Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz

Ask BP Boston: The 7 Feel-Good Red Sox Stories of 2015

So 2015 didn’t go so well for the Red Sox. You know this by now, of course, but as the 2015 calendar year comes to an end, it bears repeating. The Sox finished with a sub-.500 record for the third time in the past four years, changed front office personnel, suffered through injuries to star players and faced the greatest injustice of all when they learned that Don Orsillo would no longer be calling their games. All things considered, it wasn’t a great year.

Still, it wasn’t all bad, and compared to the Bobby Valentine-led 2012 squad, the 2015 Red Sox were downright enjoyable. With that in mind, the BP Boston staff has assembled our top feel-good Red Sox stories of 2015, with the hope that if we copy this article theme a year from now, the entries will be much easier to pick.

Only 95 days until Opening Day. Have a Happy New Year!


Xander Bogaerts’ Breakout

There are still plenty of questions left unanswered when it comes to Mr. Bogaerts, but he certainly gave us more promising signs than red flags in 2015. The presumptive next face of the franchise proved that he’s a very capable defender at shortstop, that he can thrive in an MLB lineup and that he can make the type of adjustments that largely eluded him in 2014.  Was his .320 average (bolstered by a .372 BABIP) a fluke? Probably. But there’s no reason to think that Xander’s new opposite-field approach isn’t repeatable, and at the very least he profiles as a high-average, doubles-power shortstop, which is valuable in its own right.

Of course that’s not quite what we were promised when Xander was coming up through the minors. We want to see him use his beautiful, easy right-handed swing to generate some more loft and we want to see him take the occasional walk, just as he did at the end of 2013 and throughout the postseason. He just turned 23, so I bet we do see some steps forward in the power and patience departments next year. But really, we’re now nitpicking whether Xander will be franchise-altering or just really good, and that’s a pretty nice issue to be debating. So yes, 2015 stunk, but be still my heart — Xander arrived. – Ben Carsley


Brock Holt’s All-Star Appearance

On the whole, 2015 was another disappointing year in Red Sox history. It ended with a bang, welcoming David Price and Craig Kimbrel into the fold. It also started with eternal optimism and dreams of a murderer’s row featuring Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. In between, however, it was just another losing season — the second in a row and third in four years. When the All-Star break started approaching, we knew Boston had to send at least once representative, but it was tough to decide who it’d be. Xander Bogaerts was having the best year. Mookie Betts was playing well, too. Despite all that, I was rooting for Brock Holt to get the nod.

There’s something special about the Brock Holt Story, something that I can’t quite articulate. His style of play combined with the fact that he doesn’t really look or play like a superstar makes his production that much more satisfying. Over the two supremely disappointing seasons that were 2014 and 2015, Holt was the only constant source of joy on the team. Between his versatility and his hair, there’s always something to smile about. He was never the best player on the roster, but he was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dark time. Bogaerts and Betts will get their chances, but it was so great to see Holt get his recognition in 2015. – Matt Collins


Eduardo Rodriguez’s Ascension

“The Red Sox entered 2015 with a rotation devoid of a top-flight starting pitcher and a poor recent track record of developing young arms. Since Clay Buchholz made his big league debut in 2007, Boston’s pitching prospects had largely floundered upon reaching the majors. From Kyle Weiland to Felix Doubront to the triumvirate of Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Rubby De La Rosa, the Red Sox consistently struggled getting their homegrown arms over that final hurdle, and their rotation paid the price in 2015.

Yet the trade deadline deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Orioles in 2014 netted in return the club’s most promising pitching prospect since Buchholz in Eduardo Rodriguez. When their rotation problems became painfully clear this season, Rodriguez earned his first opportunity, and his performances throughout his rookie campaign ensured his spot in the team’s rotation, hopefully for years to come. The 22-year-old lefty finished with a 3.85 ERA, a 3.89 FIP, and 2.3 WARP over 121.2 innings pitched. He allowed three earned runs or fewer in 17 of his 21 starts. The 94.9 mph he averaged on his fastballranked fourth among all MLB left-handers in 2015 (min. 500 pitches).

