Just How Good Have the Red Sox Been This Season?

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Before I get into the blog, I just wanted to apologize for the lack of content lately. My schedule has been absolutely STUFFED, plus there hasn’t been a ton of major news worth blogging about. But I feel that since it’s been a week since my last blog, I figured I’d pull something out just to keep things going.

So how ’bout them Red Sox, eh? After destroying the Royals 15-4 despite David Price not having his good stuff, they now carry a record of 61-29 through 90 games, a winning percentage of .678. If the Red Sox kept this pace, they’d finish with a record of approximately 110-52, which would surpass the previous franchise record of 105-47 in 1912 (their second World Series-winning team, first time being known as the “Red Sox”). In fact, the Red Sox have not won 100 games in a season since 1946, when they lost the World Series in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals when Johnny Pesky infamously “held the ball.” Here are some interesting tidbits about the Red Sox’ historically strong first half.

-If the Red Sox keep this pace and do reach the 110-win threshold, it would obliterate the previous record for rookie manager success, as Alex Cora’s 110-win season would be a record for rookie managers (unfortunately I am having a very difficult time finding the actual record for rookie managers so I couldn’t tell you how much Cora would hold the record by, but I’m assuming 110 would be the record. The highest I’ve been able to find is Ken Macha’s 96 in 2003 with the A’s). Cora’s .678 winning percentage would make him the winningest manager of the modern era for managers that lasted at least 1 seasonĀ  (George Wright went 59-25 in his lone season as a manager in 1879 for a .702 winning percentage, however Cora has already managed more games than that dude).

-Mookie Betts is currently leading the majors in batting average (.343), slugging (.672), and OPS (1.112) and is third in the Majors in WAR at 5.2 and that’s even with missing 21 games due to injury. He’s been a legitimate MVP candidate all year and would likely be the favorite if Mike Trout weren’t on his bullshit at the moment.

-JD Martinez leads the Majors in both home runs and RBI with 27 and 73, respectively, and is on pace to hit over 50 home runs and drive in nearly 150 RBI while also hitting .329 with an OPS of 1.038. Remember when nobody wanted to sign him in the offseason? He’s been the best high-profile free agent acquisition the Red Sox have had since Manny Ramirez (yes, David Ortiz also joined the Red Sox via free agency, but at the time of his leaving the Minnesota Twins, he wasn’t considered “high profile”), which isn’t saying a lot because the Red Sox have whiffed on quite a few of those recently. But regardless, Martinez has been a major part of this offense.

-Mitch Moreland is currently sitting on a 2-year, $13M deal. There are 16 first basemen in the Majors making more than him and the only ones with a higher batting average than his .288 are Freddie Freeman (.304), Brandon Belt (.289), and Joey Votto (.294). Moreland is currently slashing .288/.354/.533 with 11 homers and 40 RBI and is probably the lowest profile cleanup hitter that is doing the best job of it at the moment. He also plays a very strong defensive first base, which cannot be understated given that the rest of the Red Sox infield tends to struggled defensively (Eduardo Nunez has a lot of mental lapses in the field, Xander Bogaerts has limited range, and Rafael Devers leads the Majors in errors at any position with 18).

-Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant of late. He’s carrying an ERA barely over 1 in his last 5 starts since getting roughed up by the Braves and is currently holding a 2.36 ERA while striking out roughly the same amount of batters per 9 innings (12.98) as he did last season (12.93) when he hit 308 punchouts. At the rate he’s going, he may be in line to start his third consecutive All Star Game and perhaps land his first Cy Young Award (though Houston’s Justin Verlander may have something to say about that).

-David Price had been lights out prior to getting roughed up in his last two starts. Since the carpal tunnel problem, he had gone on a 7-start stretch where he was carrying an ERA of 2.63. Price seems to turn it on as soon as everybody starts talking about what a bust of a signing he was so perhaps we may see another string of stellar outings pretty soon.

