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.

Author: Brian Phair (page 1 of 20)

Top 4 Red Sox Players to Watch in Spring Training

Michael Chavis

Salem Red Sox

The long winter is over and the Red Sox are back on the field in Fort Myers getting ready for (hopefully) a strong 2018 season. Spring Training provides a great opportunity for fans to see current Red Sox players and future prospects on the field together. On the flip side, it can be very difficult to watch a full game over the next month when by the 5th inning most of the players on the field are unfamiliar. In an effort to help everyone focus on just a few names and storylines, here are some prospects (and perhaps a familiar name or two) to watch for during Spring Training.

Michael Chavis

A familiar name to those in the know, Chavis the the #2 prospect in the Red Sox system. The 22-year old 3rd baseman has struggled a bit defensively, but has offensive potential for days. He appears to be on a path to play every day in the big leagues, especially if he can work on his defense. Since the Red Sox have previous #2 ranked prospect Rafael Devers as their 3rd baseman, the team is planning to work Chavis at 1st base this Spring to see if that’s a future role for him in the big leagues. Since his defense isn’t great at 3rd and his bat is really his best quality, there isn’t much risk in trying him at 1st.

Blake Swihart

This season feels make or break for Swihart. After getting a good look in the majors in 2015 (84 games), he hasn’t been able to stay in the big leagues because of injuries and struggles (25 games in 16 and 17). Now that Swihart is healthy and has a full Spring Training to get reps, the catcher/outfielder/first baseman is looking to cement his roster spot this Spring. He is now out of minor-league options, so will likely be on the opening day roster as a bench bat. The Red Sox have also toyed with the idea of trying Swihart in the infield (other than 1st), making him a super-utility player off the bench. Swihart has offensive potential and could be a nice depth piece for this team, but if he struggles this Spring, he may be looking for a new club in a month or two.

Jalen Beeks

Another member of the Red Sox 2014 draft class, Beeks got the nod against the Northeastern Huskies in the Spring Training opener. Beeks was the Red Sox minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2017, posting a strong 11-8 record, 3.29 ERA, and .224 batting average against in 26 starts (145 innings). The lefty was teammates with Andrew Benintendi at the University of Arkansas and now at 24 years old, is starting to gain some experience that should help him become more consistent. He will start 2018 in AAA Pawtucket and on the 40-man roster, making him a potential call-up option in the event of injury to an MLB starter. He’s listed as the #10 prospect in the system, but appears to be getting closer to the doorstep.

Sam Travis

I’m a broken record when it comes to Travis: I think he has the potential to be the everyday 1st baseman in the majors (see my spotlight before his MLB debut). Every time I watch Travis swing the bat, I see his extra-base power potential and really want to see him get the chance to play everyday in the big leagues. He plays hard and grinds with max effort all the time. After a devastating ACL injury sidelined him in 2016 when it looked like he was on the brink of getting the call, Travis missed 10 months and finally came back to play in 82 games in AAA Pawtucket and 23 with the Red Sox in 2017. The #5 prospect now has the chance to enter Spring Training healthy and start on an even playing field with everyone else. He’ll likely see a lot of playing time as the coaching staff gets a good long look at him. I don’t think there is room for him on the MLB roster to start the season, but he should be waiting by the phone in case of injury.

Honorable Mention – J.D. Martinez

If for nothing else but drama, Martinez is my honorable mention. A major signing happening this late is highly unusual and will put J.D. at least a few days behind the rest of his teammates. The fact that he hadn’t officially be introduced as of writing this is a bit concerning, because it is slowing down his acclimation into his new environment. He doesn’t need a long Spring to get ready, most hitters don’t, but don’t underestimate the importance of getting settled and bonding with new teammates before the daily grind of the regular season kicks in.  All eyes will be J.D. once (if) his contract is officially announced.

MLB Flops on Pace-of-Play Rule Changes

AP Photo/John Raoux

Over the past decade, the average time to complete a 9-inning game in the MLB has risen by 15 minutes (2:50 to 3:05). If you are a die-hard fan and watch every regular season game for your favorite team, that amounts to an extra 2,430 minutes per season (40.5 hours) throughout the season. In a technology and social media driven world, slowing down an already slow sport is a recipe for failure short and long-term, especially among the younger generations or fans. Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner, is aware of this problem and has been working this off-season to create and implement rule changes for the upcoming season in order to speed up the game.

