The Red Sox are on a spectacular tear, but there are a few holes in the lineup that need baseball spackle. Catcher and center field are minimal contributors.
Sooner or later ineptness in baseball will glaringly be demonstrated in the wins and losses. A weak defensive team or a team with two or three players with questionable defensive skills will most certainly have a ball find them for a misplay at a crucial time.
A weak closer in today’s game can be a baseball death sentence in the ninth inning. In a rare instance against the Royals, Craig Kimbrel gave up a home run to tie the game. Think back a few seasons when Heathcliff Slocumb took the hill to close out a game. And the same applies to a rotation. A rotation flush with pitchers whose only capability is to put you in a hole.
Then there is the offense.
Boston has holes in their offense and so far, have managed to escape disaster. Several players have been spectacular with the stick and start with Mookie Betts and work through until you reach Mitch Moreland. The team statistics are remarkable and clearly represent a significant upgrade from 2017. But issues exist.
Jackie Bradley is mired in one of his more prodigious and futility inducing slumps. Even his defense – something I personally consider overrated – is just ordinary. Both catchers remind me all too often of the pitchers hitting in the National League. Neither appears ready to rise above .200. Even Andrew Benintendi seems to be drifting, but my worries about the gifted 23-year-old are minimal. But what about the others?
Neither catcher is giving back on defense. The Red Sox catchers are defensively in the middle of the pack in the American League and offensively the word worthless surfaces. With JBJ he instills no fear in pitchers. Bradley simply belongs on the bench and roll the defensive dice with J.D. Martinez. Martinez is as advertised, and the occasional misplay can be absorbed with his offensive contribution.
The Red Sox won a championship in 2013 with Jonny Gomes in left field. And then there is Manny Ramirez. I do not recall Manny as being of Gold Glove caliber. Maybe iron glove? Jim Rice made the Hall of Fame and Jim Ed could be scary at bat and at times in the field. So, Martinez is a no big deal for me playing left.
With Dustin Pedroia on the brink of return that can add some flexibility as Eduardo Nunez and Hanley Ramirez can both share any DH duties when Nunez is elsewhere and Ramirez and Moreland can share first base duties. And do not forget promising Sam Travis as a contributor at first or DH. And as far as Bradley’s center field slot it seems Benintendi is the most obvious choice to move. So far, manager Alex Cora is not shy about days of or using a mix and match approach to playing time and you may see some positional versatility on display.
Catcher is a different situation. Internal options do not exist unless the Red Sox choose to finally release Blake Swihart from bench captivity. The knock on Swihart is defense and will runners go wild on him. Two points: So far, they have on Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez and The Astros won a championship with Brian McCann almost throwing out no one.
There are also external options for Boston and that means astute trading by Dave Dombrowski. As the season moves forward more and more teams will be in a “No Mas” position and that breeds opportunity.
This is a successful team and the obvious is patience and that means waiting for the weak links to suddenly revert to their expected norms. That, however, may be a very long wait based on the historical evidence. A few judicious moves could solidify a great offense into a spectacular one.