At This Point in the Season, What Would You Consider a Success?

Rasputin

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I would imagine that most folks have had their expectations change since the start of the season, so now with all that has happened and all that is happening, what's a successful season look like?

My answer is: knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs in the wild card game. We do that, and don't embarrass ourselves in the Division Series, I'm good.
 

Max Power

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Agreed on knocking out the Yankees. Ideally they'd stack Sale and Eovaldi in that game and not touch the bullpen at all.
 

Rovin Romine

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A good question to pose.

Hmm. Well, I think the 2nd WC is just within the realm of possibility, but so was the division a couple weeks past. Now we face 10 (+?) days of Covid banishing for our starting SS, 2B, and CF, plus our closer, a key bullpen piece, and a league-average-ish long man. There is little effective depth to call on, and Oakland is one game behind us for the WC2 slot.

So, IMO, it would be an amazing success for them to make the post-season at this point, let alone get a win or two in it.

However, whether or not they're able to hold onto the WC2 slot, I think the most important thing is the team's overall orientation for the end of this season, and the off-season leading into 2022. They should be able to field a more competitive club (with COVID behind us?) and a full year of Sale.

I doubt this will surprise many, but absent his pulling the team together, I think Alex Cora should be fired. Between 2019 and 2021, he's shown he's not a leader or a motivator - at least for this particular club. He has a window left, but I think sorting him out (one way or the other) is probably the best outcome for the club. If he's not the right guy, giving him yet another go will cement his legacy as Farrell 2.0. If he is the right guy, I will grin and bear it, muttering only slightly.

Regardless, sorting that out successfully is probably the best outcome for this team at this point.
 

BaseballJones

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Covid is never going to be behind us, RR, I'm sad to say. It's with us forever. How MLB (and society) decides to handle it moving forward is not a topic for this thread so I won't get into that now. But I agree with you that it's crucial for this team to have its plan in place moving forward in 2022 and beyond. There's LOTS of reasons to be excited about this organization's future, but they have to handle some key decisions right. This year was always going to be another "bridge" year (though I dislike that term), and the team has exceeded most of our expectations. Though I agree with people who say that once they had that great first half, the idea of missing the playoffs feels like a massive letdown.

I want them to squeeze into the WC game and somehow knock off the Yankees. That would be a dream ending, honestly, especially given the kind of shape the team is in right now.

Key decisions for the team moving forward:

- What to do with JDM?
- Do they sign Schwarber and if so, where do they play him?
- What's going to happen with Xander and his opt-out? (maybe more of a Xander decision, not a team decision)
- Extend Devers?
- What's the plan moving forward for Whitlock and Houck?
- When will some of the kids be ready - Casas and Duran mainly?
- Do they need to seriously address the catching situation, and if so, what to do there?

So lots of important things to square away for this team but there's a ton of talent in the organization to look forward to.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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I think the final month will tell us a lot about this team and where it’s headed. Ultimately making the playoffs is the goal, I’d consider that a success.

Can Cora motivate this team or show an ability to right the ship? Is he the man to lead the team to the future or just a link to a past that seems orettt far away now?

Can Duran show something that gives the team confidence in penciling him into a starting role next year?

Is the team going to build around Bogaerts and Devers, and if so, where do they play? Is Schwarber part of the future?

I think there is a ton of uncertainty in this organizations future. They have to make some big decisions, they’ve got a glut of arb eligible players and have to decide who to build around and get better at supporting that core.

I think a strong finish and playoff berth would at least provide some momentum going in to an off-season that will require a lot of work.
 

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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Does the one game playoff count as a round in your mind?
Eh, good question. I'd say no unless it knocks off the Yankees.

Remember, this team played .604 ball in the first half and was leading the division. It's not enough to merely make a one game postseason at this point.

Also (and I know I have beaten this point to death), they really need to show that trading Betts was done to help the team on the field and not just for the luxury tax; making the postseason and succeeding there would go a long way to showing that Bloom knows what he's doing. I don't think anyone in the org understands how deeply upset a large portion of the fanbase is over that deal; winning is the only thing that will heal those emotional wounds.
 

Cesar Crespo

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It already is. They kept all their big prospects, went from a bottom 10 farm to a top 10 farm, and added cheap talent (Renfroe, Enrique, Whitlock etc) that will be here beyond this season. Sale returning, Houck excelling. Eovaldi earning his contract.

