Major League Baseball’s trade deadline has come and gone. As the rest of the competition in the tight American League East improved, the Red Sox made just one significant move, adding big lefty bat Kyle Schwarber to the roster. The Sox also added two middling relievers in Hansel Robles and Austin Davis.
But Boston’s deadline action did not address the biggest, clearest deficiency of this year’s Red Sox. To help qualify that we can use any number of metrics, but let’s pick one.
Imperfect, but useful
Even in baseball, WAR can be controversial. Not everyone buys into a single, all-inclusive metric to define a player’s total contribution as compared to the average MLB player. But while certainly not perfect, Wins Above Replacement isn’t meaningless either.
The outstanding stats glossary at Fangraphs says WAR is meant to estimate an answer to the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a freely available minor leaguer or a AAAA player from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” The results are expressed in terms of team wins.
The calculations for WAR, which can vary from source to source, can be further subdivided into metrics like oWAR, which looks just at a player’s offensive contributions, and dWAR, which examines his defensive work.
Red Sox WARriors
When it comes oWAR this season, the calculations by Baseball Reference show that Rafael Devers has provided the Red Sox with a 3.9 oWAR. It’s the best of all 30 Major League teams’ third basemen this season.
Factoring in Devers’ three games as designated hitter kin 2021 and he sits at 4.0, which ties him for 6th-best offensive WAR in baseball in 2021.
The Red Sox have also gotten solid oWAR at shortstop (4.1) and designated hitter (2.4). Both are ranked 3rd-best in baseball and reflect the work of Xander Bogaerts (who has played 93 of the team’s 107 games at short) and primarily that of J.D. Martinez (82 games), respectively.
Overall, regardless of position, Bogaerts has recorded a 4.2 oWAR, the 5th-best in baseball.
At nearly every other position, the Red Sox have gotten positive oWAR of about 1.0 or better: center field (1.6), right field (1.2), second base (1.1), catcher (1.0), and left field (0.8).
In one spot, though, the deficiency in offensive production is glaring and has been all season. The only position for Boston with a negative oWAR. Of course, the issue has been at first base, where Bobby Dalbec (who has played in 80 of the team’s 107 games), Danny Santana (13 games), Marwin Gonzalez (11 games) Michael Chavis (8 games), and Franchy Cordero (3 games) and have combined for a -0.7 oWAR, the worst of and MLB teams’ first basemen.
All this quantifies what Red Sox Nation has seen with its own eyes all season, a glaring but fixable deficiency in this year’s team.
And all of it makes baseball boss Chaim Bloom’s inability or unwillingness to find relief at that spot all the more confounding.