Monday, January 3, 2022

Season in Review: 2021

Well, 2021 was quite the surprise.  After the 2020 season was so bad, there were not a lot of reasons to be optimistic in 2021.  Especially since many of the offseason moves were not exactly of the blockbuster variety and there were some pretty major questions about the pitching staff.  Nevertheless, Boston got off to a quick start and ended up sneaking into one of the Wild Card spots.  Then, the fun really began as they dispatched the Yankees in the Wild Card game and shocked the Rays in the ALDS.  Three games into the ALCS with a 2-1 lead, they looked like they could surprise everyone by beating the Astros but, as was an issue frequently during the season, the bats suddenly went cold.  Still, for a team that was not expected to finish higher than fourth, this season was a shocking success.  Hopefully they build on it for 2022 rather than taking a step back.


At this time, it is pretty clear that Devers is the best player on the team.  He was voted to his first All Star team this year and won his first Silver Slugger.  He finished the season ninth in the league in home runs (38) and fourth in RBIs (113).  Devers hit .279/.352/.538 and finished eleventh in the MVP race.  Only poor defense kept him from being considered one of the top players in the league.  Hopefully Boston gets him locked up for years to come.

Bogaerts is very close to Devers as far as visibility and star-power go on this team.  He provides veteran leadership and a steady bat early in the lineup.  Bogaerts was named to his third All Star team and won his fourth Silver Slugger while finishing 12th in the MVP vote.  He struggled in the second half due to illness, but he ended the season hitting .295/.370/.493 with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs.

Eovaldi was healthy for the full season for the first time in years and led the league in games started (32).  He is a large part of why the team was able to have the success it did as he stabilized the rotation.  Eovaldi was named to his first All Star team, finished fourth in the Cy Young vote and 15th in the MVP race.  He had a record of 11-9, but with a 3.75 ERA, 195 strikeouts versus 35 walks in 182.1 innings pitched.

The weirdest season of the team belonged to E-Rod, whose traditional stats looked less-than-impressive, but whose advanced metrics showed a very good pitcher.  He had a record of 13-8 and an ERA of 4.74, but that was misleading as his FIP was 3.32.  He struck out 185 batters, while walking 47, in 157.2 innings pitched.  After missing the entire 2020 season with COVID complications, it was a successful return in 2021.

Martinez had a rough 2020 season, but he rebounded in a big way in 2021.  The designated hitter made it into his fourth All Star roster, his third with Boston, and led the league in doubles (42).  He hit .286/.349/.518 with 28 home runs and 99 RBIs.  He struck out too much and was prone to slumps, but it was a season much closer to his prime than the lost 2020 season.


Verdugo's second season with the Red Sox was a bit of a mixed bag.  He improved in some ways, but he struggled in others.  He is still young but needs to mature a bit more if he is going to be viewed as a reasonable return for Mookie Betts.  Verdugo hit .289/.351/.426 with 13 home runs, 32 doubles and 63 RBIs while scoring 88 runs.  

As great as he was in the first half, Barnes was just as horrible in the second half.  It looked like he was one of the best closers in the game and was named to the All Star team, but Barnes completely fell apart in the second half and lost the job.  He finished with a record of 6-5, a 3.79 ERA, 84 strikeouts and 20 walks in 54.2 innings pitched.  Barnes saved 24 games.

Another player that struggled in 2020 but came back in a big way, Taylor turned into a legitimate bullpen weapon in 2021.  He started off slow, but he had a stretch where he was essentially unhittable.  Taylor had a 1-0 record with a 3.40 ERA.  He pitched in 61 games, throwing 47.2 innings.  He notched 60 strikeouts and 23 walks and picked up his first career save.


After several seasons with the Dodgers as a jack-of-all-trades player, Hernandez signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox to provide versatility to the roster.  What was surprising then was that he turned into one of the best defensive center fielders in the league and a competent leadoff hitter.  Hernandez hit .250/.337/.449 with 35 doubles, 20 home runs, 84 runs scored and 60 RBIs.  He won the Fielding Bible Award for multiple position players.

Renfroe was non-tendered by the Rays after a 2020 season in which he hit just .156.  Boston picked him up and it was one of the best bargain signings of the season.  Renfroe led all outfielders in assists (16) and had a big offensive season.  He hit .259/.315/.501 with 31 home runs, 33 doubles, 89 runs scored and 96 RBIs.  Renfroe was a finalist for the Gold Glove for right fielders.


In a surprising move, the Red Sox swung a deal for Schwarber at the deadline.  Schwarber had been having a monster season for the Nationals at the time, hitting 25 home runs.  He was injured at the time of his acquisition, so his debut was delayed.  It was worth the wait though as he hit .291/.435/.522 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 41 games.  


In his first full season in the Majors, Dalbec showed off his impressive power, but his strikeout issues continued.  Dalbec struggled early in the season, but he had an impressive second half.  Dalbec hit .240/.298/.494 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs.  He struck out 156 times, while walking 28 times, in 453 plate appearances.  He was third among A.L. rookies in home runs.

With a pitching windup best described as a right-handed Chris Sale, Houck can be incredibly deceptive.  He bounced between Boston and Worcester throughout the season but was largely impressive in the Majors.  Houck had a record of just 1-5, but a 3.52 ERA.  He worked as both a starter and a reliever and notched his first career save.  He also picked up 87 strikeouts while walking 21 in 69 innings pitched.

Despite the seasons by Dalbec and Houck, the best rookie in 2021 was Whitlock.  He was snatched from the Yankees in the Rule V Draft and easily had the best season any such pick has had for Boston.  Whitlock had a record of 8-4 with a sparkling 1.96 ERA in 73.1 innings pitched across 46 games.  He picked up two saves while striking out 81 batters and walking 17.  Whitlock looks like a potential closer candidate in 2022, but he could also find his way into the rotation.


One of the few players who had a significant decline in 2021 was Vazquez, who had been a pretty good hitter the last couple years.  His numbers across the board declined after a quick start to the season.  Vazquez ended up hitting just .258/.308/.352 with only six home runs and 49 RBIs.  Vazquez did surprisingly lead the team in stolen bases, though eight is not a real impressive number.

Cordero was the only Major League piece acquired in the three-team deal that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City.  Cordero has big power potential, but he tends to strike out too much.  He turned in a mostly miserable season with a line of .189/.237/.260 with just one home run and six RBIs.  He played well in the minors, so there may be some hope for him to meet his potential yet, but at 26 years of age, he is running out of time.

Boston acquired Gonzalez around the same time as Enrique Hernandez to provide some roster versatility.  The players ended up having very different years though.  Gonzalez did play all over the field, but the results were not good.  He ended up playing in just 77 games before being released and hit .202/.281/.285 with two home runs and 20 RBIs.  He stole three bases.  Gonzalez returned to Houston after his release.


Hernandez was a wrecking ball in the postseason.  He has usually turned in big numbers in the postseason with the Dodgers, so it was not shocking how well he did in Boston.  He hit five home runs, which is a team record, with nine RBIs.  To top it all off, he drove in the clinching run to walk off Tampa Bay in the ALDS.  Had Boston won the ALCS, Hernandez would have been a likely candidate to win the MVP.

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