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Red Sox Report Card – August 2017

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It seems like just yesterday that spring had just sprung and we were seeing the first pitches thrown on Opening Day of the 2017 MLB season. And now, just like that, the leaves are turning and we’re in the home stretch. Just one more month before the postseason starts.

The Boston Red Sox used an excellent August performance – 18-9 all told – to establish a solid lead in the American League East. Of course, with a month left, there’s plenty of time to see that lead evaporate – we’ve certainly seen it happen before – but if the team can maintain the level of performance we saw from them over the past month, they should cruise into the playoffs.

It wasn’t the smoothest road in August – despite the glossy record, there were plenty of issues with injury and underperformance. That being said, it certainly looks like Boston is poised to close out with a strong September.

On to the Report Card.

Hitting – B+

Considering how abysmally Sox hitters performed in July, there was nowhere for the bats to go but up. And up they went – Boston batters sat comfortably in the league’s top third in most relevant offensive categories. They were top-five in every slash stat as well as runs, though the season-long dearth of homers continued. A few guys looked superhuman – Andrew Benintendi had his best month as a major leaguer - .333/.420/.559 with six homers and nine steals - while Christian Vazquez, Mitch Moreland and deadline pickup Eduardo Nunez all shone. Rookie Rafael Devers cooled after a blazing start, but looks like the real deal. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts have scuffled and Dustin Pedroia has been hurt – if even two of those three can perform to expectations, this offense should really start to hum.

Starting Rotation – B+

While the offense made a leap forward in August, the rotation took a step back. Not a big one – and certainly not as big as the numbers, skewed by a few outlier blowouts, might suggest – but back nonetheless. Still, the group was comfortably in the top half of the AL rotation echelon. Overall, the shining star of the month was Drew Pomeranz, who went 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his five starts. Rick Porcello won five of six starts with an ERA just a hair north of four. Eduardo Rodriguez struggled throughout. Doug Fister’s numbers were buoyed by one historic start. And Chris Sale’s 2-2 record and 4.38 ERA in August were impacted by two of his worst starts of the season, though he still managed 53 strikeouts in 37 innings over six starts while putting up a WHIP of 1.05. An up-and-down month, but it’s hard to argue with a rotation that wins two-thirds of its games.

Bullpen – B-

Overall, Boston’s bullpen performance since the All-Star break can be described as “meh.” They haven’t been bad overall – and they weren’t bad in August – but there hasn’t been a lot of excellence out of the group either. Closer Craig Kimbrel’s numbers are bumped by a few hard-luck moments, but he still managed a 2.70 ERA and nearly two Ks an inning while converting six of seven save opportunities and landing a 3-0 record. Fernando Abad and Brandon Workman both did strong work over the course of the month. On the flip side, neither Joe Kelly nor Heath Hembree has been particularly good. Robbie Scott – pretty good. Brandon Boyer – basically awful. Put it all together and it works out to a slightly-above-average unit. They could’ve been better, but they could also have been a LOT worse.

Fielding – B

This is one area where the team looks to be on the upswing. The addition of Nunez and the call-up of Devers has served to stabilize the infield defense; third base is no longer the morass it was for the first half of the season. Bogaerts is still occasionally erratic at shortstop, but his athleticism makes up for a lot. The infield D, a liability for much of the year, might be becoming a strength. The outfield glovework remains a highlight – Benintendi, Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. continue performing as one of the strongest defensive units in the league.

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