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.

Tag: al east (page 1 of 3)

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.

From Fringe Playoff Team to World Series Contender

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

It’s been nothing short of an unreal stretch for the Boston Red Sox over the past few weeks. They are winners of 8 straight, two consecutive 4-game series sweeps against AL East foes the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, and owners of the MLB leading 15-5 record in September. They sit 5.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the division and 7 games up on the Orioles just a few weeks after a 3-way tie for the division was very much in the conversation. How have the Red Sox gone from a fringe team to a legitimate contender? Pitching and a will.

Thus far in September, the Red Sox pitching staff is having their best month of the season. The staff has a ratio of 4 Ks per BB, a .209 opponent batting average and a .598 OPS in September, all significantly better than any other month. Most notably, Red Sox relievers have allowed just a .186 opponent batting average this month, which is excellent. The improvement in the pitching staff has allowed the Red Sox offense to feel less pressure to score in huge bunches and just have smart at-bats. They have now scored exactly 5 runs in 5 consecutive games for the first time in history.

Although the pitching has significantly improved, the offense has also still performed at a very high level. The Red Sox batters are hitting .289 in September with 31 HRs and 119 RBIs thanks to an incredible tear from Hanley Ramirez and the continually impressive hitting of David Ortiz and Mookie Betts. It’s more than just the offensive firepower however, there is a certain intangible quality that all great teams have: a will to win.

Until September, the will to win appeared only on occasion and in spurts, but now it feels like this team will have a chance to win every game, every day. Teammates support each other and lift each other after a bad inning or a bad defensive play and celebrate together after a big win. They have each others backs and appear to believe in their ability to make a serious postseason run now, something that was missing just a short month or so ago. A streaking team is often even more dangerous that the consistently great team.

Don’t look now, but the Red Sox seem to be peaking at just the right time.

Red Sox Put Yankees on Life Support

AP/Michael Dwyer

AP/Michael Dwyer

Heading into the 4-game weekend set with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox were hanging on to a 1 game lead in the AL East. Toronto was just another game further back and the surging Yankees were 4 back in the division and just 2 back in the wild card. Just 4 games later, the Yankees chance of making the postseason has dropped to 1.7% and the Yankees are 8 games back in the division (4 in the wild card) thanks to a hugely important sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.

There are few things I enjoy more than watching the Red Sox put another nail in the Yankees coffin (actually 4 nails). Even though the rivalry has gotten quite stale and boring over the past few years, the hate is still there for at least some portion of fans and a late season series that has a serious impact on the postseason is always fun. Watching the Red Sox comeback on multiple occasions in the series, including an epic 5-run 9th inning surge on Thursday night, made me a bit more confident in this team’s future.

There are 13 games to play in the regular season, including a crucial 4-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards starting tonight. A 3-game division lead is a nice cushion, but can be erased easily with so many head-to-head matchups. Momentum is on the Red Sox side thanks to their biggest rival…now what can the Red Sox do with it?

Crazy Series Finale Grows Red Sox AL East Lead

Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP

Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP

As a football fan it’s easy to get caught up in the early season rush and in many years past, with the Red Sox virtually eliminated by now, the attention shift was easy. Not this year. This weekend was even more important for the Red Sox than the Patriots (and college football) given the outrageously close playoff race in the AL. Entering the weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox were 1 game ahead of the Jays in the standings, 2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and just 4 games ahead of the surging New York Yankees. After Sunday’s crazy, but huge 11-8 victory over the Jays, the Red Sox have built a 2 game lead in the AL East, their largest division lead since May 31st (3 games ahead). With 20 games to go, it’s still a 4-way divisional race.

Sunday’s finale was a must win for both the Jays and the Red Sox. The Jays were 1 game back of the Red Sox and a W would have tied them atop the league. The game played like each team was desperate, once one team scored, the other would come back with a rally of their own. The game was 1-1 after 1, then Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a 3-run bomb in the 2nd inning to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead. The bottom of the 3rd was Toronto’s chance to respond, getting 5 runs off of Clay Buchholz (how many times have I typed that line?) to take a 6-4 lead. The Red Sox tied it up in the top of the 4th, only to lose the lead again in the bottom of the inning on Edwin Encarnacion‘s 2nd HR of the game.

After grabbing a run back in the 5th inning, Brock Holt inexplicably tried to steal home with 2 outs in a 1 run game and gets caught leaving the game 8-7. File that in the head-scratcher category. Never fear Red Sox fans, David Ortiz is here for the rescue, hitting a 3-run HR to give the Red Sox the lead for good. They tacked on 1 more in the 7th to make it an incredibly important 11-8 wild win. That was a precursor to a day of close, but important wins in New England!

