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.

Category: Boston Red Sox (page 1 of 11)

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…

The Rise of Sandy Leon

 

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Last night, in the bottom of the 12th inning of a 0-0 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sandy Leon deposited a 92 mph fastball from Antonio Bastardo into the monster seats for a walk-off win. The HR was the 3rd hit of the game for Leon and his 5th hit in the 2 games this season (8 at-bats). It’s just a 2-game sample, but coupled with last year’s shocking offensive output, it makes me think that Leon might actually be a good hitter after all and a legitimate everyday catcher.

Prior to last season, Sandy Leon had 209 at-bats over 4 years and hit a whopping .187 with 1 HR and 5 doubles. He was obviously not an everyday starter and was used primarily in a defensive back-up and to spell the starting catcher with the Washington Nationals, as well as during his first year in Boston. He was seen as an insurance policy in case of injury. A depth piece that turned out to be desperately needed in 2016.

Christian Vazquez was recovering from Tommy John Surgery and began the season on the DL, so the Red Sox began the year with Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart as the catching tandem. Swihart was not good and ended up being optioned back to Pawtucket in mid-April to be converted to an outfielder and the Red Sox catching depth shrunk. Then on June 15th, both Hanigan and Swihart (called back up as an outfielder/emergency catcher) were hurt in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, opening the door for Sandy Leon. He didn’t just walk through the door, he sprinted through it.

In his first 40 at-bats, Leon had 20 hits. He had 9 extra base hits over that span (8 doubles and a HR) and was having a significant impact on the team, both behind the plate and in the batters box. His hot start slowed a little, but after 55 games in the majors, Leon was still hitting .350 and had amassed 7 HRs, 7x his career HR numbers (1 previous in 4 years), 14 doubles, and 2 triples (the first, and only 2 of his career thus far). He earned the starting role and didn’t look back, but his offense slipped a bit down the stretch, understandably. He finished with a highly respectable .310 average, a +.123 from his career numbers prior.

Leon earned the starting job for 2017 despite some critics. Was 2016 an aberration? He slumped late in the season, was that him coming back to the norm of a .200 hitter? Was he durable enough to catch a full season? Many of the questions are still a long way from being answered, but it sure as hell is encouraging to see Leon start 2017 on fire and hitting in clutch situations. Last night was the perfect example: 3 hits, the last being the most clutch hit of the ball game to win it. I can’t predict the future, but it certainly looks like Leon is more than just a back-up defensive specialist for this year’s Boston Red Sox.

Chris Sale Officially Begins Red Sox Career

AP Photo/John Raoux

Tonight at 7:10pm, Chris Sale will throw his first pitch in a game that counts for the Boston Red Sox. Sale was traded to the Red Sox this offseason with the expectation that he will be the ace of the pitching staff for years to come. The Red Sox gave up a big haul to the Chicago White Sox, including top prospects Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, as well as other minor leaguers Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. The expectations are high, but not unwarranted.

Early in this season, I’ll do a short player profile for all the new additions on the roster. Since Sale is starting tonight, he’s the perfect place to start.

Player Profile

Name: Christopher “The Condor” Sale

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

Height/Weight: 6’6″, 180lbs

Born: 3/30/1989 in Lakeland, FL

Drafted: Chicago White Sox in 2010 1st round (was drafted by the Rockies in the 21st round of the 2007 draft, but decided to go to college)

College: Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL

MLB Debut: 8/6/2010 with the White Sox

Stats:

Sale joins the Red Sox with a career 3.00 ERA, 1,244 Ks and a 74-50 record in 7 big-league seasons, along with 5 consecutive All-Star selections and a top 6 finish in the AL Cy Young voting for 5 consecutive years. Sale has 14 complete games and 2 shutouts on his resume, including 6 complete games and 1 shutout for the White Sox last season. Sale’s K to BB ratio is the best in baseball among active pitchers (4.785) and has the 2nd best active adjusted ERA+ (135), behind only Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

*All biographical information is from www.baseball-reference.com.

