Hard Times for Boston Red Sox

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I’m going to take you back to a happier time, a much simpler time. Flashback to July 1. Matt Andriese pitches from the stretch and delivers an 87-mile per-hour changeup in the dirt that strikes out Kansas City Royals catcher Sebastian Rivero. That pitch capped off a 15-3 thrashing sending the Fenway faithful home happy. At that point, the 2021 Boston Red Sox had exceeded everyone’s expectations and drove their AL East lead up to a season-high 3.5 games over the Tampa Bay Rays. All was going well for the team projected to win somewhere between 83-85 games. With a mix of solid starting pitching, an elite bullpen, and a potent offense that ranked in the top five overall, many were beginning to believe that this team had what it took to compete for not only a division title but also a World Series championship.

That was then, this is now. Time to wake up from your dream and face reality. Since that drubbing of the Royals on July 1, the Red Sox have been a below .500 team. A team that has had average to below-average starting pitching. A team that has had a hard time driving in runs. In the last month and some change, the 2021 Boston Red Sox has looked rather pedestrian. One of the primary components of this lackluster stretch has been the subpar contributions from some of the squad’s all-stars. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts helped carry the Sox to first-half success, but as of late, the magic has seemed to fade.

Falling All-Stars

Perhaps the best at his position during the first half of the season, Bogaerts, in part due to injury, has seen his production slip quite a bit since that glorious July 1st. From July 2 to August 10, his wRC+ is only 85. It’s apparent that the wrist injury is bugging him. It’s kept him out of a few games, and it’s affected his power (only hitting three home runs since that date). He’s even admitted that he’s had to make some mechanical issues to compensate for the injured wrist.

Bogaerts (April 2- July 1)

Since (July 2-August 10)

 

The struggles have also grabbed hold of star slugger J.D. Martinez. After the month of April, it was pretty evident that Martinez was back to his old self. Hitting for a high average, hitting for power to the opposite field, all vintage Martinez. Other than the amazing Shohei Ohtani, there was no better choice for a designated hitter than Martinez. Since then though, the 6’3″ slugger has seen his production dwindle, especially when it comes to power. Since July 1 he’s only gone yard four times in over 120 at-bats. Striking out more and walking less means that the absence of power has really taken its toll on not only Martinez but the rest of the lineup as a whole.

Martinez (April 2- July 1)

Martinez (July 2- August 10)

It’s rough enough that two of your all-stars, tasked with manning the middle of your lineup, have gone freezing cold, but it seems to have spread to a few of the key role players that helped propel the Red Sox to one of baseball’s best in the season’s first three months. For example, let’s take Hunter Renfroe, who himself had a case to be an All-Star. For the months of May and June, Renfroe was legit looking like one of the better right fielders — not only in the American League, but in the game, period.

Take a look at these numbers from that time period. A 143 wRC+, he smashed 11 homers, slugged over .550, and got on base at a .350 clip. That was all from a “role player.” On top of that, he was putting on a Gold Glove-worthy display in right field. Of course, good things haven’t lasted. The last month or so has hit Renfroe hard as well. That wRC+ we spoke of, down to 85. The slugging? Down to .444. He’s at least getting on base, right? Nope, it’s down to .264. Other than Rafael Devers each all-star or all-star caliber performer has slumped big time.

Pitching Woes

Okay, enough already with the offense, they’ve had enough. When we look at the Red Sox pitching staff, the starters are a less-than-stellar group on paper. For the first few months, the staff said to hell with paper, the game is played on the field. This led to a staff that still ranks in the top half of the league in FIP (8th overall) and WAR (10th overall). It’s quite astonishing that they still rank that high despite their performance since July 2.

Over the last week, there have been some solid starts. For example, Nick Pivetta’s six scoreless one-hit innings against the Rays, or Eduardo Rodriguez going five strong innings, allowing no runs and striking out 10 against the Detroit Tigers. While those were much welcomed when you go back and address the performance of the starters going back to the beginning of July. This tailspin didn’t start overnight.

The starting staff as a whole has really struggled since the beginning of July. From July 2 to August 6 they rank in the bottom half of the league among ERA (5.35), BABIP (.337), and HR/9 (1.57). Let’s start with the staff’s lone All-Star, Nathan Eovaldi. A lot of credit needs to be given to Eovaldi for being a true ace in the first half of the season. But even Eovaldi has had a rough go in three of his last six starts. One of these starts was perhaps his worst of the season. August 6 against the Blue Jays he had his shortest outing, going just 4.2 innings while giving up seven runs on eight hits. He did show signs of his usual self in his last start. He held the Rays to 1 run on three hits. Most importantly, the Red Sox won!

Eovaldi (April 2- July 1)

Eovaldi (July 6 – August 6)

 

On to the other all-star on the pitching staff. Matt Barnes earned his first all-star nod after having a rather impressive first half. He was second in the AL in saves (19) and third in FIP (2.10) to go along with a 2.61 ERA. Just like Eovaldi, his struggles have been a microcosm of the bullpen’s struggles as a whole. To start the second half Barnes has mostly remained in good form, but his last two performances have caused some concern. On August 7 Marcus Semien took Barnes deep on his first pitch to give the Blue Jays the lead, and eventually the victory. In his next appearance, he gave up four and walked two in only two-thirds of an inning.

Barnes Last Five Appearances

 

Going Forward

Very little of this has been pretty. Very little has been fun. The most surprising thing from all of this is that the crew that you expect to keep the ship afloat have been the main culprits in the collapse. Despite all this mess that’s been created there’s still hope. Clinging on to a wild card spot, there are reinforcements coming. The return of Chris Sale looms and the newly acquired Kyle Schwarber is back as well. Both will be relied on heavily to get the Red Sox train back on its tracks. No matter how well those players do, they won’t be able to do it without their All-Stars truly living up to that name.

Main Photo:

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Players mentioned:

Matt Andriese, Sebastian Rivero, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Shohei Ohtani, Hunter Renfroe, Rafael Devers, Nick Pivetta, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Matt Barnes, Marcus Semien, Chris Sale, Kyle Schwarber