Sox Need More Than Sale and Schwarber to Right the Sinking Ship

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The Red Sox are in the throws of a monumental slump that has seen them drop to five games out of first place in the American League East, five full games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Sox are now perilously hanging on to the SECOND Wild Card slot, just two games ahead of the surging New York Yankees, who we all thought were dead a week before the trade deadline.  The vaunted Red Sox offense has gone cold up and down the lineup to coincide with the clock striking midnight on the overworked bullpen, which was the real success story in the first half.

Photo courtesy of nbcsportsboston.com

Red Sox players, coaches, and fans are now looking to the return of ace Chris Sale and the debut of slugger Kyle Schwarber, acquired from the Nationals before the trade deadline, to get the team back on track.  My question is simply this; is it too little and too late?

The “failure” of Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom to add substantial reinforcements to the team that has shown signs of strain since before the All-Star Break has been well documented.  As has the ability of serious contenders in both leagues to add key players to their playoff push.  It certainly appears that the moves made by the Rays and Yankees have boosted their team morale while Bloom’s acquisition of an injured Schwarber and two forgettable bullpen arms did nothing to invigorate the Red Sox.

Instead the Sox chose to focus on the internal moves available, i.e., the return of Sale and the call-up of highly regarded prospect Jarren Duran.  Duran has struggled to date and, aside from a couple of opposite field home runs and an inside-the-park triple/error/homer, has failed to produce even close to the levels shown in AAA.  We now look to Sale to save the season.

Sale is slated to make his first appearance in nearly two season on Saturday against Baltimore.  Sale has looked like his old self in his rehab tour through the Red Sox system.  Is it fair to expect him to come back right away as the old Chris Sale, the Chris Sale that was the most dominant lefthanded starter in the American League and started consecutive All-Star Games?  Of course not.

While Sale has looked very good against minor league competition, his velocity has not consistently approached the high 90’s as it had before he began experiencing the elbow issues which led to his Tommy John surgery.  He cannot be expected to have the same feel or consistency with his slider as he had previously after two years of not pitching in a major league game.  In short, any hope of seeing the old Chris Sale is more realistically to come in 2022.  Sorry Sox fans, but those are the facts.

But, you say, even if the Red Sox can get 75% of the old Chris Sale, that has to be better than what we’ve seen from Martín Peréz or Garret Richards, and you’d be right.  But even if Sale can consistently pitch into the sixth inning, which may be too much to expect, he would still be turning the game over to a bullpen which is struggling from top to bottom to hold leads in recent weeks.

As far as the offense, Schwarber’s bat brings some needed left-handed thump to the lineup, but what he will be able to produce after being out since July 2nd with a hamstring injury is anyone’s guess.  Schwarber got white hot for a two week stretch between June 12th and 29th when he slashed .348/.403/1.043 in 18 games and clubbed 16 home runs with 27 RBI.  However, prior to that, Schwarber was slashing only .218/.312/.404 with nine homers and 26 RBI in the previous 51 games.  Which Schwarber will the Red Sox be getting when he comes off his current rehab assignment?

Manager Alex Cora also has the issue of where to play Schwarber.  First base is the glaring positional need in the Sox lineup, as their first basemen have combined to slash an anemic .223/.268/.387 this season.  That is good for 27th, 29th, and 22nd respectively in the MLB.  Red Sox first basemen also rank dead last in the MLB in K%, striking out 35.5% of the time.  Even if Schwarber falls somewhere between his pre and post June 12th numbers he will be an improvement, but there is one major caveat in this scenario. 

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Schwarber has played first base only once in his major league career.  We are pinning our offensive hopes on a player learning to play first base with a balky hamstring and tweaked groin.  If Cora chooses instead to do some form of DH/LF rotation with Schwarber and J.D. Martinez, we are still left with the option of Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero at first.  Ugh!

I hate to be a Debbie Downer for Sox fans, but the facts are the facts.  For whatever reason, the Red Sox did not make the necessary deals to help a team that was showing signs of hitting a wall before the trade deadline, and we are now at a crisis point hoping a pair of players coming off significant injury can make everything right.

 

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Sox Need More Than Sale and Schwarber to Right the Sinking Ship
Sox Need More Than Sale and Schwarber to Right the Sinking Ship
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