The Autopsy of the 2019 Red Sox
As I type these words, it is the day after the Red Sox have been eliminated from postseason contention. This outcome, which had been expected for a while, and especially since going 2-5 in a seven-game home stretch against the Twins and the Yankees, it is still disappointing nonetheless. A year after winning a franchise record 108 regular season games en route to a 9th World Series championship, not even making the playoffs was certainly an ending well short of expectations. So, what happened? How did a team that was mostly the same on paper as the team that won it all the year before, fail to make the playoffs the next year?
To begin this autopsy on the dead body that is the 2019 Red Sox we need to state the obvious problem first: the problem which led to the firing of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the lack of a strong bullpen. Two major pieces of the 2018 championship team were closer Craig Kimbrel and noted Yankee brawler and Bruins puck dropper, Joe Kelly. They both left in free agency, with Kelly going to the Dodgers and Kimbrel eventually signing with the Cubs. The lack of dedicating any money to refilling those holes in the bullpen led to a stat which still frustrates me, 28 blown saves. 28. In almost 30 games this season, the Red Sox have blown a lead in the late innings. Granted, not all of those blown saves equate to losses, but one could gather that at least a good amount of those did not land in the win column.
To have the highest payroll in the league at almost 300 million dollars and have that much of a gaping hole in your roster is asinine and was one big reason general manager Dave Dombrowski did not make it to the end of the year. To be fair, the loss of Kimbrel and Kelly is not the sole reason the season ended up the way it did. The starting pitching outside of Eduardo Rodriquez is not something to write home about and there was also a lack of timely hitting. 2018 staples, Chris Sale and David Price, who both had standout seasons pitched well below average, are both ending the season on the injured list. The other issue was 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello who statistically speaking has the highest earned run average of any qualified starting pitcher in the league, posting a 5.56 era with a 13-12 record. The lack of any bullpen depth combined with a starting rotation that drastically underperformed were all reasons why this team fell so short of expectations.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Red Sox offensively were one of the best teams in the majors. They were third in the American League in batting average at .269 and scored 5.55 runs per game. This was good for 4th in the entire majors trailing only the Astros, Twins and Yankees, all playoff teams. The Sox 5.55 runs per game mark was in fact higher than their 2018 mark of 5.45. Looking at this statistic proves that offensively the Red Sox were in fact a better team this year than last season. They were the first team in history to have two players hit 30 homers and 50 doubles. Those players being the best 12-year-old in baseball history Rafael Devers and noted renaissance man Xander Bogaerts.
With all of this said, it is clear that the Red Sox pitching was far more to blame this season than the offense. If I left it at that, it would be a gross misrepresentation of the season. To sum it up, this team just did not have the magic that last year’s team had. Even with all of their offensive success, there were many times this team just could not get the big hit, or move the runner over to win a close game. Injuries and a lack of being clutch in key situations, combined with the lack of pitching both in the bullpen and starting is what led to a team that drastically underperformed. It is on everyone and the GM turned out to be the scapegoat. When people ask me about this year’s Red Sox team, they often expect me, the biggest Red Sox fan at this whole college, to be upset. They expect me to be downtrodden and dejected, upset that postseason baseball won’t be played at Fenway Park. I’m sad, don’t get me wrong, but let me leave you, the reader, with this sentiment: if you had told me at the beginning of 2018 the price for winning a World Series was not making the playoffs the next season, I would have taken that everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. It was a disappointing season nonetheless, but I am grateful that everyday we get to wake up to a fresh set of nine innings.
Tom Angell, a senior, studies History and Secondary Education. He is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.