Red Sox First Half Holes and Issues

I know there are many great things to talk about in terms of the Red Sox’s performance during the first half, but I’m going to talk about the weaknesses that the team needs to focus on improving in the second half. If they fix some key issues and continue doing the things they are doing well, we could be very happy come playoff time. But, the issues are not small.

For the first time in 3 years, the Red Sox having a winning record heading into the All-Star break. I know it is not necessarily something to boast about, but when it hasn’t been the case for a few years, it’s hard not to.

They are now 49-38 (.563 winning percentage), 11 games over .500, and 7-3 in their last ten games. They had a strong finish and find themselves in the heat of the American League playoff race, which is something Red Sox fans should feel lucky about, given their poor month of June when they went 10-16. The poor month was a testament to how, for a team that is very much in playoff contention at the halfway mark, the Sox are still a team with many holes to fill and things to fix.

Road and Divisional Wins:

For one, the Red Sox need to learn how to win on the road. In their first 87 games, the Red Sox have seen success at home going 30-20, however on the road, they are only 19-18. Baseball team road records are generally not as impressive, so it’s not uncommon, but the concerning issue is that out of their remaining 75 games, 44 of them are to be played on the road.

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Then to make things a little worse, the Red Sox are 19-19 in their division. Not only do the Sox have to improve on the road, but also need to improve on winning division games. It’s no small task with the AL East being very strong at the helm of the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, but it is something that needs to see improvement if they want to win the division and avoid playing in an AL Wildcard game or missing playoffs.

Rotation:

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Image from: Boston.com (John Tlumacki)

In the first half of the season, the rotation has been a topic of concern. Steven Wright (10-5, 2.69 ERA, 3 CG, 1.211 WHIP, and 7.4 K/9) and Rick Porcello (11-2, 3.66 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9, and 7.7 k/9) have been pleasantly carrying the Red Sox rotation. Even David Price has shown signs of success, amid some early season struggles, with 13 games with 3 or less earned runs and a K/9 of 10.1 for the first half of the season. There is little doubt in my mind that he will find success on a more consistent and dominant fashion in the second half. The real issue with the rotation lies at the back end of the rotation at the 4 and 5 spot. There have been 6 different pitchers who have been given a chance (and have for the most part came up short) to fit that role. Trading for a quality arm that can deliver consistent quality innings is a vital need for the Red Sox. The struggles of Eduardo Rodrigues, Clay Buchholz, and even Joe Kelly have caused the rotation to have major holes and this is one thing that should be given plenty of attention to as we head closer to the trade deadline.

Update: The Red Sox according to Twitter have acquired Drew Pomeranz.This is the type of pitcher that could be what the rotation needs. He is a quality arm that can eat up quality innings. In 102 innings, Pomeranz has an ERA of 2.47, a 1.059 WHIP, 5.9 H/9, 3.6 BB/9, and a K/9 of 10.1. This is the type of guy the rotation could really use.

Health:

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Image from: Bostonglobe.com

The first half of the season was no walk in the park for the Red Sox. The Red Sox were struck with their fare share of injuries. Injuries to Carson Smith, Brock Holt, Chris Young, Blake Swihart, and now Kimbrel have certainly had an impact on the team, however, they have found ways to overcome and still play well. Injuries, of course, are a part of the game and will happen. But, in the second half, John Farrell has to do well at managing his players and their playing time with some of the team’s key players such as a 40-year-old David Ortiz, and Xander Bogaerts. Dave Dombrowski has helped by adding some needed depth in utility players such as Aaron Hill and Michael Martinez. John Farrell must use these additions towards his advantage to avoid over usage, because health, down the road, is a valuable asset for a playoff contending team.

Bullpen:

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Image from: Mass Live (Winslow Townson)

Craig Kimbrel underwent left knee arthroscopy and partial medial meniscectomy on Monday to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. The Red Sox are still listing his recovery as 3-6 weeks, however after rehab and a Minor League assignment, his return seems realistically sometime in September. The addition of Brad Zeigler before Kimbrel’s injury was a need for the bullpen, and now it may have saved it for the time being. Junichi Tazawa is already showing signs of being overworked along with a 41-year-old Koji Uehara whose splitter has lost consistency. If Ziegler was never acquired this would cause a major need for another trade. However, if the timetable is true for Kimbrel or he makes his way back in September this could be a huge piece in a late season and post season run. Hopefully, there is another trade done prior to the deadline as a security blanket, in case Kimbrel doesn’t come back this season as knee injuries are so unpredictable. However, unfortunately, there have been reports that Dave Dombrowski is done looking at the trade market for the bullpen, even after the Kimbrel injury. So let’s hope 36-year-old Brad Ziegler can take a big workload, along with success from Barnes, Hembree, Tazawa, Koji, and Robbie Ross Jr. during the second half, until a hopeful return of Kimbrel in the last part of the season.

Conclusion:

Those are just a handful of the holes and issues the Red Sox need to address in the second half of the 2016 season. If they give enough of these needs attention they can have a great August and September. However, if they don’t, the struggles like we have seen in the month of June could present themselves again, and could be dire to their chance to win the division or even make the wild card.

So what do you say, Red Sox?  Let’s try and solve these issues in the second half.

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