The last few years Red Sox fans in New England have been able to tell when Fall has arrived, not just by the appearance of the reds and yellows in the trees, but also by the cries of “Fire John Farrell!” coming out of car windows. This year is no different, despite the fact that the Red Sox won the AL East title back-to-back for the first time in the team’s history.
They did this despite having only three players sporting an OPS of .800 or over. And two of the three were late-season additions: rookie Rafael Devers (.819) and Eduardo Nunez (.892 in his 38 games with Boston). Mookie Betts was the third, with an OPS of .803.
Using wRC+ you can add Andrew Benintendi and Dustin Pedroia to the list of players who were better than league average (100). Benintendi had a wRC+ of 103 and Pedroia’s was 102. Devers’ was 111, Nunez’ 133, and Betts’ was 108.
Oh yeah, they also didn’t have David Ortiz anchoring the middle of the lineup. That loss contributed greatly to the Sox being last in the league with only 168 home runs, not to mention the effect his loss had on the pitches the players around him in the order saw.
Even though the Sox don’t swing for the fences every at bat, they ranked 6th in the league with 785 runs scored for a 4.84 per game average. They were also 11th in the league in strikeouts and 4th in walks. Their nine hits per game were good for 4th, as were their 1.86 doubles per game. Their approach at the plate, along with being aggressive (some would say too aggressive) on the base paths, helped to counteract their lack of a big bopper in the middle of the lineup.
Using the Runs From Baserunning stat from Baseball-Reference, Betts was the best on the team with nine runs above average. He was followed by Xander Bogaerts with six and Benintendi with two. There were five players with one: Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rajai Davis, Deven Marrero, and Josh Rutledge.
But with the aggressive baserunning comes the inevitable “Why in the hell did Butterfield send him!?” whenever a runner makes an out trying to take the extra base, or is thrown out at home.
And those questions should be raised; after all, the Red Sox were second in the league in Outs On Base at second (25) and led the league in OOB at third (19) and at home (29). But they were also second in Extra Bases Taken% at 43% and highly ranked in other baserunning stats.
Despite the 4000 errors, actually 33, from the smorgasbord of third basemen, the team defense was very good. The Red Sox led the league in Defensive Runs Saved Above Average with 70. The next closest team was Tampa with 59.
The pitching staff was also good, despite Rick Porcello reverting to his pre-2016 form and inconsistent years from other starters due to mechanical issues and injuries. Overall the staff was second in ERA (3.73), second in FIP (3.78), and fourth in xFIP (3.91). Anecdotal evidence to the contrary, the staff didn’t give up as many dingers as it seemed and was second in HR/9 (1.19). They were also second in BB/9 (2.82) and fourth in K/9 (9.59) – thank you Chris Sale.
The starters had an ERA of 4.06. The only starters better were the Astros (4.03), Yankees (3.98), and Indians (3.52). They were second in FIP (3.91) and fourth in xFIP (3.99).
The relievers were good and kept the team in many games. They had a 29-15 record and 39 saves. The ERA was 3.15 (2nd). FIP and xFIP respectively were 3.53 (3rd) and 3.77 (3rd).
They had a K/9 of 9.81, good for fourth, and a BB/9 of 3.03, also good for fourth.
There are many ways people judge a manager, some objective and some subjective. The first thing most people go to is the record at the end of the year. As we all know, the Sox finished first in the AL East with a 93-69 record, three wins better than PECOTA predicted. There’s also the “how many times did I yell at the manager through the TV” scorecard. This includes old favorites such as, “pull the pitcher now!”, “don’t pinch hit him, he has reverse splits!”, and many, many more.
Not that we have access to scouting reports, injury reports, or even information on how the players are feeling that day, but it’s fun to yell. At the end of the year, most grade out how the manager did based on their own set of criteria and decide if the manager should be replaced or not. Red Sox fans are no different. And despite the team finishing first the last two seasons, there are many fans, and writers, and broadcasters, who would like to see Farrell replaced. There are others who think that there is no need to make a change right now. And still others who think they should make a change just because the grass might be greener.
Like all managers, John Farrell is human, and makes mistakes despite all of the information he has. After all, at best he’s making an educated guess; at worst, he’s playing a hunch based on his gut. Either way, he’s making a decision that he thinks will give the team the best chance to win. And right or wrong, he’s living with the consequences. Much more so than we do.
Like many of you, I too have weighed the pros and cons and reached a decision. Based on the hand he was dealt this year; injuries, the prolonged suck at third, under-performance by both hitters and some pitchers, no consistent home run hitter, etc., I think the Sox should retain his services.
I realize that around 50% or more of you will disagree with me for various reasons, and to you I say, I understand that Joe Girardi will be looking for a new job soon.
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