-The Red Sox’ bullpen has quietly been pretty strong for the team, as they’re 6th in the Majors in bullpen ERA. That effort is spearheaded by Craig Kimbrel, who is again dicing up opposing hitters with a 2.02 ERA and 13.12 K/9. Matt Barnes has been going a bit under the radar for the team this year, as he’s carrying a 2.45 ERA with over 12 K/9 and actually has the same WAR as Kimbrel right now at 1.0. Hector Velazquez has been a welcome addition to the ‘pen, as his bullpen ERA is 2.91 and he’s also capable of making a spot start should the team need him.

-The Red Sox are tops in the Majors in runs scored and that’s despite the fact that they have gotten absolutely nothing out of their 6-9 hitters. The combination of Rafael Devers (who is admittedly starting to heat up a little bit), Eduardo Nunez, the catchers Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr have basically been liabilities this season. The Red Sox are basically only getting production out of Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Martinez, Moreland, and Bogaerts and they still lead the Majors in runs scored. But despite some of the poor hitting, some of these guys in the bottom of the order help your team in others ways. Jackie Bradley Jr is a magician in the outfield and quite frankly, I can give him some leeway for his hitting woes because of how good in the field he is (the fact he doesn’t have a gold glove is a crime). Christian Vazquez is basically impossible for base stealers to run on. Sandy Leon calls a very good game. Devers is a guy who can take you deep if you aren’t careful.

-Really the only black hole the Red Sox have had is at second base, where Eduardo Nunez has had a really tough season both offensively and defensively. He’s been losing a lot of playing time to Brock Holt, who is hitting a cool .296 at the moment but is best utilized as a swiss army knife. Dustin Pedroia’s knee problems have me VERY worried about his future and I wonder if the Red Sox will pursue a second baseman at the trade deadline (or just call up the recently signed Brandon Phillips).

So yeah, the Sox are really freaking good. But it’s going to be critical that they outpace the Yankees in the division, who currently hold the tie-breaker over them. The Yankees are just 2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East right now and with the new Wild Card stipulations, winning the division is that much more important. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ hot start in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Red Sox Designate Hanley Ramirez for Assignment

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This came as an absolute SHOCK to me. At no point was I hearing ANY rumblings in regards to Hanley possibly being on the way out. With the rise of Mitch Moreland, I figured Hanley’s playing time was going to diminish, especially considering he wasn’t hitting as well in May as he was in April, but this is still an absolute shock. The move comes in order to make a roster spot for Dustin Pedroia, who is coming off the Disabled List and is expected to play this weekend against the Braves. Obviously Pedroia is going to have a roster spot but I figured other guys would be more likely to get the shaft. For example, Blake Swihart has barely played this season and is kind of just occupying space on the 25-man roster that could be used for a guy that will do something. He’s probably out of Minor League options, but still. Eduardo Nunez was another guy I figured could’ve gotten the shaft as he has struggled MIGHTILY this season. But Hanley? Never once crossed my mind.

Ramirez signed a 4-year $88M deal with the Red Sox prior to the 2015 season, the same team that developed him in the Minor Leagues before trading him to the Florida Marlins for a package that included Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Ramirez became a star with the Marlins, was eventually traded to the Dodgers after the move to Miami, then hit free agency and cashed in with the Red Sox. He had a tough 2015 season in Boston, as he was transitioning to left field. He was absolutely ATROCIOUS in the field and you could tell he just wasn’t having fun in Boston. Then 2016 happened and he was like his former self again after a move to first base. He wasn’t a great first baseman in the field, but he was good enough. However his bat was really going as he hit 30 bombs and drove in over 100 RBI and he looked like he was having an absolute blast. After the retirement of David Ortiz, Ramirez became the everyday DH and his struggles at the dish re-emerged. In 2018, new manager Alex Cora decided what Ramirez needed was a confidence boost and slotted him third in the batting order. For a while, it was working magically. In March and April, Ramirez hit .330 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI. However he fell off a cliff in May, batting .163 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI, including being currently on an 0-for-21 stretch. Overall, Hanley hit .254 with 6 home runs, 29 RBI, and -0.1 WAR. Now he’s been DFA’d, which means the Red Sox have 7 days to trade him or he gets claimed by another team, or they can demote him or release him. I doubt a team is going to claim him as he’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $22M a year and they’d be required to pay all of what remains on that deal. The Red Sox won’t keep him in the Minor Leagues so I’ve got to imagine he’s getting released unless another team is desperate enough to offer a trade to Boston. Hanley also had a clause in his contract that stated that he would gain a fifth year if he reached 497 plate appearances. He’s currently at 195 and worth negative-WAR so I understood why they were hesitant to give him a lot of plate appearances.