Red Sox Opening Day

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. –Rogers Hornsby

The weather in Boston is going to be perfect for the 2:05pm first pitch of the Red Sox 2017 season today. The 50 degree sunshine will light up Fenway Park in anticipation of strong campaign for the hanging socks. The expectations are high and the mood is hopeful as the Red Sox begin their season at home for the first time since 2010 (a 9-7 win over the Yankees). Overall, the home opener has been kind to the Sox, winning 10 of the last 12 and going 69-47 in home openers since 1901. Today, the Red Sox will match up with inter-league foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

One can analyze this team and spring performances until blue in the face, but the only thing that matters is what happens between the lines when the games count. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello toes the rubber this afternoon as a nod to his 2016 performance and then Wednesday, fans get officially introduced to the biggest addition to this Red Sox club, SP Chris Sale. The lineup will have a different feel from last year without David Ortiz, but they still could be a force in the AL.

Now, for the 2 words we have been waiting all winter to hear…Play Ball!

Shut Your Mouth & Pitch: The David Price Story

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In Tuesday’s Boston Globe, Stan Grossfeld published an interview with Red Sox starting pitcher David Price that has the Boston media market buzzing. The entire purpose of this interview is to ride in the car with Price as he heads to the ballpark in the morning during spring training. The first several questions tell you exactly what the interview is supposed to be: a puff-piece. A quick, easy, get-to-know David Price interview. It starts with questions about karma, bringing coffee to the training staff, and of course, about Price’s dog Astro. Ironically, the question that started to turn the interview dark was “What is your passion?”

A harmless, bullshit question that had an easy answer, “I have a foundation, Project One Four.” It makes total sense, a chance to promote his charity work and talk about what the charity means to him. Simple. What’s the next sentence out of his mouth? “That’s one of the things that honestly chafed me about being in Boston – with the reporters, not one time did anybody take the time to get to know me or my foundation or anything I do away from the field.” What? Really? You’re that self-centered? Oh here we go…

As my father-in-law said when he read the article, “I liked the first half, then the whole tone changed.” It was as if Price was just waiting for the perfect time to start shitting on Boston. When is he going to fucking realize he is getting paid $30 million to PITCH in the MAJOR LEAGUES. He’s not getting paid to be the Executive Director or Director of Marketing for his charity, he’s paid to PITCH. If he wants to promote his charity, he can just hop on the Twitter-machine he’s so fond of and type until his little heart’s content. Practically every freaking MLB player has a charity that they either created or play a significant role in, it’s not unique, and no David, you are not special. You do your job and the reporters will do their job: report on baseball.

Sadly, then shit got real…

Grossfeld asked another ridiculously benign question, “Tell me something about you that people don’t know. Surprise me.” Price’s response, “People in Boston don’t know anything about me. The only thing I have to do is pitch good. People don’t care about what I do or the type of person that I am. That doesn’t matter.” Overlooking the glaring grammatical mistakes, let’s dig in a bit, shall we? YOU GET PAID $30 MILLION A YEAR TO PITCH. Baseball is entertainment and Price is privileged enough to get paid more in one year than our entire extended families will ever even see in our combined lifetimes. And I know I’m a broken record here, but YOU GET PAID $30 MILLION TO THROW A FUCKING BASEBALL.

I feel the need to respond to Price directly, so here it is: If you want people to care about you as a person, David, shut your fucking mouth and perform. Get your ass off twitter and stop being a egocentric dick at every turn. Do you want to know why fans love former players like Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield? They shut their damn mouths and performed. They worked their asses off day in and day out to get better and be the best team players they could. They didn’t fuck around on twitter and shit on Boston to the media. How many Red Sox fans could tell you Jason Varitek’s wife’s name? His kids names? His dog(s) names? Hell, I don’t even know if Tek has a dog and frankly, I don’t give a shit. Why? Because he was paid to play baseball.

The interview just continued to unravel and got worse, but frankly, I’m done. I was in support of the Price contract when he came to Boston. The Red Sox were in need of stability in the starting rotation and he had a track-record of being a workhorse who toed the rubber every 5 days and ate innings. Yes, he had some baggage (*cough* postseason record *cough*), but who doesn’t? if you go out and perform, especially in Boston, no one cares about the other crap (i.e. Manny Ramirez).

I’m going to end with this; a reminder to Price. You were a free agent and signed with Boston, no one forced you to be here. You chased the money into a large media market, a decision of your own free-will, now you have to deal with that decision. For the love of all things good, just shut your fucking mouth and pitch.

