Red Sox 2019 Final Grades

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The Red Sox season is now mercifully over, both for them and for us fans.  They got off to a horrendous start and we never got the feeling that this would be their year.  Sadly, by the time the trade deadline passed without any reinforcements coming in, we knew the season would end not just without a repeat trip to the World Series, but there would be no playoff appearance either.

Photo courtesy of ap.com
While the season was generally a huge disappointment, there were several bright spots.  Unfortunately, not enough to cover the disappointment of finishing 86-78, 19 games out of first place in the AL East, and out of the playoff picture.

Back at the midway point of the season I handed out mid-term grades to the team.  With the season now over, it’s time to hand out the final grades.  For grading sake, all evaluations are based on a curve depending on the individual’s past performance and expectations coming into the season, not on overall statistics and value to the team.

Position Players  (AVG/OBP/SLG, HR, RBI)

Xander Bogaerts – A  (.309/.384/.555, 33, 117)
Mid-Term Grade – A
Final Grade - A
Bogaerts backed up a solid 2018 season with an even better 2019.  He has turned into one of the best offensive shortstops in the game, and while his range is subpar, he makes all the plays on the balls he can get to.  His signing a contract extension earlier this season was the only good move made by management this season.

Rafael Devers – A  (.311/.361/.555, 32, 115)
Mid-Term Grade – A
Final Grade - A
This season Devers emerged as a force in the Red Sox lineup, especially after he was inserted into the number two slot behind Mookie Betts.  He also dramatically improved his defense.  At the tender age of 22, his accomplishments are being compared to all time Red Sox legends Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro.  If his career slots anywhere in between those two, he will be fun to watch for the next decade or longer.  The Red Sox should offer him a long term deal now to lock him up beyond his arbitration eligible years.

J.D. Martinez – (.304/.383/.557, 36, 105)
Mid-Term Grade – B
Final Grade – B+
Martinez battled nagging injuries through much of the season, but had a strong finish to pad his final stats and once again log a .300 batting average with more than 35 homers and 100 RBI.  That push should up his price on the open market should be choose to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox, though his liability as a defender likely limits his options.

Christian Vazquez – (.276/.320/.477, 23, 72)
Mid-Term Grade – B+
Final Grade – B
Vazquez tailed off a bit in the second half, likely due to his increasing workload as Red Sox starting catcher, while also serving time at both first base and DH on his off days.  His bat was that good that the Red Sox could not afford to keep him out of the lineup.  He still needs to improve on his pitch blocking and minimize those occasions when he tends to get lazy behind the plate, but he has emerged as one of the top all around catchers in the league.

Mookie Betts – (.295/..391/..524, 29, 80)
Mid-Term Grade – C+
Final Grade – B+
Like Martinez, Betts also had a second half rebound after the team bowed out of contention.  His return to the leadoff spot helped after the failed experiment of batting in the two hole, and he really took off after Devers was slotted behind him.  Though he still didn’t approach the level at which he played in 2018 (which was endemic for most of the team), he still turned in an above average season, and suffers only when compared to his own lofty achievements.

Brock Holt – (.297/.369/.402, 3, 31)
Mid-Term Grade – B+
Final Grade – B
Holt became the primary second baseman in the second half of the season after his return from the injured list and the loss of Michael Chavis to an oblique injury.  He struggled against left handers (.224 average, 0 HR, 6 RBI), which means he’s not really an everyday player.

Mitch Moreland – (.252/.328/.507, 19, 58)
Mid-Term Grade – I
Final Grade – B
Moreland got off to a red-hot start, leading the team in home runs and RBI in the early part of the season when the rest of the lineup was struggling.  Then he went on the IL for the next three months, and by the time he returned to the lineup the team was out of contention.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. – (..225/.317/.421, 21, 62)
Mid-Term Grade – C
Final Grade – C
Can we just admit JBJ is what he is – a plus, plus defender who has occasional hot streaks at the plate surrounded by long stretches of ineffectiveness. 