According to the ESPN calculation, the Red Sox now have an 93.4% chance of making the playoffs, which was hard to imagine a few weeks ago. The Jays have dropped to 74.5%, the Orioles at 56.7% and the Yankees still hanging in at 13.5%. All 4 teams are still within 4 games of the division lead and the Jays and Orioles are currently 2 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers and Yankees for the 2 wild card spots. There is a real chance 3 AL East teams make the postseason in 2016, but with dozens of divisional games remaining, who knows.

Another Missed Opportunity for Red Sox

When the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the New York Yankees 5-3, the door opened for the Red Sox to move back into a tie for 1st place in the AL East. Considering their opponent, the 56-80 San Diego Padres, it seemed as though the situation was aligned perfectly and an easy W was there for the taking. Unfortunately the league’s most powerful offense went dormant for a 2nd straight day and managed just 1 run on a Chris Young solo HR. The 2-1 loss was just the most recent example of a low-scoring, 1-run loss for this Red Sox team.

In the grand scheme of the season, this game likely won’t mean anything, but with 25 games remaining and just 5 against teams with losing records, it hurts. After taking 2 of 3 from the Oakland Athletics, then need to win this series with the lowly Padres or they may be in trouble. If they win the next 2, then all is right with the world and they finish their last 6 games at 4-2 against bad teams, but if they manage to lose 1 or 2 of the remaining games, it tells me they are not ready to make or compete in the post season.

The offensive inconsistency has continued all season and is certainly concerning. They are leaving an awfully high number of men on base and are not able to come through in clutch situations (6 left on Monday). They had a runner on 3rd base in a 1 run game in the 8th inning with 1 out and they couldn’t drive him in. Those situations are critically important and determine the outcome of close games. When faced with an opportunity like the one on Monday, finding a way to score is what separates a great team from a good team.

In their last 4 games they scored 16, 11, 0, 1 runs. On average, those numbers make it appear the Red Sox are scoring 7 runs a game, which in any context, should at least get them 3 wins in their last 4, if not 4, but numbers can be deceiving and they are just 2-2. When it comes playoff time, it will be much harder to have the high-scoring games, and significantly easier to score 3 or fewer runs given the top pitching faced on a daily basis. Right now, even if this team makes the postseason, don’t expect much advancement.

Red Sox Reset: 5 Things to Watch for the Final 29 Games

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

As September arrives and minor league call-ups are beginning to get the good news from the Red Sox front office, a postseason run is in the air over Fenway Park. This year has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride and I suspect September will be no exception. If you are a Red Sox fan and invested in the team’s success, stock up on Tums and Pepto-Bismol now, because you are definitely going to need it. Here are 5 things to watch for with 29 games remaining in the Red Sox season.

5. The next 3 series will set the tone for the final 3 weeks

I know it’s cliche, but momentum down the stretch is absolutely critical. The final 23 games of the season are against AL East rivals, including teams directly in front and behind the Red Sox in the standings. The 6 games prior to that stretch are games on the west coast against the Oakland Athletics and the San Diego Padres, two last-place, sub-.500 teams. I know west coast travel and playing on the road is tough, but if the Red Sox do not win 4 of 6 in these 2 series, it will be a failure. You have to beat the teams you are supposed to beat and these are the only remaining series in which you should have a significantly more talented group than your opponent.

4. The Red Sox starting pitching must avoid bad mistakes

The Red Sox pitching staff has gone through good and bad stretches throughout the season. In order to make the postseason and have a chance at perhaps winning a wild card game or a series, the Red Sox starters have to be smart and not give up the big hit or make a big pitch mistake in a tight situation. As of late, a bad pitch leading to a big HR or a big base hit has hurt the Red Sox and in closely contested, playoff-like games, one big pitch mistake could be the difference between a W and an L. The starters don’t need to shutout opponents because their offense is so talented, but consistent quality starts (6IP+, 3 or less ER) will go a long way to help the bullpen and put Ws on the board.

3. Effectively use September call-ups – especially at 3rd base

On September 1st (today), MLB rosters expand to 40 from 25. It allows teams to bring up younger talent and give them a chance to play in the big leagues. In this case, the name with a chance to have the biggest impact is Yoan Moncada, who has been working out at 3rd base in the minors. Since Spring Training, the hot corner has been a questionable spot in the Red Sox lineup. Pablo Sandoval is gone for the season (thankfully) and Travis Shaw started strong, but has accumulated 15 errors and been just OK in the batter’s box since. With call-ups, young phenom Moncada can get his chance to grab the 3rd base job from Shaw and potentially provide a nice spark for the Red Sox.

2. Avoid situations where John Farrell needs to make an in-game decision

I understand the premise of this is flawed, but bear with me because it’s incredibly important. John Farrell is a below-average manager when it comes to making in-game decisions, especially with the pitching staff (great for a former pitching coach, eh?). He has repeatedly made head-scratching decisions about which bullpen arm to use later in games and many of them have back-fired. The easiest way to avoid his incompetence without firing him? Avoid close games late. Take the game out of Farrell’s hands by putting games out of reach earlier on and leaving fewer guys on base. This is mostly on the Red Sox offense to round back into April/May form and put crooked numbers on the board whenever a decent scoring opportunity arises. I know it’s much easier said then done and they are never not trying to score, but a shift in mindset is necessary give the managerial incompetence.