So what’s next for Hanley? I doubt he’ll remain teamless for long, especially considering how good he was in April. Teams will probably wait until he’s a free agent so that they’re not on the hook for the rest of the money he’s owed (which the Red Sox will be). Teams that need a first baseman include the Rockies, Orioles, and Twins. Hanley is also a capable DH option for an American League squad.

As for the Red Sox, Mitch Moreland is most certainly going to take over the everyday first baseman duties. Currently, Moreland is slashing .311/.390/.612 with 7 home runs and 22 RBI and is worth 1.2 WAR, which would tie him for 4th best in the Majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify (only Brandon Belt, Freddie Freeman, and Joey Votto are better). Dustin Pedroia is going to resume his duties at second base while Eduardo Nunez gets relegated to a utility role. I anticipate the typical Red Sox lineup looking something like this.

1. Mookie Betts-RF

2. Dustin Pedroia-2B

3. Andrew Benintendi-LF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

With how hot Benintendi has been of late, it wouldn’t shock me to see him move into the 3-hole to replace Hanley, which would also do well to break up the string of right-handed hitters that would be coming up.

So that seems to be the end of the Hanley Ramirez era in Boston. I’m being legitimately honest when I say that I really did enjoy it. That’s going to do it for this update, let me know what you think of the DFA’ing of Hanley Ramirez in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: San Francisco Giants

I’m going to skip the intro to this one mainly because I’m writing this before I spend the entire day on the plane so if any big news happens in the sporting world, whether it be March Madness or NFL free agency or something else, I implore you to look elsewhere because I will be unable to provide you with any of those services. However I can preview baseball teams, which is what I’ll be doing today with this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the San Francisco Giants.

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2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 40 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 23 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Andrew McCutchen, RP Tony Watson, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Austin Jackson, SP Derek Holland

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Matt Cain (retired), LF Michael Morse, CF Denard Span, 3B Christian Arroyo, SP Matt Moore, RP Kyle Crick

Best Offensive Player: C Buster Posey

Best Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner

Depth Chart:

C-Buster Posey, Nick Hundley

1B-Brandon Belt

2B-Joe Panik, Kelby Tomlinson

3B-Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval

SS-Brandon Crawford

LF-Hunter Pence, Jarrett Parker

CF-Austin Jackson, Gorkys Hernandez

RF-Andrew McCutchen, Mac Williamson

SP-Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton

Bullpen-Mark Melancon (CP), Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, Tony Watson, Cory Gearrin, Josh Osich

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bruce Bochy (12th season with Giants)

Hitting Coach-Alonzo Powell

Pitching Coach-Curt Young

1st Base Coach-Jose Alguacil

3rd Base Coach-Ron Wotus

Bench Coach-Hensley Meulens

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I don’t know what the Hell happened to the Giants last season but they are way too good a team to go 64-98 and tie for the worst record in all of baseball (the Tigers will hold the #1 overall pick in the draft thanks to a tie breaker after Pablo Sandoval hit a walkoff home run on the season’s final day). Injuries did play a factor but there was also a ton of ineffectiveness from Bruce Bochy’s squad. However they made several moves that should have Giants fans excited for the coming season. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. Andrew McCutchen-RF