My expectations didn't really change much. I think 2022 is looking far more promising now than it was at the beginning of the 2021 season though.
 

Rovin Romine

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So lots of important things to square away for this team but there's a ton of talent in the organization to look forward to.
Well, I think you're (unfortunately) correct on Covid.

Some of the other things you list, while important, are more in the line of off-season actions. In terms of what happens in September, I think you're quite right to point out smartly developing Houck and Whitlock, Dalbec and Durran, should carry a good deal of weight in terms of season-outcomes, along with the pursuit of the WC.

IF Cora managed the team to the WC, and went deep in the post-season, while intelligently playing/developing these guys, that's an absolute gold star for him, and I don't think anyone could credibly argue otherwise.

It also may be an impossibility, in the sense that winning still has to take priority, and to that extent Cora should ruthlessly get everything he can out of Shaw, Santana (vomit), and the various marginal pitchers who may have no future with the club past this year. Even if that means realizing some are useless, DFAing them and calling up MiL role players.

Yeah, the more I think about it, this is Cora's make-or-break moment - the time to show he can adapt. "Staying the course and hoping for reinforcements" is not going to cut it.
 

nolasoxfan

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs has been my #1 goal for the Sox since the playoff format changed in 1995. And before that, it was keeping them from winning the East.
 

Captaincoop

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Getting into the WC game and beating the Yankees would be like a fever dream at this point. A grand success. It feels like too much to even ask for.
 

Diamond Don Aase

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The Yankees suck and always will but relying on the results of what is effectively a coin-flip game seems a poor way to measure the Red Sox’ progress.

Entering the final month of the season, I am looking for:
  • Rafael Devers and Chris Sale to stay healthy
  • Jarren Duran to translate his speed into posing a disruptive threat on the basepaths
  • Tanner Houck to effectively incorporate a changeup into his gameday repertoire
  • Connor Seabold to demonstrate that he can contribute at the major-league level
  • Alex Verdugo to show improved patience and power against left-handed pitching
If all of the above occur and the Red Sox miss the playoffs, I would still consider 2021 a successful season. If none of the above occur, anything short of a World Series appearance would be a disappointment as I would have no confidence that Boston could sustain such success in the near future.
 

E5 Yaz

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This might be as close to consensus as this board can get ... beat the Yankees in the Wild Card game is a success. Losing, but the Yankees not winning the World Series would be the year's supply of Rice-a-Roni
 

OurF'ingCity

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I think before the season started most (including me) would have said a playoff appearance of any kind would be a successful season. No reason to change that opinion now.

I think much of the frustration with this season has been that the Sox were the top of the AL in the first half or so of the season, and then have played like an aimless last-place team for the last few months. But if you smooth all that out it amounts to them being a slightly-better-than-mediocre team which, given the 2020 shitshow, I think everyone would have taken.

The “fire Cora” stuff doesn’t make much sense to me for that reason. Yes, he’s been bad recently. But so has the pitching. So has the offense. So has the defense. Bloom’s moves haven’t been above criticism either, and I think there is a real question as to whether Bloom’s roster construction efforts were logical (including getting Schwarber without having a position available for him and just kind of hoping the defense would work itself out). When a team is playing badly, the manager always looks bad - but do we really think bringing in someone else next year (who would that even be?) would be a material improvement?
 

Ale Xander

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Making the World Series and either winning or losing to a (NL) California team
 

reggiecleveland

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#1 The same as any year. If the Yankees do not win the WS it is a good year.
#2 The Sox taking the Yankees out would be the greatest.
#3 The Dodgers and Astros not winning would be good.
#4 as for the Sox any post season success would be a bonus.
 

cantor44

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Covid is never going to be behind us, RR, I'm sad to say. It's with us forever. How MLB (and society) decides to handle it moving forward is not a topic for this thread so I won't get into that now. But I agree with you that it's crucial for this team to have its plan in place moving forward in 2022 and beyond. There's LOTS of reasons to be excited about this organization's future, but they have to handle some key decisions right. This year was always going to be another "bridge" year (though I dislike that term), and the team has exceeded most of our expectations. Though I agree with people who say that once they had that great first half, the idea of missing the playoffs feels like a massive letdown.

