Unlike the Eastern League, the other two Double-A minor leagues, Texas and Southern, divide their schedule into halves. The division leaders after the first half of the season qualify for the playoffs, as do the teams with the best record in each division in the second half.

If the Eastern League used that system, the Portland Sea Dogs would be contending for the playoffs instead of trying to avoid last place in the East Division. Since the first 70 games, Portland was 35-31 going into Saturday’s game at Binghamton. Only Reading (35-30) has a better record in the division.

Are we trying for a glass-half-full approach to this 2018 Sea Dogs season? Maybe. But it also shows a losing team is not always the train wreck it appears to be. In the past 10 years, only one Sea Dogs team has had a winning record, and only one has reached the playoffs – the 2014 club.

Still, the Red Sox minor league system is considered a success because it has sent key players to Boston or developed players who have been involved in big trades.

This Portland team looked terrible on June 30, with its 29-49 record. Since then, the Sea Dogs are 32-26.

“Even with the way we started, for the guys in the clubhouse and the coaching staff, we came with the same approach every day,” Manager Darren Fenster said.

“We got our work in and, surely but steadily, these guys got better. It’s good to see, after the struggle we did have early on, that things are kind of falling into place better for us.”

As the Sea Dogs finish in Binghamton this weekend, here’s a look at the setbacks, successes and stories of the 2018 season:

The initial setbacks came from the departure of veteran help. The Sea Dogs appeared to be getting useful experience this year with the assignment of Mike Olt and Tony Renda – two players with major league time – and Mexican League veteran Esteban Quiroz.

Olt played three games before he was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket. Quiroz lasted two weeks – batting .302 – before a lower-body injury shelved him for four months until his return last week.

Renda was signed to replace Quiroz. He hit .367 with a .988 OPS in May, but then broke his hand late in the month. He returned July 4, played one game and was promoted to Pawtucket.

Renda, by the way, was the only Sea Dogs player to reach Boston this year. He appeared in one game on Aug. 5, entering as a pinch runner in the 10th inning and scoring the winning run in a 5-4 victory over the Yankees.

The successes could be viewed in the development of key prospects who should help the Red Sox down the road, either through promotion or as trade bait.

Right-handed pitcher Travis Lakins’ future was in doubt after consecutive stress fractures in his elbow. He was eased back into the rotation and eventually was placed in the bullpen and thrived there (0.86 ERA/.0.71 WHIP).

Right-hander Mike Shawaryn, a fifth-round draft pick, had success in Class A last year and continued that in Double-A (3.28 ERA/1.13 WHIP).

First baseman Josh Ockimey remained streaky but showed improvement (.842 OPS), as well as impressive power (15 home runs in 90 games).

Corner infielder Michael Chavis came off his 80-game suspension for a positive steroid test result and showed rust in July (.152 average/.590 OPS) before getting hot in August (.395/1.084).

All four players were eventually promoted to Pawtucket. One of the replacements from Salem, third baseman Bobby Dalbec, continued to mash in Portland (six homers in 26 games so far) after hitting 26 home runs in Class A.

Portland had other under-the-radar successes.

Matt Kent, Kyle Hart and Dedgar Jimenez are three crafty lefties who are not going to zoom through the minor league system. They need time to develop consistency, but all three showed potential to make it.

Kent, with a fastball rarely reaching 90 mph, had a team-high 11 wins with a 3.50 ERA.

Hart’s velocity actually increased, nearing the mid-90s at times. Even with some bad starts, his ERA was 3.57.

Jimenez, only 22, went from a 5.81 ERA before the All-Star break to 2.47 after.

Shortstop Jeremy Rivera showed the glove work and range to be a big leaguer. He improved from a .223 average before the All-Star break to .324 after.

Some players backpedaled. Outfielder Danny Mars showed improvement in the field and on the base paths, but his average dropped 50 points (to .254) from last year.

Former first-round pick Trey Ball moved to the bullpen, but his ERA was 7.67, with a 1.86 WHIP.

Next year’s team should feature a return of Dalbec, as well as left-handed prospect Darwinzon Hernandez, who reached Portland last week. Others pitchers likely to be promoted from Salem include Tanner Houck, Jake Thompson and Bryan Mata. Shortstop C.J. Chatham is expected to be in the opening day lineup at Hadlock next April.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases