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Red Sox Report Card – July 2017

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And now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty.

The 2017 MLB season is four months gone. The standings are shaking out and the Red Sox look poised to do battle with the Yankees over the next 55 games for the honor of taking home the American League East division crown.

July wasn’t a great month for the Red Sox – they wound up shy of the .500 mark and bid farewell to their division lead. The bats have continued to struggle even as the pitching has flourished, leaving fans to once again wonder whether this team will ever be firing on all cylinders.

As we move into the dog days of August, we have to wonder if Boston will be able to put all the pieces together and start performing like their talent level says they should. If they do, they’ll lock down the division. If they don’t, it’s going to be a very tense two months.

On to the Report Card.

Hitting – D

This was almost an F. The Red Sox batters just put up a stinker of a month. They’re in the middle of the pack in batting average and that’s the BEST thing to be said about them. We’ve known about their power struggles, but they were dead last in slugging and OPS in July. Without the admirable performance of Dustin Pedroia (.337/.393/.510; 33 hits, four HR, 25 RBI) and a decent showing from Hanley Ramirez (six homers), this grade would be even lower. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi have slumped badly in July, while Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland have flat-out collapsed – the latter pair barely hit .150 in over 150 July at-bats. The odds of every one of these players continuing to struggle going forward would seem slim, but the downward spiral of offensive anemia continues – one hopes that they can figure out how to right the ship.

Starting Pitching – A

The Red Sox starting rotation has performed wonderfully in the month of July. Even with an occasional bump here and there, the core four of the group have been very strong. Chris Sale leads the way, of course – he continued his march to the AL Cy Young Award by going 3-1 in five starts, sporting a 1.04 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP, striking out 56 in 35 innings. Drew Pomeranz has been quite good as well, going 3-0 in his six starts with a sub-3 ERA. David Price – broadcaster confrontations notwithstanding – was good in his four starts, while Rick Porcello was a hard-luck 0-4 in his five starts despite a 3.06 ERA and a WHIP under one. Now Eduardo Rodriguez and Doug Fister were pretty bad in their combined six starts (although Fister closed out the month strong), but not bad enough to undercut the excellence at the top of the rotation. This strong month really kept the Sox afloat.

Bullpen – B

This regression was to be expected. There was no way that the Boston bullpen was going to continue operating at such a high level. They’ve still had some pretty good performances, though. Closer Craig Kimbrel has gone from otherworldly to excellent; he actually gave up a couple of runs, though he also struck out an average of two batters per inning. Fernando Abad was similarly stingy in his eight-plus innings, allowing batters to hit a scant .107 against him. Brandon Workman has looked good as well. Meanwhile, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree have been the good side of decent in the 25 innings they’ve pitched between them. But Joe Kelly struggled before he got hurt, while Brandon Boyer and Robby Scott have looked really bad at times. Still, this group was solid overall in July and remains a team strength.

Fielding – C-

Third base continued to be a defensive quagmire in July, though it seems likely that new arrivals will help stabilize the position. Bogaerts is still erratic; his consistency sometimes fails to match the level of his talent. Mitch Moreland looks pretty good, while Dustin Pedroia remains the steadying infield influence that he has been for a decade. The outfield defense is strong, albeit a touch erratic - Betts and Benintendi have been a bit inconsistent, though Jackie Bradley looks fantastic, stealing home runs and generally looking awesome out there. They’re not the best at glovework, but defense is far from their primary concern.

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