After a tough 2022 campaign and the departure of several key players, it seemed likely that the Red Sox would sink into rebuilder status. However, the Red Sox defied expectations in what was a rather strong half for a team with a real chance to make it back to the MLB Playoffs for the second time in three years. Here’s a closer look at the Sox’s first half.
Heading into the 2023 campaign, it seemed like the Red Sox were poised to finish last in the AL East. Well, the Red Sox are last in their division after the conclusion of the first half. However, Boston finished the first half five games above .500 and are just two games behind the Astros and Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card.
The Red Sox offense has been great this season, as Boston entered play on July 9 sixth in the Majors in team OPS (.759) and tied with sixth in runs scored (447). How have the Red Sox been able to do this? Boston has two players in Justin Turner and Alex Verdugo that are in the top 15 in hits, while Rafael Devers entered the final day before the All-Star break with the fourth-most RBI (70).
Then, there’s Masataka Yoshida. The Japanese import hit .313 over his first 77 games of his MLB career and his miniscule 10.6% K% rate is fourth-best in the league (min. 250 PA).
On the pitching side of things, Boston stabilized the back end of its bullpen with Kenley Jansen, who recorded his 400th save of his storied MLB career earlier in the season. And in the rotation, the Sox have received great contributions from Brayan Bello and his sinker/slider/changeup combo, and a healthy James Paxton.
Let’s start with Chris Sale, who posted a 4.58 ERA across 59 innings this season. His ERA looks high, but much of that was because of a poor start to the season and a 11.25 ERA over his first three starts. Sale got back on track and his velocity improved, but he landed on the IL again in June and was shortly transferred to the 60-day IL.
The Sox have also struggled to get consistent production from Triston Casas and Enrique Hernandez. Casas does a great job of working counts, but he’s been beaten often on fastballs and owned a .213 average against them in the first half. Hernandez, meanwhile, has hit .221 and posted an abysmal -11 Outs Above Average at shortstop.
An argument could be made that Boston should at least entertain offers on veterans like Turner, Jansen, or Paxton, given where the Sox are as a franchise. However, the Red Sox have a legitimate chance to make the postseason in a season where not much was expected by this team.
Now, does that mean the Red Sox will be major buyers? I don’t think so, either. The likeliest path for Boston is that the Red Sox look to add minor support pieces and look to make a run. The Red Sox have a formidable rotation, even without Sale, and an offense that’s shined this season.