August a Roller Coaster Month for Red Sox Nation

by Mark Gallant | Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
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The Boston Red Sox are in a much different situation going into September than they were going into August. They’ve had a handful of young players burst onto the scene. Their offense has been excellent, their starting pitching has improved, but their bullpen has proven to be in need of a drastic makeover. There have also been several major developments not involving players that have meant even more to the fans in many cases. Let’s sum up this hectic month and figure out how it will translate to the team’s future success.

Off the field

After the Red Sox scuffled out of the All-Star break and all but eliminated themselves from any sort of playoff push, the front office began preparing for changes. With possibly three last place finishes in four seasons, something had to be done, and rightfully so. The first change made was when Larry Lucchino announced on August 2nd that he’d be stepping down as president and CEO of the Red Sox. As John Henry once famously said on 98.5 The Sports Hub, “Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox.” Clearly, that announcement alone meant that there could be a big change in the thought process of rebuilding the team.

On August 12th, the Red Sox hired former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto to assist Ben Cherington in evaluating players and preparing for the offseason. I wonder how much the two got to know each other during their week together as colleagues?

Two days after the Dipoto hiring, a far more serious piece of news hit Red Sox Nation when John Farrell announced he had lymphoma. Luckily, Farrell had undergone hernia surgery and the doctors found the cancer during an early stage. If it hadn’t been for his hernia, the cancer may have gone undetected for much longer, but thankfully Farrell is undergoing treatment at a great hospital in Mass General. We hope he has a quick recovery.

On the 19th, another major move was made by the front office that resulted in a big name leaving the team, as well. Just two weeks after holding the spot as Tigers’ GM, Dave Dombrowski was hired as the Red Sox President of Baseball Operations. As he said in his press conference, all baseball moves will go through him, which is something that Ben Cherington clearly didn’t want to be a part of. Although he had the opportunity to stay with the team, Cherington decided to part ways with the club. Dombrowski, a more traditional baseball mind, will likely hire a new GM in the offseason.

Last, but certainly not least, was NESN’s decision to cut ties with long time announcer Don Orsillo. Although this move isn’t going to make the Red Sox any better or worse on the field, it has had just as big of an impact on the fans as any trades or signings ever have. This story seems to just be getting started, though, as last night, signs supporting Orsillo were reportedly confiscated by Fenway Park employees. Red Sox fans aren’t going to go down without a fight on this subject, this I know for sure.

On the field

With the team out of the playoff hunt just 2/3 of the way through the season, as was the case last year, a number of “tryouts” for next season are well under way. A sort “pre-spring training”, this chunk of time is crucial to a handful of young players that have to prove themselves. So far, I like the outlook for 2016.

The two outfielders who had been stuck between AAA and the majors, Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo, both had terrific months. Bradley posted a wOBA (weighted on base average) of .481 during August, second in the AL to Edwin Encarnacion. Castillo’s wasn’t quite as absurd, but his .384 wOBA was good for 22nd in the AL. Both players have been driving the ball to all fields, and while we knew Castillo had some pop, Bradley’s power has been a pleasant surprise. Bradley’s defense, of course, continued to wow fans and also the newly acquired Dombrowski. Castillo continues to make some bonehead plays on a somewhat regular basis, but one would imagine those would diminish as his experience at the big league level rises.

Blake Swihart has also turned things around at the plate. After a premature callup forced him into the lineup earlier than he should have been in there, Swihart seems to be adapting nicely. He hit just .241 with a .266 wOBA before the All-Star break, but in August, he hit .373 with a .408 wOBA. He showed off his power and athleticism with his inside-the-park home run (which actually cleared the fence in dead center) and has been hitting the ball to all fields. Although his babip was an unsustainable .477 during the month, that can happen if you hit the ball hard, which he has been doing. It will be interesting to see how the Red Sox figure out the situation with their two young catchers moving forward.

One player that has certainly taken advantage of his playing time has been Travis Shaw. Never a top prospect in the system, Shaw belted seven home runs in August and posted a wOBA of .416, 12th best in the AL. The 2011 9th round pick had posted decent power numbers throughout the minors, but struggled to hit for average. He may not be a part of the team’s long term plans, especially with Hanley Ramirez essentially out of the 2016 outfield discussion, but his emergence certainly is a positive development.

The starting pitching has also looked better, with Joe Kelly looking notably improved. Kelly was a perfect 6-0 on the hill and wasn’t just benefiting from great run support. His 2.68 ERA and 3.64 FIP (fielding independent pitching) during the month are a far cry from his first half numbers of 5.67 and 4.20. While Kelly’s ERA is a bit on the lucky side, Wade Miley‘s is a bit unlucky, but he’s still been a reliable pitcher. With 39.2 innings pitched over his six starts, he has limited the bullpen to minimal innings on a regular basis. His 4.31 ERA during the month doesn’t truly reflect his pitching prowess, as his 2.97 FIP was 12th best in the AL.

Rick Porcello made only one start after returning from the DL, but he looked better than he has at any point this season. Going up against Chris Sale and the White Sox, Porcello went seven scoreless while allowing just five baserunners to earn the win. One would hope he can redeem himself over the course of September.

Going forward

Even though the Red Sox have pretty much no chance of making the playoffs, the month of September will still be very interesting to watch. Any of these young players could go on a cold streak and jeopardize their future with team. Allen Craig could shock us all and tear the cover off the ball. As the year winds down, Dombrowski will gradually make up his mind about what needs to be done in the offseason. Who does he want to trade? Is anyone untouchable? Does John Farrell deserve a shot next season? In Boston, every decision he makes will be picked apart from every possible angle. There’s still a dozen players in the farm system I haven’t mentioned that could be big trade chips for Dombrowski to make the 2016 big league team a contender, and don’t be surprised if he does just that.

Being down by double digits in the standings may be a red flag for some fans to stop watching. But, as we just saw in August, anything can happen in baseball.

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Mark Gallant
About the Author

Mark has contributed to isportsweb, the Yawkey Way Report, Fansided's Chowder and Champions, and The Hockey Writers. He is also the host of the weekly radio show Top Shelf Sports on Bryant University's WJMF radio. Follow him on Twitter @TopShelfSports5

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