I want them to squeeze into the WC game and somehow knock off the Yankees. That would be a dream ending, honestly, especially given the kind of shape the team is in right now.

Key decisions for the team moving forward:

- What to do with JDM?
- Do they sign Schwarber and if so, where do they play him?
- What's going to happen with Xander and his opt-out? (maybe more of a Xander decision, not a team decision)
- Extend Devers?
- What's the plan moving forward for Whitlock and Houck?
- When will some of the kids be ready - Casas and Duran mainly?
- Do they need to seriously address the catching situation, and if so, what to do there?

So lots of important things to square away for this team but there's a ton of talent in the organization to look forward to.
These are great questions, and kinda a new thread - "Considerations for 2022" or something ...
In anticipation, my two cents:

- What to do with JDM? NOTHING TO BE DONE UNLESS HE OPTS OUT. IF OPTS OUT, YOU LET HIM GO.
- Do they sign Schwarber and if so, where do they play him? YES, AND HOPE JD OPTS OUT SO HE CAN DH. IF JD DOESN'T MAYBE YOU SWING HIM BETWEEN FIRST, LEFT AND DH
- What's going to happen with Xander and his opt-out? (maybe more of a Xander decision, not a team decision) DON'T HAVE TO CROSS THAT BRIDE FOR ANOTHER YEAR
- Extend Devers? I HOPE SO
- What's the plan moving forward for Whitlock and Houck? START EM BABY! THEN ACQUIRE SOME GOOD RELIEVERS
- When will some of the kids be ready - Casas and Duran mainly? CASAS LIKELY NEEDS ANOTHER YEAR, DURAN IS AN ENIGMA
- Do they need to seriously address the catching situation, and if so, what to do there? YES, YES, AND YES .... SERIOUS ISSUE. ZUNINO MIGHT BE A FA (OPTION)

I THINK THEY ALSO HAVE TO FIND A VERY GOOD FIELDING LEFT-HANDED HITTING FIRST BASEMEN TO PLATOON WITH DALBEC/BE A LATE INNINGS DEFENSIVE REPLACEMENT, WHO WILL ACCEPT A SHORT TERM CONTRACT. BASICALLY MITCH MORELAND CIRCA 2018 ...IS THAT OUT THERE?

AND, IN A NOD TO ROMINE, VERY CAREFULLY CONSIDER CORA'S STATUS WITH THE TEAM (this is a massive change in perception on my part) ...

But a team with ... C: ? 1B: Dalbec/LEFT-HANDED PLATOON. 2B: Arroyo SS: X 3B: Devers, LF: Verdugo. CF: Hernandez, RF: Renfroe, DH: Schwarber
Rotation: Sale, Eovladi, Whitlock, Houck, Pivetta, ?

Is a good base ...
 

mikeford

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I figured we'd lose 100 games with this roster so as far as I'm concerned they already overachieved by giving me a season until August.

If they manage to sneak into the playoffs, even better. The anger of the punted trade deadline has subsided and I'm ready to go back to the view that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year anyway and this whole project might be slightly ahead of schedule now.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I had zero expectations going into the year, actually. If I didn't know anything about the journey I would be pretty happy with where they are right now. My expectations adjusted when they seemed to be sustaining an ability to play as much more than the sum of their parts for weeks and weeks, but I guess in the long baseball season in the end you are ultimately revealed to be who you are.

My main wish is that there are no long term health issues and that they all stay relatively well. That's it.

Yes, I want the Yankees to lose and if the Red Sox are the ones to do it that's even better but that's mostly about them not really as much about us.
 

8slim

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Yep, eek into the WC, and ideally beat the Yanks. That'd be successful. Losing the WC would be a bummer, but I'd still consider the season good (on a sliding scale).

Falling short of a playoff berth is never "successful" for this franchise, IMHO. Management already got their mulligan in 2020 when they clearly didn't bother trying to compete (coming off the disappointment that was 2019, no less). I award no points for "rebuilding" in 2021. This franchise has wayyyy too many resources at its disposal for this fan to be cool with them punting multiple seasons.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Yep, eek into the WC, and ideally beat the Yanks. That'd be successful. Losing the WC would be a bummer, but I'd still consider the season good (on a sliding scale).