2. Joe Panik-2B

3. Buster Posey-C

4. Brandon Belt-1B

5. Evan Longoria-3B

6. Brandon Crawford-SS

7. Hunter Pence-LF

8. Austin Jackson-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s a pretty solid lineup. Buster Posey is the highlight, of course. The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year and 2012 NL MVP was the lone bright spot for the Giants last season. In 140 games, Posey hit .320 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI while playing above average defense behind the plate and being worth 4.3 WAR. However his efforts were wasted because other guys had down years. Brandon Belt’s 2017 was particularly poor as he only hit .241 with 18 homers and 51 RBI and was second on the team with a 2.3 WAR. I expect a bounceback year from him, though, as he dealt with injuries that limited him to 104 games last season. The Giants scored the second fewest runs in the Majors in 2017 and their shortstop Brandon Crawford was the team leader in RBIs at 77, which is not what you want to see, especially considering Crawford is better known for his defensive prowess than as a hitter. In fact, despite his typically stellar defense, Crawford was a league-average player with 2.0 WAR in 2017, as he only slashed .253/.305/.403 with 14 home runs in 144 games played. AT&T Park is up there with Kauffman Stadium as one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game so it’s going to hurt the overall numbers, but still, this lineup is too talented to repeat their 2017 performance, especially after the additions of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, both of whom quietly had very strong seasons. Last season Longoria hit .261 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI while winning the AL Gold Glove for third basemen. McCutchen was also very good despite the fact that he’s far removed from the player who won the 2013 NL MVP. In 2017, McCutchen hit .279 with 28 homers and 88 RBI while being worth 3.7 WAR in what was probably his best season since he cut his dreadlocks. He was coming off an abysmal 2016 and a poor performance in the World Baseball Classic so to see him come together was encouraging. Where he actually slots in the lineup will be interesting to see because the Giants lack a true leadoff hitter and I think McCutchen or Joe Panik could be capable of taking over that role.

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Giants pitching fell on some hard times in 2017. Madison Bumgarner missed half the season due to injury while Jeff Samardzija had some of the worst luck on the mound and Johnny Cueto had an unusually below-average season. Matt Moore had the worst ERA in baseball and was shipped to Texas while Ty Blach had the worst K/9 rate in the Majors at 4.01. A healthy Bumgarner is a Cy Young candidate and can be downright untouchable, as we see every time the Giants are in the postseason, particularly the 2014 World Series. In 2016, his last healthy season, Bumgarner went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and nearly struck out 10 batters per 9 innings. Cueto started the All Star Game for the NL in 2016 but was strangely ineffective in 2017 as he had an ERA of 4.52 that wasn’t affected by his defense, as he had a 4.49 FIP. Samardzija had a below average ERA of 4.42 however he had a very respectable FIP of 3.61, which could suggest that he’s in for an uptick in production in 2018. On paper this is a very talented pitching rotation that really didn’t perform up to its capabilities in 2017 but I anticipate them being very solid in 2018.

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The Giants bullpen was decent in 2017, however closer Mark Melancon had a year he’d like to forget. He had an ERA of 4.50 while saving 11 out of 16 opportunities. He dealt with injury in 2017 and he will look to return to the form that made him an All Star with the Pirates. Sam Dyson had an ABYSMAL start to the 2017 season with the Rangers as he carried an ERA over 10 for much of the season before being shipped to the Giants. He still struggled by the bay but at least this performance was respectable, as he carried a 4.03 ERA in 38 appearances with the Giants. He’s been a successful closer in the past and the Giants are going to need him to return to some semblance of that form if they hope to have a solid option for the 8th inning. Hunter Strickland throws really hard but he holds grudges, as you may have seen when he pegged Bryce Harper for an incident that happened 3 years prior. However he was arguably the Giants’ best reliever last season as he posted an ERA of 2.64. Cory Gearrin had a strong season as well, posting a 1.99 ERA however that was helped immensely by the defense behind him as his FIP was near 4, so there may be some regression. There’s talent in this Giants ‘pen but they’ve got some work to do.

Overall, I think the Giants’ 2017 season was a fluke and I think their trend of bad odd-numbered years and good even-numbered years will continue this season. I’m not sure if it will be enough for them to make the postseason, as the NL West looks to be very challenging in 2018, but they will certainly be in the hunt for the Wild Card if not the division title at the very least.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Seattle Mariners, who always seem to be threatening to be really good but never quite reach that potential. Let me know what you think of the Giants’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.