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Red Sox Report Card – April

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It sure has been great having baseball back.

As always, the long winter left us waiting in great anticipation for the return of the thump of the glove and the crack of the bat. Spring has sprung and the Boston Red Sox – along with MLB’s 29 other teams – have taken the field.

It hasn’t been an ideal start for the Red Sox, with their first month landing right around the .500 mark. That’s not terrible – look to the bottom of the AL East and the Blue Jays for terrible – but considering this team was the popular pick to win the division, it’s far from great.

The offense has looked odd thus far, making great contact but lacking power. Scoring runs has proved unexpectedly difficult. The pitching has been mostly strong so far, but the staff has still managed to cough up some winnable games. Overall, things are looking pretty good despite the slow start. Could be worse.

On to the Report Card.

Hitting – C

We’ll start with the good news. The Red Sox have the second highest team batting average in the American League. Their on-base percentage is third. And … that’s the good news. The bad news is the borderline shocking absence of power – Boston is in the bottom third of the league in slugging percentage and dead last in home runs. The end result is a below-average run-scoring team that is 112th in runs scored. Andrew Benintendi has played wonderfully, while Mookie Betts and Mitch Moreland have contributed heavily. On the other side, Jackie Bradley has been particularly disappointing with the bat. But with Hanley Ramirez and the rest of the team struggling to generate power, the team’s offensive ceiling has been low all month.

Starting Pitching – B

Maybe a little high, but the team is sitting fourth overall in the AL in ERA. Granted, a lot of that can be credited to strong bullpen numbers thus far, but still – the rotation has been solid as a whole. Chris Sale is the obvious stud; in five April starts, he struck out 52 in just shy of 38 innings with a 1.19 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP – and has just one win to show for it. Eduardo Rodriguez has been sharp as well, striking out more than a batter an inning and sporting a 2.70 ERA. And then … well, it falls off a bit. Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz have been less than great. Not brutally terrible, but not what you expect from a pairing that includes the reigning Cy Young winner. Steven Wright, however, has been terrible, getting hit hard all month. Put it all together, though, and the overall picture looks OK, buoyed largely by Sale’s immense success.

Bullpen – A-

A lot of pitchers threw extremely well in the Boston bullpen over the course of the month. It all starts with closer Craig Kimbrel, who has looked very strong in the opening weeks of the season. He’s eight-for-nine in save chances and has given up just two runs in his 11-plus innings while striking out 20. Converted starter Joe Kelly has looked solid in the pen, while old standby Heath Hembree has been very effective. So has situational lefthander Robby Scott. Matt Barnes has been OK. In truth, only Fernando Abad has really struggled out of the bullpen this month. They’ve been able to help make up for some of the rotation’s shortcomings by pitching effectively. It remains to be seen whether they can continue going forward.

Defense – C+

Boston is tied for the second-most errors in the league so far with 19. It’s not a good look for a team that looked to be on the upswing defensively. Pablo Sandoval has shown himself to be rusty at the hot corner with four errors already on the season. Mitch Moreland has three at first base, the sort of struggles you don’t expect from a Gold Glove-winning fielder. The outfield defense remains strong, however, with Betts, Bradley and Benintendi forming one of the more athletic trios in the AL. And things look pretty good at catcher as well. Still, the generally poor infield glovework prevents this grade from being any higher.

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