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.

RIP 2018 Patriots Season

Photo from Orlando Sentinel

It’s an unfamiliar word for football fans in New England: failure. After losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, an already mediocre season (by Patriots standards) got worse and the playoff picture became even more concerning. The yearly expectation of Super Bowl or bust puts the stakes at almost impossible heights in New England, but year in and year out the Patriots defy the odds and find a way to make a serious run at a title. We, the fans, are conditioned to expect miraculous comebacks and never count the team out regardless of scenario. I would be willing to bet most of Patriot nation was watching the final drive of the Steelers game on Sunday expecting Brady to take the team down the field in less than 3 mins and score a TD to tie the game. I know I was. Unfortunately, this year is different for the Pats, and we should adjust our expectations now to avoid (more) disappointment later.

There is a laundry list of things that separate this year’s team from previous incarnations of Belichick’s squad, but the underlying theme is the same in all of them: focus and discipline.

The one thing that has always separated Bill Belichick-run teams from everyone else in football has been fundamentally sound, error-free football. Belichick’s teams rarely shoot themselves in the foot and often avoid damaging penalties at inopportune times. Enter the 2018 Patriots who don’t follow any of the usual markers of the Belichick reign. Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh is the freshest and most glaring example of change in 2018. The officials were (admittedly) calling the game tighter than normal, leading to more penalties, yet the worst yellow flags for the Pats were self-inflicted and mostly pre-snap. The Pats had a total of 14 penalties costing them 106 yards, 5 were pre-snap (4 false starts and 1 delay of game). Give Pittsburgh fans credit, the stadium was rocking in the 4th quarter, but rarely do you see a Belichick coached team have 2 terrible false start penalties in a close game in the 4th quarter, even on the road. It’s all about mental focus.

One of the more telling stats about focus and discipline is the team’s 3-5 road record. Mentally fragile or weak teams let road environments get in their heads and force them off their game. Belichick prides himself in preparation, but this year the team seems wholly unprepared on the road (see false starts in yesterday’s 4th quarter and the Miami miracle – hell, the entire Miami game). When the going gets tough and the game gets tight on the road, the Pats seem to tighten-up and make the type of mistakes we expect to see from a Hue Jackson coached team.

On the offensive-side of the ball, the Pats have been wildly inconsistent. It comes down to the receivers. One of the most talked about stories this season has been the apparent rapid decline of Rob Gronkowski, whether because his body has been worn down over the years or because he is currently injured. He’s made a nice catch here and there, but mostly has been an invisible piece of the offense. Another piece for me appears to be effort from the other receivers. On paper, Edelman is having a normal season by his standards, but the last few weeks he’s failed the eye-test at times with some critical dropped passes that he would normally catch. Josh Gordon gets a lot of attention for a big, spectacular catch here and there, but overall he has a catch percentage of 58.8%, which is not what you want to see out of one of your top receivers who has Brady as his QB. I think all three receivers are suffering from a lack of focus at times during games.

When analyzing the team, the QB needs to get some attention. Brady overall is having an fairly normal year by his standards, but has been picked off 9 times already, tied for the most in a season for him since 2013 with 2 games remaining. One major piece to consider is that Brady is being put in a position to force more throws this year because the defense can’t keep the opponent off the scoreboard. It doesn’t excuse all the mistakes, like the awful INT in Sunday’s Pittsburgh game (100% on Brady), but does account for the uptick of risk in his game.

The defense has also been horribly inconsistent this year. Holding the high-powered Steeler offense to 17 points on Sunday was one of their better performances of the year. The weapons in the passing game for Pittsburgh are legit, so allowing more rushing yards to limit the passing game is a smart game plan. Previous games have resulted in an unusually high amount of blown coverages and missed tackles leading to massive days for their opponents. Stopping the run, a Belichick (Patricia) staple, has been beyond a struggle in 2018. In 8 of their 14 games this season the Pats have allowed 100+ rushing yards, including 5 games allowing 150+ yards on the ground. For perspective, the Pats allowed 3 games with 150+ rushing yards in 2017, 1 in 2016, and 2 in 2015 (regular season only). In fact, you have to go back to 2013 for the last time the Pats gave up 5 or more games of 150+ rushing yards and there are still 2 games remaining in 2018.