Birthday Balloons: Jim Rice

AP Photo

Happy 64th Birthday to Hall of Famer Jim Rice! The Anderson, SC native hit 382 HRs and had 1,451 RBIs over a long 16-year career, all with the Boston Red Sox. In 2009, on his final Hall of Fame Ballot (15th year), Jim Ed was given baseball’s highest honor; being enshrined in Cooperstown.

Way To Early Red Sox Spring Training Predictions

Christopher Evans/Boston Herald

After a week of games, I finally had some time to sit and watch the Red Sox play on Sunday. The eye test can be a powerful tool in evaluating players because stats in the spring can lie (see my thoughts on spring stats here). It is still very early in spring training, but I have some quick observations and predictions.

Kyle Kendrick – Mark my words, before the All-Star break the Red Sox will be leaning on Kyle Kendrick in their starting rotation. With David Price‘s status uncertain at best, the Red Sox are already thinning out in the rotation. The three starters at the end of the rotation, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Drew Pomeranz, have all had injury issues and raise serious concerns around durability. If one of them goes down, then the Red Sox will be looking at the likes of Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, and Roenis Elias to fill the role; or Kyle Kendrick. The Red Sox took a low-risk flyer on him, but with a strong spring training, he may be the next in line to stabilize the rotation.

Mookie Betts – It never gets old watching Mookie Betts swing the bat. He cleans out the inside fastball like very few can and just looks smooth, whether it’s March or September. Betts had an excellent breakout 2016 campaign and I don’t expect him to fall off in 2017. He hit .318 with 31 HRs last year and finished 2nd in the AL MVP race. Betts is poised to be the next in a long line of superstar outfielders for the Red Sox.

Mitch Moreland – When the Red Sox signed Moreland, I thought he was a low-risk bench player. Unfortunately, Moreland is going to play more than he should in 2017. He’s a mid-.200 hitter at best and frankly, my early impression of his defense is disappointing at best. He feels like a roster-filler for a shitty team that just needs bodies, like the Red Sox opponent on Sunday the Atlanta Braves. Instead, a team that is a legitimate contender has him playing first base several times a week.

Deven Marrero – For a few years now Marrero has looked like an excellent prospect waiting for his chance in the big leagues. My prediction: he will be in the Red Sox lineup by mid-season and never look back. For everyone’s sake, I hope he is playing 1st or 3rd base and not SS. Marrero made a few sensational diving catches and showed off his cannon of an arm on Sunday while playing SS. Given the big question marks at the corner infield spots, this might be Marrero’s best chance to break into the majors.

What to Watch For During Spring Training

Barry Chin/Boston Globe

Let me begin by saying I love spring training. Baseball is my first love, so any sign that the season is around the corner gets me giddy. There is just one problem… It’s too damn long. Pitchers and catchers reported mid-February and won’t play any meaningful baseball until April 2nd on opening day. That’s 6+ weeks of drills and meaningless baseball games, which can be hard for the casual fan to follow. An added challenge for most is that many games are not on TV  or are afternoon games during the week.

Over the years I have developed a system for knowing what to look for (and not look for) during spring training games. Hopefully it helps you decipher what’s really important this time of year.

What to Watch For (and Ignore)

Watch for Pitcher Ramp-Up, Ignore Pitcher Stat Lines

The most reasonable explanation for a long spring training is the need for a slow build-up of stamina for starting pitchers (and even some relievers). In order to reduce injury risk, most pitchers slowly add workload throughout the month of games in order to be ready for opening day. Watch for starters to begin with an inning or two, around 20-30 pitches initially, then slowly add pitches and innings leading to a more normal-looking start in late March.

During that span, ignore pitcher stat lines. There is nothing more frustrating for me than to read an alarmist article about a starter giving up 4 runs in an inning in March. Every pitcher is unique and their throwing schedules vary greatly. Some pitchers will spend an outing just working on their fastball with very few (or no) secondary pitches. Some will work on their curveball almost exclusively at times to try and improve that particular pitch. ERA and record mean very little in the spring, unless you have a pitcher with a fragile level of confidence (a whole other conversation).