Falling short of a playoff berth is never "successful" for this franchise, IMHO. Management already got their mulligan in 2020 when they clearly didn't bother trying to compete (coming off the disappointment that was 2019, no less). I award no points for "rebuilding" in 2021. This franchise has wayyyy too many resources at its disposal for this fan to be cool with them punting multiple seasons.
Is this season really a punt, though? It is possible to have a season or two of rebuilding without it being a punt. I mean, they're at 75 wins at the start of September. They're going to have to really REALLY tank the final month to finish below .500. That hardly describes a punted season by any stretch of the word.

I'm okay with not calling it a success to win 85-90 games and miss the post-season, especially given the market, the budget, and what has been accomplished in the 18 years of this ownership group. But this was by no means a punt of a season.
 

nattysez

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I don't think expecting them to qualify for the WC game is realistic at this point, so success will be Cora rediscovering how to get this team to play well. Give me a month with no baserunning stupidity, no ridiculous errors (though that may be too much to ask with both JDM and Schwarber on the team), relievers not being left in too long, etc.
 

RIrooter09

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I still think we'll edge out the A's for WC2. Eovaldi shutting down the Yankees RHH heavy lineup with Whitlock closing the door on them would be excellent.
 

8slim

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Is this season really a punt, though? It is possible to have a season or two of rebuilding without it being a punt. I mean, they're at 75 wins at the start of September. They're going to have to really REALLY tank the final month to finish below .500. That hardly describes a punted season by any stretch of the word.

I'm okay with not calling it a success to win 85-90 games and miss the post-season, especially given the market, the budget, and what has been accomplished in the 18 years of this ownership group. But this was by no means a punt of a season.
Maybe using "punt" trips up my point. There seems to be a sentiment that, since there were low-ish expectations for this season at the outset, the current collapse isn't so bad. And that those of us who won't consider this season a success if we fail to make the playoffs as having fallen prey to expectations that were inflated by how well the team did through July. I'm trying not to strawman, but that's how I've perceived some comments (happy to admit I've gotten that wrong). My point is that I didn't accept that those low pre-season expectations were OK, given all the Sox franchise has going for it, and given that 2020 was clearly an organizational non-effort.
 

InsideTheParker

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I still think we'll edge out the A's for WC2. Eovaldi shutting down the Yankees RHH heavy lineup with Whitlock closing the door on them would be excellent.
Eovaldi has started giving up homers, and the nyy have cleverly added some lhh, so I think the "shutting down" part is iffy in YS.
If no one else comes up positive with Covid, at this point, I will consider that a win, with the Red Sox winning 85+ games, whether or not they edge out Oakland, which is my second favorite team.
 

RIrooter09

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Eovaldi has started giving up homers, and the nyy have cleverly added some lhh, so I think the "shutting down" part is iffy in YS.
If no one else comes up positive with Covid, at this point, I will consider that a win, with the Red Sox winning 85+ games, whether or not they edge out Oakland, which is my second favorite team.
He's still 4th in baseball in HR/9. He's been excellent this year.
 

amRadio

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To me, things are on the up-and-up if: Casas has a hot September in AA, Seabold finishes strong in AAA, Yorke continues to mash and the Yankees don't win the pennant. Anything above that is gravy. I would love to see the Red Sox snag a playoff spot but my expectation all along was that they would be a fringe playoff team and that's about what we got.

I hope September is more fun than the last couple weeks have been.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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It doesn't seem possible for the Sox to back into a WC game. They are going to have to earn that berth in the coming weeks.
If they at least start winning and get the 2nd WC spot, I'd be okay with it. If they just continue to play this garbage baseball and the A's and Mariners and Jays can't get their shit together enough to claim that spot.... then it's not a victory of any sort to get into that spot.
But... even if they do back in to that spot but take the MFY's down... then they're snatching victory from the jaws of a defeat of a season.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Maybe using "punt" trips up my point. There seems to be a sentiment that, since there were low-ish expectations for this season at the outset, the current collapse isn't so bad. And that those of us who won't consider this season a success if we fail to make the playoffs as having fallen prey to expectations that were inflated by how well the team did through July. I'm trying not to strawman, but that's how I've perceived some comments (happy to admit I've gotten that wrong). My point is that I didn't accept that those low pre-season expectations were OK, given all the Sox franchise has going for it, and given that 2020 was clearly an organizational non-effort.
Sticking with the football analogy, the Sox started this season being down 5 facing a 3rd and 10 at the 50 yard line with a minute left. Most fans would look at that situation and conclude "eh, let's hope for the best but this doesn't look promising." The first half of this year is equivalent of the team converting that third down and then making a few more great passes to get first-and-ten at the 7-yard line with 20 seconds left. The second half of the season is the equivalent of the team then throwing an incomplete pass, gaining 2 yards on a run up the middle, and then getting sacked for a 10-yard loss. Now they're facing fourth-and-goal from the 15.