Historically, Belichick-coached teams turn it on in the 2nd half of the season, peaking in December leading into the playoffs. We have come to expect early season sloppiness trusting that things turn around later in the season. So far in December 2018 the Pats are 1-2, with two crucial, ugly losses. These two losses you might expect in September, not in the stretch run when the playoffs and a bye are at stake. They moved from fighting for the #1 seed to hanging on to the #3.

The struggles are clear, but why? Did the Patriots not bring in enough talent to compete? Are players not performing up to expectation? Is the loss of Matt Patricia more important than previously thought? I think the answer is yes to all, at least in part. The Pats have talent on both sides of the ball, but it isn’t enough. Their defense is easy to exploit by opposing offenses and their offense is forced to come-from-behind and play well outside their comfort zone most weeks.  Now slipping to the #3 playoff spot forces the Pats to play on Wild Card weekend and likely go on the road for the Divisional round if they are lucky enough to get a win at all. 

There’s always a chance for a strong run in the postseason with Brady and Belichick, we’re conditioned to always believe, but at this point, a deep run in 2018 would take a true miracle.

Do I Have to Like David Price Now?

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The short answer is of course not, but my feelings on Price have certainly changed for the better. For those interested in what specifically has changed my mind, keep reading, if not, thanks for playing and come back anytime…

Ok, now that they are gone, let me take you through my opinion on David Price and how it has changed (or not) over the last 2+ months.

Most of us would agree that Price showed us something we haven’t seen over his previous 2 years in a Red Sox uniform this October: Grit and Balls. He stepped on the mound and pitched his heart out late in the postseason and was a pivotal reason the Red Sox were 2018 World Series Champions (seriously can’t type that phrase enough). He fought through adversity and stepped up in a big way. In those same spots in the past, he has shriveled and found every excuse in the book to justify failure (i.e. my hands weren’t warm enough to go out and play, I played too much Fortnite and now have carpal tunnel). With Chris Sale not 100%, the Red Sox desperately needed others to step up in the rotation and Price took that to heart. He performed at the highest level when it counted the most; an unfamiliar refrain when describing Price.

Beyond the grit, Price showed me that he knows how to be a loyal teammate. He appeared to be an important voice in the clubhouse for the other pitchers on the staff and stood by others side when they needed him most. Specifically, he stayed with Nathan Eovaldi after his epic, damn near heroic, performance in game 3 of the World Series. Into the wee hours of the night, he remained by his side and showed the whole world what it means to support your teammates. Some would argue he knew cameras would follow Eovaldi and wanted to get the attention (the thought has crossed my mind once or twice), but I still respect Price for the act of selflessness after what was a mentally and physically exhausting game. Everyone just wanted to go home and rest, but Price felt compelled to stay.

Words I honestly never thought I would type: I respect David Price. He earned my respect by mostly keeping his mouth shut and pitching, which is what I have been hoping he would do for the better part of 3 years now. Price pitched really well when the season was on the line and his teammates needed him to step up. Respect is earned or lost over time and his vault was damn near empty before late October until he put it in high gear and pushed the Red Sox past the finish line. His willingness to come out of the bullpen on short rest and contribute in whatever way possible earned my respect.

On the flipside, every time he opens his mouth, even in victory, he sounds like a conceited dick. He can’t go 2 minutes without sounding like either a)he doesn’t care, or b)he is completely void of joy. Even when the words coming out of his mouth are what you want and expect from someone in that position, he sounds like he’s reading off a cue-card (not a well written one mind you). After re-watching this video over and over, the player he most reminds me of is J.D. Drew. Similarly, Drew struggled most of his time in Boston, but had a big moment or two in the postseason. Mr. Personality.

Ultimately, everyone needs to make their own assessment on Price, but he earned a significant amount of respect in my book and my opinion on him has dramatically improved (to be fair, it was so damn low before that any improvement is significant). At this moment, I’m happy Price is a member of the Boston Red Sox and look forward to seeing what next year will bring, but respect and likability is fleeting. Especially for Price.

