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The 2017 Red Sox: Full of Hope, Full of Disappointment

By Emma West

After a heartbreaking 5-4 loss last Monday, the American League East champion Boston Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs by the Houston Astros. For the second straight year, manager John Farrell’s team failed to make it past the divisional round. These failures, among others, led to Farrell’s dismissal from managerial duties on October 12. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski is yet to announce his replacement.

In March, the Sox were favored by many analysts (and, of course, fans) to win the American League and possibly the World Series. So what was wrong with the Sox?

Completely unexpected was the lack of power that the Sox displayed throughout the season. They hit only 168 home runs (the fewest in the American League, 26th overall in the MLB) while giving up 195; they were also 22nd overall in extra base hits. For a division leader, these stats are appalling. The loss of David Ortiz was a big hit to these numbers, but power guys like Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland needed to do more.

Personal struggles, fans included, were also a problem this year. Clutch power hits lead to excitement in the stands, but with power numbers down and “Big Papi” gone, total attendance decreased by about 40,000 and viewership of Red Sox games on New England Sports Network (NESN) fell 20%. Critics slammed the team throughout the season with claims that the team wasn’t “close” enough on a personal level. The controversy between pitcher David Price and beloved color commentator Dennis Eckersley didn’t help the dynamic, either.

Disappointment in two words? Rick Porcello. The 2016 Cy Young winner posted a whopping 4.65 ERA (up 1.50 from last season) in 2017, and cut his wins in half (from a record-setting 22 to 11). The reliable, electric ace from last year – though in the off season bumped to the two-spot with the acquisition of lefty Chris Sale – was a complete letdown, contributing more than his part to the 195 home runs surrendered by the Sox.   

With all of their weaknesses, the Sox did finish in first place in the American League East. Promising young players were a bright spot for the Sox this season, and that youth suggests a bright future for the team. Two rookies, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, hit .271 and .284 respectively, coming up in the clutch for big moments, including the playoffs – Benintendi hit a homerun in Game Four of the ALDS to give the Sox the lead in the 5th inning. Though the lead was eventually squandered, these players and others (including Mookie Betts and  Xander Bogaerts) boosted the team throughout season, and will continue to do so barring trades.

Off season acquisition Chris Sale dominated hitters this season. With the exception of a few rough outings, the lefty was reliable, with a 2.90 ERA and 17 wins; that total is arguably deflated because of lack of run support.

The bullpen was also considerably strong this year, with closer Craig Kimbrel posting a 1.43 ERA with only 4 blown saves. The pen had elite stretches and came through after short outings by starters, a promising sign for seasons to come.

With the release of John Farrell and the possibilities of trades (notably Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton), we can expect to see many new faces on the Red Sox next year. After a season plagued by surprising weaknesses, but held up by unexpected strengths, it will be exciting to see what the Sox have in store for their fans in 2018.

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