Is that a disappointing series of events? It depends on the time period you look at. It's a huge gut punch from what looked like a sure touchdown, but it's also impressive the team even got that far given the situation they were initially facing. Similarly, the Sox' current record is a huge disappointment given where they were in late June/early July, but matching or slightly above where most people likely expected them to be going into the season.

I guess my point is that everyone's comments are valid - it's absolutely correct to view this season as a major disappointment but also absolutely correct to view this season as a moderate success, depending on which way you look at things.
 

YTF

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I've got the same response be it pre-season or right now. Making the Wild Game would be a success. I think most would agree that heading into the season we would take a WC birth. Given the collapse (for a multitude of reasons), where the team sits in the standings, the talent of the players currently on the roster and the small number of games left...AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON, I would consider the Wild Card game as success, the best that I would hope for. Anything else would be icing on the cake.
 

8slim

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Sticking with the football analogy, the Sox started this season being down 5 facing a 3rd and 10 at the 50 yard line with a minute left. Most fans would look at that situation and conclude "eh, let's hope for the best but this doesn't look promising." The first half of this year is equivalent of the team converting that third down and then making a few more great passes to get first-and-ten at the 7-yard line with 20 seconds left. The second half of the season is the equivalent of the team then throwing an incomplete pass, gaining 2 yards on a run up the middle, and then getting sacked for a 10-yard loss. Now they're facing fourth-and-goal from the 15.

Is that a disappointing series of events? It depends on the time period you look at. It's a huge gut punch from what looked like a sure touchdown, but it's also impressive the team even got that far given the situation they were initially facing. Similarly, the Sox' current record is a huge disappointment given where they were in late June/early July, but matching or slightly above where most people likely expected them to be going into the season.

I guess my point is that everyone's comments are valid - it's absolutely correct to view this season as a major disappointment but also absolutely correct to view this season as a moderate success, depending on which way you look at things.
Thinking more macro, I have a really hard time considering any Sox season "successful" if it doesn't at least result in a playoff appearance. Last season, with COVID and the Cora situation and the decimation of the pitching staff, I gave the franchise a mulligan (how gracious of me!). But personally I don't give the Boston Red Sox more than one of those every several years. So even though I figured the team wouldn't win more than 80-ish games this year, and even though I didn't think they'd make the playoffs, I still won't consider this season a "success" just because they may slightly exceed my mediocre expectations (meaning, if they win 85-90 and miss the wild card by a few games).
 

Haunted

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Making the wild card and knocking out the Yankees would be delightful, however realistically:
  • Sale coming all the way back without issue
  • No long term effects from the Covid infections
  • Improved minor league system

If those three happen and nothing else, I'd call that a success in 2021.
 

nvalvo

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It already is. They kept all their big prospects, went from a bottom 10 farm to a top 10 farm, and added cheap talent (Renfroe, Enrique, Whitlock etc) that will be here beyond this season. Sale returning, Houck excelling. Eovaldi earning his contract.

My expectations didn't really change much. I think 2022 is looking far more promising now than it was at the beginning of the 2021 season though.
All of this and more.

I have to say, even when we were flying high, I never for a second believed we were better than the Rays, whose opening day roster was so obviously a work in progress with all the impact talent they had in Durham. My preseason expectations were 88-ish wins and an outside — say 30% — chance at a wildcard spot, and Fangraphs has us projected at 91-71 and 72% to get a wildcard spot. So I'm pretty much delighted with where we stand in terms our performance this season, even as I get how the narrative of how it's played out (hot start followed by drop off) is more frustrating than if they had just held a steady 91-win pace.

