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: pedro martinez

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.

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.

Drew Pomeranz Bolsters Red Sox Starting Rotation

Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

On the final day of the all-star break Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski finally addressed the biggest hole in the roster: starting pitching. In a one-for-one trade, the Red Sox let go of a top pitching prospect 18-year old Anderson Espinoza for lefty Drew Pomeranz. Espinoza was the 15th highest ranked prospect according to Baseball America’s mid-season rankings and was drawing comparisons to Pedro Martinez. Pomeranz on the other hand has had a very strong season with the San Diego Padres with an 8-7 record and a fantastic 2.47 ERA and 10.1 K/9 ratio in a career-high 102 innings pitched.

At 27 years old, Pomeranz in a great investment for the Red Sox, but not without some serious concern. Despite incredible numbers against the AL East, .190 opponent batting average and 46 Ks in 16 games, the sample size is very small. I always get a little weary of pitchers with amazing ERAs in the NL coming to the AL East, because pitchers tend to look much less dominant when facing strong lineups every time out and ERAs tend to cimb. Another concern is his workload. He has already eclipsed his career high in innings pitched in the first half of 2016, so it will be interesting to monitor how he handles more and more work down the stretch. It’s a big unknown.

That being said, I am always a fan of giving up a very young prospect for a fairly young established major-leaguer. This move shows me that Dombrowski really is committed to winning now. Pomeranz has proven he can pitch well at the highest level and although Espinoza is drawing some incredible comparisons, he is 18 years old pitching in A ball and is 5 years away from having a direct impact on the big leagues, if he ever gets there. The Padres are taking on future risk, while the Red Sox could potentially improve there team tomorrow (or Wednesday when Pomeranz makes his debut).

With any trade, only time will tell who is the real “winner”, but I like this move for the Red Sox. I don’t think Pomeranz is the answer to all pitching woes, but he certainly gives the team a hopefully reliable starter every 5 days and help the team push towards the postseason. I have a feeling Dombrowski isn’t done yet, with 2 weeks remaining until the trade deadline.

Steven Wright ’16 vs Pedro Martinez ’00

Steven Wright has had a fantastic 2016 season thus far and is at, or near, the top of the AL in most pitching categories. His 2.22 ERA ranks 2nd in the AL and got me thinking about the last time a Red Sox starter posted an ERA under 2.30 for a season*. Not surprisingly, Pedro Martinez was the last starter to finish a full season with an ERA under 2.30 and he did it 4 out of 5 years from 1999 to 2003. How do the two pitchers compare (over 1 season, not a career)?

For the sake of comparison, I looked at Pedro’s 2000 season, arguably one of the best pitching performances in recent baseball history and Wright’s 2016 numbers, projected out for the full season. Disclaimer: I’m not trying to say Steven Wright is as good as Pedro or will have half the career Pedro had, because that would be moronic. I don’t expect Wright to continue his torrid early season pace throughout the entire season, but what if he does?

Now for those of you who hate numbers or charts, let me summarize. If Wright were to remain on his current pace through 13 starts, he would end the season as the best pitcher in the AL and have a legitimate Cy Young case. He would have one of the best seasons in recent history for the Red Sox, but, spoiler alert, he would not upend Pedro even at this pace. In fairness to Wright and every other pitcher who has, and will, don the Red Sox uniform, it’s likely no one will ever have a better season than 2000 Pedro given how baseball has changed over the last 15+ years, not to mention a better 5-year span.

All of these numbers are just to say: Steven Wright is more than just a nice storyline. He is having a historic season thus far. As with any pitcher, but especially a knuckleballer, it could all fall apart the next time he toes the rubber, but for now, Wright is a serious contender for the best pitcher in the AL.

Footnotes:
*Buchholz had a 1.74 ERA in 2013, but he only pitched in 16 games.
+2016 Projected numbers are based on 32-33 starts this season, keeping the ERA and hits/9 IP steady, and increasing his HR/9 IP slightly.
++2016 Projected rank is based on where Wright would have ranked in the AL for the 2015 season.