Boston Red Sox: 2017 season review and offseason preview

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Andrew Benintendi
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Andrew Benintendi /
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HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 06: Hanley Ramirez
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 06: Hanley Ramirez /

What Went Wrong

With David Ortiz retiring, the DH spot was primarily handled by Hanley Ramirez and there was a dramatic drop-off in production. Ramirez went from a .286/.361/.505 season in which he launched 30 homers and had 111 RBI to a .242/.320/.429 season with 23 homers and 62 RBI. He finished below replacement-level. Based on Fangraphs WAR, the difference between Ortiz in 2016 and Ramirez in 2017 was five wins.

Ramirez will make $22 million next season and another $22 million in 2019 if he triggers a vesting option in his contract. He needs 547 plate appearances to trigger the option based on a combined 1050 plate appearances in 2017-18. Ramirez has played three seasons with the Red Sox and sandwiched two bad seasons around one good season. He had shoulder surgery in mid-October and the Red Sox are hoping for better health and a bounce back to the production he had in 2016.

Ramirez was the primary DH because the Red Sox signed Mitch Moreland last December to play first base. For the first three months, Moreland wasn’t bad. He hit .264/.350/.468 through the end of June. Unfortunately, his bat wilted in the summer heat. He hit .226/.300/.416 over the last three months of the season and finished 12th in WAR out of the 15 AL first baseman who had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

Catcher Sandy Leon had a surprisingly good season with the Red Sox in 2016 when he hit .310/.369/.476 that was at least partially fueled by a sky-high .392 BABIP. Leon’s BABIP dropped to .280 this season and he finished with a .225/.290/.354 batting line. He played seven more games this season but was worth two fewer wins.

At 33 years old, second baseman Dustin Pedroia had the worst full season of his career. A knee injury played a big part, as he only played in 105 games. He was still good at getting on base (.369 OBP) but slugged under .400 for just the second time in 11 seasons as a regular. Unfortunately, it looks like the knee injury will continue to be an issue into next season and maybe beyond.

The injury bug also hit David Price, who pitched just 74.7 innings. He came into the season having been a 4 to 6 WAR pitcher in each of the previous seven seasons and had averaged 233 innings over the previous three years. He missed the most of the first two months of the season with an arm injury before making his first start on May 29. He then went back on the DL in July and missed another two months. When he came off the DL in September, he was used exclusively in relief and continued to pitch in relief in the ALDS against the Astros. He has five more seasons and $157 million left on his contract (with an opt-out after the 2018 season).

When the Red Sox traded for Chris Sale, they were hoping to have a big three to rival any team in baseball, with Sale and Price being left-handed aces and Rick Porcello coming from the right side. Sale held up his end, but Price was injured and Porcello went from the AL Cy Young winner in 2016, with a 22-4 record and a 3.15 ERA, to a back-of-the-rotation starter in 2017, with an 11-17 record and a 4.65 ERA (4.60 FIP). Perhaps Porcello can bounce back like Corey Kluber did after he led the AL in losses in 2015.