Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Month: May 2017

Beginning of the Sam Travis Experiment

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For the past few years, one interesting minor league name kept getting thrown around in conversation: 1B Sam Travis. He started off last season at AAA Pawtucket looking like an absolute beast, hitting .272 with 6 HRs, 10 doubles, and 29 RBIs in just 47 games. The spotlight was turning to him and his MLB debut was getting closer with each passing game. Then, almost exactly a year ago, Travis was chasing down a runner at first base and came up in pain. It was the worst case scenario for the young prospect: a torn ACL.

“Obviously, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but you know, that’s life. Things happen. You can’t sit back and feel sorry for yourself. You’ve just gotta keep grinding day by day, and I’m ready to go.” Sam Travis on his ACL injury

That injury obviously ended his 2016 season and began a long road to recovery. Rebounding from a torn ACL is not a sure thing and losing a year of development in the minor leagues is difficult to overcome, but Travis was committed. He worked his tail off during the offseason, rehabbing away from the team, and he came into spring training looking strong. He was committed to regaining his spot at the top of the Red Sox prospect list and it didn’t take long to get there.

After an early slow start to the AAA season in the batters box, which is not uncommon after 10-months away from baseball, Travis returned to form. In 33 games, Travis hit .286 with 4 HRs, 14 RBIs, 13 BBs, and 2 stolen bases. The last number tells me a lot about his recovery. He has some speed to pick up steals, but after knee surgery, that’s often a place where players are either afraid to test the knee, or lose some quickness. So far, Travis looks like he is fully recovered and ready to make an impact on the big leagues.

“Hard-nosed player. A grinder type, a blue-collar player. The way he went through drill work the first couple of days, there’s no evidence of the ACL surgery that he had. He feels great. The work he put in on the rehab is certainly paying off.” Red Sox manager John Farrell during Spring Training

Finally, a year later than many expected, Sam Travis made his MLB debut for the Red Sox on May 24th and he did not disappoint. In 4 at-bats, Travis collected 2 hits, including an infield single for his first career hit, and scored his first run. His defense at first was fine, not great, but that’s Travis in a nutshell. Offensively he has the potential to be a very potent bat, but defensively he’s a work in progress and the Red Sox are comfortable with that.

I’ve been a big fan of Travis since hearing about him in 2014. He’s a tough, hard-working player who will give you 100% effort each and every play (remind you of anyone?). His mental make-up is perfect for this team, not to mention he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order power bat from the right side of the plate. If his defense can improve and he keeps swinging the bat, he’s your first baseman full-time in 2018 (maybe even later in 2017). Travis is just another key prospect that has the potential to become a core member of the MLB roster going forward. The future is bright.

The End is Near for John Farrell

Boston Globe

Another year, another #FireFarrell campaign in Red Sox nation. Manager John Farrell has probably spent more time on the hot seat in recent years than in the lazy boy, but are we close to the point when GM Dave Dombrowski will actually pull the trigger? The 22-21 Red Sox are definitely floundering at the season’s quarter-pole and can’t seem to get out of their own way, even against inferior teams like the Oakland Athletics. They pulled out a victory on Sunday to avoid a 4-game sweep at the hands of the lowly As, which likely just delays the inevitable. Although the alternatives aren’t great or obvious, Farrell is skating on a barely frozen pond going into a 6-game homestand.

Farrell’s in-game struggles have been well documented over the years, but many look past that challenge and feel he is a good clubhouse/dugout presence. I’m not sure that’s true anymore. He is losing the clubhouse and still looking lost in on-field decision making. His confrontation with Drew Pomeranz in the Red Sox dugout on Saturday was a bad look for both the player and manager, as Pomeranz just walked away in the middle of Farrell verbally going after him. This was an even worse look after the recent Manny Machado saga, in which Farrell proved he either 1. Has no baseball sense what-so-ever or 2. Has no control over his team.

Given recent struggles, it’s fair to start thinking about who might replace Farrell in the event he is fired. It’s likely that, at least on interim basis, someone from within the organization will take the helm. The most obvious choice is Gary DiSarcina. The bench coach usually gets the first look when a manager is fired (i.e. Torey Lovullo), and DiSarcina seems to be a well-liked person with 4 winning seasons as a minor league manager. He’s spent time at the MLB level as a 1st and 3rd base coach with the Angels and obviously with the Red Sox in his current capacity since November. DiSarcina won Minor League Coach of the Year from Baseball America in 2013. The Malden native has the potential to be a longer-term solution if things go well.

The other interim options include the beloved 3rd base coach Brian Butterfield, who is not likely to get a permanent manager job and 1st base coach Ruben Amaro Jr, who is a far inferior candidate in my mind. Neither excite me in any way and I believe both would be only temporary solutions to try and salvage the season.

The other option is to go outside the organization, but that becomes very difficult mid-season, especially when not many other quality managers have been handed their pink slips yet. When bringing someone in from the outside, you expect that person to be a more permanent solution going forward, making it a tougher decision in May.

