The 2021 Red Sox season did not get off to a solid start. The opening series did not go as planned. A three-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles is nothing, if not embarrassing. Does this three-game sweep suddenly make the Orioles favorites to win the American League East? No, it does not. Nor does losing the first three games of the season make the Red Sox a non-competitive team. Unlike the 2020 season, there is still hope for the 2021 Red Sox. Three games into the season, the panic button is still very out of reach.
2021 Red Sox: The Good
Houck has pitched in 19 major league innings, giving up just one run and has collected 25 strikeouts, and yes, he still will be sent down to Triple-A Worcester once Eduardo Rodríguez comes off the IL. And he should be sent down. In his last start, while impressive, he barely utilized his splitter. A successful major league starter needs more than just a fastball and a plus slider. He was undoubtedly impressive in his first outing of 2021, with five innings pitched, eight strikeouts, and a 1.40 WHIP. Houck has the potential to be a front of the rotation type of pitcher. With more development, Houck could prove to make an indelible on the 2021 Red Sox. Houck’s slider is all kinds of filthy nasty.
While it’s extremely early to get down or to get overly hype about really anything regarding the 2021 Red Sox, Garrett Whitlock has been dealing since the beginning of Spring Training. This spring Whitlock pitched to a 1.00 ERA, in nine innings pitched, with 12 strikeouts and a 0.67 WHIP. He sure didn’t slow down in his major league debut, pitching 3.1 innings, zero walks, and five strikeouts. Whitlock might prove to be a sweet addition to the Red Sox bullpen.
To say that Julio Daniel Martinez struggled in 2020 might be the understatement of the season. Martinez hit just .213/.291/.389 with a wRC+ of 77, a far cry from the player that reinvented himself after a release from the Houston Astros. In the first three games of the 2021 Red Sox season, Martinez looks like the J.D. of old. Martinez’s .500/.500/1.000 and OPS of 1.500 is an extremely encouraging sign, even if it has only been 12 at-bats. If J.D Martinez can put up a 2018 type season, and the rest of the lineup wakes up, this could make for a very difficult lineup for pitches to get through.
Red Sox fans have to feel a bit of excitement watching Sawamura throw his nasty splitter. Sox fans haven’t enjoyed a split so nasty since they were granted the joy of watching Koji Uehara during his elite 2013 season. Sawamura had a fine spring and has pitched to a 0.00 ERA with three strikeouts in two innings on the very young season. If the Red Sox can have a lead heading into the late innings, a combination of Sawamura, Whitlock, Ottavino, and Barnes could prove to be a darn good back of a bullpen.
They don’t call him ‘Nasty Nate’ for nothing. Nate Eovaldi was blessed with an absolutely lethal right arm. Eovaldi possesses a fastball that consistently sits as one of the fastest in baseball, to go along with a curveball, splitter, and slider combo. Eovaldi easily has some of the best ‘stuff’ in the game. The issue for Eovaldi has always been health. Eovaldi’s first start of 2021 went rather smoothly, with 5.1 innings pitched, four strikeouts, and a 0.94 WHIP. Once Rodriguez comes back, Eovaldi might just be a very nice number two behind Eduardo.
2021 Red Sox: The Bad
Ice Cold Bats
Andre 3000 once posed the question, ‘what’s cooler than being cool?’ The answer? ‘Ice cold.’ The 2021 Red Sox bats have been just that, ice cold. Through three regular-season games, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Kiké Hernández, Alex Verdugo, Bobby Dalbec, Huter Renfroe, Marwin González, and Franchy Cordero have a combined four hits for the season.
To believe this offense will be this bad going forward is honestly laughable. This is a darn good offense. When the season ends, this offense is capable of being in the top five of the American League. There’s not much more than can be said, through three games most of the offense has been downright awful. There’s no escaping that fact. There’s also no escaping that the offense has 159 games to turn it all around.
2021 Red Sox: The Ugly
Garrett Richards‘ first start in a Red Sox uniform could not have gone more poorly if he actually tried to be bad at baseball. Richards also did not impress at all this spring training, pitching to a 5.93 ERA, in 13.2 innings pitched, with 11 walks, and 14 strikeouts. During his first outing of the 2021 season, Richards is now the owner of a 27.00 ERA, a 4.50 WHIP, all while lasting just two innings. It’s just one start, and there is no reason to write Ricahrds off as a bad signing, not close to being there just yet.
If Garrett Richards looked bad in his 2021 Red Sox debut, there are no proper words in the English language dictionary for how awful Josh Taylor pitched. Taylor was called on to help Richards out of his third-inning jam, and he did the opposite of help. Taylor pitched just one inning, allowing five earned runs, and now owns a nice and shiny 45.00 ERA. Taylor must step his game up if he’s going to be in the Red Sox bullpen for the long haul. There are already a handful of pitchers that have proven to be more of a valuable asset for the 2021 Red Sox bullpen.
The first three-game of the very young season didn’t exactly look pretty. The offense was ice cold, some of the pitching was far too reminiscent of 2020, and the defense looked less than pristine. The encouraging aspects, help to offset the woes. The offense will hit. There is no way they will not hit. They are too good to not hit. The offense should not be the worry as to the potential failure of the 2021 Red Sox.
In the end, it was just three games. If these three games happened in the middle of July after the Red Sox had played mostly competitively, there would not be this much outrage. Fans need to chill out, relax, and watch baseball. The first three games of 2021 are not indicative of the success or failure for the entire season.
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