Was John Farrell’s last official act as Manager of the Red Sox watching Josh Reddick hit the go ahead run off of closer Craig Kimbrel sealing their ALDS doom?
The Houston Astros high powered and high octane offense came through when it mattered most, with 3-two out RBI’s, rolling over the Boston Red Sox on their way to the American League Championship series, where they await the winner between the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.
What worked so well for the Red Sox all year, failed them in their greatest time of need, their pitching.
A Few Takeaways
The Red Sox Bullpen was second in ERA (3.15), earned runs allowed (186) and sported an impressive 29-15 record in 2017. However, in games three and four, they relied on starters as bullpen relief. David Price pitched 4-innings in game three and Chris Sale pitched 4 and two thirds in game four.
It’s curious that a bullpen that pitched so admirably throughout the season was not called upon in high leverage situations.
Dave Dombrowski added Addison Reed from the Mets at the trade deadline to solidify the eighth inning role and Carson Smith came up in September from Pawtucket after rehabbing from Tommy John.
While Reed was inconsistent, Carson Smith was a rock.
Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree, who shouldered the load with 70 and 62 appearances respectively throughout the season, combining for 35 holds, were left off the post season roster. True, they faltered late, but could it have been from being over worked?
In the last two playoff runs, the starting pitching have been a shell of itself.
This year, Rick Porcello, tried to reinvent himself after having a Cy Young award winning campaign a year earlier. However, all of the starting pitching put their team in an early hole, giving up a run or more in each of the four contests.
Chris Sale looked tired. This is something, which has plagued him his whole career, Great first half, mediocre finish by his standards. Again, were the pitchers maintained throughout the year? Case in point, did Sale really have to go out in the eighth in Baltimore to get his 300th strikeout in a 8-0 game. He did pitch in a another game afterwards.
Once again in the playoffs, the Red Sox suffered to get timely hitting, no more apparent than in the second inning of game four. The bases were loaded, no outs, and they had back-to-back strikeouts, taking the third strike.
One could argue that Jackie Bradley Jr’s was a bit outside, but Dustin Pedroia? No Excuse!
Xander Bogaerts - He went 1-17 and while that one hit was a solo home-run - he batted .059 and looked lost at the plate.
Hanley Ramirez tried to do his best David Ortiz impression, going 8-14, hitting .571 and an OPS of 1.314 in the series, but the clutch two-out with men in scoring position was lacking as team.
Lack of Leadership
Where do we start? Well, for one, your veteran cannot put his team in a precarious position by barking not once, not twice but three times for what he perceived to be a bad call in an elimination game by taking a close pitch. He put his manager in a tight spot, he sure as hell did not help his team.
Go back to April and into May with Pedroia’s whole “It wasn’t me” comment during the Manny Machado fiasco. Later in the year, he jumped on as “David Price’s Cheerleader” during Price’s tirade on Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley because he didn’t worship them.
Speaking of David Price! If he would just get off Twitter, things might just be all right. Okay, maybe not.
The reality is the Red Sox missed more than David Ortiz’s production, they missed his leadership. Farrell clearly isn’t steering this ship on or off the field. It’s definitely adrift and needs a captain, or at least a steward.
What are the Sox needs?
A power hitter.
The Red Sox were 27th in the Majors in home-runs with 168, 40 fewer than 2016’s total.
Mitch Moreland was serviceable and Eduardo Nunez provided a lift offensively to propel the Red Sox upon his acquisition. However, both are Free Agents and with Nunez’s health unknown going forward, priority number one has to be a power hitter.
First name to pop into a lot of people’s mind is Giancarlo Stanton. He sure fits the power build, leading the Majors this year with 59 bombs. However, his contract averaging $25 Million per year is ridiculous and a huge risk for a player with a injury history in three of the past five years. The Sox haven’t had much success with large contracts.
What about signing Jayson Werth to a one year contract?
Chilli Davis’s time here has come to an end. He has had three years and Bogaerts has regressed each of the last three years in average and seems to need a new approach at the plate. The plate discipline as a team is atrocious dropping 22-points from a year ago.
It is the eye test that speaks volumes - swinging at balls in the dirt, or eye-level and above or taking too many called third strikes. You can have one weakness but not all three.
Manager John Farrell
Many may argue that John Farrell has won the division three out of five years. While he has won the division back-to-back, his team has essentially backed into the playoffs and made early exits. His constant in game management decisions has many scratching their head.
His management of personalities and saying one thing while his players say another as in cases with Price and Pedroia make you wonder if he really commands the clubhouse. Five years is a good run, but this team needs a new Steward.
Who Could Take the Helm Next Year
It’s unlikely Jim Leyland would come out of retirement, but not out of the realm of possibility. Maybe Brad Ausmus, who has worked under General Manager Dave Dombrowski and has had a first and second place finish.
He also has managed Rick Porcello, David Price and Doug Fister (if there’s any mutual interest to have Fister come back as a fifth starter) and J.D. Martinez, who could fill the role of an additional power hitter and coincidentally is a free agent.
It’s clear after two early first round exits, moves need to be made.