Thursday, December 7, 2023

Season in Review: 2023

The Red Sox finished in last place once again in 2023.  This is the second year in a row for that finish.  Their record was an identical 78-84 under Alex Cora.  The year was marked primarily by inconsistency from the offense and injuries to the pitching staff.  Before the end of the season, CBO Chaim Bloom was relieved of his duties and former reliever Craig Breslow was eventually hired on.  Hopefully there will be some improvement in 2024.


Devers signed a massive extension prior to the season, which was almost a necessity after the Red Sox lost Xander Bogaerts to free agency.  Devers had what was perceived to be a down season in 2023, but still won his second Silver Slugger Award.  He hit .271/.351/.500 with 33 home runs, 100 RBIs, 34 doubles and 90 runs scored.  If that's a down season, I am thrilled he will spend most of the rest of his career in Boston.

It should not be at all surprising that I fit Wong in here.  This was the Year of Wong in my collection.  Most of the rest of the team took a backseat to my collecting Wong and he is just outside the top five players I have the most cards of.  Wong proved to be a reliable defender behind the plate and hit just enough to edge out the incumbent Reese McGuire for starting catcher.  He ended the season hitting .235/.288/.385 with nine home runs, 36 RBIs, 25 doubles and a surprising eight stolen bases as a catcher.  Hopefully he takes another step forward next season.

Bello emerged as the top starting pitcher on the team in 2023 after an uneven rookie season that saw him improve as the season progressed.  He ended up leading the team in games started (28) and innings pitched (157).  He was also the team's top winner, finishing with a record of 12-11.  Bello struck out 132 batters while walking 45 and had an ERA of 4.24.  He still experienced some growing pains, but looks like a legitimate starter going forward.

Pivetta had an inconsistent season that saw him perform in a variety of roles.  He started 16 games while finishing three.  He pitched in 38 games total and threw 142.2 innings.  He had a 10-9 record and even notched a save.  Pivetta was the team's top strikeout pitcher, notching 183, against 50 walks.  It is difficult to say what Pivetta's role will be going forward, but he has proven to be a valuable pitcher for the Red Sox ever since his acquisition during the 2020 season.  

Probably the biggest surprise of the 2023 season was the development of Duran.  He had always put up terrific numbers in the minors, but largely struggled in the Majors.  Especially defensively.  But 2023 saw Duran put it all together finally, before an injury ended his season.  He ended up playing in 102 games and hit .295/.346/.482 with 34 doubles, eight home runs, 40 RBIs and leading the team with 24 stolen bases.  The Red Sox have seemingly cleared the way for Duran to be the starting center fielder in 2024.  Hopefully he builds on this.


Crawford was an under-the-radar success as a starting pitcher in 2023.  He appeared in 31 games, starting 23 and threw 129.1 innings.  He had a record of 6-8, but his 4.04 ERA led the starting staff.  His stuff was even better.  He struck out 135 batters while walking just 36.  Crawford is not really a star, but for a bottom-rotation pitcher, there are a lot worse options.

For a time, Winckowski was one of the top relievers in the game.  Overuse caused his numbers to dip a bit in the second half, but it was a massively successful season for the top player received in the Benintendi deal before the 2021 season.  Winckowski appeared in a team-high 60 games, throwing 84.1 innings.  He did start a game as an opener.  Winckowski had a record of 4-4 with three saves and a sparkling 2.88 ERA.  He struck out 82 batters while walking 31.  

Houck was a former first-round pick and yet another pitcher who appeared in a variety of roles over the last couple of years.  In 2023, Houck settled in as a starter, but had some difficulty going late in games.  He was also set back by some injuries.  His final numbers were a record of 6-10 with a 5.01 ERA in 106 innings pitched.  He struck out 99 and walked 41.  Houck is probably getting close to a crossroads in his career.


Boston's only All Star in 2023 was new closer Jansen.  Jansen had one of the bigger career milestones in 2023 as he saved his 400th game, making him look like an eventual Hall of Famer.  He had some minor injury issues, but by and large was as advertised.  He appeared in 51 games and saved 29 of them.  He had a record of 3-6 with a 3.63 ERA that was inflated by a couple of really bad outings.  He struck out 52 and walked 17 in 44.2 innings.

