The 2016 Red Sox season came to an end on Monday night, as did the illustrious career of David Ortiz. The Cleveland Indians, managed by former Red Sox World Series Champion manager and smear victim Terry Francona, swept Boston out of the playoffs and are headed to the ALCS.
For the Red Sox, the 2016 season was a paradox. A team that was coming off back to back last place finishes won the American League East and made it to the postseason, but somehow it still feels like they underachieved.
Let’s start with what went right. The Red Sox got a Cy Young level season from the much maligned Rick Porcello and also got an excellent second half of the season from marquee free agent signing David Price. The two combined to go 39-13 with an ERA of 3.57 and a 1.106 WHIP. The team also got MVP type performances from David Ortiz and Mookie Betts while getting solid contributions from Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. for the balance of the season.
Boston had the best offense in baseball and, at times, the pitching to match. The team also benefited from Dustin Pedroia having a great bounceback season, hitting .318 in 2016 after hitting below .300 in three of the previous four seasons. When healthy, Steven Wright pitched well enough to make the all-star team and Koji Uehara was a key cog in the bullpen when he could get on the field.
Despite all of these positives, the Red Sox find themselves out of the playoffs and having the real prospect of seeing Francona face former Boston GM Theo Epstein in the World Series. The reasons for this are the same ones that dogged Boston all season. The team struggled in one run games (20-26) throughout the season and lost two of them, including the clinching game, in the ALDS. The Red Sox also struggled when they scored fewer than four runs this season and they scored fewer than four runs twice against Cleveland. The Red Sox’s offense, which was the best in baseball throughout most of the season, could only muster seven runs in three games and got shutout in game two.
Manager John Farrell has been criticized all season for a variety of gaffes and although he did nothing that directly contributed to the Red Sox early exit, it was certainly clear that the best manager of the series resides in Cleveland. The pitching staff also hurt Boston, with Porcello and Price both having bad starts and in-season acquisition Drew Pomeranz came in the game in relief in game three and gave up the eventual game winning home run to Coco Crisp. The Red Sox should be playing baseball for at least another couple days based on their talent alone, but they aren’t and there is plenty of blame to go around.
The biggest bright spot for Red Sox Nation is how young so many of the team’s key contributors are. Bogaerts, Betts, Bradley and Andrew Benitendi are all budding young stars and Boston hasn’t scratched the surface of Yoan Moncada’s immense potential. The question now and over the next several years will be the pitching staff. They have made moves to improve the pitching over the past year and a half, but this series showed some troubling signs. If Boston can’t be confident in Price and Porcello in the postseason, they will have to add another frontline starter and the Red Sox cannot rely on Koji Uehara for another season as their best relief pitcher.
That is the 2016 Red Sox in a nutshell, some promising areas for the future but some major questions that need to be answered as well. Conflicting thoughts.