a strength.
The Red Sox have plenty of weaknesses, but their most glaring one is the starting pitching. Other than Eduardo Rodriguez, none of the Red Sox starters have been able to put together a string of consistent starts this season. The Red Sox currently rank 28th in team ERA at 4.44. This is due in a large part to the inconsistency of their starters.
Fielding has also been a weakness for the Red Sox. The team currently ranks 15th in baseball with 51 errors. However, the team always makes their errors in critical times, making these errors much more costly than the raw statistics indicate.
The Second Half
If the Red Sox expect to make a playoff run during the second half of the season, they will need to make moves at the trade deadline in order to improve themselves. Arguably, their lineup does not need any serious tweaks so you should not expect them to make any major moves to address it. However, they will need starting pitchers. You can expect them to be in the market for a big name starter such as Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto. Overall, the Red Sox will need more consistent play from all aspects of their team if they expect to turn their season around.
Leading up to the All-Star break, the Red Sox won 10 of 13 and closed the gap between themselves and the rest of the American League East. They face a tough stretch coming out of the All Star break including series against the Detroit Tigers, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the New York Yankees. It is critical that the Red Sox win these series or their hopes of a second half comeback will be dashed before it gets under way.
Graphic via bostonglobe.