On Monday, the MLB announced these new pace-of-play rule changes for the 2018 season and to say they were underwhelming would be too generous. For all the talk and ideas being thrown around this off-season, from bullpen carts to pitch clocks, the actual changes are a joke and will likely amount to little or no overall change in the length of games. Let’s take a look at the new rules and how/if they will/can be enforced.

Mound visits

Each team will be limited to six per nine innings. Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound will count as a mound visit, except if there is a pitching change. Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on an injury or potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have discretion to grant a visit at the catcher’s request if he believes there has been a cross-up between the pitcher and catcher. Teams will receive an additional visit for every extra inning played.

I don’t have any hard scientific evidence to prove my point, but I can’t see this rule saving more than 30 seconds to a minute per game. Let’s dig in just a little… As a manager, most of my mound visits are pitching changes, which don’t count against my total: no change. Pitching coaches commonly visit the mound following a pinch-hitter being announced, which are excluded from the 6 visit limit: no change. Pitching coaches and trainers often visit the mound to check on a pitcher if there is believed to be a potential injury, which are also excluded: no change. So essentially, this maybe eliminates 1 or 2 catcher visits to the mound per game, each being 30 seconds total.

The best part of this rule is the enforcement. It’s the umpire’s discretion to allow a visit or not after a team has reached their 6 max and can do anything, up to ejecting the player, if the rule is violated. Vague much? If you are going to have a rule, set a real and legitimate consequence, like having to replace the pitcher or an automatic ball added to the count. The best part about a vague enforcement policy? More time will be spent arguing over if there were actually 6 mound visits and in turn, will likely negate any time advantage, or even lengthen the game.

Between-inning breaks

As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a timer will count down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 in nationally televised games and from 2:55 for tiebreaker and postseason games. The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. A pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above. The timer will start on the last out of the inning, unless the pitcher is on base, on deck or at bat, in which case the timer shall begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If the final out of the inning is subject to replay, the timer begins when the umpire signals the out.

Another gem. “As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a time will count down between innings…” So that remains the same, no change. The change is that a pitcher has to throw their last warm-up pitch before 20 seconds left on the clock, isn’t guaranteed 8 warm-up pitches, and has to throw the didst pitch of the inning with 5 seconds left on the clock. REALLY? That’s the extent of the rule change to “speed up the game.” If every half an inning and during pitching changes this actually speeds up warm-ups, it saves between 5-10 seconds, which frankly I think is incredibly generous. This saves a total of 2 minutes per game, assuming pitchers were all delaying the game previously. Beyond that, and I feel like a broken record here, what is the enforcement if a pitcher disregards the clock? Another thrilling solution with concrete consequences.

Instant replay

All club video review rooms will now receive direct slow-motion camera angles in order to speed up challenges and the resulting review. New phone lines will connect the rooms to the dugout and will be monitored to prevent their use for sign stealing.

Is this actually a new rule? The MLB didn’t have slow-motion replay before this year? The MLB didn’t have control over their phone lines to the replay office before now? I honestly don’t know what to do with this. Needless to say, this saves no time and in no way speeds up the game.


Upon review, these new rule changes are a absolute joke. If the MLB was going to unilaterally implement new pace-of-play rules this year, then they should have actually implemented things that save time throughout the game. By my calculations, in the most ideal of settings and without any discussion or arguments over the enforcement of these new rules (which we know will happen), the MLB has saved 2-3 minutes off the 3 hour and 5 minute pace from 2017, which was 4 and a half minutes longer than 2016. So essentially, the MLB implemented sweeping rule changes that likely won’t even return the game to pre-2017 speed. Nothing to see here.

Reversing the Narrative on David Price

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season was one to forget for Red Sox starter David Price, on and off the field. He started the year on the DL with elbow issues, not making his first start until the end of May. Then, after 11 starts, at the end of July, went back on the DL until mid-September when he returned as a reliever for the stretch run. In his 16 appearances in the regular season, Price had a 3.38 ERA with 76 Ks in 74.2 innings pitched and had 2 solid relief appearances in the postseason against Houston. Unfortunately for the already vilified Price, his injury wasn’t even the biggest negative story of 2017.

