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Red Sox Report Card - August 2018

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2018 has turned out to be quite a year, hasn’t it?

With one month remaining in the season, the Red Sox look poised to complete one of the best – if not THE best – regular seasons in their long and storied history. They even have an outside shot at the all-time wins record of 116, set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners, although a late August swoon put that record all but mathematically out of reach.

Still – they’ll almost certainly cruise past the century mark, a total surpassed by just three Red Sox teams. And barring a significant losing streak, they’ll probably stroll past the franchise wins record of 105 set by the 1912 Sox.

August certainly helped the cause, with Boston going 18-9. The pitching saw some periods of struggle, but the offense had yet another exceptional month, with a pair of MVP candidates leading the way. All told, this team is a strong September away from one of the highest win totals of all time.

On to the Report Card.

Hitting – A+

Even in a year filled with strong offensive output, a month like this stands out. They led the American League in runs with 166, averaging over six per game. They put up a .275/.350/.469 slash line as a team, easily leading the league in all three categories. J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts continued their spectacular seasons, batting .373 and .353 respectively. Martinez had 25 RBI, 11 doubles and seven home runs to go with his 1.139 OPS; Betts had 25 runs scored and six steals to go with his four homers. Xander Bogaerts also had a strong month (.303/.385/.517; three HRs, 21 RBI), as did Eduardo Nunez and Jackie Bradley Jr. Andrew Benintendi cooled off, but was still solid. It hasn’t all been wine and roses – Mitch Moreland, Brock Holt and Sandy Leon have all been sub-par at the plate. Still, this is a spectacular performance by an excellent offense. Over the course of the month, they were a potent foe – the most formidable in the league by a wide margin.

Starting Pitching – C-

It’s weird that a team with this record would have a rotation that grades out this low, but honestly, I could have gone lower. The only saving grace of the staff this month was David Price of all people, who struck out more than a man an inning over five starts to go with a 2.10 ERA. It feels weird to say it, but David Price was the August ace. Rick Porcello wasn’t good – a 5.11 ERA in six starts. Brad Johnson and Hector Velazquez had ERAs over five as well. Meanwhile, deadline acquisition Nathan Eovaldi is the worst of the bunch, getting knocked around to the tune of a 5.67 ERA; opposing hitters are batting .345 against him. The sidelining of ace Chris Sale hurt this unit significantly; Sale has been all-world when healthy. It’s a poor performance across the board aside from Price (seriously – it feels really weird to say), but they’ve been bailed out by the bats. Ultimately, all that matters is the win. And this team came up with a lot of them.

Bullpen – B-

This group wasn’t all that impressive either, but they shone in comparison to the rotation. At the very least, they had more than one pitcher performing at a non-abysmal level. Ryan Brasier managed a 1.50 ERA and a strikeout an inning. Joe Kelly shook off last month’s struggles, striking out a bunch of guys and giving up just a couple of runs (although he still gives up too many hits). Brandon Workman has been good as well. Closer Craig Kimbrel wasn’t his usual dominating self, giving up four runs in six innings. He only converted four of six save opportunities as well, though he did strike out more than two batters an inning. But Tyler Thornburg has been bad, Heath Hembree has been terrible … and Matt Barnes has been astonishingly ineffective (his ERA approached 10 for the month). You put all of that together and you wind up with a unit that is overall just north of OK. But when your team is hitting like this one, it doesn’t really matter.

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 is arguably the preeminent defensive trio in all of MLB. They are a spectacular group. It’s less impressive in the infield. Regular first baseman Moreland is Gold Glove-caliber and Xander Bogaerts is an above-average shortstop, but that’s more than countered by poor second base defense and an awful display of glovework from third baseman Rafael Devers. Sandy Leon is a solid receiver and shows flashes of more. All in all, a nice bunch of gloves.

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