That said, this COVID situation is going to make it very hard to maintain even an approximation of that pace. We always knew that was a risk, and as the Yankees showed us earlier in the season, it was a risk even for teams who met the vaccination threshold, which Boston — to their shame — did not.

If we do indeed land in a WC slot, we should be a pretty dangerous team if we can line up our pitching. Of course, you could say the same about the Yankees or the A's, who are also very good.

But I think the bigger picture is worth keeping in mind here. On one of the WEEI spring training broadcasts, I heard Chaim Bloom say that his goal for the season was to clarify the future core of this team, and I think that is indeed the right goal for where we are in the success cycle. The Red Sox window is opening, not closing. Contention this season was always ahead of schedule. We're building depth in the organization and trying to figure out what the 2023-5 teams will look like.

So where do we stand on that project? It's a mixed bag, but more positive than negative IMO. To be clear, for these purposes I am much more interested in the performance of players under the age of 27 or so, with a few exceptions.
  • Pros
    • Whitlock emerged as a potential SP or high-end relief weapon.
    • Houck emerged as a potential SP or high-end relief weapon.
    • Pivetta looks like a real major league SP, but not an especially great one.
    • Devers needs an extension.
    • We gave Dalbec a couple hundred PA, and he has a 99 OPS+ to show for it. Not great for a 1B. But! That masks the fact that he's been much better in August (25% K rate, 11% walk rate, 12 XBH) as the team has faltered. If he manages an .800+ OPS in September, I think I want him as our starting 1B until Casas is ready.
    • Arroyo looks like a long term infield piece, probably in a utility-type role.
    • Verdugo is on pace for a 2-3 WAR season, depending on whose numbers you look at. Pretty good.
    • Kyle Schwarber, huh?
  • Cons
    • Franchy didn't exactly light the world on fire, but did well enough in AAA that I'm interested to see more from him.
    • Vazquez had a rough year. I expect we'll pick up his option, but we likely need to make some investments into our catching depth.
    • We extended Barnes, who then immediately scuffled. I'm not worried about him long term — I think he's been ridden pretty hard, given the innings jump from last year — but... yeah. It's been ugly for a few weeks.
    • Duran came up and has not been good. But he's been bad in a normal sort of rookie way, and only in 100 PA or so. He seems to be getting the strikeouts under control in the last week or two, but the samples remain tiny. I would very much like to see him get a lot of PA in September if it can be done.
Big question marks outstanding:
  • The future of Xander Bogaerts is a huge question. His defense has been a huge issue, his bat has remained excellent, and he has an opt out after next season. I suspect he's a future corner outfielder, but I don't know how he feels about that prospect. I don't envy Bloom trying to navigate this one.
  • The future of Eduardo Rodriguez is likewise a huge question, for reasons we've been over (the peripherals of a good number 2 pitcher, the results of a so-so number 5). I similarly don't envy Bloom trying to navigate this one. If we can extend him inexpensively for a few seasons, that could be a real coup, but I'd be pretty scared to give him a big deal.
On the farm:
  • Jeter Downs had a weird season. He was mostly really bad with the bat, although in a way that included 11 HR in 300ish PA. But he was reportedly pretty good at shortstop, which is good to see. I still see him as a legitimate prospect — he basically skipped AA, and at 22 is very young for AAA — but his floor isn't high enough that we're pencilling him into any future Boston rosters at this point.
  • Young position players Marcelo Mayer, Nick Yorke, and Blaze Jordan are off to great starts to their pro careers and look like future middle of the order bats. Caribbean teenagers Miguel Bleis and Eddinson Paulino also emerged as standouts.
  • Ryan Fitzgerald is an old dude who spent time in Indy ball, retooled his swing, and has been quietly amazing on both sides of the ball for Portland and Worcester. I wouldn't be surprised if he's up in September with all of the roster chaos.
  • Young pitchers Brayan Bello, Josh Winckowski and Wilkelman Gonzalez emerged as potential starters. Seabold looks like he could be a respectable 4/5 starter for Boston right now. Groome is alive and pitching, perhaps well enough to resume his prospect status. On the down side, Bryan Mata and Thaddeus Ward had surgery.
  • Overall, the farm has been much improved, as the 2020 and 2021 drafts look to have been impactful and we've had more breakouts than breakdowns.
 