Andrew Benintendi – (.266/.343/.431, 13, 68)
Mid-Term Grade – B-
Shop for officially licensed MLB Jerseys from Majestic at Shop.MLB.comFinal Grade – C-
Benintendi never got on track after being moved out of the leadoff spot.  His numbers were down across the board, and he became somewhat of a forgotten man by the end of the season.  This does not bode well for him heading into his arbitration years, but he’s still only 25, and will be counted on next season to pick up the slack if Martinez and/or Betts depart.

Michael Chavis – (.252/.322/.444, 18, 58)
Mid-Term Grade – C
Final Grade – W
The rookie was all the rage after being called up in early May when he injected life into a listless Red Sox a lifeless team.  The league quickly figured him out and he struggled through much of the summer before landing on the IL for good in August.  He likely figures into the mix for next season, but is it as a first baseman, second baseman, DH? 

Sandy Leon – (.192/.251/.297, 5, 13)
Mid-Term Grade – D
Final Grade – D-
Even after the team fell out of contention, and Christian Vazquez began to show signs of tiring from his work load, Leon’s playing time was still diminished.  That should give him a clue as to how he fits in with the team’s future plans.

Starting Pitchers  (W-L, ERA, WHIP, Ks, BBs)

David Price – (7-5, 4.28, 1.31, 128, 32)
Mid-Term Grade –A-
Final Grade – C
Price was the unquestioned ace of the staff in the first half.  He then inexplicably resurrected his feud with Dennis Eckersley, and his season fell apart at virtually that exact moment.  A cyst in his wrist (Fortnite induced?) landed him on the IL in August and eventually in the operating room.  Does he still hold the trump card?

Chris Sale – (6-11, 4.40, 1.09, 218, 37)
Mid-Term Grade – B
Final Grade – D
2019 was a lost season for the erstwhile ace.  He suffered from a serious lack of velocity and run support early in the season.  His 218 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings pitched is a testament to his dominance, however, he also fell victim to giving up home run balls at inopportune times and struggled to get through the sixth inning.  He showed a brief glimpse of regaining his form in July, only to land on the IL with elbow soreness.  He appears to have avoided Tommy John surgery for now, but the specter will linger over him every time he takes the mound.

Eduardo Rodriguez – (19-6, 3.81, 1.33, 213, 75)
Mid-Term Grade – B
Final Grade – A-
The second half was a coming out party of sorts for E-Rod.  After losing Price and Sale to the IL, Rodriguez stepped up and took the mantle of ace and established himself as a upper echelon MLB pitcher.  Don’t be fooled by his 19 wins, as he benefited from the highest run support in the majors (7.88 runs/9 IP).  But this season he showed the ability to pitch consistently into the seventh inning, something he had failed to do throughout his career.

Rick Porcello  - (14-12, 5.52, 1.39, 143, 45)
Mid-Term Grade – B
Final Grade – C
Say what you want about “Pretty Ricky”, he has been as reliable a starter as there has been in the major leagues in his tenure with the Red Sox.  He isn’t worth $22 M per year, but he isn’t the bum he is made out to be either.  Like Rodriguez, he also benefited from the fourth highest run support in the league (7.49 R/9 IP), which helped him log his 14 wins.  Finally, they guy wants to pitch in Boston.  I’d take him back on a team friendly deal.  You could do a lot worse for a fourth starter.

Nathan Eovaldi – (2-1, 5.99, 1.58, 70, 35)
Mid-Term Grade – I
Final Grade – D
Essentially a lost season after signing a five year deal in the off-season.  He spent most of the year on the IL after a procedure to remove “loose bodies” in his surgically repaired elbow, and then returned to soon in a desperate move to bolster a struggling bullpen.  He never regained his form and even a return to the starting rotation, first as an opener to gradually build up his stamina, did not work.