As everyone knows at this point, David Price confronted Red Sox broadcaster Dennis Eckersley on the team plane following a benign comment he made during the broadcast of a game against the Minnesota Twins about Eduardo Rodriguez. I’m not going to rehash the incident, because frankly, it was middle-school level dumb, and once again in his short tenure with the Red Sox, Price shined a negative light on himself. If he wasn’t already hated among Red Sox fans, berating a well-liked, Hall of Fame pitcher certainly didn’t help his image. Add to that his earlier confrontation with a reporter at Yankee Stadium in June and things were just out of control for him.

Now looking towards the 2018 season, there are some positive reports being thrown out there in what appears to be an attempt to reverse the narrative on Price. He faced the media early in an attempt to clear the air and move on from his struggles in 2017 by acknowledging his role in the incident (sort of) and his overall attitude.

I could’ve handled it better last year, absolutely. But I didn’t, and I’ve moved on. I feel like I’ve always been one to lead with my actions, and I didn’t do that very well last year. I know that and understand that, and I look forward to getting back and being that faucet and not being a drain. -David Price

He reportedly reached out to recently signed slugger J.D. Martinez in an effort to convince him to come to Boston and whether he had an impact on J.D.’s decision or not, appears to be invested in the 2018 Red Sox and his role on the team. At this point, he is a veteran who needs to recognize his impact on those around him in the clubhouse.

What’s often lost in all the off-the-field crap and injuries is that David Price is a 5-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner. That’s the reason the Red Sox signed him to a massive $30+ million a year contract. He has the ability, even at 32, to impact the Red Sox in a significant way in 2018 if he stays healthy and has the right attitude. If he keeps his mouth shut and pitches to his ability on the mound, even Price has the chance for redemption. I’m just not sure he can make it through the year without becoming an unwelcome distraction once again.

J.D. Martinez: Significant Impact or Waste of Money?

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

After months of speculation and stalling, the Red Sox finally agreed to terms with the #1 free agent power hitter on the market. J.D. Martinez signed a 5-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox on the first day of full squad workouts in Fort Myers. The contract was less than the original asking price and is front-loaded with 2 built-in opt-outs, which makes it reasonable (if that’s possible) for both parties involved. Beyond the dollars, the bigger question is around impact. Does J.D. Martinez help to make the Red Sox a serious contender in 2018? The short answer is yes…but.

Let me start by saying that I could just as easily see J.D. Martinez flourish in the friendly confines of Fenway Park as I could see him take a nose-dive into the Charles River. He’s one of the harder hitters to figure out, in my opinion, because he doesn’t have a long history of success. Everyone has been talking about his huge 2017, but 29 of his 45 HRs came in just 62 games after being traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Arizona Diamondbacks. That’s a tremendous stretch, but the likelihood he has another stretch even close to that in his career is very low. I look at 2017 as being a bit of an anomaly for J.D., but did display his raw power potential. The Red Sox brought him in as a middle-of-the-lineup power bat, but will he produce like a middle-of-the-lineup bat?

The positives first. In 3 full seasons with the Tigers (2014 through 2016), Martinez averaged 134 games played, 551 plate appearances, .299 average, .357 slugging percentage, 28 HRs, and 82 RBIs per year. By any account, those are really solid numbers for a power bat in the 3-5 hole in the lineup. If that’s the J.D. we see in Boston, I think most fans would be happy with his performance. For perspective, the Red Sox won 93 games in 2017 without having a single player hit more than 24 HRs (24 – Mookie Betts) and just 1 player with a higher slugging percentage (.369 – Dustin Pedroia). Given those averages, J.D. would be the best hitter in an already strong lineup.