Watch for Quality At-Bats, Ignore Batting Averages

Another mistake made in the spring is looking at player batting averages and projecting regular season success based on them. There are sometimes the case of a young player getting hot in the spring and carrying it over into the season, and that shouldn’t be fully ignored, but the majority of the time it just doesn’t matter. If you are watching a spring game, take a look at how the player approaches an at-bat, how many pitches they see, how fluid and comfortable they look in the batters box. Those things can be much subtle, but also more telling than average.

Let’s take the 2016 Red Sox spring training as an example. David Ortiz played in 18 games, had 45 at-bats, and hit .178 with 2 doubles, 1 HR, and 10 Ks. In the first month of the regular season, Ortiz hit .321 with 5 HRs, 11 doubles, and 14 Ks (22 games, 78 at-bats). Ortiz came right out of the gate with a HR and double on opening day and played well in April, even though his spring was bad. Zero correlation in his case. It’s an extreme example, but proves the point.

Watch for Young Prospects, Ignore Records

After spending time telling you to ignore batting averages, I’m going to slightly modify my stance here in reference to young prospects. Spring is the best time to see young players get reps and try to impress their organization honchos. This may be the only time most fans are able to watch the young guns perform, so take advantage. Sometimes a strong spring for a young player will result in a longer look for a minor league promotion or even a future big-league roster spot. Just ask Jackie Bradley Jr. or Travis Shaw if spring can be the difference in making the MLB roster or not (hint: it did for both of them).

The absolute #1 thing to ignore in the spring is a win/loss record. It is by far the most meaningless stat, because players are slotted in prior to each game to give everyone appropriate playing time. It doesn’t matter if the team is up 10 or down 10, the manager has a plan for player usage and usually follows it closely. On top of that, it is rare that a full regular season lineup is all starting on the same day with an MLB caliber starter on the mound. It will be even less likely this year with the World Baseball Classic happening in conjunction with spring training games. For example, Xander Bogaerts left to play for team Netherlands on 2/28 and won’t play in another game for the Red Sox until at least mid-to-late March, and perhaps not again until the regular season. If you are hoping to see the Red Sox opening day lineup anytime soon, you will be disappointed.

Rick “Cy Young” Porcello

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After a 9-15 forgettable 2015 season, it looked like the Red Sox signing of Rick Porcello was going to be a flop. Thankfully for the Red Sox and Porcello he finished 2015 stronger than he began and took that momentum right into a stellar 2016 season, guiding the Red Sox into a postseason birth with his 22-4 record and 3.15 ERA. On Wednesday night he received the highest individual pitching honor in baseball by being named the AL Cy Young award winner for 2016 joining an illustrious list of former Red Sox pitchers to win the award (Pedro Martinez (2x), Roger Clemens (3x), and Jim Lonborg).

It’s hard not to be happy for Porcello. He was rushed to the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers at the young age of 20 with the weight of the world on his shoulders and expectations through the roof. In the 2009 MLB Top 50 prospects list rated his upside potential as “Ace, All-Star, Cy Young candidate, you name it. He’s been compared to Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Roy Oswalt and Josh Beckett.” No pressure kid, just follow in the footsteps of some of the best pitchers of this generation. The pressure clearly impacted Porcello’s development and he never quite reached that level of success…until now.

With 8 seasons of experience under his belt and just entering his prime at age 27, Porcello has looked better than ever. He is finally living up to the expectations and thankfully for Red Sox fans, it’s happening here in Boston. No one knows what the future will hold, but this could very well be the beginning of a special run for Porcello and the next few years may just elevate him as one of the better pitchers in baseball. He’s not flashy and won’t blow 100 mph heat past you, but is experienced, smart, and knows how to win ballgames (at least this year).

Congrats to the real ace of the Red Sox staff, Rick Porcello!

Sidenote: That 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Detroit Tigers rotation consisted of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello – three Cy Young Award winners and the 3 guys that got the highest vote counts in 2016. Scherzer won the NL Cy Young this year and Verlander finished just 5 points behind Porcello for the AL crown. In 2014, David Price joined the staff, making it now 4 Cy Young award winners on the same staff (they obvious weren’t all winners at the time). Is that the best rotation in the modern era? Maybe.

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