The calendar has officially flipped to the month of October, which means baseball fans are once again fired up for the Postseason. Unfortunately, for Red Sox fans like myself, the Stockings will not be playing for a championship for the 2nd consecutive season. 2023 looked like a promising year for Boston, but they ended the last leg of the regular season on a rough note. They went 8-19 in the month of September, which included the firing of their Baseball President, Chaim Bloom. For the 2nd straight season, Boston would finish with a 78-84 record and last place in the AL East division, but I want to look at this season from a positive angle. Here are five things that went right for the Red Sox in 2023.
- Future (Sliver) Slugger
23-year-old rookie Triston Casas had an incredible 2023 campaign. It wasn’t pretty at first, as Casas struggled with the bat in April, hitting .133 with a .576 OPS. Throughout the season, Casas was able to improve until he reached scorching hot status in July. He batted .349 with seven home runs and a 1.199 OPS that month, giving him the AL Rookie of the Month honor. Casas was shut down for the season on September 16th, but his numbers were impressive. He finished with 24 home runs (2nd on the Red Sox), a .367 On-Base Percentage, and a .856 OPS, which is 17th best in the league. He’ll likely lose the AL Rookie of the Year award to Orioles third baseman Gunnar Henderson, but Casas was definitely one of the best hitters for Boston this season.
- A New Ace
The biggest flaw on the Red Sox roster is starting pitching, which is evident by their 4.68 ERA for starters, good for 22nd in the league. There was one pitcher who seemed to give Boston a fighting chance every fifth day and that was 24-year-old Brayan Bello. Bello shined in his first full season as he was the most consistent starter and had standout performances against some great lineups. Brayan stalled out near the end of the season, boosting his ERA to 4.24, but he was dominant in the middle months (2.37 ERA in May-June). He was a workhorse this season, having 28 starts and 157 innings in total, leading the pitching staff in both categories. If Bello can get more strikeouts next season (7.6 K/9), and limit the home run ball (1.4 HR/9), he’ll be on track for a Cy Young caliber season.
- The $300 million man
The biggest move for the Red Sox last offseason was extending their current star player in third baseman Rafael Devers. Having the richest contract in Red Sox history at $313 million over a full decade can definitely increase pressure, but Raffy was great once again. He was simply the best hitter on the team, recording 33 home runs, 100 RBIs, and a .851 OPS in 153 games. He led Boston in home runs, and was tied for 2nd in doubles with 34, as he continues to be an extra-base hit machine. At just 26 years old, Devers is already 13th all-time on the Red Sox home run list with 172, surpassing the likes of Xander Bogaerts and Carlton Fisk this season. He’ll look to climb up the leaderboard even more in 2024.
- Dogs in the Pen
The Red Sox drastically improved their bullpen for 2023, as they had a three-headed monster that lineups feared. The three pitches in question are Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, and Josh Winckowski. Jansen is a future Hall of Famer who finally brought reliability to the closing role. He dealt with injuries at age 35, but he recorded a team-best 29 saves and was an All-Star for the first time since 2018. Chris Martin was definitely the best of these three, with an unprecedented 1.05 ERA in 55 games, allowing just six earned runs in total. Winckowski had the biggest breakout of any Red Sox this season. He went from a 5.89 ERA and a 5.6 K/9 in 2022, to a 2.88 ERA and an 8.8 K/9 in 2023, while throwing the most innings out of the pen with 84.1. To put this more in perspective, the Red Sox had a 60-4 record when leading after the 6th inning.
- Better Days
To be completely honest, I couldn’t find a 5th positive for the 2023 Red Sox, but I am looking forward to what the team looks like next season. With Bloom being fired, there will be new management that hopefully builds a winning product. There’s no doubt that this team collapsed at the end of the season, but they still have a great offense and a dominant backend of the bullpen. The Red Sox have money to spend this offseason, and the starting rotation desperately needs upgrades. They are already one of the favorites to land star Japanese starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Red Sox farm system continues to grow as well, so we may see a major impact from players like Marcelo Mayer, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Wilyer Abreu. Hopefully, next season, the Red Sox can get out of the last place slump in the AL East division, and play October baseball.