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Red Sox Report Card – September 2018

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And thus the best regular season in Boston Red Sox history comes to an end.

It wasn’t necessarily a September to remember in the micro sense – the Sox put up a record of just 15-11 over the course of the month – but in the macro sense, they put the finishing touches on the winningest season in the century-plus existence of the team, 108 wins in all.

That being said, it wasn’t as though Boston finished strong. The record wasn’t terrible, but it belied the struggles of the team. The pitching in particular had a less-than-stellar September. It’s not exactly the note on which you want to head into the postseason.

Even with that seemingly sub-par performance, however, this team was fourth in the American League in terms of winning percentage for the month. Basically, even when this team is at its worst, it’s one of the league’s best. In advance of everything being reset to zero as we head into the playoffs, let’s take a look back at the final month of the 2018 regular season.

On to the Report Card.

Hitting – B+

The Red Sox offense has been wildly impressive all season long – but just a little bit less impressive in September. Of course, “less impressive” is a relative thing; for the month, Boston was top-five in all of the slash stats and sixth in runs scored. That’s actually a step backward – pretty incredible if you think about it. MVP frontrunner Mookie Betts led the way offensively, slashing .377/.482/.638 with three homers, 10 RBI and 20 runs scored. Xander Bogaerts had a big month - .333/.414/.573 with four HRs and 17 RBI – while Brock Holt blew up to the tune of .354/.456/.667. J.D. Martinez had a good month as well, while Tzu-Wei Lin was a ridiculous .381/.458/.810 in limited duty. On the other side of things, Mitch Moreland and Ian Kinsler both fell below the Mendoza line for the month, while Red Sox catchers (Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon) combined to bat .167 in 126 September at-bats. Still, all in all a pretty good month with the bats.

Starting Pitching – C

The rotation did not have a great month. Really, only one Red Sox starter had what you’d call a great month. Nathan Eovaldi came into his own, putting up a 1.35 ERA in five appearances (four starts). He struck out 27 in 20 innings and managed a WHIP of one. A starter with a pretty good September was David Price (3.42 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 25 strikeouts in 24 innings over four starts); Chris Sale was dominant, but he struggled with injuries – he struck out 18 in just 12 innings. It gets uglier from there. Rick Porcello started five games in September; his ERA was 4.37, though his WHIP was solid at 1.10. Not terrible, but far from great. Eduardo Rodriguez, however, was terrible. He managed an ERA of 5.40 and a WHIP of 1.44 in four starts (eight appearances overall) while generally getting knocked around. He did strike out 36 in his 25 innings, but that was small consolation for his overall performance. Tough to feel great about the work done by this group.

Bullpen – D+

Even that grade might be generous. Elite work from a couple of pitchers inflates it somewhat. Steven Wright gave up just a single run in 13 innings over 10 appearances, while Ryan Brasier had a 2.31 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 13 appearances; those two were really the only strong performers in the bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel was good – 3.86 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, going five-for five in saves while opponents batted .034 against him. Other than that, things were kind of brutal. William Cuevas (8.36 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in seven appearances) was really bad. Joe Kelly (8.31 ERA and 1.96 WHIP in 12 appearances) was also incredibly bad. And yet neither had the worst September; that honor belonged to Drew Pomeranz, who stumbled to a 12.27 ERA and 2.45 WHIP in seven appearances spanning seven innings. There were other pitchers that were just ordinary bad, but this awful trio really torpedoed the bullpen’s overall September performance.

Defense – B

The defensive performance by this team is as good as any Red Sox team in recent memory. The outfield of Benintendi, Bradley and Betts remains arguably the preeminent defensive trio in all of MLB. They are a spectacular group; few can go get it like they do. It’s much less impressive in the infield. Regular first baseman Moreland was Gold Glove-caliber (though he’s maybe lost a step) and Xander Bogaerts is an above-average (albeit inconsistent) shortstop, but that’s more than countered by poor second base defense across the board and an absolute abysmal display of glovework from third baseman Rafael Devers. He’s so bad. The catchers are average, maybe a bit better than that. All in all, an OK bunch of gloves elevated by an elite outfield.

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