The 2021 Boston Red Sox finished the regular season with a 92-70 regular season record earning themselves a wild card spot in the MLB playoffs. Boston defeated the New York Yankees 6-2 in the Wild Card game to advance to the Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The second round of the playoffs saw Boston dominate the Rays, winning the series 3-1. The Boston Red Sox would see their season come to an end in the ALCS losing the series 4-2 to the Houston Astros. The late season surge to clinch the wild card and the postseason success gave Red Sox fans hope heading into the 2022 season. The Red Sox certainly overachieved in 2021 and fans were hoping they would carry the momentum into the 2022 season and position themselves for a deep playoff run yet again.
Boston made a splash in the offseason signing Trevor Story to a six-year deal in the hopes of solidifying the infield increasing offensive production and signing reliever Matt Barnes to a contract extension, more about these two later. The optimism of the Red Sox nation was short lived however as Boston finds themselves in last place in the AL East 10.5 games out of first place with a record of 10-19. So how did the Red Sox find themselves in this predicament?
The Red Sox big three of Xander Bogaerts. Rafael Devers, and JD Martinez are hitting a combined .316 while the rest of the order has a .186 batting average according to cbssports.com. The big three of the Sox have a combined nine home runs and 35 RBI while the rest of the team has seven homers and 59 RBI. The lack of offensive production has been magnified by the fact that Boston is 0-6 in extra-inning games and only marginally better, 3-7, in one run games. The Boston bats must get hot if the Sox are going to climb out of the cellar and back into contention. Trevor Story, one of Boston’s off-season signings has gone 18-93 with no homer runs and a .194 batting average. Story is a career .270 hitter with 158 homeruns and the Sox desperately need his bat to come alive if they are to salvage this season.
Offense is only one side of the coin; the pitching staff has been inconsistent at best. The projected starting rotation of Eovaldi, Pivetta, Houch, Wacha, and Hill are a combined 6-9 with only Rich Hill having a winning record (3-0) thus far. Michael Wacha was placed on the injured list on Sunday with the organization promoting Tyler Danish from the triple-a club. Garrett Whitlock has been moved from the bullpen to the rotation and is 1-1 with a 1.25 era and one save on the season. Chris Sale, who is on the 60-day injured list has suffered a “non-baseball personal medical issue”. Getting a healthy Sale in the lineup is a top priority as he was 5-1 with a 3.16 era in nine games last season according to espn.com. Matt Barnes has appeared in 12 games and has an 0-3 record with no saves and a 7.84 era according to baseball-reference.com.
To recap the Red Sox are getting little offensive production from anyone other than Bogaerts, Devers, or Martinez. The starting rotation has been decent, but the bullpen has really struggled to close out games. Injuries have been a factor, particularly to the pitching staff. The Chris Sale injury forced Garrett Whitlock into the starting rotation depleting the bullpen and Michael Wacha was placed on the injured list on Sunday. Adding to frustration is that Trevor Story and Matt Barnes have failed to live up to their hefty contracts. The culmination of early season lackluster offensive performances, poor bullpen play, and injuries have relegated last year’s playoff team to the bottom of the major leagues, ahead of only the Reds and Nationals, by winning percentage.
The good news for Sox fans is that we are only 29 games into a 162-game regular season. Boston still has 133 more games to “right the ship”. It is not uncommon for players to struggle when going to a new team so in all likelihood Trevor Story will perform well above his current levels giving the offense a boost. The rest of the BoSox lineup will not continue to have a season long slump so the big 3 should be getting some help at some point during the season and this will reduce the pressure on the pitching staff. Prior to 2022 Matt Barnes was 32-29 with a 4.14 era, a 3.7 difference from his 2022 era. If Barnes can return to his pre 2022 form the Red Sox will be in a much better position. The 0-6 in extra-inning games and the 3-7 in one run type of games may shift into the favor of the Sox translating into wins. Now is not time for the Red Sox nation to panic. If they can address the issues discussed here, they can battle back into playoff contention. Those are big “ifs” however