I spent a small fraction of the summer wondering what kind of offensive output the team could have rewarded the fans with if Hanley didn’t do this:
.242 / 58 R / 62 RBI
His dismal performance was further exacerbated because it came in a year where it was paramount for him to ease the impact of Ortiz’s retirement. Of course, a majority of the lineup underperformed: Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and Chris Young combined for less home runs than Eugenio fuckin Suarez, and 3rd base had the production of a toy factory in Chernobyl. So naturally, all Dave Dombrowski has to do is sign Eric Hosmer, and that will just fix everything, right?
How bout no, Scott! Sure, I’m cherry picking here, but the guy who is departing first base only had five fewer long balls than the soon to be former Royal. Is Hosmer a better hitter than Mitchie, yes! Absolutely. But when a team is last in home runs and showed hardly any power throughout ’17, upgrading one spot out of nine isn’t going to cut the mustard. In fact, the Boston offense can’t be fixed by one man’s checkbook and capacity for adding star power… it’s the players already here that are going to be responsible for the Sox crossing the plate 5.55 times per contest in 2018.
Back in 1950, the Sox trotted home on 1,027 occasions over 156 games; mind numbing, to be honest. I bring this up simply because a team doesn’t have to be infallible to hit the 1000 run mark, meaning a slightly flawed offense is still capable of scoring five time per game. And despite the popular “pitching wins” mantra, it doesn’t. It’s that simple. It can, but it’s not the end all, be all, it’s believed to be. Baseball isn’t exactly the sport it was in 1928 when Heinie Manush was the MVP runner up with 13 home runs. We just saw, in 2017, a rookie hit 50 bombs in the American League and a National League rookie with 39. Scooter Gennett walloped four Papa Slams, and Giancarlo Stanton nearly crossed the 60 HR threshold without the power of Biogenesis. And here in the World Series, we witnessed the arms of Kershaw, Hill, and Jensen be outdone by the lumber of Altuve, Springer and Correia.
But what about our Sox? Well, the steps are being taken to correct the anemic (at times) bats of Boston. Chili Davis, John Farrell, and Brian the windmill Butterfield have been replaced. Han-Ram and Pedey’s surgeries have been deemed successful, and DD is searching for that power bat we missed last year. As important as these transactions and operations are, if we look at the currently assembled roster, the punch is there; the grand slams are there, too. It’s a matter of a large contingent of them to regain their 2015-2016 form, and prove to the masses that last season was an offensive fluke.
Below are three homegrown talents that will aid in turning the club around from a 785 run clique of sad saps, into a vaunted 1-9 lineup.
1. Rafy Devers- a full season should translate to some serious firepower. Should. Devers appeared to have the poise to hold up on a big stage, so if he can nail down 150 games in ’18, I expect 30 jacks and 90 driven in from the fresh 21 year old.
2. Christian Vazquez- Colo made leaps last year, and there’s no denying it. Is he just spinning a Sandy Leon impersonation, I doubt it. So if he turns out another season close to ’17, then that’s a number 9 occupant on Alex Cora’s lineup card that -given the assumption his playing time will increase mightily- can put together a .280/12 HR/60 RBI. Essentially, we’re looking for less Sandy, more C-Vaq. That’s it.
3. Andrew Benintendi- put a gun to most Red Sox fans heads, and they’ll admit a slight disappointment in Beni’s rookie year. But, he was a 20/20 player with 90 RBI and a gorgeous swing; can he break out next year, joining the ranks of first time All-Stars?
This isn’t to say that we are hinging our hopes on three young ballers, and if they go kaput, the lineup goes goodnight. Betts could certainly stand for a spike in his OPS, the Pedey injury may allow a spark plug known as Eduardo Nunez to return, with significant playing time. Xander could finally surprise us all with a Lindor or Correia type season, and Ramirez may very well be back to his 2016 form. As far as JBJ, I’ll take highlight reel defense and 20 dingers… or a trade to make room for Stanton or Martinez; he holds value as either trade bait or a starting CF. Not to mention, and this is more of a caveat than anything else, but Bryce Brentz and Rusney Castillo look like viable options as fourth outfielders, who could bring some of that Pawtucket pop they performed this past season.
Last year, we suffered through the shock and awe of what it’s like to not have Nomar, Mo Vaughn, Manny or Papi anchoring the lineup. Personally, I simply don’t remember baseball without having a monster in the middle of the order. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, but it’s not permanent either. Even if the club came back constituted exactly as is, there’d be an expectation to increase run production merely based on the fact that a number of players had down years at the plate. They fielded an incredibly young lineup last year, with only seven teams averaging a younger bunch than Boston did: and only one of them, the Cubs, made the post season. This tells us that maturity is a factor, and with another year falling off the calendar, maybe we’ll see a more mature approach from the young guys.
The Sox were a powerhouse in the early 00’s. from 2003-2009, the franchise rebranded itself with six playoff berths, winning 44 playoff games and a pair of World Series trophies. The importance? Check out their runs scored: 872, 845, 867, 910, 949, 961… An average of 903 per year.
So, maybe for Boston to get back to its deep post season runs, it is exactly that, for which they need to succeed: runs.