Analysis

Why Chaim Bloom deserves a ton of credit for the Red Sox’ ALCS berth

The Red Sox are shocking the baseball world as they head to the ALCS, and they wouldn't be doing it without some savvy moves from Chaim Bloom.

Kyle Schwarber Red Sox
Kyle Schwarber celebrates with teammates Christian Vazquez and Xander Bogaerts after a three-run homerun by Rafael Devers against the Tampa Bay Rays Monday. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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It feels fitting somehow that the man who drove in the game-winning run in the Red Sox’ ALDS-clinching victory was Kiké Hernández, an unheralded free-agent signing for a team no one expected much of this season.

Hernández’s versatility and steady contributions from start to finish this year more than justified president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom’s investment in him, no more than now.

With the Red Sox now improbably four games away from competing for another World Series title after knocking off the AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays, one of the best teams in baseball, perhaps it’s time to admit something else when it comes to this year’s team:

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Bloom got it right a lot this year.

He was right in the offseason when he brought in guys like Hernández, a savvy yet nondescript veteran utility player, and Hunter Renfroe, a boom-or-bust bat with a cannon for an arm, despite them not being household names.

And he got it right at the trade deadline when he traded for Kyle Schwarber rather than Anthony Rizzo.

Yes, that’s correct. Bloom and the Red Sox won that trade, and it’s actually not even close (more on that later).

Sure, there were some duds mixed in there (Franchy Cordero, Hansel Robles, Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Andriese). No one ever completely aces the exam.

But the fact that so many of Bloom’s 2021 acquisitions have contributed so heavily to what will be one of the four best remaining teams in baseball speaks for itself.

Still, let’s look into some numbers.

Per FanGraphs, Hernández just put up the best all-around season of his career with a lifetime-best 4.0 WAR, playing all over the diamond and routinely coming up with winning plays.

Renfroe proved himself as a middle-of-the-order run-producer, putting up a career-best 96 RBIs, matching his previous high in wRC+ (114) and tying for the MLB lead in outfield assists (16).

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Schwarber has provided a steady presence at the top of Boston’s lineup, slashing .291/.435/.957 since joining the Red Sox at the deadline and bringing a winning approach to the batting order.

His addition, in particular, is one Bloom deserves a significant amount of credit for in hindsight.

As many will recall, a large portion of Red Sox fandom and media vociferously railed against Schwarber as the team’s main addition at the trade deadline, noting the team should have gone after Anthony Rizzo, Schwarber’s ex-teammate with the Chicago Cubs, to turn around Boston’s pitiful performance at first base.

While those of you who point out Schwarber doesn’t help the defense much in the field would be correct, of course, his contributions at the plate have made him so much more valuable than Rizzo that the defensive difference doesn’t matter.

Even with Rizzo’s defensive performance taken into account (as well as the fact that Schwarber hasn’t played much first base at all), Schwarber’s post-trade-deadline WAR (1.4) absolutely smokes Rizzo (0.2), who fizzled out hard after an exciting first few games in New York.

The fun thing: in addition to grabbing a vastly superior bat in Schwarber, Boston did manage to find an even better solution than Rizzo at first base: Dalbec.

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Believe it or not, Dalbec was actually a better player after the trade deadline than Rizzo by a sizable margin — oddly enough, the rookie first baseman was arguably a top-10 first baseman in baseball during that time. Dalbec slashed .288/.369/1.052 after the All-Star Break with 14 home runs, 38 RBI and a wRC+ of 174. Rizzo’s line: .232/.314/.695 with six home runs, 19 RBI and a below-replacement-level 93 wRC+. And Dalbec did all that in 60 fewer plate appearances than Rizzo had.

But hey, at least Rizzo is a natural first baseman, right?

While some might understandably quibble with the process more than the results, the fact remains Bloom has been rewarded for trusting his instincts: picking the man who was simply a better player (Schwarber) despite the challenges of playing him in the field and trusting in his young player to turn things around (with some help from Schwarber).

Not many experts had the Red Sox in this position to start the season, and certainly a poor second half of the season highlighted how flawed this team is when it’s not at its best. Not every move from Bloom has dramatically improved the situation, either.

But the transactions Bloom did hit on — including arguably the most debated one –have made a far bigger difference than the one he missed

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