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Red Sox Report Card - June 2019

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With the actual halfway point of the MLB season behind us – and the unofficial halfway point that is the All-Star Game just a few days away – things are looking … OK?

June could have been worse; the team managed a 15-12 record over the span of the month. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough to keep pace with the division leaders; July 1 saw the Red Sox behind both the Tampa Bay Rays and the division-leading New York Yankees, who held a double-digit lead over Boston.

Still, there were bright spots. The team’s offense performed admirably over the course of the month. But the pitching staff struggled to hold up their end, resulting in a stretch of results that were above-average, but only just.

It was a solid month, but solid isn’t going to cut it if the Red Sox want a chance to become the first back-to-back champions of the 21st century. Let’s have a closer look, shall we?

On to the Report Card.

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Hitting – A

Tough to argue with the overall numbers here. For June, the Red Sox had the highest batting average in the majors, finishing just shy of .300 at .291. In other slash stats, they were second only to the Yankees in on-base percentage (.355) and slugging percentage (.488). They were first in the AL in hits and second in runs. The only ding is their lack of home run pop – their 38 had them in the middle of the pack. Standouts include Rafael Devers (.317/.349/.548) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (who hit five homers, scored 12 runs and drove in 14 while putting up an OPS just shy of 1.000), though the best bat of the month belonged to Xander Bogaerts, who slugged six homers while scoring and driving in 20 runs – he even walked 19 times, leading to a .313/.418/.606 line. JD Martinez, Andrew Benintendi and Brock Holt all performed well. Really, the only weak link was the unlikeliest candidate – Mookie Betts had a pretty rough month, barely hitting .200. Still, even with underperformance by their best player, the offense had a fine June.

Starting Pitching – C

As good as the offense was in June, the starting pitching was just that mediocre. While they did have one strong performer in Chris Sale, whose 50 strikeouts in 33 innings over five starts led to a 2.73 ERA and a sub-one WHIP, the rest of the rotation was considerably less impressive. In 11 combined starts, David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez managed a 4.38 ERA, a WHIP of 1.30 and just about a strikeout per over 62 total innings; not terrible, certainly, but nothing to write home about. Remove the “not” when you’re talking about Rick Porcello, however – over six June starts, Porcello was abysmal; he put up a 6.46 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP as he allowed opponents to bat .300 against him. The rest of the starts were taken up by spot guys and relievers, with the mixed results that you’d expect from such strategies. When you add it all up, you get a middling month.

Bullpen – D

This is a grade where the overall numbers are only part of the story. There were a few pitchers who had good Junes for Boston. Brandon Workman had a 0.71 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings over 13 appearances, for instance. Ryan Brasier was OK, though he struggled in big moments. But there were some BAD Junes. Erstwhile closer Matt Barnes was awful, with a WHIP of 2 and an ERA just shy of 10 – he blew a bunch of save opportunities and was generally gasoline on a fire. Ditto guys like Mike Shawaryn, Marcus Walden and Josh Taylor, who weren’t quite Barnes-level wretched, but still pretty bad. Then you have guys like Corey Brewer, whose 0.73 ERA looks great until you see his 1.78 WHIP – he walked a man an inning and basically got lucky. The rest of the bullpen was middling-to-bad in limited action. But it’s the timing that hurts this grade – the bullpen’s performance in high-leverage innings was unfortunate, impacting their grade significantly. This bunch needs to get better fast.

Defense – B-

Boston’s defense has settled into a better-than-average groove. Devers still has moments, but he continues to settle in at the hot corner. He’s never be a great third baseman, but he’s not nearly as bad as he was. Bogaerts is steadily becoming one of the better defensive shortstops in the league. Michael Chavis is figuring things out defensively – his misadventures in London notwithstanding. Really, it’s the outfield defense – Betts, Bradley Jr. and Benintendi – that carries this grade. That trio remains one of the best in the American League, though they weren’t as dominant in June as they have been in months past. Vasquez is looking good behind the dish and throwing out nearly half of the guys who attempt to steal on him, though one wonders if his game calling and framing contributed to the team’s pitching struggles.

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