LoweTek

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The kinds of mental mistakes I have been seeing the team make in recent games jeopardize even a WC2 IMO. Defensive interference on the base paths to lose a game, seriously? There have been defensive throws to the wrong base, offensive baserunning blunders (e.g. getting thrown out at third when the ball is hit in front of you), overstretching singles and getting thrown at at 2B, ill-advised and poor attempts at a play at the plate thus allowing advance of a hitter to an extra base, the primary corner infielders making way too many errors. The list goes on. These are not characteristics of a team who is going to win ballgames in the long run. I don't think I have ever seen more mental errors in a Red Sox team. IMO, they are giving away too many runs, on both sides of the ball. I hope this changes soon but lately it seems to be getting worse. We'll see.
 

reggiecleveland

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Eh, good question. I'd say no unless it knocks off the Yankees.

Remember, this team played .604 ball in the first half and was leading the division. It's not enough to merely make a one game postseason at this point.

Also (and I know I have beaten this point to death), they really need to show that trading Betts was done to help the team on the field and not just for the luxury tax; making the postseason and succeeding there would go a long way to showing that Bloom knows what he's doing. I don't think anyone in the org understands how deeply upset a large portion of the fanbase is over that deal; winning is the only thing that will heal those emotional wounds.
This bears repeating. Yes they are better than we thought, based on the roster. But, we should not let the team lower our expectations after trading away the only guy in the last 30 years deserving to be mentioned with Yaz and Ted.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Apr 22, 2016
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All of this and more.

I have to say, even when we were flying high, I never for a second believed we were better than the Rays, whose opening day roster was so obviously a work in progress with all the impact talent they had in Durham. My preseason expectations were 88-ish wins and an outside — say 30% — chance at a wildcard spot, and Fangraphs has us projected at 91-71 and 72% to get a wildcard spot. So I'm pretty much delighted with where we stand in terms our performance this season, even as I get how the narrative of how it's played out (hot start followed by drop off) is more frustrating than if they had just held a steady 91-win pace.

That said, this COVID situation is going to make it very hard to maintain even an approximation of that pace. We always knew that was a risk, and as the Yankees showed us earlier in the season, it was a risk even for teams who met the vaccination threshold, which Boston — to their shame — did not.

If we do indeed land in a WC slot, we should be a pretty dangerous team if we can line up our pitching. Of course, you could say the same about the Yankees or the A's, who are also very good.

But I think the bigger picture is worth keeping in mind here. On one of the WEEI spring training broadcasts, I heard Chaim Bloom say that his goal for the season was to clarify the future core of this team, and I think that is indeed the right goal for where we are in the success cycle. The Red Sox window is opening, not closing. Contention this season was always ahead of schedule. We're building depth in the organization and trying to figure out what the 2023-5 teams will look like.

