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: john farrell (page 1 of 2)

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.

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…

New D’Backs Manager Torey Lovullo

Jim Davis/Boston Globe

The news at the end of last week that Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo was headed to the Diamondbacks to be their manager was not surprising. When Mike Hazen left to become the GM of the D’Backs a few weeks back, much of the speculation was around Lovullo joining him. It’s a great opportunity for Lovullo to get a sniff at managing for a franchise that is rebuilding and get a chance to prove that the short sample at the helm of the Red Sox was not a fluke. Despite being happy for Lovullo, his departure leaves a hole in the Red Sox dugout.

Lovullo has long ties with the Red Sox organization. He was the Pawtucket Red Sox manager in 2010 and took them to a 68-78 record. Despite the record, he was considered to be a candidate for some type of MLB coaching job. When John Farrell left the Red Sox for the Toronto Blue Jays managerial job, he took Lovullo with him to be his 1st base coach. After 2 seasons in that position, Farrell was released from his contract in Toronto at the push of the Red Sox and he became the Red Sox manager. Farrell brought Lovullo over as his bench coach and he has been in that position since 2013.

The most talked about story is in 2015 was when Lovullo took over for Farrell when he underwent treatments for lymphoma. He took a bad team and finished the season on a 28-20 stretch, creating a buzz around his future as a manager. He decided to stay on as bench coach for another year when Farrell returned and frankly was a back-up plan in case things when south. Since things did not go south (at least not aggressively enough), Farrell kept his job and it was only a matter of time until Lovullo either got the Red Sox managerial job, or would leave for one. Now is that time. If it wasn’t the D’Backs, it’s likely another team would have come calling.

Lovullo is a calm and intelligent presence in the clubhouse and according to many reports has a great relationship with the players. Turn on almost any Red Sox broadcast in 2016 and you will see Mookie Betts in Lovullo’s ear asking him about anything and everything. Lovullo was always in the ears of younger players and I credit him, at least partially, for some of the success that the young core had in 2016. Although Lovullo leaving isn’t going to have a significant impact on the field, it will have at least some impact in the dugout. How much? We’ll find out next year.

Repercussions for Red Sox with Mike Hazen’s Departure

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Less than 2 weeks after the quick end to the Red Sox season, there have been a few major headlines regarding management. The first was president Dave Dombrowski announcing manager John Farrell and his entire staff will be welcomed back for the 2017 season just hours after the season ended so abruptly. The 2nd big piece of news involved a departure on Sunday. Red Sox GM Mike Hazen agreed to become the Arizona Diamondbacks GM yesterday, leaving the organization after 11 years. The move makes sense for Hazen and could be great for Arizona, but could leave the Red Sox in a bit of a bind.

After spending years in various scouting and development roles, Hazen spent 4 years as the Red Sox assistant GM before becoming the GM following Ben Cherington’s departure last off-season. After president Dave Dombrowski was hired, it was clear that Hazen was #2 in command despite dropping the assistant off of his title. The move to Arizona gives him a better title (Executive Vice President and GM) and gives the 40-year old more authority than he had in Boston with a basically clean slate. His departure alone isn’t a major issue, but who he might take with him to Arizona may be.

With a vacancy at manager and other front office positions to fill, Hazen will likely be taking a closer look at the people he knows well from his time in Boston. One name that continues to surface is Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who Hazen reportedly has a good relationship with. Lovullo made a managerial name for himself after stepping in for John Farrell following a lymphoma diagnosis in August of 2015. He led a bad and struggling team to a 28-20 record to finish the season and seemed to have a great ability to bring the team together and help the younger players develop. For many, he is seen as the heir apparent for Farrell if things go south to begin next season. Many, myself included, believed he would be the manager going into the 2017 season.

Hazen will likely at least interview Lovullo for the Arizona job. It’s certainly not the end of the world if Lovullo leaves for Arizona, but it removes a stable and knowledgeable voice from the dugout, which Farrell desperately needs. Lovullo and Farrell are good friends and having a sounding board for big decisions in Lovullo has been critical to limiting Farrell’s odd in-game mistakes. Also, without Lovullo it will be much harder to cut ties with Farrell in the event of a slow start to 2017, because there isn’t a clear next-in-line to take over.

