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  • July 12th, 2016

    All-Star Game Day:
    3 Biggest Surprises From The First Half

    Posted by Christine E. at 5:36 pm in Baseball,Guest Post,Random Thoughts,Red Sox No Comments

    By: Matthew Crawford, Guest Contributor.

    We’ve finally reached the All-Star break, and in the MLB that means we’re more than half way through the season. The Red Sox are 49-38, and if the season were over today they’d be the first wild card entry in the American League, but a runner-up to Baltimore in the AL East. It’s been a successful season, and frankly a better one than a lot of fans in Boston and around the country expected.

    But more than a successful one, this has been a weird season for the Red Sox. This club has seen a lot of things go well that weren’t supposed to, and has struggled in a few areas where they should have excelled. And since now is as good a time as any to recap what we’ve seen through 87 games, let’s take a look back at three of the biggest surprises so far.

    Xander Bogaerts Is The Best Player

    Sure, most would slot David Ortiz into this spot, and we’ll get to him in a minute. But when you consider both the field and the plate, it’s fair to say Xander Bogaerts has been Boston’s best player by a pretty clear margin—and no one really saw that coming. Sure, the 23-year-old shortstop had a bit of a coming out party in 2015 (after being a mild disappointment in 2014). But all you have to do is compare his stats in the past two seasons to see that he’s made a remarkable leap forward. Through half of the 2016 season, he’s scored 76 percent as many runs as he did in 2015; he’s produced 69 percent of his total RBIs from a season ago; and he’s already hit three more home runs. His average is up to .329 (from .320 in 2015), his OBP is up to .388 (from .355), and his OPS is up to a whopping .863 (from .776). And he’s continued to be an All-Star quality shortstop. It was reasonable to expect that Bogaerts would have a strong season in 2016, but this has to be considered a surprise.

    David Ortiz Looks Like He’s In His Prime

    DavidOrtiz 1 (2)Here’s the obvious one. Despite announcing his retirement following this season—and despite being an overweight 40-year-old slugger—David Ortiz has been hammering the ball. And he hasn’t just been “good for his age,” or getting some kind of bump in appreciation because he’s in the midst of his retirement tour. He’s been a top caliber talent. At the outset of the season, betting tipsters tabbed the likes of Chris Davis and Giancarlo Stanton as potential leaders in home runs and runs scored. But with 22 homers so far, Ortiz is tied with Davis and ahead of Stanton, and just six behind Mark Trumbo (whose 28 currently leads the league). He has a legitimate shot to win the 2016 home run crowd. Even more importantly, he might just be on a path toward the MVP. That would require a little bit of a reputation bump (as mentioned, he probably hasn’t quite been the best performer on his own team when you factor in defense). However, it’s well within the realm of possibility. He’s currently at or near the top of the AL in every major hitting statistic.

    The Good Pitchers Have Been Bad

    Overall, the Red Sox haven’t had surprising characteristics. Basically, the hitting has been strong and the pitching has been weak, and that much could have been predicted. The aforementioned weirdness has been in the individuals keeping those trends alive, however, and in that regard one of the biggest surprises has been the performance of the pitchers expected to be the best. Namely, newcomers Craig Kimbrel and David Price have both struggled. The former has been an unreliable closer despite being an All-Star, and Price, while amassing a 9-6 record (and pitching much better recently), has an extraordinarily uncharacteristic 4.34 ERA. He’s also allowed more home runs than any Red Sox player not named Clay Buchholz. It’s safe to say no one expected Steven Wright and Rick Porcello to be the most impressive pitchers on a staff that just added Price and Kimbrel.

    It may be that we’ll see some of these surprising factors revert to something more closely resembling normal in the months to come. Ortiz could fall off a little bit (it’s just hard to imagine him keeping up this kind of pace), and Price will likely right the ship. Kimbrel can’t be much worse (or the Sox could be in trouble), despite his high strikeout rate. The only surprise that looks as if it’ll likely continue into the second half is that Bogaerts may just be the team’s best player.

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