Best and Worst of the 2015 Red Sox
Best and Worst of the 2015 Red Sox
The 2015 Red Sox season mercifully came to an Sunday in Cleveland, falling far short of expectations.
Back in April, the Red Sox were expected to be -- at minimum -- post-season contenders. But a brutal start to the year, mostly caused by abysmal starting pitching, doomed them to irrelevance before mid-season.
Before September, the Red Sox had changed executives at the top of their Baseball Operations department, had their former general manager quit, lost their manager for a medical leave of absence.
On the final weekend of the season, in a year in which the team was supposed to be jockeying for playoff positioning, the focus was instead on what would become of their interim manager while fans tuned in only to pay tribute to a popular broadcaster.
It was that kind of year.
It wasn't all bad, of course. The team was more watchable in the final month and a half as the outfield of the future coalesced and two overpriced and underachieving free agent signings were relegated to the background.
A look back at the many lows -- and occasional highs -- of the 2015 Red Sox season:
Biggest Surprise - Travis Shaw
In a system chock full of highly-regarded prospects, the 25-year-old Shaw wasn't much on the team's radar at the start of the season and when he managed just five homers before the All-Star break at Pawtucket, his stock dipped further.
But with Mike Napoli struggling -- and eventually dealt away -- Shaw began getting playing time at first after the trade deadline and made the most of his opportunity.
He finished the season with an .822 OPS, managed 13 homers in just 226 at-bats and injected himself into the conversation for next season.
If the Sox can't move Hanley Ramirez and have him play at first next year, Shaw could still be useful as a backup first baseman, reserve corner infielder (he can play third, too) and lefthanded bat off the bench.
Biggest Disappointment - (tie) Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez
Before the second game of the season, the Red Sox had committed $170.5 million to these two, only to have them flop in spectacular fashion.
Ramirez was a nightmare in the outfield, and worse, didn't seem interested in improving. In April, he at least showed signs that he can still be a dominant run producer (10 homers, .999 OPS). But an early May collision with a wall at Fenway limited his power and right shoulder inflammation in the second half rendered him impotent at the plate.
In the ultimate indictment of his contributions and presence, the Red Sox played their best baseball of the year while Ramirez sat out the final six weeks.
Porcello, who was given a $82.5 million contract extension in the first week of the season, sported a hideous 6.08 ERA on July 1. He spent time on the DL with a biceps injury and when he returned in late August, he was newly committed to throwing his sinker. The result? A 3.14 ERA over his final eight starts, more in line with the Red Sox thought they were getting.
Still, it's hard to call a season in which he finished with a 4.92 ERA anything but a massive letdown.
Nicest September Story - Rich Hill
In the final month of the season, with a handful of starters down for the count with injuries (Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Steven Wright) and others limited in their workload (Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez), the Sox had literally run out of pitchers.
Into this opportunity came Rich Hill, who, after being released at Triple A, spent part of the season workout with the American Legion team in his hometown of Milton, Mass. Next came independent ball on Long Island and a handful of starts at Pawtucket.
Desperate for arms, the Sox turned to Hill for four starts in September and watched as he reinvented himself as a power lefty starter.
In four starts, he allowed just five runs and posted a 36-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Given all that Hill has been through -- on the field and off -- it was a rare feel-good story on a team which had mostly the opposite.
Worst Theory - No Aces Needed
Former GM Ben Cherington maintained that the Red Sox could get by on quantity rather quality, but that axiom proved false right from the beginning.
The Red Sox never had an established No. 1 starter to serve as the alpha pitcher and what they got -- in the first half of the season, anyway -- was mostly mediocre performances from everyone involved.
If the team had designs on winning -- and the payroll certainly reflected just that -- investing in a true front-line starter would have provided some stability and dependability. Instead, the rotation seemed rudderless.
Most Valuable Player - (tie) Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts
Together, Betts and Bogaerts were undoubtedly the biggest positives to come out of an otherwise negative season. To have players in their age-22 season have such breakout years was a true highlight.
Betts showed more power (68 extra base hits, .479 slugging percentage) while Bogaerts was more consistent defensively and offensively.
It's easy to project them as All-Stars for years to come.
That the Sox have such multi-talented players at such critical positions in the field augurs well for the future.
Least Valuable Player - Pablo Sandoval
Sure, Ramirez was higher paid (on an annual basis, anyway) and involved in more drama.
But Sandoval was a -- you should pardon the pun -- massive disappointment in every way. He was so inept from the right side that he gave up switch-hitting altogether. His play at third base was a big dropoff, too, as Sandoval profiled as the worst regular third baseman in the American League, showing little range and a penchant for throwing errors.
Worse, his lack of conditioning and in-game Instagram hijinks revealed a competitive indifference.
Worst Injury - Christian Vazquez
When Vazquez went down with a torn elbow ligament late in spring training and needed to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, it was a huge blow to the club.
Instead of having Vazquez as a brilliant receiver who could shut down running games, the Sox were forced to play Ryan Hanigan more than they anticipated and relied on journeyman Sandy Leon, who, while above-average defensively was essentially an automatic out at the plate.
Later, when Hanigan went down, too, the Sox were forced to rush Blake Swihart, and while that helped with his development long-term, he was over his head for the first two months in the big leagues.
Had Vazquez played the entire season, the Sox would have been better positioned to identify their catcher of the future. Now, they can't trade a recovering Vazquez, and because of Vazquez's uncertain timetable (see: Matt Wieters), they can't trade Swihart, either.
Most Consistent - David Ortiz
No, not most consistent throughout the year (Ortiz was far, far better in the second half than the first); most consistent from year-to-year.
At a time when many considered Ortiz done earlier, he finished the season with strikingly similar numbers as a year ago.
GAMES AT-BATS HR RBI
2014 142 518 35 104
2015 146 528 37 108
It's amazing that, weeks away from his 40th birthday, Ortiz can still produce like an elite run-producer. It's even more amazing that he can two seasons that are almost eerily, shockingly similar in so many statistical categories.