The Fall of Dustin Pedroia

Photo Credit: Brian Phair

One of the more difficult things to watch with the 2018 Boston Red Sox was the struggle of Dustin Pedroia to fight through knee issues and get on the field. In October 2017, Pedroia underwent a cartilage restoration procedure on his left knee after being bothered by the issue during the entire 2017 season. The expectation when he had surgery was that Pedroia would spend 7 months recovering, and given the timeline, would miss the first 2 months of the 2018 season. Most hoped, and expected, Pedroia would be back to throwing his body around the infield at Fenway Park at some point during the season. To much excitement, Pedroia did return to the Red Sox lineup on May 26th, but unfortunately, he played in just 3 games before undergoing another arthoscopic procedure in July and then being shut down for the remainder of the 2018 campaign officially in September.

Pedroia’s value to the Red Sox organization since his first full year in 2007 is almost immeasurable. His attitude, grit, and leadership helped lead the team to 3 World Series Championships (2007, 2013, and 2018), even when dealing with injuries and sitting on the bench. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind and challenge teammates, but most of his leadership has come by example. When on the field, he gives 100% effort at all times, which is admirable, but also some of the reason he is currently struggling to return from his knee injury. His face is synonymous with the Red Sox brand over the past decade.

There are still a lot of questions around whether Pedroia will be ready for opening day in 2019, and personally, I question whether he returns to the field again at all. If the Peddy era isn’t over yet, then it’s pretty damn close to the end. We are not likely to see the everyday player we once did, even if he does return, and any contributions on the field at this point are a bonus. It’s the end of an era, even if the word retirement isn’t in his vocabulary.


When looking at Pedroia’s place in Red Sox history, it’s a fascinating and challenging one. For those statheads who like the WAR metric, Pedroia has the 10th highest WAR of any player in Red Sox history (52.1), just behind his friend and teammate, David Ortiz (52.7). That puts him in an elite category or former Red Sox greats, ahead of Bobby Doerr, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, and Luis Tiant (among dozens of others). I know WAR isn’t the end-all, be-all stat, but there is no such thing as one stat that tells an entire story.

For those who don’t believe in WAR, or at least question it’s importance in the game, here are a few other interesting Pedroia numbers. Pedroia’s 1,803 hits rank 8th and his 921 runs scored rank 10th all time in franchise history. He ranks 9th in at-bats (6,011), 9th in plate appearances (6,756) and 8th in total bases (2,647). Amazingly, Pedroia ranks 6th in doubles (394) and 6th in stolen bases (138) in franchise history (although Mookie Betts is just 28 stolen bases behind Peddy). If he was to retire today, Pedroia’s career batting average would be exactly .300, which means relatively little, but is a fun fact.

While Pedroia is not likely a National Baseball Hall of Famer, he should be a Red Sox Hall of Famer. When comparing his numbers to the greatest to put on the Red Sox uniform, his achievements are incredible and in some cases, surprising. We take for granted his impact because he played in the shadows of big power hitters like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and with important figures like the Captain, Jason Varitek, but he can not be overlooked.

Let’s hope there is more to the Pedroia story and he builds on his legacy over the next few years, but I’m not holding my breath. If this is the end for Peddy, then he can walk away from the game with his head held high. Rookie of the Year, MVP, 4x Gold Glove Winner, 4x All-Star, Silver Slugger Award Winner, and 3x World Series Champion. That’s one hell of a career. 

*All stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com.

2019 is Critical for Rafael Devers

AP Photo/John Minchillo

The 2018 season was amazing for the Boston Red Sox. A franchise record 108 regular-season wins, wins against the 100+ win New York Yankees and Houston Astros in the ALDS and ALCS respectively, and a convincing World Series victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games. Everyone associated with the team felt great rolling into the off-season, but it’s now mid-December and 2019 has started to come into focus. The core components of the team are mostly returning with visions of back-to-back titles, but some questions still remain. One of the biggest questions is what to expect from the 3rd base spot.

After a breakout showing during the 2nd half of 2017, Rafael Devers appeared to be the next up-and-coming young star in the Red Sox lineup. His much talked about HR off of Aroldis Chapman on August 13, 2017 brought national attention to the young 3rd baseman. He showed his tremendous power and clutch gene by hitting a 103-mph pitch for an opposite-field, game-tying HR. The raw power and talent was apparent and most, myself included, figured his early success showed he was only scratching the surface of what he could really accomplish. Many figured that after a full spring training and a spot on the opening day roster in 2018, Devers would come into the year confident and ready to roll. He started the year off strong, but then struggled to maintain success as pitchers figured him out.

