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 season  (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.

What the 2018 MLB All Star Team Would Look Like If We Went By WAR

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So as you’re probably aware, you have all the power to vote for the starters in Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic. I’ve voted a few times and voting officially closes at the end of next week so I thought I’d share who I’m voting for. The All Star Game is something that has been dying in popularity in all sports of late mainly because the competitive fire between the two leagues on each side is pretty much gone, especially considering the risk of injury for a game that has no relevance to the standings. But I love it damnit! I flew out to San Diego in 2016 to work the Home Run Derby and go to the All Star Game so this still means something to me.

So for those of you who live under a rock, there is one stat that rules them all for baseball nerds: Wins Above Replacement, or WAR for short. WAR is slightly different depending on which site you use (Fangraphs and Baseball Reference are slightly different formulas) but they typically agree on who is really good. WAR takes into account a player’s hitting, fielding, baserunning, you name it to create how many more games his team is winning because he’s in the lineup rather than your basic replacement-level player. The league average is about 2.0. 2-3 is considered above average, 3-4 is considered really good, 4-5 is considered All Star level, 6+ is MVP level. The best single-season WAR of all time was Babe Ruth’s 1923 season where he was worth 14.1 WAR (second-best is also Ruth at 12.9 in 1921). That season Ruth slashed .393/.545/.764 with 41 home runs and 130 RBI. In the last 10 years, the best WAR belongs to Mike Trout, which is a tie between his 2012 (his rookie year) and 2016 seasons where he was worth 10.5 WAR. So here are the starting 9’s of each team if WAR was the only deciding factor. A couple things to note, for outfield, I’m combining the three positions, which is what actually does happen for All Star balloting. Also since the National League doesn’t use a DH, I’ll be choosing the NL player with the best remaining WAR who isn’t already a starter (the NL manager chooses his DH for the actual All Star Game).

American League

Catcher-Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees (1.3 WAR)

First Base-Matt Olson-Oakland Athletics (1.5 WAR)

Second Base-Jose Altuve-Houston Astros (3.6 WAR)

Third Base-Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians (5.1 WAR)

Shortstop-Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians (4.4 WAR)

Outfield 1-Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels (6.1 WAR)

Outfield 2-Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox (4.4 WAR)

Outfield 3-Aaron Judge-New York Yankees (3.6 WAR)

Designated Hitter-JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox (2.9 WAR)

Starting Pitcher-Trevor Bauer-Cleveland Indians (3.9 WAR)

National League

Catcher-JT Realmuto-Miami Marlins (2.9 WAR)

First Base-Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves (3.5 WAR)

Second Base-Scooter Gennett-Cincinnati Reds (2.4 WAR)

Third Base-Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies (3.3 WAR)

Shortstop-Trea Turner-Washington Nationals (2.4 WAR)

Outfield 1-Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers (3.3 WAR)

Outfield 2-Brandon Nimmo-New York Mets (2.8 WAR)

Outfield 3-Nick Markakis-Atlanta Braves (2.4 WAR)

Designated Hitter*-Eugenio Suarez-Cincinnati Reds (2.7 WAR)

Starting Pitcher-Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals (4.2 WAR)

Here are the current leaderboards for the All Star voting (as of the most recent update, which was 2 weeks ago). As a reminder, fans do not vote for pitchers so there aren’t any results on who the top voted pitcher would be, plus the manager selects the starting pitcher on both sides:

AL

C-Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees (1.3 WAR)

1B-Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox (0.6 WAR)

2B-Jose Altuve-Houston Astros (3.6 WAR)

3B-Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians (5.1 WAR)

SS-Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles (2.7 WAR)

OF1-Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox (4.4 WAR)

OF2-Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels (6.1 WAR)

OF3-Aaron Judge-New York Yankees (3.6 WAR)

DH-JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox (2.9 WAR)

So the fans and WAR are very much in agreement, as the only two positions that differ are first base and shortstop. Abreu is likely getting the recognition from the fans because not only of his starpower over Matt Olson, but also because of the batting averages (Abreu is hitting .272 while Olson is hitting .246). Abreu’s defense at first base is also subpar while Olson is in a 3-way tie for best DRS at first base in the Majors at +6 (Abreu is 4th worst at -4). Machado is also having a Hell of a year at shortstop, though his WAR is hurt by his defense because despite being known as a defensive wizard at third base, Machado is actually the worst shortstop in the Majors according to DRS. That’s probably why Machado is 1.7 WAR below Francisco Lindor despite their hitting stats being almost identical (seriously, look them up, they’re near carbon copies of one another right now). I’m not a fan of voting Gary Sanchez in for the catcher position not just because he’s a Yankee, but because he’s hitting .190. However he has the highest WAR among all qualifying AL catchers because there are only 2 catchers that actually have enough plate appearances to qualify: him and Tampa’s Wilson Ramos (whom I’ve been voting in over Sanchez).