On the negative side, there are definitely some consistency concerns. Of the 3 full years in Detroit, J.D.’s power was inconsistent, hitting  23 HRs in 2014, 38 in 2015, and just 22 in 2016. He played in 158 games in 2015 compared to 123 in ’14 and 122 in ’16, but that’s a huge 15-16 HR swing year-to-year, even with more at-bats. If the Red Sox get ’14 or ’16 Martinez, that’s concerning. The Red Sox don’t need another 20-25 HR hitter in the lineup (they had 4 in 2017), they need a feared 30+ HR hitter who can lift the pathetic overall team power out of the basement.

Age is another factor I’m concerned about. According to an Alex Speier article  in the Boston Globe looking at age correlation with offensive power in January 2015, “…after turning 30, players experience a clear and steady decline in the likelihood they’ll be productive offensive contributors.” The article looked at WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and it showed a 50% decrease in 33-year old players delivering a 2.0 WAR that players aged 26-29. What does this all really mean? J.D. may be in later part of his peak and have a few strong power years left, or he could be primed to start sliding down the backside of the hill in 2018.

The other less concerning piece for Martinez is his streaky nature, which is not uncommon with power bats. Taking 2015 as an example, he hit 14 of his 38 total HRs in a 20-game stretch in June and July, hitting just 4 in his final 34 games of the season. I imagine some of the late season struggles were around playing in 158 games, by far the most of his career, making it a lesser overall concern. The Red Sox will likely mitigated some of this by giving Martinez rest  when splitting some time with Hanley Ramirez in the DH spot. His other massive power streak, mentioned above, came last year when he hit 29 HRs in 62 games with the Diamondbacks.

My overall approach is cautious optimism. The Red Sox desperately needed to add a power bat to the lineup given their struggles in that department in 2017 and they got the best power bat available on the market without depleting their thin prospect system. It’s hard to argue against that. In addition, they need several players on their roster to have better 2018 results than 2017, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts at the top of the list, but if 2015 or 2017 Martinez is in the lineup most nights, the pressure will be reduced on everyone else and the Red Sox could be legitimate contenders in 2018.

Beginning of the Sam Travis Experiment

Getty Images

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.

***

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.

Grading the Boston Red Sox: One Month In

It’s hard to believe we are already through the first month of the baseball season (almost). Throughout the year, about monthly, I’ll check in with the Red Sox and grade certain aspects of the past month or season as a whole. Every aspect of the team or the team’s play is fair game, from ownership on down to players in the minor leagues and other team officials. Read through my thoughts and then share how you are feeling about this team in the comments section or on our Facebook page. I look forward to hearing from you!

John Farrell – C

Since we are starting from the beginning, a natural place to start is with the bench leader. Farrell has continued his pattern of being a meh game manager in 2017. The most glaring and perfect example of Farrell’s (lack of) game management skill came on April 20th against the Toronto Blue Jays. Sale was cruising through 8 shutout innings with just 4 hits, 13 Ks, and 102 pitches. The Red Sox were winning 1-0 at the time and Sale had struck out 2 in the 8th. Instead of letting Sale go back out for the 9th, he brought in Craig Kimbrel who immediately (2nd pitch) gave up a HR to Kendrys Morales. He recovered and the Red Sox won in 10, but it was the wrong managerial move. It was so bad that Farrell had to have a closed door chat with Sale afterword to explain his decision.

Mitch Moreland – A+

Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of 2017 for me is Moreland. I figured he would be a mediocre hitter with some pop (.250 with 15 HRs) and a solid defensive first baseman, but he has far surpassed my expectations. Through 19 games played, Moreland has a .315 average with 11 doubles (1st in AL) and 2 HRs. He has an error, but has been solid defensively. I definitely don’t expect his hot start to carry on throughout the year (career .255 hitter including this year), but it seems Fenway Park is a great fit for Moreland.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – Incomplete (2 out of 10 on his topple rounding first base)

It’s been an odd start to 2017 for JBJ mostly because he has only appeared in 7 games thanks to a knee injury. The oddest part is how the injury happened. JBJ was rounding first base on a fly out when his toe got stuck, jamming his knee, and forcing him to stumble and fall like a clumsy toddler learning to walk. He was forced to the DL and didn’t come off until this past week (April 21st). Since returning he has 3 hits, including a monster HR onto Eutaw St. in Baltimore, so things are looking up.