On April 19th, 17 games into the season, Devers was hitting an even .300 with 3 HRs and 17 RBIs. Pretty damn good for a 21-year old who hadn’t even reached 300 career plate appearances yet. Unfortunately, things began to unravel after that point. He hit just .171 during the remainder of April with 1 HR and followed it up with a .212 May with 5 HRs and just 7 RBIs. From May 15th through the end of the regular season, Devers appeared in 81 games and hit just .231. He had 3 stints on the DL with shoulder and hamstring issues which certainly slowed him down, but even when healthy, he looked over-matched and confused much of the time at the plate and in the field. All young players struggle at times, but this was a prolonged streak of mediocrity that was concerning.

Devers rebounded a bit in the postseason, hitting .294 in 11 games, but his power was mostly absent (1 HR). Instead of being a feared middle-of-the-lineup hitter, he was a decent bottom 3rd type of player with the ability to get on base occasionally (he hit 5th in the first 2 games of the postseason, then 6th, 7th, or 8th in the other 9 games). It was clear his stock had fallen and his defensive struggles were even more amplified with his cold bat. He suddenly became more of a platoon player than an everyday lineup mainstay.


After a challenging season, 2019 is a make-or-break year for the young 3rd baseman. If he struggles for a 2nd year in a row, the Red Sox may need to consider moving on from the young star and trying to find stability with someone else. The good news: Devers appears to understand the situation he’s in and has re-committed himself early in the offseason to be in better shape and ready for opening day. 

On Wednesday, many reports out of the winter meetings were that Devers had hired a nutritionist and personal trainer this offseason to improve his conditioning in the Dominican Republic. This is great news, because the 237lb 3rd baseman looked out of shape at times in 2018 and had multiple injury-related issues. Alex Cora told the media that Assistant GM Eddie Romero went to visit Devers in the Dominican and he looked great. While you can never really believe what the manager says about a player, the fact that Devers hired professionals to help him get in shape this early in the offseason is a great sign.

I still believe Devers is the Red Sox 3rd baseman of the future and a potentially scary middle-of-the-lineup bat going forward, but am a bit more cautious than a year ago. Will 2019 be a breakout season for the 22-year old they call “carita” (babyface)? Let’s hope so.

Top 4 Red Sox Players to Watch in Spring Training

Michael Chavis

Salem Red Sox

The long winter is over and the Red Sox are back on the field in Fort Myers getting ready for (hopefully) a strong 2018 season. Spring Training provides a great opportunity for fans to see current Red Sox players and future prospects on the field together. On the flip side, it can be very difficult to watch a full game over the next month when by the 5th inning most of the players on the field are unfamiliar. In an effort to help everyone focus on just a few names and storylines, here are some prospects (and perhaps a familiar name or two) to watch for during Spring Training.

Michael Chavis

A familiar name to those in the know, Chavis the the #2 prospect in the Red Sox system. The 22-year old 3rd baseman has struggled a bit defensively, but has offensive potential for days. He appears to be on a path to play every day in the big leagues, especially if he can work on his defense. Since the Red Sox have previous #2 ranked prospect Rafael Devers as their 3rd baseman, the team is planning to work Chavis at 1st base this Spring to see if that’s a future role for him in the big leagues. Since his defense isn’t great at 3rd and his bat is really his best quality, there isn’t much risk in trying him at 1st.

Blake Swihart

This season feels make or break for Swihart. After getting a good look in the majors in 2015 (84 games), he hasn’t been able to stay in the big leagues because of injuries and struggles (25 games in 16 and 17). Now that Swihart is healthy and has a full Spring Training to get reps, the catcher/outfielder/first baseman is looking to cement his roster spot this Spring. He is now out of minor-league options, so will likely be on the opening day roster as a bench bat. The Red Sox have also toyed with the idea of trying Swihart in the infield (other than 1st), making him a super-utility player off the bench. Swihart has offensive potential and could be a nice depth piece for this team, but if he struggles this Spring, he may be looking for a new club in a month or two.

