Five things that went right for the Red Sox in 2015
Five things that went right for the Red Sox in 2015
Yes, the Red Sox finished last in the American League East for the third time in the last four seasons. Yes, that cost former GM Ben Cherington his job. And yes, manager John Farrell missed the last six weeks of the season battling lymphoma.
But, no, it wasn't a completely lost season for franchise. There were some positives from 2015.
Here are five:
1) The emergence of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts as franchise mainstays.
By any measure, this was the most positive development to come out of the 2015 season.
At the start of the season, the Sox were hopeful that Bogaerts could establish himself as their shortstop and overcome his inconsistent 2014 season at the plate.
Bogaerts did both, seemingly with ease. He showed far better range at shortstop to go with a much-improved internal clock and stronger instincts. He cut his errors nearly in half, from 20 to 11.
Offensively, he had 196 hits and was far better with runners in scoring position, going from a .153 batting averge with RISP in 2013 to .331 this past season.
Meanwhile, Betts solidified himself as the Red Sox' leadoff hitter while staking claim to either center or right field -- depending on how the Red Sox choose to align their oufielders in the future.
In the outfield, Betts threw out 10 baserunners and proved himself adept at both center or right. Defensively, he saved anywhere from 7-12 runs, depending on which metric you select.
In team building, clubs traditionally want to be strong up the middle. In Betts and Bogaerts, the Sox now have two foundational players at two up-the-middle positions, with the knowledge that at 23, there's more
to come from both.
2) The experienced gained by Eduardo Rodriguez
Rodriguez wasn't expected to be much of a factor at the big leagues in 2014. Even when the Red Sox summoned him on the final weekend of May, it was with the idea that he would make a spot start and return to Pawtucket for additional seasoning.
But when Rodriguez was so impressive against the Texas Rangers in his audition, he earned a permanent spot in the rotation for the final four months. In 11 of his 21 starts, he allowed no more than one earned run.
True, there were some occasional stinkers thrown in. On four occasions, Rodriguez was knocked around for six or more earned runs. But those took place less and less as the season developed, with just one poor start among his final 11.
It's premature to annoint Rodriguez as the staff ace. But he'll enter 2016 as no worse than the team's No. 2 starter. And with just
121 1/3 innings of major league experience under his belt, there's room for improvement.
3) The strong second half from Jackie Bradley Jr.
At the start of the season, Bradley seemed like no more than a fourth outfielder. He failed to win a spot coming out of spring training and it seemed as if he no longer had a place in the team's plans.
Two brief call-ups to the big leagues produced more of the same: brilliant defense, but offensive ineptitude.
But Bradley got one more chance at the end of July and played in 60 games over the final two months, posting a slash line of .267/.352/.539.
That included a positively torrid stretch in August, in which Bradley seemed to hit everything hard for a period of three weeks, piling up extra-base hit after extra-base hit.
He cooled again in September, going just 11-for-80 (.138) in the final 25 games.
Bradley may always be streaky. But if he can maintain a batting average of .250 or better and supply some power -- as he did for half a season this past year -- the Sox will gladly take that together with his outstanding defense.
4) The continuing production of David Ortiz
For the first few months, the vultures circled again and suggest Ortiz was finished. He wasn't hitting for power (just six homers as July began) and looked hapless against left-handed pitching.
But as he did back in 2008 and 2009, Ortiz rallied after a poor start and had an incredible second half - .325/.401/.701 with 22 homers and 46 RBI in 70 games.
As the Sox head into 2016, Ortiz remains their best run producer - even at 40 -- and the player they can least afford to lose from the middle of their lineup.
Should be begin next season slowly, the talk will doubtless begin again that he's done and the Red Sox need to "move on.'' But until proven otherwise over the course of a full season, Ortiz shouldn't be doubted.
He's an ageless marvel and one of the handful of best sluggers in the game.
5) Torey Lovullo's leadership and managerial acumen
When Farrell announced that he was taking a leave of absence on Aug. 14, the Red Sox season appeared to be headed from bad to worse.
But stepping into an unenviable situation, Lovullo emerged as a first-rate leader. He paid respect to Farrell -- refusing to use the manager's office, at home or on the road -- and constantly kept in touch with his friend as Farrell underwent treatment.
But Lovullo also showed a knack for leadership. The team responded by going 28-20 over the final seven weeks.
That was enough for the Sox to retain Lovullo with a new contract, thereby providing the club with insurance for next season and beyond. If Farrell is slow to recover, or has some sort of relapse, the Sox now have a capable manager to whom they can turn.
And if the team performs poorly under Farrell early next season, Lovullo gives them an in-house option as a replacement in the dugout.