Why 2021 Boston Red Sox are legit World Series contenders

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 30: Alex Verdugo #99, Enrique Hernandez #5 and Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox celebrate a victory against the Kansas City Royals on June 30, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 30: Alex Verdugo #99, Enrique Hernandez #5 and Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox celebrate a victory against the Kansas City Royals on June 30, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have officially reached the halfway point of their season, and were the first team in the American League to reach the 50 win threshold.

Sitting at 51-31 after Thursday’s shellacking of the Kansas City Royals, the Sox are on pace to finish the season at a clean 100-62 record, which firmly supports their claim as one of the best teams in baseball.

Despite their consistent winning pedigree, it feels like the Sox have been constantly overlooked for much of the season. Coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, fans have been reluctant to fully embrace this team, fearing a regression may be in store later on in the season.

But halfway through the season, the Sox show no signs of stopping, and are currently in the midst of a seven game win streak. It’s fair to expect the team to not be able to keep up their torrid pace in the second half of the season, but this team couldn’t be any different than the catastrophe that was the 2020 Boston Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox have completely turned around a disastrous 2020 season

From top to bottom, this team is basically unrecognizable from last season’s. President of baseball operations Chaim Bloom went into his second offseason knowing what the team needed to upgrade (more on that later), and was able to retain the team’s desired coaching candidate, Alex Cora, after his year long suspension due to his involvement in the Houston Astros cheating scandal.

Some questioned whether Cora’s absence from last year’s team played any part in the team’s struggles. After all, the 2019 team failed to repeat the success of 2018, and Cora was in charge of things during a lost 2019 season.

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But Cora’s imprint this season has been hard to miss. It’s clear that even with the mistakes he made in Houston, he still clearly has the respect of the clubhouse. Players like Rafael Devers clearly benefit from his presence around the team, and his return to the team has to considered one of the big reasons for Boston’s quick turnaround.

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Devers return to form has been indicative of Red Sox jump from worst to first this season. Devers was one of the lone bright spots in 2019, but fell flat in 2020 much like the rest of the team. This season, Devers looks to be in 2019 form, as he leads the majors in RBI’s as the calendar flips to July, and should be a shoe-in All Star within a week’s time.

Devers joined J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Alex Verdugo as the four Sox players who made it to the second round of All-Star voting. In a sense, these four players have been the main guys carrying this offense. Verdugo consistently provides great at bats, Martinez has rediscovered his power stroke, and Bogaerts has fully developed into one of the best shortstops in the game.

While other guys have struggled with consistency, these four have led the charge thus far. That’s not to say the rest of the lineup has done nothing.

Two of Bloom’s key free agent signings, Hunter Renfroe and Kike Hernandez, have been very valuable to the team this season. Renfroe in particular has really gotten hot lately, and Hernandez has finally appeared to shake off a month long cold spell to reclaim his spot a top the lineup.

Speaking of Bloom, he did a fantastic job rebuilding the pitching staff on this team. Nick Pivetta was acquired at the trade deadline last season, and has been arguably been Boston’s best pitcher for stretches of this season, while Martin Perez has done a great job holding down the backend of the rotation after re-signing in free agency this offseason.

Fellow free agent signing Garrett Richards has been inconsistent at best, but the rotation has been a huge piece of this team’s success so far.

And then there’s the bullpen, which was basically a revolving door of minor leaguers who would continually give up runs last season. But this season it’s been a revelation from front to back.

Garrett Whitlock and Hirokazu Sawamura have been exceptional in just about every role they’ve been assigned. Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor have stepped up to be really effective lefties this season, with Taylor in particular really coming on strong as of late. And Adam Ottavino and Matt Barnes have stepped up to form a deadly setup/closer combo at the back of the pen.

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Put that all together, and you have one of the top teams in the league. The only other team to reach 50 wins before the Sox were the San Francisco Giants, who have undergone a similarly surprising turnaround out west so far.

When all is said and done, it’s time to start considering the Red Sox as a legitimate World Series contender. They’ve proven time and again that they are here to stay this season, and that they should not be underestimated anymore.

If they can continue to play like they have for much of the first half of the season, the Boston Red Sox have as good a chance as any team in the playoffs to come away with another World Series title.