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: arizona diamondbacks

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.

Injuries and Fatigue a Concern for Red Sox

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

After taking a week off, I’m refreshed and ready to go. Unfortunately, the Red Sox are decidedly not refreshed and struggling with injuries and fatigue with a big 11-game 4-city road trip in front of them. Besides the obvious recent DL stints for Steven Wright (shoulder soreness) and Ryan Hanigan (ankle tendinitis), Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz are looking slower and fatigued as of late. It’s a big concern for the Red Sox who are fighting for a postseason spot.

Bogaerts had played in 108 of the team’s first 110 games of the season, which is a lot to expect from a guy playing shortstop. The overwork is beginning to show it’s ugly head. Since July 24th, Bogaerts is hitting .231 and his season average has dropped .020 points. He does not have a HR in August and his bat has looked slow compared to April and May. By all measures, his .313 average, 14 HRs and 69 RBIs is a very strong season thus far, it’s how far it has dropped and how fatigued he has looked over the last several weeks that is most concerning. He got the day off on Sunday vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks and is likely to have another day off on Monday as the team travels to Cleveland. I’m worried the rest is a little too late.

For David Ortiz, the outrageous first half of his retirement tour is in the rear view mirror. At the all-star break, Ortiz was hitting .331 with 22 HRs, 72 RBIs and 34 doubles, which were all at or near the top in the AL. Now, in 26 games since the break, he has begun to shoot back to earth with a .239 average, 4 HRS, 18 RBIs, and just 3 doubles. Like Bogaerts, his overall stats are impressive for the season (.310, 26 HRs, 90 RBIs, 37 doubles), but the sharp downward trend is a huge concern moving forward for the 40 year old. At his age, he’s much more likely to continue to decline the final 6 weeks of the season.

If the Red Sox are going to get a playoff spot and contend this year, Bogaerts and Ortiz have to be healthy and able to produce when it counts. At this moment, I have no confidence that either player can rest and regroup enough to have a significant impact down the stretch.

Injuries Mounting as Red Sox Add a Bullpen Arm

Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports

After Friday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Rays, Dave Dombrowski worked into the night to bring in a back end bullpen arm. Earlier in the day, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel were both unavailable due to injury, leaving a few giant holes in the ‘pen. We know now that Kimbrel had torn his meniscus going for a ground ball in batting practice and will need surgery (out 3-6 weeks). To add depth to the ‘pen Dombrowski traded RHP Jose Almonte and infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe to the Arizona Diamondback for set-up man Brad Ziegler.

Ziegler is a legit late-inning arm who can close if needed. The side-armer is 36-years old and has a 2.82 ERA with just 1 HR allowed in 38.1 innings this year with the DBacks. He has walked 15 batters this year, more than you would like to see, but should compliment the other bullpen arms well. Given Kimbrel’s injury and Koji Uehara‘s age, I think Ziegler will get some set-up and closing opportunities over the next few weeks. His veteran presence should help stabilize a sometimes shaky bullpen down the stretch.

Also on Friday night, Brock Holt left with and ankle sprain and Hanley Ramirez fouled a ball of his shin. Both did not play on Saturday and I would guess will not play Sunday as well, given the extended all-star break begins on Monday. They can rest and be fully ready to go when the Red Sox return to action on Friday, July 15th in the Bronx against the Yankees.

Price Must Perform Like an Ace


AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The adjustment period is over, now is the time the Red Sox need their ace to pitch like an ace. Tonight, Price will be facing off against one of the best pitchers (and hitters) in the NL this season, Madison Bumgarner. Despite the fact Price has shrunk his era each of his last 5 starts after reaching 6.75 on May 7th, he has not pitched like a lights-out, shutdown ace since joining the Red Sox this offseason. He has yet to have a scoreless outing through 12 starts, allowing at least 2 earned runs in all but 1 start (May 12th vs the Astros, 1 earned run).

The Red Sox are paying Price $30 million this year, making him the 3rd highest paid pitcher in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Zach Greinke of the Diamondbacks. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and is earning every bit of his $34.5 million salary with an 8-1 record, 1.46 era, 109 Ks stat line and although Greinke is far from Kershaw’s level, he has allowed fewer runs than Price and has had 4 starts in which he allowed fewer than 2 earned runs, including his most recent two starts in which he allowed 0 earned runs. Price needs to pitch like he is one of the best pitchers in baseball to justify the Red Sox paying him like one. Tonight is the night to prove his worth.

Bumgarner has been grabbing a lot of headlines lately, but not for his great pitching numbers this year. He has 2 HRs in just 32 at-bats this season and now has 13 career bombs, including 5 in 2015 in just 77 at-bats. He may be batting .156 this season and .180 for his career, but when he makes contact, watch out. To go along with this offensive prowess, Bumgarner has a 7-2 record alongside a nifty 1.91 era in his 12 starts this season. It’s going to be difficult for the Red Sox offense to pile up runs tonight, so they will need to take advantage of any opportunities and jump all over any mistakes Bumgarner makes, if there are any.

Despite improvement from Price, I still have no confidence in him to shut down a lineup. Without Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, the Giants lineup is run-of-the-mill and doesn’t scare anyone, making this a perfect opportunity for Price to shine and continue to gain confidence by putting 0s on the board.

Meanwhile 3,000 miles away, the Baltimore Orioles are surging and have won 7 of their last 10. They have been propelled into 1st in the AL East by 0.5 game, so every W is critical for the Red Sox. The Orioles have even more momentum after a brawl erupted last night when Manny Machado charged the mound after being hit by Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura. The Orioles won 9-1, their 3rd straight victory.