Steven Wright – D

What the hell happened to Steven Wright? Oh yeah, he’s a knuckleballer. The most notoriously inconsistent pitch in baseball. As dominant as Wright was in the first half+ of last season, the knuckleball giveth and the knuckleball taketh away. The numbers are ugly – 8.66 ERA, 7 HRs and 17 earned runs in 4 starts with just 9 Ks – and the struggles seem to be continuing. To be fair, 2 of his starts were against the power-hitting Orioles, which is a tough match-up, but at this point it’s hard to be too optimistic.

Chris Sale – A++

With expectations through the roof for Chris Sale to be THE ace of the Red Sox staff, he pitched even better than advertised. Whenever a pitcher is being compared to Pedro Martinez after his 1st 4 starts in a Red Sox uniform, good stuff is happening. Sale has a scary low 0.91 era through 4 starts and has allowed 1 HR and just 3 earned runs while racking up a league high 42 Ks. If he had even a tiny bit of run support he could be sitting at 4-0 on the young season, but instead he has a meager 1-1 record. The runs will come at some point and then Sale will begin to pile up the Ws.

Matt Barnes – F

Overall, Barnes has pitched OK early in 2017, allowing 4 runs in 10 innings of work out of the bullpen. On it’s own, that’s probably a C-ish grade, but what dropped Barnes to an F was his throw at Manny Machado‘s head on Sunday. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: throw at someone all you want, but don’t go near the head. It was a dumbass move by the young reliever and in turn, cost him a 4 game suspension (pending appeal). That pitch started a clubhouse rift with team leader Dustin Pedroia, which for a guy still trying to earn consistent relief appearances late in the game, could be harmful. Time will tell how this pans out, but at this moment, Barnes’ reputation isn’t looking great.

Pablo Sandoval – D

Hopes were high for Panda in 2017 after he arrived to Fort Myers early and in great shape. He was moving well and seemed to have a renewed attitude. Now, 17 games into the season, Panda is hitting .213 with 3 HRs (the bright spot and reason he is graded a D) with 13 Ks. He has had a few big hits late in games, but that’s about all he can boast at this point. Defensively, he’s struggling just as much, with 4 errors in the early season. At this pace, he is averaging 38+ errors for every 162 games. That’s just bad. Even worse? He now has a sprained knee and is on the DL, likely keeping him out into at least the first week of May (if not longer). Different year, same story.

Orioles and Red Sox: The New AL East Rivalry

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

For decades the premier rivalry in the AL East (and in the MLB) was between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. It was one of the most bitter rivalries in sports that resulted in countless fights and insane postseason matchups coming down to the final out. Over the past decade, the hate in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry has all but disappeared and their games are no longer appointment television. Don’t worry sports fans, another AL East rivalry is just beginning to heat up.

After a reckless slide into second base by Manny Machado, tensions began to rise between the two clubs. Dustin Pedroia was sidelined by the play and as much as he tried to downplay the incident as a hard baseball play, John Farrell and his Red Sox teammates took exception. Farrell spoke to league official Joe Torre (there is always a Yankees connection) after the game insisting that a reckless slide like that one should be disciplined by the league, but his appeal got nowhere. The only other course of action for the Red Sox is to throw at Machado to send a message and close the book on the incident.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for rivalry lovers), Matt Barnes chose to retaliate with a ball to the head instead of just firing a 95 mph fastball into Machado’s ass like most would do. There are a lot of unwritten rules in baseball, but throwing at someone’s head is, and always has been, a giant no-no. Barnes has since been suspended for 4 games (pending appeal) and he deserves every game of it. I love the UConn product, but it was a stupid move. The pitch “got away from him” while trying to throw high and inside and just happened to end up behind Machado’s head. I can smell the bullshit from here.

Given how it all unfolded, I can’t imagine the bad blood is over between these two teams. The play again next week at Fenway Park and after that 4-game series, they meet another 10 times during the regular season. Both teams are projected to finish in the top 2 or 3 in the division and could very well both make the playoffs. Buck Showalter will surely continue to needle the Red Sox in press conferences and the heat will continue to be turned up as the pressure mounts later in the season.

Let the games begin…

Older posts