So where do we stand on that project? It's a mixed bag, but more positive than negative IMO. To be clear, for these purposes I am much more interested in the performance of players under the age of 27 or so, with a few exceptions.
  • Pros
    • Whitlock emerged as a potential SP or high-end relief weapon.
    • Houck emerged as a potential SP or high-end relief weapon.
    • Pivetta looks like a real major league SP, but not an especially great one.
    • Devers needs an extension.
    • We gave Dalbec a couple hundred PA, and he has a 99 OPS+ to show for it. Not great for a 1B. But! That masks the fact that he's been much better in August (25% K rate, 11% walk rate, 12 XBH) as the team has faltered. If he manages an .800+ OPS in September, I think I want him as our starting 1B until Casas is ready.
    • Arroyo looks like a long term infield piece, probably in a utility-type role.
    • Verdugo is on pace for a 2-3 WAR season, depending on whose numbers you look at. Pretty good.
    • Kyle Schwarber, huh?
  • Cons
    • Franchy didn't exactly light the world on fire, but did well enough in AAA that I'm interested to see more from him.
    • Vazquez had a rough year. I expect we'll pick up his option, but we likely need to make some investments into our catching depth.
    • We extended Barnes, who then immediately scuffled. I'm not worried about him long term — I think he's been ridden pretty hard, given the innings jump from last year — but... yeah. It's been ugly for a few weeks.
    • Duran came up and has not been good. But he's been bad in a normal sort of rookie way, and only in 100 PA or so. He seems to be getting the strikeouts under control in the last week or two, but the samples remain tiny. I would very much like to see him get a lot of PA in September if it can be done.
Big question marks outstanding:
  • The future of Xander Bogaerts is a huge question. His defense has been a huge issue, his bat has remained excellent, and he has an opt out after next season. I suspect he's a future corner outfielder, but I don't know how he feels about that prospect. I don't envy Bloom trying to navigate this one.
  • The future of Eduardo Rodriguez is likewise a huge question, for reasons we've been over (the peripherals of a good number 2 pitcher, the results of a so-so number 5). I similarly don't envy Bloom trying to navigate this one. If we can extend him inexpensively for a few seasons, that could be a real coup, but I'd be pretty scared to give him a big deal.
On the farm:
  • Jeter Downs had a weird season. He was mostly really bad with the bat, although in a way that included 11 HR in 300ish PA. But he was reportedly pretty good at shortstop, which is good to see. I still see him as a legitimate prospect — he basically skipped AA, and at 22 is very young for AAA — but his floor isn't high enough that we're pencilling him into any future Boston rosters at this point.
  • Young position players Marcelo Mayer, Nick Yorke, and Blaze Jordan are off to great starts to their pro careers and look like future middle of the order bats. Caribbean teenagers Miguel Bleis and Eddinson Paulino also emerged as standouts.
  • Ryan Fitzgerald is an old dude who spent time in Indy ball, retooled his swing, and has been quietly amazing on both sides of the ball for Portland and Worcester. I wouldn't be surprised if he's up in September with all of the roster chaos.
  • Young pitchers Brayan Bello, Josh Winckowski and Wilkelman Gonzalez emerged as potential starters. Seabold looks like he could be a respectable 4/5 starter for Boston right now. Groome is alive and pitching, perhaps well enough to resume his prospect status. On the down side, Bryan Mata and Thaddeus Ward had surgery.
  • Overall, the farm has been much improved, as the 2020 and 2021 drafts look to have been impactful and we've had more breakouts than breakdowns.
Just want to say this is an excellent post and I agree with basically 100% of it. One minor disagreement - I'm not convinced Dalbec is actually a league-average hitter, so I'd prefer they try to sell high on him during the offseason. There should be teams that could see him as a good fit (e.g. as a platoon partner to a more established player), and he's cost-controlled, so I'd think Bloom could get something of value for him.
 

OurF'ingCity

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This bears repeating. Yes they are better than we thought, based on the roster. But, we should not let the team lower our expectations after trading away the only guy in the last 30 years deserving to be mentioned with Yaz and Ted.
I think the real test in this regard will be what they do with Devers and X. If they let either of those guys go, then they absolutely deserve a reputation for valuing penny-pinching above retaining fan favorites that are the core of the team. If they re-sign/extend/etc. those guys, then Mookie starts to look more like an unfortunate one-off driven not by overall team philosophy but rather by DD's dumb moves in 2019 and Mookie's desire to be a free agent at all costs.
 

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I think the real test in this regard will be what they do with Devers and X. If they let either of those guys go, then they absolutely deserve a reputation for valuing penny-pinching above retaining fan favorites that are the core of the team. If they re-sign/extend/etc. those guys, then Mookie starts to look more like an unfortunate one-off driven not by overall team philosophy but rather by DD's dumb moves in 2019 and Mookie's desire to be a free agent at all costs.
Or the fact that they don't value Mookie as a 12/$365M player. It might have just been a business decision, and in fact, I'd bet on that.
It will be interesting to see how they value Devers and X going forward.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Just want to say this is an excellent post and I agree with basically 100% of it. One minor disagreement - I'm not convinced Dalbec is actually a league-average hitter, so I'd prefer they try to sell high on him during the offseason. There should be teams that could see him as a good fit (e.g. as a platoon partner to a more established player), and he's cost-controlled, so I'd think Bloom could get something of value for him.
Sell high on Dalbec and do what at 1B instead? Not arguing that selling high on Dalbec is a bad idea, just wondering if the return on him plus acquiring a replacement (either a single player or a platoon pair) is greater than simply keeping him and finding an established platoon partner for him here in 2022.

I suspect that the best chance at a trade return being worthwhile in that equation would be if the acquiring team values him as more than a platoon player, even if he's cost controlled.