I have long liked Justin Turner, so I was pretty excited when he signed with Boston to be the primary designated hitter.  The red-haired caveman was a great influence in the clubhouse and appeared at first and second base as well as DH.  He also put up some impressive offensive numbers, hitting .276/.345/.455 with 23 home runs, 31 doubles, 86 runs scored and 96 RBIs.  It would be nice to see him back in 2024.

Early in the season it looked like Duvall would put up an absolutely monstrous campaign.  Unfortunately, he got hurt early and took a bit to get going again when he came back.  As it was, Duvall ended up hitting .247/.303/.531 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs while playing very good defense.  Duvall is another player who is currently a free agent who could help in some capacity in 2024.

I am still waiting on a card of Martin (would you believe he hasn't had one since 2020?!), who was perhaps the best reliever in the league not named Felix Bautista.  Martin appeared in 55 games, throwing 51.1 innings with a microscopic 1.05 ERA and 4-1 record.  He saved three games, striking out 46 with just eight walks.  Martin was fantastic in 2023 and really should receive more notoriety than he has in his career.


The Red Sox did not do much at the trading deadline.  The only deal they made was for second-baseman Urias after being rumored to be in the hunt for starting pitching or for shopping various players.  Urias made an immediate impact in Boston, hitting two grand slams very quickly.  He did not do much other than that and ended up hitting just .225/.361/.337 with two home runs and 13 RBIs.  He has since been traded to the Mariners.


Casas had a brutal start to the 2023 season.  For the first month, he was hitting under .200.  But, like Dustin Pedroia, who similarly struggled in his rookie season, Casas eventually figured it out and ended up putting together a terrific rookie campaign.  It was enough to finish third in the Rookie of the Year vote.  Casas ended up hitting .263/.367/.490 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs.  He is a big part of the future of the team.

The Macho Man was not a conventional rookie, having come over from a successful career in Japan.  He started the year making a big name for himself in the World Baseball Classic, and it was this added to the strain of a much more intense travel schedule than he was used, that led him to slump badly at times.  Still, his season was a success as he hit .289/.338/.445 with 155 hits, 33 doubles and 72 RBIs.  His power was one of the things that was questioned, but he hit 15 home runs.  He even stole eight bases.  Now that he knows how to better prepare for the season, it will be interesting to see how he reacts in 2024.


When Verdugo was acquired as the main piece in the Mookie Betts trade, it was hoped that he would develop into a .300 hitter with 20-homer power.  Unfortunately, after his fourth season in Boston, he still has yet to tap into that potential.  There have been glimpses of what could be, but he struggles with consistency and maturity.  His .264/.324/.421 line with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs was just not cutting it any longer and Boston cut bait and sent him to the Yankees earlier this week.  It is unfortunate because I like Verdugo, and love that he seemed happy in Boston, at least until the second half of this season.  He just seemed to shut down.

It was yet another mostly lost season for Sale.  He ended up having his highest innings total (102.2) since 2019 and started 20 games, but he continued to suffer from injuries.  When he was on the mound, there were times that he looked like his old self.  But his final numbers of 6-5 with a 4.30 ERA are not much to write home about.  He did strike out 125 batters while walking 29, so the swing-and-miss stuff is still there, but his contract has been an expensive flop since signing the extension prior to 2019.  One of my friends frequently points out that I had predicted this even before he was acquired.

It's not like much was expected from the former two-time Cy Young winner, but some semblance of just a reliable starter, as he had been the last couple of seasons would have been nice.  Kluber was an unmitigated disaster in 2023.  He ended up appearing in just 15 games, starting nine, with a record of 3-6 and an unsightly 7.04 ERA in 55 innings.  He struck out just 42 batters while walking 21.  It is hard to imagine him getting a Major League contract in 2024.  

Story spent the entire first half of the season on the Injured List.  He ended up playing in just 43 games in 2023.  He has been hurt more than he has been on the field since signing a big contract prior to 2022.  When he did make it back, he was not good.  He ended up hitting just .203/.250/.316 with three home runs and 14 RBIs, though he did steal ten bases and played fantastic defense.  Hopefully this was just trying to find his rhythm and he will be back to normal in 2024.

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