The Red Sox have a stacked lineup and a deep starting rotation. Both were huge reasons for Boston’s 2018 World Series victory and will be crucial for sustained success in 2019.
But what about the Red Sox’s defense?
Boston’s glove work is somewhat underrated given the club’s other, more prominent strengths, but MLB.com’s Mike Petriello on Wednesday ranked the top 10 defensive teams for 2019 and the Red Sox checked in at No. 4. Only the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians will enter this season with better defenses, according to Petriello’s list.
Petriello used projected fielding runs, from FanGraphs, to identify MLB’s best defensive units. The stat takes into account each player’s projected fielding value relative to the positional average, with expected playing time baked in, and the Red Sox boast a plus-25 projected fielding runs mark. The Royals, Angels and Indians sit at plus-25, plus-23 and plus-22, respectively.
Here’s what Petriello wrote about the Red Sox’s defense, which returns two 2018 Gold Glove winners in right fielder Mookie Betts and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr:
Betts is obvious, right? We don’t need to explain how good Betts is? The same should go for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who won his first American League Gold Glove Award and had the metrics back it up; both Betts and Bradley rated in the top 8 outfielders per Statcast last year. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi was an AL Gold Glove Award finalist, and they’ve stated their goal is for Boston to sweep the voting in 2019. Dustin Pedroia, if healthy, should be capable enough at second, though the real question here is whether young third baseman Rafael Devers can improve upon his relatively unimpressive fielding showing so far.
The Red Sox won 108 regular-season games in 2018. They then went 11-3 in the playoffs, dispatching the rival New York Yankees, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros and the back-to-back National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers en route to their fourth title since 2004.
One can point to Boston’s bats or its postseason pitching heroics as being instrumental in the franchise’s championship triumph. But perhaps the Red Sox’s elite defense should get a little more love as Alex Cora’s team looks to repeat in 2019.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports Images