The Boston Red Sox have started their 2021 season very slowly. Baltimore, who has just a .328 winning percentage since 2018, and made no major acquisitions to have you believe they’d be good, came into Fenway and defeated the Red Sox on three straight days.
The Red Sox offense was anemic, not scoring a single run until the 13th offensive inning of their season, and posting zero multi-run innings in the whole series.
Their offense let down their pitching, which for the first two days was fantastic, but a deeper dive reveals just how frustrating the Red Sox were over the first weekend.
Through three games, the Red Sox put up a slash line of .160/.214/.234, walking 5.8% of the time, striking out 23.3% of the time, hitting 1 home run on a .197 BABIP, and putting up a .205 wOBA for a 23 wRC+. Of the 28 teams that played baseball on opening weekend, only the Braves, who had to face the 1-2-3 of Nola-Wheeler-Eflin put up a worse wOBA and wRC+.
A team that prides itself on offense made John Means, Matt Harvey, and Bruce Zimmerman look like prime Sandy Koufax. What made the Red Sox first weekend offensive struggles even more alarming is that the batted ball data from Statcast backs it up being bad, as they had the lowest team xwOBA in baseball after the first weekend.
Only two Red Sox had extra base hits, JD Martinez and Christian Vazquez, and if you remove those two from the Red Sox opening series offensive stats they drop to a batting average of .080 and a wOBA of .117. If there is one major positive offensively that the Red Sox can take it is that Martinez is back, putting up a .637 wOBA and 294 wRC+ in his first three games of the season after a 77 wRC+ in the shortened 2020 season.
Vazquez’ .418 xwOBA is also promising, as his batted ball data hasn’t backed up his offensive production over the last two years, but the sample is incredibly small. Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Bobby Dalbec, and Alex Verdugo, all considered to be core pieces of the future, and the present, were a combined 1 for 39 in the series with the one hit being an opposite field single by Xander Bogaerts.
Those 4 players have combined for a .056 wOBA over the first three games, something that will no doubt go up, but starts this bad do have consequences.
While the offense had been non-existent, the pitching had been fantastic. Despite the game on Sunday where the Sox gave up 11 runs, Boston still sat in first place in the majors in FIP-, 7th in xFIP-, and 7th in SIERA after Sunday. Eovaldi and Houck pitched incredibly well, but they were both let down by terrible defense, leading to Boston’s 116 ERA-, placing 21st out of the 28 teams on weekend number one.
Thanks in large part to Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox garnered a ridiculous -8 Defensive Runs Saved in just three games, the worst tally in the league.
Last season, the Red Sox were buoyed defensively by a great defensive outfield of JBJ/Pillar, Verdugo, and whoever they decided to have play the other corner spot, but without JBJ and Pillar, with Verdugo in center, and new guys in the corners, it will likely be a struggle defensively the whole season.
If there is a positive, it seems that Hirokazu Sawamura is a nasty potential closer option for the Sox with his 93 MPH splitter carving up Oriole hitters on Opening Day. He needs to work on his control, but I’ll give some propaganda in the form of the 2.21 xERA he’s put up so far in 2 innings is awesome, and if the Red Sox ever do get a 9th inning lead, he’s the guy that we may see in there down the road.
New acquisition Adam Ottavino got shelled in his debut for a 6.27 SIERA, but we shouldn’t write him off yet because he can still provide quality innings.
The Red Sox season is not over because of three bad games, but there is still major cause for concern in the lineup and defensive aspects of baseball.
I highly doubt that the pitching staff can continue to pitch this well, meaning the rest of the team will have to step up even more than they already do have to.
Given the events of Monday’s game, an 11-2 win over Tampa where Bogaerts had 4 hits, the points in here may very well become moot very soon, and Red Sox nation very well hopes that that is the case.