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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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February 20, 2024
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February 12, 2024

Questions facing the Red Sox as they enter 2022

Raphael+Devers+of+the+Boston+Red+Sox+swings+a+bat.
Bianca Oppedisano
Raphael Devers of the Boston Red Sox swings a bat. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff

The 2021 season was an overwhelming success for the Boston Red Sox. After a miserable 2020 where they were one of the worst teams in baseball, they significantly outperformed expectations last year, winning 92 games and advancing to Game Six of the American League Championship Series. But people seem to forget, the Red Sox barely made the playoffs to begin with, and they needed a lot of luck in an American League East that saw four teams win over 90 games. In 2022, it won’t get any easier for the Jersey Street Starting nine. The Toronto Blue Jays have significantly loaded up, trading for all-star third baseman Matt Chapman from Oakland, and signing starting pitcher Kevin Gausman to fortify what was already a good rotation. The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off a 100-win season, and as usual, have tons of young talent and prospects. The New York Yankees are still the Yankees. With that being said, what is the Red Sox’s path back to October this year?
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Red Sox this year is the bullpen. Closer Matt Barnes was stellar the first half of 2021 but was such a disaster in the second half that he was left off Boston’s postseason roster. Barnes has had a pretty solid spring, but the Red Sox added a couple of lefty relievers in free agency—Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm—who could give manager Alex Cora more flexibility in the later innings. Garrett Whitlock was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball last year, posting a stellar 1.96 earned run average, but his long-term future might be as a starting pitcher.
Another area of interest with the Red Sox is their lineup. They traded last year’s starting right fielder, Hunter Renfroe, to Milwaukee for old friend Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects. Bradley has always been known for his defensive prowess as an outfielder, but has been a very up-and-down hitter for most of his career. The team also saw fan-favorite Kyle Schwarber, acquired from Washington at last year’s trade deadline, walk in free agency. The team tried to offset these losses with the addition of All-Star middle infielder Trevor Story, who should be able to make up some of the difference.
The Red Sox’s team defense was a major liability in 2021 as, according to the sabermetrics website Fangraphs, they ranked 10th out of 15 American League teams in overall defense. Certain positions were even worse, as they were 12th in defense at third base and 14th at first base, while committing a league-leading 13 errors in right field. The additions of Gold Glovers like Story and Bradley should help them improve in those areas. 
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the team is the health of their ace, Chris Sale. Sale didn’t pitch last season until August while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and struggled in the playoffs. The Red Sox got more bad news during Spring Training when Sale suffered a rib injury that is projected to keep him out until at least June. Despite his injuries, Sale is, when healthy, one of the best pitchers in baseball, and the Red Sox will need him if they want to make any kind of run at a title in 2022.
Perhaps the most important indicator of the Red Sox’s success this season will be the kind of start they get off to. In 2021, they were 17–10 in the month of April, which helped them set the tone for the rest of the year. This April, the Red Sox will play the Blue Jays, Yankees and Rays a combined 13 times, making it imperative to avoid any significant damage. How far can they go this season? That’s to be determined, but we certainly know that the talent for another magical October pennant chase is certainly there.

About the Contributors
Jack Sherman, Sports Writer
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator