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: mookie betts (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mookie Betts for AL MVP?

Photo by Brian Phair

Photo by Brian Phair

Anyone who has watched Mookie Betts play since his MLB debut in 2014 knows that he has the potential to be a special player. His speed in the field and on the bases, his defensive prowess, and his ability to handle a bat with very fast hands make him a star in the making. This season he has continued to improve and has quickly worked himself into serious consideration for AL MVP with just 6 weeks left in the season.

Betts has a .313 average with 26 HRs, 84 RBIs, 34 doubles, and 18 stolen bases (as of 8/16), which is incredible for a leadoff hitter (primarily). He ranks in the top 5 in the AL in batting average (2nd), doubles (2nd), triples (4th), runs scored (3rd), and slugging % (4th) and in the top 10 in stolen bases (6th), singles (9th), and HRs (10th). Not too shabby for a 5’9″ 180lb player in just his 2nd full year in the big-leagues.

To add to his offensive numbers, in 113 games played in the outfield, Betts has just 1 error (.996 fielding percentage) and 9 outfield assists. The most impressive thing regarding Betts’ defense? Until 2014, he had never played a professional inning in the outfield. Before being called up to the majors he had played just 45 games in centerfield in the minors in 2014.

If the season were to end now, I believe Mookie Betts would finish 2nd to Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros in the AL MVP voting. Altuve is having in other-worldly season, hitting .362 with 19 HRs and 73 RBIs so far and is deserving of the honor, but Betts is nipping at his heals. If Altuve’s average dips over the last 6 weeks of the season and Betts continues to put on a show, the AL MVP race could tighten quite a bit and Betts could find himself with some new hardware.

Benintendi Fever Reaches the Big Leagues

Joel Page/Portland Press Herald

Joel Page/Portland Press Herald

Less than a day after being the subject of many trade talks, Red Sox top prospect Andrew Benintendi is making the big jump from AA Portland to the majors, skipping AAA Pawtucket. The Red Sox hope he will provide some stability in left field once he gets comfortable, which if his short history is any indicator, should take about 2-3 weeks. Is Benintendi ready for the big time? It certainly feels that way.

He began the season as a 21-year old in advanced A Salem and in 34 games, hit .341 and drove in 32 runs while playing a strong outfield defense. After such success in A, Benintendi made the toughest jump in the minor leagues from A to AA. In his 63 games at AA Portland he hit .295 with 8 HRs and drove in 44 runs. He had 70 hits over that span and has continued to be an above average defender, spending time in left field in anticipation of this move. It did take him a few weeks to adjust to AA pitching, but after the adjustment, he has been crushing it.

Benintendi likely won’t play until Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners, but the lefty will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself, because honestly, why else would you call him up? He’s not going to play once a week, he should get at least a split of the left field playing time, if not majority, and perhaps get a start in center or right to spell Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts as well. He still has plenty of developing to do, but now he can do it alongside 2 other young superstars in the making. I know it’s jumping ahead, but how unbelievable could the Red Sox outfield be if Benintendi lives up to expectations? Maybe the best ever.

An interesting point of trivia: The last player to make the jump to the major leagues by skipping AAA…Jackie Bradley Jr.

Most Important Win of the Season for the Red Sox

pedroia bogaerts celebrate

For most fans, Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would be the first game of the series they could watch start to finish. With the Red Sox traveling on the west coast, the first 3 games of the series began at either 9 or 10 pm on the east coast, resulting in games ending just too late. The Sunday 4pm start time was a treat, but most of the game wasn’t. Missed opportunities (8 left on base) and a lack of timely hitting put the Red Sox in a 3-0 hole going into the bottom of the 9th, a situation the team has not been able to overcome all year…until yesterday.

