Friday, December 1 2023

For an organization obsessed with marginal value, the Red Sox sure have tossed away a lot of wins at shortstop.

The latest example came Wednesday night, when rookie David Hamilton booted a grounder vs. the Marlins that turned a 2-1 game into a 4-1 game en route to a 6-2 loss. He wasn’t charged an error, but when it comes to the team’s glovework at short, it was just double-bogey for the course.

In fact, there’s a case to be made that position alone is all that stands between Boston’s current home in last place and a wild card berth.

How razor thin is the margin between winning and losing when you’re mediocre? This thin: In the 23 games started by reliable defenders Yu Chang and Pablo Reyes, the Red Sox are 13-10. That may not sound like much, but it projects to 92 wins over a full season. That’s good enough for the playoffs.

They’re otherwise 27-31, which is a 75-win pace that feels more applicable to their current 40-41 plight. No playoffs for you.

The bulk of the blame goes to Kiké Hernández, who still leads all shortstops in errors with 14, even though he has only started four games there in two weeks. They’ve also lost a game started by the hulking Bobby Dalbec, and they’re 1-3 with Hamilton, who has only been spared multiple errors by Fenway’s generous official scorers.

How they got here is a dereliction of roster construction, especially once it became clear in early January that All-Star Trevor Story would miss the first half following elbow surgery. The Red Sox had a chance to sign a veteran stopgap or even dive into the high-end market for someone like Carlos Correa, but they instead gambled on the injured Adalberto Mondesi. Their reward is not even so much as a rehab appearance. There’s no timetable on when he might return, and I’d bet on Chris Sale contributing to the 2023 Red Sox again before Mondesi.


Instead of addressing the gaping hole in the roster, they shifted Hernández from center field, where he had surprisingly played Gold Glove-caliber defense, starting a cascade that has weakened their defense all over the diamond. Their best left fielder, Adam Duvall, has spent most of his time in center, while all-bat, no-glove import Masataka Yoshida patrols left. Meanwhile, the struggles of Triston Casas at first have necessitated the move of veteran DH Justin Turner to his weakest defensive position.

All of that would be surmountable if the Red Sox could just rely on their shortstops to catch the ball. They went 7-4 with Chang playing every day, even though he only hit .136. That’s because he made a series of highlight-reel plays, from leaping catches to diving stops to cleverly one-hopped throws across the diamond. Before breaking his hamate bone and landing on the 60-day IL, Chang had started seven wins in nine games.

They experienced similar success with Reyes before he suffered an abdominal strain. They bought Reyes from the woeful A’s, which illustrates where chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom prefers to shop. He started four times during their recent six-game winning streak, but the Red Sox are just 1-5 since without him.

!function(){“use strict”;window.addEventListener(“message”,(function(a){if(void 0![“datawrapper-height”]){var e=document.querySelectorAll(“iframe”);for(var t in[“datawrapper-height”])for(var r=0;r<e.length;r++)if(e[r].contentWindow===a.source){var[“datawrapper-height”][t]+”px”;e[r].style.height=i}}}))}();


Their shortstops frequently botch routine plays and outside of Chang and Reyes, rarely make the wow ones. They lead all of baseball in shortstop errors (18), and they rank dead last in fielding percentage (.946). Not surprisingly, they also rank bottom five in advanced stats like outs above average, success rate added, and runs prevented.

Manager Alex Cora, himself a glove-first player who carved out a 14-year career because of his reliability in the middle infield, constantly bemoans that the Red Sox can’t win when they can’t catch. While it certainly applies to other positions on a generally shoddy defense, it starts at short.

Fix that, and an imperfect team may yet find itself in the playoff race. Keep muddying along in the hopes that Story rides to the rescue, and prepare to be overwhelmed by the gravitational pull of last place.

Source: Yahoo Sports


Belt ‘happy' with Blue Jays, how free agency played out


Cavaliers are fully guaranteeing Cedi Osman’s $6.7 million contract for 2023-24

Check Also