The most important sign of spring has arrived, the grapefruit league is now in full swing and the Boston Red Sox have started Spring 6-2.
Over the last year all I heard on local sports radio was how the Yankees (6-1 so far this spring) are the team to beat how their acquisition of slugger Giancarlo was going to make all the difference and unless the Red Sox put together a deal for someone like J. D. Martinez they were doomed.
Well the Red Sox have Martinez now but it’s my opinion that even before Boston picked him up, they were well positioned to not only repeat as Division Champions but to Challenge the both the Yankees and the Astros (who despite winning the World Series last year seem to be getting little attention) this year and you only have to look at the stats to see why.
On the mound the fact is that other than Chris Sale, 2017 was a disaster for the Boston Pitching Staff.
We lost our knuckleballer Steven Wright, who had gone 13-6 the previous year to injury after only 24 innings vs the 156 2/3 he pitched the season before
David Price found himself injured making only 11 starts vs 35 the year before and while effective out of the bullpen saw his innings drop from 230 to 74 2/3.
Meanwhile Rick Porcello followed up his CY Young season with one his worst season ever setting personal worsts for Hits, Runs, Earned Runs and Homeruns given up.
At the bat things weren’t all that much better if you look at the numbers.
The team batting avg of .258 was only 3 points above the MLB avg
The team was dead last in the AL in Home Runs hitting only 168 the whole season. last in the AL No Red Sox player hit 25 home runs last season for the first time in a quarter century (1992).
They were near the bottom in total bases in the AL (only the Angels, White Sox and Toronto had fewer)
And if that wasn’t enough they were 3rd in the AL and 4th in the majors in hitting into double plays.
Yet despite this not only did the team win 93 games and the division but anyone who watched them last year will remember the excitement particularly in the late innings as the team always managed to come back to win. All during the regular season someone always manged a key hit, a big steal just when the team needed it.
And this was despite Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogarts, Jackie Bradley, Hanley Ramirez and even Mookie Betts all having seasons far below their production of the previous year.
How do you think the RedSox would do in 2018 if even half of those players returned to their 2016 ways, not to mention if they get back the nearly 300 innings lost from Price and Wright and Porcello had even an average year instead of a Cy Young one?
I submit and suggest that it would be more been enough to win the division again even without a JD Martinez. With him the East will be theirs to lose and with solid pitchers behind Chris Sale to help carry the load there is no reason why Boston shouldn’t go a lot farther than they did last year in the playoffs.
To be sure there are some wild cards, a new manager, how you fit Martinez in the lineup and questions about a rookie third baseman and Pedroia’s advancing age, plus you never know where or when the injury bug will strike.
But it seems to me the smart money this year is on Boston to repeat and challenge the Yankees and Astros come the post season.
It’s certainly not going to be a boring year.