Whether it is Arizona with Mike Hazen or another team who comes calling, Lovullo will likely have an opportunity to manage in 2017, making the decision to keep Farrell even more costly if he isn’t successful.

Down 0-1, David Price Must Shine

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After a heartbreaking 5-4 game one loss to the Cleveland Indians Thursday night, the Red Sox have to put this game behind them and turn right around for a late afternoon game two on Friday. John Farrell hands the ball to David Price for the most important start of the season. For those who need a reminder, let’s take a gander at Price’s career in the postseason (hint: it’s bad).

In 14 postseason appearances (8 starts) Price is 2-7 with a 5.22 ERA. His ALDS numbers are even worse (1-6 with a 5.48 ERA). That’s the guy Red Sox Nation is relying on for a strong outing opposite the Indians ace and one of the best pitchers on the AL, Corey Kluber, the owner of a 3.14 ERA and 18-9 record. Does anyone in Boston feel good about this matchup? If you do, you should get your head examined.

I’m an optimist, so this is where I say things like: on any given day, you never know, and anything can happen. Despite saying those things, in my heart I know the Red Sox are up against it in a big way. If there was ever a time for Price to endear himself to Sox fans, this is it. A gem tomorrow leading to a W would erase the memory of a handful of really bad starts this season and make his $30+ million per year salary seem slightly more justified (just slightly).

No pressure Price, it’s just a must win postseason game.

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.

Another Injury in the Red Sox Bullpen

koji uehara injury getty

After 8 innings in yesterday’s Boston Red Sox game against the San Francisco Giants the Red Sox were cruising 4-0. Rick Porcello looked strong and John Farrell went to Koji Uehara to finish the team shutout. Just 7 pitches into his appearance, Uehara grabbed his chest and was taken out of the game. We later found out Uehara strained his pectoral and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday. Uehara becomes the 4th bullpen arm to go down to injury this year.

As of Wednesday morning, we don’t know what the future will be for Koji, but with Craig Kimbrel recovering from knee surgery, Carson Smith gone for the season with Tommy John surgery, and Junichi Tazawa working through a shoulder impingement, the acquisition of Brad Ziegler is even more important than ever. After being on the team for a week he is the defacto closer and will likely play a major role going forward.

If Uehara has to miss time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Kelly make another major league appearance, although this time out of the bullpen. He has been working as a reliever in the minors for potentially this situation, however I’m not sure if the Red Sox have any confidence in him making a major league impact.

Whether Koji is on the shelf for a while or not, the Red Sox need to fight through this period of injury and hopefully get Tazawa back soon and Kimbrel back in August. Once everyone is healthy, the Red Sox could have a strong back end of the bullpen come September.

Kimbrel Implodes in Red Sox Loss

image

Aren’t the Red Sox supposed to be a stats driven organization? A team that thinks about match ups and numbers sometimes to a fault? Apparently John Farrell didn’t get the memo and for the 14th time this season used Craig Kimbrel in a non-save situation. In those 14 appearances he has a 6.75 ERA and has allowed 10 runs, 12 hits and 10 walks. I would rather have almost anyone else on the mound in that situation, but I guess numbers aren’t that important to Farrell.

I don’t want to hear the post game bullshit: ‘Kimbrel hasn’t pitched since Friday’ or ‘It’s standard procedure to use the closer there’ or ‘Kimbrel needs to pitch better than that’. Yes Kimbrel hasn’t pitched since Friday, yes it is common to use a closer in that situation and yes Kimbrel needs to pitch better, but if your closer sucks in non-save situations, you don’t put him in the game during those situations, it’s as simple as that. Kimbrel should be better, but he’s not, so this decision is on Farrell.

Who knows what happens if Kimbrel stays in the ‘pen, but a 3-2 game with David Ortiz leading off the 9th inning would have been more fun to watch than Big Papi leading off the 9th inning down 7-2. At least then the Red Sox would have had a chance for a W.

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