With their back firmly against the wall and a bad loss staring them in the face, the Red Sox showed some life for the first time in a while. After a Jackie Bradley Jr. walk and an Aaron Hill single, the Red Sox had something going. Then, the collective hearts sank when Ryan Hanigan and Brock Holt struck out back to back. It was up to Mookie Betts, who with 2 outs in the 9th, down 3 runs, finally put the Red Sox on the board with a line-drive base hit into right field. It was then all on the shoulders of Dustin Pedroia, who had a sombrero to that point in the game (3 Ks). With one swing of the bat, the Red Sox were lifted off the mat and brought back to life. A 417 ft HR to center field gave the Red Sox their first lead of the game and it would stick for a huge W.

That HR is the biggest hit of the 2016 season, hands down. If Pedroia makes the final out, the Red Sox fall to .500 on the road this season, 2.5 games back in 3rd place in the AL East and walk away losing 3 out of 4 against the Angels. Instead, they are 23-21 on the road, are just 1.5 games back in the division and have a thrilling series split to carry them to Seattle. The win prevents them from losing 6 of their last 7 (although losing 5 of their last 7 isn’t good, it’s better) and hopefully gives them some momentum moving forward and into Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Does that hit push Dave Dombrowski to make a big move on Monday and really believe in this team? I don’t know, but I promise you it didn’t hurt.

Red Sox Offense on Historic Pace

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Most of the attention on this year’s Red Sox team has been around the struggles associated with the pitching staff and for good reason. There are many holes in the pitching staff and if the Red Sox want to contend this year, they need to improve on the mound, but what is being overlooked in 2016 is the Red Sox offense. As a team, the Red Sox are on pace to have one of the best offensive seasons in the history of the franchise.

Through 84 games, the Red Sox offense leads the MLB in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS. They are the best offensive team in baseball by far, leading in most offensive categories by a fairly wide margin. Seven members of the Red Sox starting lineup are hitting over .285 (Sandy Leon .477, David Ortiz .337, Xander Bogaerts .332, Dustin Pedroia .305, Mookie Betts .299, Jackie Bradley Jr. .293, and Hanley Ramirez .287)  and six players have 48 or more RBI with 3 games left before the all-star break (David Ortiz 69, Mookie Betts 58, Jackie Bradley Jr. 54, Xander Bogaerts 52, Travis Shaw 48, and Hanley Ramirez 48. Since the team has been so offensively dominant, I wanted to see historically where they would be if the pace continued in the 2nd half of the season.

Boston Red Sox All-Time Rankings for 2016 team (116 years)
(if current pace continues)

3rd best in batting average (.292)

2nd in slugging percentage (.476)

1st in doubles all time (411)

1st in hits (1689)

5th in runs (918)

9th in runs/game (5.67)

5th in RBIs (874)

3rd in OPS (.836)

It’s hard to argue that the 2016 team wouldn’t be the best or at least among the top few best offensive seasons in the history of the franchise if the pace were to continue. I would imagine the pace would drop off slightly in the 2nd half of the season, but the lineup is so strong that I can’t imagine there will be many prolonged team slumps leading to an extreme drop. Now if only the pitching could improve…

Six All-Stars for 3rd Place Red Sox

Image from Fan World

Image from Fan World

Before another tough loss for the Red Sox on Tuesday night that dropped the Red Sox to 3rd place in the AL East, the 2016 All-Star rosters were announced. The Red Sox headlined the American League squad with 6 selections and the potential for a 7th (Dustin Pedroia is one of 5 players in the Final Vote). This is exciting news for the players and as a Red Sox fan, it will be enjoyable to watch them participate in all-star festivities, but do the Red Sox really deserve 6 or 7 all-stars?

The 3 of the 6 Red Sox players selected were no brainers: David OrtizXander Bogaerts and Steven Wright. Ortiz and Bogaerts are ranked 3rd and 5th respectively in all of baseball in batting average and it’s hard to argue they both aren’t the best player at their respective position in the AL, if not all of baseball (definitely for Ortiz with no DH in the NL). Wright has been stellar this season for the Red Sox. In 16 starts he has the 2nd best ERA in the AL (2.42) and has held opponents to a .217 batting average against. He will have a real shot at getting the nod to start for the AL on July 12th.

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