Coming into the 2016 season, the Red Sox had a bunch of “what if’s” that needed to fall into place in order for Red Sox fans to feel comfortable with this year’s team. Before the season even got underway, the “what if’s” seemed even more formidable when Eduardo Rodriguez and Carson Smith landed themselves on the disabled list before opening day.
But here they are, on May 6th, sitting in first place, with Carson Smith back and Eduardo Rodriguez making his way back into the rotation soon. Not only are things looking great for the Sox right now, but they also can potentially look even better and cause them to run away with the division.
Right now the Red Sox starting rotation is looking pretty solid. At the back end of the rotation, the Sox have Rick Porcello and Steven Wright. Porcello might be the most reliable pitcher of the staff. He has come out looking great from the beginning, going back to the pitch that used to always find him success, his sinker. Porcello’s stat line is 5-0, 2.76 ERA, 9.9 K/9, with a .918 WHIP.
Then behind him stepping up in a big way is Steven Wright. To say Wright is going to keep up his success is a crapshoot. Being a knuckleball pitcher, success is just something that is hard to predict. However, he is proving that he deserves a spot in this rotation when Rodriguez officially comes back. Wright has an American League 4th best 1.67 ERA, with an 8.6 K/9, and a WHIP of 1.144.
The Red Sox’s biggest pitching concern is the top of their rotation. Both Price and Buchholz have been struggling, but this actually doesn’t concern me that much. Red Sox being 17-11 with the top of the rotation underperforming is something I can live with. Price is going to only get better as the season progresses; he is just too good to keep on being mediocre, and Buchholz can always get on a hot streak. He shut down a potent White Sox lineup on Wednesday, limiting them to 2 runs over 7 innings. Buchholz is talented no question, and stringing together a handful of great outings is never out of the picture for him. On top of Price and Buchholz only improving from this point on, you have the return of Eduardo Rodriguez who will add to the growing strength of the Red Sox rotation.
Yes, the bullpen went through a couple of bumpy outings, but there is nothing to worry about here. Craig Kimbrel has been untouchable as of late. Sure, Koji Uehara hasn’t been the same from what he once was, but he doesn’t need to be with Kimbrel and now the return of Smith. Junichi Tazawa has finally gotten his workload lessened. And then add Heath Hembree being a reliable fifth guy out of the bullpen; the Red Sox bullpen is looking strong, even with Robbie Ross Jr., Matt Barnes, and Tommy Layne.
Lastly, you have the lineup, and that has been a very good one over the last month. David Ortiz is having one of his strongest seasons having a .319 AVG, 1.051 OPS, 6 HRs, and 23 RBIs. Xander Bogaerts is not only continuing his success from 2015 but also improving on it, as he is finding more power in his swing. Dustin Pedroia is gently putting together a season like he used to have back in his early years. Travis Shaw only being in the big leagues for two years is sporting a career .831 OPS, it’s time to jump on the Shaw train as he is the real deal. With Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr. being notorious for putting together offensive hot streaks, they can potentially help equalize one another’s production. Also, with Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts, the Sox line up is looking stronger than it has been in recent memory. This all in hand helps the Sox have a spot for the defensive stud Christian Vazquez. With this type of offensively stacked lineup, Vazquez’s offensive capabilities are not of importance as he can focus on improving our pitchers and buying them strikes, with a great ability to frame.
There inevitably will be ups and downs during the course of a long 2016 season, but things are looking good for the Red Sox. From where the Red Sox stand right now, I am confident that things are only looking up and winning the American League East Division is not out of the picture. After the first month,they have managed to sit in first place with a 17-11 record, without having everything figured out including two important players (Smith and Rodriguez) missing and some early on pitching struggles. But, when everything finally falls into place the Red Sox will be a team to reckon with.