Jalen Beeks

Another member of the Red Sox 2014 draft class, Beeks got the nod against the Northeastern Huskies in the Spring Training opener. Beeks was the Red Sox minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2017, posting a strong 11-8 record, 3.29 ERA, and .224 batting average against in 26 starts (145 innings). The lefty was teammates with Andrew Benintendi at the University of Arkansas and now at 24 years old, is starting to gain some experience that should help him become more consistent. He will start 2018 in AAA Pawtucket and on the 40-man roster, making him a potential call-up option in the event of injury to an MLB starter. He’s listed as the #10 prospect in the system, but appears to be getting closer to the doorstep.

Sam Travis

I’m a broken record when it comes to Travis: I think he has the potential to be the everyday 1st baseman in the majors (see my spotlight before his MLB debut). Every time I watch Travis swing the bat, I see his extra-base power potential and really want to see him get the chance to play everyday in the big leagues. He plays hard and grinds with max effort all the time. After a devastating ACL injury sidelined him in 2016 when it looked like he was on the brink of getting the call, Travis missed 10 months and finally came back to play in 82 games in AAA Pawtucket and 23 with the Red Sox in 2017. The #5 prospect now has the chance to enter Spring Training healthy and start on an even playing field with everyone else. He’ll likely see a lot of playing time as the coaching staff gets a good long look at him. I don’t think there is room for him on the MLB roster to start the season, but he should be waiting by the phone in case of injury.

Honorable Mention – J.D. Martinez

If for nothing else but drama, Martinez is my honorable mention. A major signing happening this late is highly unusual and will put J.D. at least a few days behind the rest of his teammates. The fact that he hadn’t officially be introduced as of writing this is a bit concerning, because it is slowing down his acclimation into his new environment. He doesn’t need a long Spring to get ready, most hitters don’t, but don’t underestimate the importance of getting settled and bonding with new teammates before the daily grind of the regular season kicks in.  All eyes will be J.D. once (if) his contract is officially announced.

MLB Flops on Pace-of-Play Rule Changes

AP Photo/John Raoux

Over the past decade, the average time to complete a 9-inning game in the MLB has risen by 15 minutes (2:50 to 3:05). If you are a die-hard fan and watch every regular season game for your favorite team, that amounts to an extra 2,430 minutes per season (40.5 hours) throughout the season. In a technology and social media driven world, slowing down an already slow sport is a recipe for failure short and long-term, especially among the younger generations or fans. Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner, is aware of this problem and has been working this off-season to create and implement rule changes for the upcoming season in order to speed up the game.

On Monday, the MLB announced these new pace-of-play rule changes for the 2018 season and to say they were underwhelming would be too generous. For all the talk and ideas being thrown around this off-season, from bullpen carts to pitch clocks, the actual changes are a joke and will likely amount to little or no overall change in the length of games. Let’s take a look at the new rules and how/if they will/can be enforced.

Mound visits

Each team will be limited to six per nine innings. Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound will count as a mound visit, except if there is a pitching change. Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on an injury or potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have discretion to grant a visit at the catcher’s request if he believes there has been a cross-up between the pitcher and catcher. Teams will receive an additional visit for every extra inning played.

I don’t have any hard scientific evidence to prove my point, but I can’t see this rule saving more than 30 seconds to a minute per game. Let’s dig in just a little… As a manager, most of my mound visits are pitching changes, which don’t count against my total: no change. Pitching coaches commonly visit the mound following a pinch-hitter being announced, which are excluded from the 6 visit limit: no change. Pitching coaches and trainers often visit the mound to check on a pitcher if there is believed to be a potential injury, which are also excluded: no change. So essentially, this maybe eliminates 1 or 2 catcher visits to the mound per game, each being 30 seconds total.

The best part of this rule is the enforcement. It’s the umpire’s discretion to allow a visit or not after a team has reached their 6 max and can do anything, up to ejecting the player, if the rule is violated. Vague much? If you are going to have a rule, set a real and legitimate consequence, like having to replace the pitcher or an automatic ball added to the count. The best part about a vague enforcement policy? More time will be spent arguing over if there were actually 6 mound visits and in turn, will likely negate any time advantage, or even lengthen the game.