The best part about Rodriguez is all that lies ahead, that alluring potential which is still waiting to be unlocked. He has the brightest future of any Red Sox pitching prospect in recent memory and could form a dominant duo with David Price atop Boston’s rotation in the coming years. A young, hard-throwing lefty with a top-of-the-rotation ceiling and room to grow? That’s just about the best gift a team could ask for.” – Alex Skillin


Blake Swihart’s Second Half

Few things as a fan are more rewarding than watching the kids grow up to become major contributors on the big league club you follow.  We got to see this first hand last year as Blake Aubry Swihart got the early call to the major leagues.  Swihart was drafted with much pedigree in 2011 with the 26th overall pick.  This first-rounder had all of the tools but had a long way to go before his defense would have him ready for major league catching duties.

Due to injuries to Christian Vasquez and Ryan Hanigan he was thrust into the starters’ role a year early when he should have been toiling away in Triple-A Pawtucket.  During the first half of the season things did not go well.  Swihart slashed .241/.279/.323 making him one of the least productive catchers in the league.  

In the second half a switch was flipped, he began to walk a bit more and strikeout a bit less but maybe most importantly he stopped trying to pull the ball so much.  His pull rate dropped from 45.9% all the way to 33.9%, along with this his ISO rose from .083 to .148.  Swihart started to put the ball in the air more as well swapping grounders for fly balls and he saw his slash line improve to .303/.353/.452.  This is the Swihart I knew was in there.  

With prospects we look to see progress in all facets of the game and we saw this in spades from Swihart last year.  Doubters will remain but witnessing this important cogs development last year was one of the joys of the season.  – Jake Devereaux


Rich Hill’s Resurgence

Try not thinking about Rich Hill’s September the next time a veteran comes up and dominates unexpectedly. Hill’s downright ridiculous 1.49 DRA in his four starts (29 innings) had him ending the season with 1.22 WARP, making Hill the team’s fourth most valuable pitcher in 2015. His shutout of the Orioles at Fenway was the best Red Sox start in 2015, pulling in with a 92 Bill James Game Score — and his 7-inning first start in Tampa Bay was the team’s second best of the year. Seeing a Boston native fight back like that was an enormous thrill. In baseball terms, it all happened at once, right before our eyes — and then there washow he did it. You knew the curve was coming. At the plate, did seeing a curveball feel like watching a car crash in slow motion? – Ryan Morrison


David Ortiz Going Out on His Own Terms

I only get mad online at people about whom I care in some way, so this tweet by the Providence Journal-Bulletin’s great Brian McPherson disappointed me:
Previous to Carlton Fisk’s number be retired, the criteria for having your number retired in Fenway Park was to make the Hall of Fame and spend your entire career as a Red Sock. It was harder to reach than Cooperstown. Then Fisk came along, and they changed the rules to let him in. White Sox, Schmite Sox. We knew Fisk was a Red Sock, and that his number 27 was over and done with.
The same is true of Ortiz. A three-time World Series champion (and two-time de facto playoffs MVP), Ortiz is both a fundamental part of Red Sox history and, inexplicably, their 2016 lineup. This will be his final year — the year you normally skip over on a player’s Baseball-Reference page, because you know how it goes. You won’t want to skip Papi’s. He’s coming off a 37-homer season in which he had a .913 OPS, and has shown no reason to expect anything different in his swan song. Hall of Fame or no (and, frankly, come on), Ortiz breaks all the rules, and he’ll break these. No one will wear number 34 again. This is, now and forever, his fucking city. – Bryan Joiner

Signing David Price

The Red Sox needed pitching. That much was clear after a 2015 season in which they owned one of baseball’s worst rotations. On Dec. 1, the Sox got their guy, signing lefty David Price to a whopping seven-year, $217 million contract. It was a hefty price (no pun intended) for a guy with a poor playoff reputation, but the Red Sox acquired a proven No. 1 without parting with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts or any of their top prospects. The Price signing was just one in a series of moves by Dave Dombrowski and Co. to improve Boston’s woeful pitching staff. They traded for closer Craig Kimbrel earlier in the offseason, and later shipped Wade Miley to Seattle for Carson Smith. RIP to the “five aces” and that 2015 bullpen. 2016 is looking up for Red Sox pitching. - Nick Canelas

Photo by Gregory Fisher/USA Today Sports Images 
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1 comment on “Ask BP Boston: The 7 Feel-Good Red Sox Stories of 2015”


Mookie comes back from hitting the wall with his face, and suddenly knows how to hit. Mookie learning day by day how to use his athletic talent in center. Mookie intending to steal two bases on one play, and pulling it off.

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