If I were Dave Dombrowski, I would pull the trigger on #FireFarrell early, before the season gets out of hand and spirals. Don’t wait too long like the Bruins did this past season when firing Claude Julien. Promote DiSarcina and give him a fair shake the remainder of the season. If he succeeds, give him a deal, if not, you’re not in any worse of a position to dig into what is likely to be a more robust managerial pool in the offseason. The John Farrell experiment has run it’s course and it’s time to end the misery. Players and fans are both ready to move on.

Red Sox Defense Is a Hot Mess

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

After another 4-error effort on Monday night, I’m officially ready to call the Red Sox defense a disaster so far in 2017. On the surface the numbers are scary and it gets even worse as you dig in. Warning: Look away if you are afraid of bad defense.

The Red Sox rank last in errors in the AL (23) and 28th out of 30 teams in the MLB. Even worse, they are dead last in the MLB in fielding percentage (.975) and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. The Red Sox have committed at least 1 error in 14 of their 25 games (56%). They have committed multiple errors in 5 of their 25 games (20%) and are on a particularly bad stretch lately with at least 2 errors in 4 of their last 6 games (2 of those games with 4 errors each).

Let’s look at the culprits:

Marco Hernandez, who we all know should not be a starting 3rd baseman on a contending team, now has 5 errors in 19 games. Of all the culprits, he’s the only one with a semblance of an excuse: he’s not an everyday MLB player and is only playing thanks to the injury to Pablo Sandoval. Anyone miss Travis Shaw?

That brings me to Panda, who is 2nd on the team with 4 errors. All we heard coming into the season was how Panda was recommitted and in excellent shape. How did that work out? He has played in 16 games this season (currently on the DL) and is on pace for 35 errors (assuming he conservatively plays in 140 games), which is atrocious. He has always had an occasional error problem, finishing with 10 or more every year since 2009, but this year it seems to be the worst yet. Combined, that’s 9 errors coming from the hot corner this year.

Then we get to a pair of players with 3 errors a piece: Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland.

I expect some errors from the SS position, especially the way Xander plays it, but 3 already in just 21 games is a bad trend. His highest error total was last season when he had 12, but that was over 157 games – an error every 13 games. This year, he’s averaging an error every 7 games.

Moreland’s results are even more disturbing. He was signed to be a strong defensive first baseman (Gold Glove winner last year) who can hit occasionally. He now has 3 errors in 25 games, 1 more than he had in all of 2016 in 139 games played in the field. His career high is 5 errors in 148 games in 2013. At his current pace, he’ll finish 2017 with 17 errors.

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Overall defensive incompetence is a disturbing trend, but it frankly hasn’t had a huge impact on their win-loss record. The Red Sox have won 7 games in which they committed at least 1 error (50% of such games) and are 6-5 in games when committing 0 errors. The breaking point is at 2 or more errors. Not surprisingly, the Red Sox are just 1-4 when committing 2+ errors.

If the team continues to struggle defensively, it’s likely the team will remain around the .500 mark and not be able to gain ground on the rest of the AL East. The Red Sox need to figure out 3rd base defense before it’s too late and the hole is too big.

How Rare is a 20+ Run Output in Baseball?

AP Photo/Nick Wass

After the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 23-5 on Sunday, my brain kicked into full stats nerd high gear. The game seemed to be approaching or breaking a handful of records including an individual achievement: Anthony Rendon going 6-6 with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs. As a fan of baseball and someone who watches an unhealthy amount, I know a team scoring 20+ points is rare, but how rare is it? Thanks to baseball-reference.com, I dug into the numbers a bit more and was surprised to see the results.

Since 1913, a team has scored more than 20 runs in a regular season game 213 times. That may seem like a lot of times, it did to me initially, but context is critically important. In a given year, there are 4,860 chances for an MLB team to score more than 20 runs. If you back that out a bit, since the MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998, that’s 92,340 opportunities for a team to score 20+ runs (not including 2017). Just for fun, I went back to 1913, factoring in all MLB expansions and the changes in number of games per year and figured out there were approximately 350,000 opportunities for a team to score 20+ runs, making the odds to accomplish such a feat just 0.061%. The rarity of the feat is fascinating, but gets even better.

In a pitcher-dominated era of baseball, we are seeing 20+ run games happen even less frequently than before. There have been just 10 instances since the start of the 2012 season, which works out to a 0.041% chance of seeing it happen over the last 5 years. Even more rare is the 23+ run output like we saw yesterday. Since 1913, there have been 47 such occurrences, which boils out to a 0.013% chance of it happening on a given day. Since 2007, we have seen only 2 instances of a 23+ run output, yesterday’s Nationals score and a 30-run effort by the Texas Rangers in 2007 (most ever). The results over that span shrink the odds of it happening to a minuscule 0.0041% chance. If you have tickets to an MLB game next week and are hoping for 20+ runs, I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

For those who couldn’t follow the numbers, know this: What happened in yesterday’s Nationals game is exceedingly rare and is growing even more rare over time. Will we see another 20+ outing this season? The odds are against it, but you never know with baseball.