Relief Pitchers  (W-L, ERA, WHIP, Ks, BBs, SV/SVOpp)

Brandon Workman (10-1, 1.88, 1.03, 104, 45, 16/22)
Mid-Term Grade – B
Final Grade – B+
At the beginning of the 2019 season, who could have predicted Brandon Workman would end up as the closer for the Boston Red Sox?  Who remembered Workman was even on the staff.  That fact alone says as much about the state of the Red Sox bullpen as it does about Workman’s season.

Heath Hembree (1-0, 3.86, 1.31, 46, 18, 2/3)
Mid-Term Grade – B+
Final Grade – C
Another pitcher who spent almost the entire second half with an injury.  He showed some flashes in the first half which earned him some late inning high leverage situations, but just as quickly landed on the IL.

Josh Taylor  (2-2, 3.04, 1.18, 62, 16, 0/2)
Mid-Term Grade – N/A
Final Grade – B
Taylor came out of nowhere and gradually worked his way into higher leverage roles in late innings.  One of the few pleasant surprises in 2019.

Marcus Walden (9-2, 3.81, 1.19, 76, 32, 2/6)
Mid-Term Grade – B+
Final Grade – B
It may surprise you to learn that Walden was fourth on the team in wins with nine.  He was the bullpen savior in the first half when he posted a 6-0 record with a sub 3 ERA.  Then, as with so many Sox relievers, the workload got to him.  He still emerged as a reliable early inning reliever.

Darwinzon Hernandez (1-0, 4.45, 1.18, 62, 16, 0/2)
Mid-Term Grade – N/A
Final Grade – B-
Touted as a top pitching prospect as a starter in spring training, Hernandez was promoted from AA Portland to AAA Pawtucket by mid-season and was quickly converted to the bullpen with the goal to come up and help the major league staff.  He was dominant after the call-up, but the increased workload for the 22 year old wore him down at the end.

Matt Barnes  (5-4, 3.78, 3.78, 110, 38, 4/12)
Mid-Term Grade – B
Final Grade – C
Barnes was initially utilized as the late inning high leverage pitcher, facing the heart of the lineup in either the seventh or eighth innings.  He performed well in that role for the first month or so, but the failures of prospective closers led to the overuse of Barnes, who quickly folded under the workload.  His eight blow saves (in only 12 save opportunities) pretty much says it all.

Ryan Brasier – (2-4, 4.85, 1.29, 61, 21, 7/11)
Mid-Term Grade – D
Final Grade – F
Brasier simply never got on track after missing most of spring training due to a toe injury.  He struggled so badly that he found himself relegated to Pawtucket in August and didn’t return until rosters expanded in September.  His most telling stat – he allowed nine home runs in only 55 2/3 innings pitched.  


Manager/General Manager

Alex Cora
Mid-Term Grade – D
Final Grade – D
His mistakes started long before the season started when he announced at the Baseball Writer’s Dinner that he thought the 2019 Red Sox would be better than the 2018 team.  Then, at Winter Weekend in Foxwoods, he announced that he would be flip-flopping Betts and Benintendi in the batting order.  This was followed by his coddling of the starting pitchers in spring training.  He was dealt a tough hand with the lack of talent given to him in the bullpen, but this was also virtually the same team that won 108 games in 2018.  Cora couldn’t let 2018 go, and his team never focused on 2019.  Ultimately he has to share a large part of the blame.

Dave Dombrowski
Mid-Term Grade – D
Final Grade – F
The now departed GM did virtually nothing in the offseason to help a bullpen bereft of a proven closer. He then handed out big money deals to Nathan Eovaldi and a huge extension to a fragile Chris Sale.  His lone acquisition before the trade deadline brought in Andrew Cashner, which failed from day one and whose performance didn’t even warrant grading in this column.  Trader Dave’s lone good move was inking Bogaerts to what now appears to be a steal of a deal at six years/$120 M.  But it wasn’t enough to keep his job, or to avoid a failing grade for the year.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Red Sox 2019 Final Grades
Red Sox 2019 Final Grades
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