It’s been less than nine months since the Red Sox hoisted the World Series trophy and less than eight months since general manager Ben Cherington won the Executive of the Year award, but with the team sitting at 43-52 he’s already started to apologize for this year’s product.
Appearing on WEEI radio in Boston this morning, Cherington admitted that “I didn’t do a good enough job building a complete offense” and also said of the Red Sox’s last-ranked lineup:
I think obviously our biggest issue, at least up until very recently, has been offensive production. I think our pitching has been good enough to win, we just haven’t produced offensively. It certainly wasn’t our intent. We thought we would have that, we thought we had reason to believe that we could have that going into the year, but the reality is that we have not through a big chunk of the first part of the season. That has hamstrung our ability to win games.
Last season Boston led all of baseball in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored. This season the Red Sox rank ninth in on-base percentage, 27th in slugging percentage, and 25th in runs per game.
As far as big changes from 2013 to 2014? Well, replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate worked out horribly, leading to Pierzynski getting released. Stephen Drew sat out the first two months and has been a mess since taking back over at shortstop. Shane Victorino has been hurt. Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled to step into Jacoby Ellsbury’s big shoes in center field. And stars Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz (plus fellow holdovers Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava) have seen their production plummet.
Cherington got a ton of the credit last season, so it’s good to see his willingness to take on lots of the blame this year, but even with some better offseason decision-making from the front office injuries and off-years seemed destined to derailed the Red Sox’s offensive train no matter what.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.