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Thinking Outside the Batter's Box: Don't look now, but the Red Sox are not all that terrible anymore

Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

by Jacob Gurvis
The 2015 Boston Red Sox have been a disappointment, to put it lightly. Despite blowing out the bank and giving out hundreds of millions of dollars this past offseason, the Sox have spent most of the season in last place, and have been hard to watch for much of the season.
You could argue all you want about the decisions to sign Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Koji Uehara to their multi-million dollar contracts. Some of the moves now former General Manager Ben Cherington made were questionable, others were justifiable and smart. Regardless, the 2015 Red Sox did not pan out. They did not play as well as they should have for a $200 million team. It’s that simple.
That being said, since the beginning of August, the Red Sox have been a different team. Their offense is on fire, their starters are delivering quality starts nearly every night; all facets of the game have been executed well of late. It’s a shame it took until August, but this late-season resurgence certainly shows an incredible amount of promise for 2016. Here are the biggest takeaways from this hot streak:

  • Young players are coming into their own.

Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo, Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart. I don’t know about you, but that list makes me very excited for the future. With the exceptions of Bradley and Castillo (25 and 28, respectively), all of those players are 23-years-old or younger. And they’ve all been playing very good baseball. Bogaerts is second in the American League with a .324 batting average. Betts has surprised people with his power, hitting 15 home runs and 71 runs batted in. For the first time in his career, Bradley is proving that he can hit at the major league level, and has more extra-base hits (28) this season than he did last year, in a third of the games. These young players are getting valuable experience, and are showing that the future is bright in Boston.

  • The team is in good hands.

John Farrell was diagnosed with Stage 1 Lymphoma in mid-August. The Sox skipper passed off the reins to his bench coach, Torey Lovullo, who has guided the team to a very strong finish to the season. August 18, former Detroit Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski was named the President of Baseball Operations of the Sox. Dombrowski is one of the top baseball executives out there, and could very well land the Red Sox an ace this offseason (David Price, perhaps…). The Sox do not currently have a GM, as Cherington stepped down with the hiring of Dombrowski, but Dombrowski is hard at work searching for a replacement. And lastly, unpopular Sox CEO Larry Lucchino is stepping down after the season. Things are looking up.

  • There are plenty of feel-good stories in this sad season.

The 2015 season has been rough. That being said, there are still many storylines that can lighten the mood in Beantown. The biggest that comes to mind is rookie first baseman Travis Shaw. The 2011 ninth-rounder was never a big-name prospect, and certainly is not a household name. However, Shaw is quietly having a very good season. In 203 plate appearances, Shaw has 11 homers, 30 RBIs, and 18 walks. If you do the math, figuring that an average everyday player has 600 plate appearances in a full season, Shaw would theoretically have 33 homers, 89 RBIs, and 53 walks. Obviously that’s being incredibly optimistic. Shaw is not going to be the next David Ortiz, or probably anywhere near those numbers. But the 25-year-old is certainly drawing attention, and forcing the Sox brass to keep him in mind for their 2016 gameplan.
The other feel-good story that caught my eye would be Rich Hill. The 35-year-old pitcher has not had the greatest career. He’s been in and out of the majors, he’s in his third stint with the Red Sox, and up until they signed him a few weeks ago, was pitching in an independent league. The Milton native has been a reliever for most of his career, but is now the Red Sox’s sixth starter. In his first two starts in the majors since 2009, Hill has thrown 14 innings, giving up one three runs and one walk with 20 strikeouts. Again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves; who knows if it is fluke or something more, but you cannot help but feel happy for the guy. He’s 35, still trying to make it in the majors, and in February of 2014, his three-month-old son passed away. And now Hill is back, and so far, so good. Don’t you just love happy endings?
Who knows if any of this will make an impact next season. Maybe the Sox are only playing well because they’re playing mostly bad teams in a non-pressure situation. “Garbage time” it’s called. But I like to be optimistic. I like to think that this happy ending to the season will carry into 2016. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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