The Boston Red Sox’s 2016 season ended abruptly.
The club did a complete 180 this year, going from 78-84 in 2015 to 93-69 to win the American League East. The Red Sox had far and away the best offense in Major League Baseball, two AL MVP candidates in David Ortiz and right fielder Mookie Betts, an AL Cy Young Award contender in Rick Porcello and went into the postseason as favorites to win the AL pennant.
But then, the Cleveland Indians swept Boston in the AL Division Series.
So how did the Red Sox go from running away with the AL East, which yielded three playoff teams, to making a quick exit in the postseason? Well, there are a few reasons.
First of all, it would be remiss to not mention that the Indians are really, really good. Although it’s surprising the Red Sox went out without much of a fight, it’s not a shocker that the Tribe was able to win. Boston won the teams’ season series 4-2, but Cleveland straight up outplayed the Red Sox in the ALDS.
But the Red Sox also were their own worst enemy, and some problems they had in the regular season came back to bite them in October. They lost two of their of their three ALDS games by one run, something that was an issue for them all season. Boston went 20-24 in one-run games, and it should be noted that they didn’t add four of those wins until their 11-game win streak in September. The Red Sox had opportunities to win Games 1 and 3, but they squandered them.
Boston’s rotation also went back to being inconsistent, as the club’s three starters gave them just 11 2/3 innings combined through the series. Porcello’s rough outing was an anomaly for him this season, but David Price looked like first-half David Price in Game 2’s 6-0 loss and not the guy who helped the Red Sox have one of the best rotations in the league in the second half.
But at the end of the day, the Red Sox can fix the problems that plagued them in 2016. Aside from Ortiz’s retirement, the entirety of Boston’s starting lineup will be back with the club in 2017. Yes, they lose a guy who still was able to put up 38 home runs and 127 RBIs, but the Red Sox have great hitters up and down their lineup, and there are a solid amount of power guys who’ll be free agents this offseason like Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista.
Boston will have to tweak its rotation, too, but they’re in pretty good shape in that they don’t need top-of-the-rotation pitchers. There’s no reason to think Price and Porcello won’t perform in 2017 (Anything is possible, but still.), so the Red Sox should be able to land a solid No. 4 or 5 starter for a low price or even from within the organization. Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler all will be free agents, so the Red Sox likely will need to add a couple of arms to the bullpen, too, but they also will have a healthy Carson Smith, who could make a big difference.
As for their performance in close games, that one is less cut-and-dry as far as fixing it goes. The Red Sox do have a lot of young players, so it could simply be a matter of them not having the experience of being leaders with high expectations. Now that they’ve been there before, we could see them be more successful in that sense.
The bottom line is that the 2016 Red Sox really didn’t have too many major issues. They were defensively sound, offensively prolific and their pitching had a more solid foundation than most teams in the league can boast. Overall, the Fenway Faithful should be in for another winning season in 2017.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images