BOSTON — The Red Sox won’t be playing any more postseason games this year after being swept by the Cleveland Indians in their American League Division Series on Monday, but that doesn’t mean their whole season was a wash.
Sure, the goal of any team is to win the World Series, but the 2016 Red Sox still went from worst to first again, winning an AL East division that yielded three playoff teams. We also learned a lot about what this team is capable of and what they need to do to be even better in 2017.
So without further ado, here are the takeaways from the Red Sox’s 2016 season.
The Red Sox are better than anyone thought.
Even after the Red Sox added ace David Price and closer Craig Kimbrel to the mix in the offseason, plenty were skeptical that the Red Sox would be good enough to win the AL East, let alone reach the playoffs. The Toronto Blue Jays returned most of the team that reached the 2015 AL Championship Series, and the Baltimore Orioles had a solid team, too. But the Red Sox ended up having the most powerful and prolific offense in baseball behind stellar performances from young guns Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and a 40-year-old David Ortiz. And not only did Boston make the playoffs, it ran away with the AL East as the division’s only 90-win team with a 93-69 record.
Their rotation actually is solid enough to win.
You couldn’t hear enough in the offseason about how the Red Sox’s rotation behind Price would be their downfall, and it turned out that the left-hander didn’t even have the best season among the starters. Rick Porcello wound up being a Cy Young Award candidate, and Steven Wright was fooling batters with his knuckleball almost every time he took the mound. Even Clay Buchholz spun some gems later in the season. The rotation started off slow, but in the second half, they turned in a Major League Baseball-best 9.0 WAR, and their 3.66 team ERA among the starters was bested only by the Chicago Cubs.
Their youth was their biggest asset and probably their downfall, too.
Young guys like Betts, Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and many more turned in excellent seasons and were a huge part of the reason the Red Sox were able to stay so healthy this season. They brought a ton of energy and aggressiveness that impressed even the longest-tenured veterans. But in the end, their lack of experience also might have cost them in the postseason. Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley went a collective 6-for-32 (.188) in the ALDS, second baseman Dustin Pedroia even said Monday that the younger guys might not have realized what they were getting into in the postseason.
“It’s a taste for them,” Pedroia said. “I think the tough part is you play every day during the year, and you have a few days off, you wait different times between innings, it just throws you out of whack. I think they didn’t know what to expect out of that. Because it is different. It’s hard to get into a rhythm.”
Hanley Ramirez is a key member of this team.
After a rough 2015 campaign, Ramirez batted .286 with 30 home runs and 111 RBIs. Though it wasn’t hard for him to play any other position better than he played in left field last season, Ramirez also improved just by being more comfortable at first base. In fact, he was a downright good first baseman, committing just four errors and turning in a .996 fielding percentage.
The Red Sox are miserable with the bases loaded.
This probably has to do with their youth, too, but for an offense that knocked in 878 runs in the regular season, it was ironic how bad they were with the bases juiced. The Red Sox batted just .218 with men on every base, which was the second-worst in the league behind the Minnesota Twins. Fangraphs also had them batting .257 in high-leverage situations, which isn’t anything to write home about. Also related to that is the fact that they struggled in one-run games (20-26 including the playoffs), and that’s a problem Boston definitely will have to address in 2017.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images