Between-inning breaks

As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a timer will count down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 in nationally televised games and from 2:55 for tiebreaker and postseason games. The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. A pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above. The timer will start on the last out of the inning, unless the pitcher is on base, on deck or at bat, in which case the timer shall begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If the final out of the inning is subject to replay, the timer begins when the umpire signals the out.

Another gem. “As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a time will count down between innings…” So that remains the same, no change. The change is that a pitcher has to throw their last warm-up pitch before 20 seconds left on the clock, isn’t guaranteed 8 warm-up pitches, and has to throw the didst pitch of the inning with 5 seconds left on the clock. REALLY? That’s the extent of the rule change to “speed up the game.” If every half an inning and during pitching changes this actually speeds up warm-ups, it saves between 5-10 seconds, which frankly I think is incredibly generous. This saves a total of 2 minutes per game, assuming pitchers were all delaying the game previously. Beyond that, and I feel like a broken record here, what is the enforcement if a pitcher disregards the clock? Another thrilling solution with concrete consequences.

Instant replay

All club video review rooms will now receive direct slow-motion camera angles in order to speed up challenges and the resulting review. New phone lines will connect the rooms to the dugout and will be monitored to prevent their use for sign stealing.

Is this actually a new rule? The MLB didn’t have slow-motion replay before this year? The MLB didn’t have control over their phone lines to the replay office before now? I honestly don’t know what to do with this. Needless to say, this saves no time and in no way speeds up the game.


Upon review, these new rule changes are a absolute joke. If the MLB was going to unilaterally implement new pace-of-play rules this year, then they should have actually implemented things that save time throughout the game. By my calculations, in the most ideal of settings and without any discussion or arguments over the enforcement of these new rules (which we know will happen), the MLB has saved 2-3 minutes off the 3 hour and 5 minute pace from 2017, which was 4 and a half minutes longer than 2016. So essentially, the MLB implemented sweeping rule changes that likely won’t even return the game to pre-2017 speed. Nothing to see here.

Reversing the Narrative on David Price

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season was one to forget for Red Sox starter David Price, on and off the field. He started the year on the DL with elbow issues, not making his first start until the end of May. Then, after 11 starts, at the end of July, went back on the DL until mid-September when he returned as a reliever for the stretch run. In his 16 appearances in the regular season, Price had a 3.38 ERA with 76 Ks in 74.2 innings pitched and had 2 solid relief appearances in the postseason against Houston. Unfortunately for the already vilified Price, his injury wasn’t even the biggest negative story of 2017.

As everyone knows at this point, David Price confronted Red Sox broadcaster Dennis Eckersley on the team plane following a benign comment he made during the broadcast of a game against the Minnesota Twins about Eduardo Rodriguez. I’m not going to rehash the incident, because frankly, it was middle-school level dumb, and once again in his short tenure with the Red Sox, Price shined a negative light on himself. If he wasn’t already hated among Red Sox fans, berating a well-liked, Hall of Fame pitcher certainly didn’t help his image. Add to that his earlier confrontation with a reporter at Yankee Stadium in June and things were just out of control for him.

Now looking towards the 2018 season, there are some positive reports being thrown out there in what appears to be an attempt to reverse the narrative on Price. He faced the media early in an attempt to clear the air and move on from his struggles in 2017 by acknowledging his role in the incident (sort of) and his overall attitude.

I could’ve handled it better last year, absolutely. But I didn’t, and I’ve moved on. I feel like I’ve always been one to lead with my actions, and I didn’t do that very well last year. I know that and understand that, and I look forward to getting back and being that faucet and not being a drain. -David Price

He reportedly reached out to recently signed slugger J.D. Martinez in an effort to convince him to come to Boston and whether he had an impact on J.D.’s decision or not, appears to be invested in the 2018 Red Sox and his role on the team. At this point, he is a veteran who needs to recognize his impact on those around him in the clubhouse.

What’s often lost in all the off-the-field crap and injuries is that David Price is a 5-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner. That’s the reason the Red Sox signed him to a massive $30+ million a year contract. He has the ability, even at 32, to impact the Red Sox in a significant way in 2018 if he stays healthy and has the right attitude. If he keeps his mouth shut and pitches to his ability on the mound, even Price has the chance for redemption. I’m just not sure he can make it through the year without becoming an unwelcome distraction once again.

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.

Beginning of the Sam Travis Experiment

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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.

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