1. Simply treat every remaining game like a 1-game playoff

Throughout the course of an 162-game season, there are some games you don’t push your pitching staff or bench as much as you could in order to rest players. It’s justified as an effort to preserve player health for the long-haul of a season. That’s over now. The Red Sox are 2 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East (who they play 6 more times) and 2 games ahead of the 3rd place Baltimore Orioles (who they play 7 more times). These and other opponents are playing for their playoff lives and it is highly likely that 1 game will have a significant impact on the difference between winning the division, grabbing a wild card spot and playing golf on October 3rd. Unless there is an extremely compelling reason, everyone should be available every single day, whether it’s off the bench for a pinch-run or pinch-hit scenario or out of the bullpen for a batter or two. Every game is absolutely critical and September is no time to be cautious.

There’s Something About the Rays

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

When looking at the remaining schedule for the Red Sox, it’s hard not have both some anxiety and some hope. The final 23 games of the season are against AL East foe, including 6 against the team just in front of them in the standings (Toronto Blue Jays) and 7 against the team right behind them in the standings (Baltimore Orioles) which offer incredible opportunity for both rising and falling int he standings. On paper the most winnable games are the 3 against the Tampa Bay Rays, but so far in 2016, that’s been far from a foregone conclusion. Thus far in 2016, the Red Sox are 8-7 against the AL East bottom-dwellers, who currently sit with a 56-75 overall record.

Of the last 5 games the Red Sox and Rays have played head-to-head, 4 have been decided by just 1 run including last night’s 4-3 Rays victory. These two teams seem to have a knack for keeping games close into the late innings when one big play or hit becomes a turning point. Last night that was Evan Longoria‘s massive game-winning HR against Clay Buchholz in the 8th inning of a tie game. Despite having a terrible overall record, there is something about this year’s Rays team that just believes they can take down the Red Sox, regardless of their overall talent level. The reason? Familiarity.

The way baseball schedules are set-up, divisional rivals generally match-up 19 times throughout the course of an 162 game season. By the time the team is playing their 9th and 10th games against each other, they are intimately aware of strengths and weaknesses and have likely seen a lot of the opponent’s pitching staff. Then factor in players who spend multiple seasons in the division and the familiarity level sky-rockets. When players feel comfortable with a match-up, regardless of their season successes or failures overall, they can be more comfortable in their approach at the plate. It doesn’t always work that way, but it has certainly help the Rays in their time against the Red Sox this season.

The remaining games against the Blue Jays and Orioles are critical for making the postseason, but don’t sleep on the 7 against the surging New York Yankees and the 4 remaining against the Tampa Bay Rays either. Every single game is huge from now until the beginning of October so strap in and come along for the ride.

Red Sox Back in 1st Place

red sox standings
I’m just going to leave this here…

Mookie Betts for the Win

Mookie Betts. Wow. All 5 Red Sox runs on 2 HUGE HRs for the very important W vs. the Baltimore Orioles. That swing put the Red Sox in a 3-way tie for the AL East lead with the Os and Toronto Blue Jays.

Encouraging Start to the Road Trip for Red Sox

drew pomeranz getty

The biggest issue for the Red Sox thus far in 2016 is winning close games and low-scoring games. On Monday afternoon, the Red Sox checked off both boxes when they beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2. The beginning of a 4-city, 11-game road trip was tight until the final out and despite some scary, heart-stopping moments from closer Craig Kimbrel, the win was extremely refreshing. Before Monday, the Red Sox were an abysmal 4-32 when scoring 3 or fewer runs. That’s an incredibly concerning trend, especially if the Red Sox hope to make the playoffs and have a chance at winning anything. Guess what the postseason is full of? Close, low-scoring games.

This 11-game road trip is pivotal for the Red Sox. The trip includes 2 games against the Baltimore Orioles who are just ahead of the Red Sox in the standings and then 4 against the Detroit Tigers who are nipping at their heals for the 2nd wildcard spot. If the Red Sox emerge from this tough road stretch at 6-5 or better, they will be in great shape as a friendlier September schedules waits around the corner. They need to carry their 4-game winning streak and all the momentum it gives them into Baltimore, because we know the Orioles will be ready for a dog fight.

The other major promising thing from Monday afternoon was Drew Pomeranz. He picked up his first win in a Red Sox uniform and looked strong through 7.2 innings. He allowed just 1 run going into the 7th, but got into a little trouble in the inning allowing his 2nd. To go along with allowing just 2 runs, he had 6 Ks, 5 hits, and just 2 BBs. Monday was just what the doctor ordered and gave fans hope that some strong performances down the stretch are not out of the question from him.

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