Maybe the last 20 years have spoiled Boston fans, but it seems that every season is considered a failure if the team does not win a championship. The 2019 Boston Red Sox have under-performed, but they are still on pace to finish with a winning record as they currently sit at 68-61. It does not matter that the Red Sox won their 4th World Series in the past 15 years just last season. The expectation is that you’ll win every year, but that was not the case for this Red Sox team.
The Red Sox are not having a bad season this year, but It just so happens that there are a couple of AL teams that are having a similar season to what the Sox had last year. If you placed the Red Sox in the NL, they would be two games behind the second wild card spot, which most likely would have motivated the front office to make a deal at the trade deadline.
You cannot blame the offense for the result of the season. They have performed above expectations with Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts having career years where they’ll finish with 30 HRs and well over 100 RBIs. Mookie Betts is not repeating his MVP season from a year ago, but he is still contributing significantly as the lead-off man. J.D. Martinez rounds up to the top of the lineup in the clean up spot with a .308 avg, .940 OPS, 28 HRs, and 75 RBIs.
This is by far the best the top of the Red Sox lineup has been in quite some time. You would have to go back 15 years when Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were the best 1-2 punch in baseball to find this level of production. The Red Sox rank 2nd in the league with 740 runs scored, so clearly the offense did it’s job this year. The fault lies in the pitching staff.
It is easy to blame the bullpen and their 22 blown saves, but that is very misleading. The blown save is a flawed statistic as you can receive a blown save in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. The Red Sox are actually 9-12 in games where they’ve blown a save, and they actually had a game where they were credited with two blown saves. This statistic is just far too broad to be the end all be all in the Red Sox’s failures this season.
(The Red Sox actually won the game in which they blew two saves. W 6-5 @ Toronto Blue Jays, May 22nd.)
If you look at the bullpen’s ERA, which is a bit better than counting blown saves, you will see they are above average with an ERA of 4.23, which is 10th best in the league. The bullpen has actually improved mightily as the season’s progressed, and has been the strength of the team since the start of August. In the month of August, the Boston bullpen has an ERA of 2.70, which is second best in the league only behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
It certainly would have helped if Dave Dombrowski acquired a solidified closer in the offseason to finish off games, but that is not the main issue. The problem is the starting rotation did not play up to the level that you expected them to.
It is clear that the plan for the 2019 season was to have the starting rotation carry the team through a 162 game season as evident by the $88 million that was used to solidify that starting rotation. Five starting pitchers make up 39% of Boston’s payroll this year. When you invest that much money in your rotation, you’re expecting them to play like the ’98 Braves by being lights out the through the entire season.
This clearly did not work out as Nathan Eovaldi ($17m) missed three months of the season, Chris Sale ($15m) had the worst season of his career and is now shutdown for the rest of 2019, David Price ($31m) has been serviceable, but you need someone making $30 million a year to be a lot better than serviceable, Rick Porcello ($21m) is also having his worst season, and the only saving grace is that Eduardo Rodriguez ($4m) has had a decent year, while only costing the team $4 million this season.
Boston’s rotation ranks 21st in the league in ERA with a 5.05 earned run average. The starting rotation was supposed to be the strength of this 2019 team, but it has been the weak link this season. Based on the offense’s stellar season and the bullpen’s above average season, the Red Sox should at least be in the Wild Card, but the $88 million starting rotation has under-performed and left the Red Sox on the outside looking in.