Red Sox Finish Last in the AL East
The Boston Red Sox finished in the basement of the American League East for the fourth time since the 2010 season. The team finished their abbreviated 2020 season with a record of 24-36 — fourth-worst in the entire league. After the departure of Dave Dombrowski, Mookie Betts, and the laundry list of pitching injuries, the Red Sox didn’t have too many expectations heading into the season, but not many predicted to go south as fast as it did.
Offense Proved Capable
On Opening Day it looked like everybody may have had it wrong about the Red Sox in 2020. The team put on an offensive show as they took down the Baltimore Orioles by a final of 13-2. Maybe the offense could be good enough to carry the pitching staff. It wasn’t long before that theory fell flat on its face, however. That 13-2 win on Opening Day proved to be the team’s largest victory throughout the entire season.
Taking a deeper dive into the numbers of this team, it truly was a one-sided story. The offensive ranks of the Red Sox don’t match up with a team that finished with the fourth-worst record in baseball. They sat in the top half of the league in runs and home runs, ranking 12th in each of those categories while finishing 11th in RBI. The Atlanta Braves were the only team to record more hits and doubles than the Red Sox in 2020 as well. The offense clearly was not the flaw in the plans this season.
The team was led by newcomer Alex Verdugo and shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Verdugo — who arrived in the offseason in return for Betts — finished the season slugging .308/.367/.478 with six home runs, 15 RBI, and 16 doubles. The outfielder ranked fifth in the American League in batting average by the end of the 60-game slate. Verdugo provided a spark for the team who was playing less than inspired baseball for much of the season. He’s no Mookie Betts to this point, but it seems like Chaim Bloom got a legit player back for the former MVP.
Bogaerts was his normal self in 2020 after sputtering out of the gate. He finished with a line of .300/.364/.502 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI. He ranked eighth in the American League in batting average.
Two of the most disappointing performers in 2020 were designated hitter J.D. Martinez and second-year infielder Michael Chavis. Martinez posted some of the worst numbers of his career as he struggled to adjust to the new protocols in terms of not being able to watch your previous at-bats mid-game. Such a large portion of Martinez’s game comes from studying his at-bats and making adjustments and he struggled mightily in that department this season. He finished the season batting .213 with only seven home runs. Rafael Devers was the only one to strike out more times than Martinez on the team.
Chavis didn’t quite have the lofty expectations that fans normally do for Martinez, but 2020 was going to go a long way in how Chavis is judged from this point on. Went he broke into the majors in 2019 he proved he had big-league power, but it didn’t take long before pitchers figured him out and he ended the season on a lengthy skid. He didn’t get very far in proving to people that he’s not the player that ended 2019. His .212 batting average ranked worst on the team in qualified batters. Chavis was a player that could’ve been added as a sweetener in a salary dump last offseason while his stock was high, but the Red Sox might have to ride it out with him to see if they can recapture the promise he showed a season ago.
One of the Worst Pitching Staffs in Baseball
Now to the true issues of 2020 and beyond — the pitching. Again, hopes were not high for this group heading into the season, but it’s tough to say how close they even came to reaching those. Chris Sale was on the shelf all season after having Tommy John surgery in the offseason. Eduardo Rodriguez contracted COVID-19 and experienced complications afterwards which kept him out of all 60 games. This left Nathan Eovaldi as the number one starter, followed by Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, and then some combination of Zack Godley, Matt Hall, or any other arm out of the bullpen.
The Red Sox had the third-worst team ERA in baseball sitting at 5.58 with a league-high WHIP and opponent batting average sitting at 1.601 and .280. The team also allowed the most hits, home runs, and walked the most batters in 2020. There’s no way to spin it, this team was not very good at throwing baseballs. By the end of the season, they opted to have an opener on most nights as they simply didn’t have arms to keep throwing starters.
On to 2021
It’s tough to say what the unit may look like in 2021. Rodriguez is expected to head the rotation, followed by Eovaldi and Perez who has a club option for next season which will likely be picked up. Chris Sale will likely make his return at some point, but nobody truly knows what to expect from him as he took a significant drop off in 2019. Rookie sensation Tanner Houck also should be in the mix as he finished the season 3-0 with 21 strikeouts and a 0.53 ERA. The bullpen remains an issue but it will be interesting to see how Bloom handles the team this winter with a season now under his belt.
The team was tough to watch in 2020, but the franchise has been able to go worst-to-first two different times in the past 10 seasons. This ownership group has shown they’re willing to dole out big money to be able to win now. Don’t expect the Red Sox to be down for too long, specifically with the offensive pieces that remain in this lineup.
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