NL

C-Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants (1.7 WAR)

1B-Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves (3.5 WAR)

2B-Ozzie Albies-Atlanta Braves (2.1 WAR)

3B-Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies (3.3 WAR)

SS-Brandon Crawford-San Francisco Giants (2.4 WAR)

OF1-Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals (1.2 WAR)

OF2-Nick Markakis-Atlanta Braves (2.4 WAR)

OF3-Matt Kemp-Los Angeles Dodgers (1.7 WAR)

As we can see, WAR and the fans only agree on 3 players starting the All Star game for the NL: Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado, and Nick Markakis. Lots of name value going on here, particularly for Bryce Harper, who is in the midst of his worst season, as he’s currently hitting a measly .219, a full 100 points below his final line from last season. Crawford is tied with Trea Turner for WAR so I guess technically the fans aren’t off on that one, but Turner was listed first so I picked him (I’ve been voting in Crawford on my ballot as well). Ozzie Albies is having a great season and is very deserving of an All Star spot, but I do not think he should be starting over Scooter Gennett. Now yes, Gennett is FAR from a household name. But since he joined the Reds last season, he’s been a revelation. He had a 4-homer game last season and he’s only kept it up this year, slashing .332/.369/.532 with 13 home runs and 51 RBI. His .332 batting average leads the National League and as far as I’m concerned, he’s having the best season out of any second baseman in baseball not named Jose Altuve. He should start and I will continue to stuff the ballot with his name.

And now for the grand finale, here’s how I voted in my most recent All Star ballot:

AL

C-Wilson Ramos-Tampa Bay Rays

1B-Mitch Moreland-Boston Red Sox (his WAR does not qualify, but it’s 1.7, which would be tops in the AL if he had enough plate appearances)

2B-Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

3B-Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

SS-Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

OF1-Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels-

OF2-Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

OF3-Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

DH-JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

NL

C-JT Realmuto-Miami Marlins

1B-Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

2B-Scooter Gennett-Cincinnati Reds

3B-Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

SS-Brandon Crawford-San Francisco Giants

OF1-Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

OF2-Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

OF3-Nick Markakis-Atlanta Braves

My DH for the NL would probably be Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers if I had that option for a vote. So as you can see, with my ballot, the only places I disagreed with fans AND WAR were with Wilson Ramos (who is hitting .289), Mitch Moreland (who doesn’t qualify just yet), and Odubel Herrera (who is on FIRE right now and may creep up both leaderboards before all is said and done).

If you want to cast your own vote, you can do so here. Vote up to 35 times, so ballot stuffing is a real thing in this (just don’t do what Royals and Cubs fans have been doing these last couple years and stuffing the ballot boxes with their guys). Let me know what your All Star ballot is looking like 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: Boston Red Sox

Some huge news in the college basketball world as some initial reports have been released regarding current and former players and improper benefits from either schools or agents. The biggest names listed are Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (as if Michigan State needed any more scandals), Alabama’s Colin Sexton, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers (attended Washington), Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers (attended Utah), and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks (attended NC State). The investigation is still ongoing so I’ll provide more details when more information is released. Also, a big trade was agreed upon between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, as the Chiefs are sending star cornerback Marcus Peters to LA for a package of draft picks. This just made an already good Rams defense absolutely terrifying. But today is 30 Clubs in 30 Days and I’m featuring the Boston Red Sox. As I’m sure readers of my blog are well aware, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I apologize if I go a little more in depth with them than other teams. I’m only human. So let’s get a look at the Red Sox’ chances in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, Won AL East over New York Yankees by 2 games, lost to Houston Astros in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF JD Martinez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young, RP Fernando Abad, RP Blaine Boyer, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Rajai Davis, SP Henry Owens, SP Doug Fister

Best Offensive Player: RF Mookie Betts

Best Pitcher: Chris Sale

Depth Chart:

C-Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

1B-Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez

3B-Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts, JD Martinez (DH)

SP-Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright

Bullpen-Craig Kimbrel (CP), Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Alex Cora (1st season with Red Sox)

Hitting Coach-Tim Hyers

Pitching Coach-Dana LeVangie

1st Base Coach-Tom Goodwin

3rd Base Coach-Carlos Febles

Bench Coach-Ron Roenicke

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The Red Sox regressed in a big way offensively in 2017. After scoring the most runs in the American League in 2016, they dropped off significantly and finished dead last in the American League in home runs. For a while, it didn’t look like they were going to do a whole lot to change things other than bring back guys from last year’s team (Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez). That was until they signed JD Martinez to a 5-year $110M deal. I won’t expand too much about his potential role in Boston, as I did so in the blog I just linked. Now they look to get back on track under rookie manager Alex Cora. Here’s a look at how the Red Sox are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia-2B

2. Andrew Benintendi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

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Now on paper that’s a pretty imposing lineup as long as they can return to their 2016 forms because only Christian Vazquez took a step forward at the dish in 2017. It’s an entirely new coaching staff with a different philosophy so it’ll be interesting to see how they do things. Alex Cora stated recently that he doesn’t really get the whole “lefty/lefty righty/righty” conundrum, stating something along the lines of “you’ve been hitting lefties all your life and now all of a sudden you can’t hit lefties when you reach the Majors? Doesn’t make sense to me.” He hasn’t even managed a meaningful game yet and I already love his style. But there is a ton of ability in this lineup if Cora and company can get the most out of it. The young stars have been nicknamed the Killer B’s, consisting of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi, all of whom can take over games when teams aren’t careful. Betts is the most dangerous of the bunch, as he was AL MVP runner-up in 2016 and despite taking a step back in 2017, was still their best hitter, batting .264 with 24 home runs, 102 RBI, 26 stolen bases, 32 DRS, and was worth 5.1 WAR. Bogaerts is another talented hitter but he’s also extremely streaky. When he’s hot, he’s impossible to get out. You’ll see 3-4 game after 3-4 game and his batting average will skyrocket up into the .350’s. But when he’s cold, you have to work your ass off to let up a hit to him. In fact, there was a long stretch in the middle of the season where Bogaerts was the worst statistical hitter in baseball. Jackie Bradley is another guy who can be streaky, like Bogaerts, but unlike Bogaerts, Bradley is an excellent defender at a premium position so when he’s not hitting well, he can still make excellent contributions in the field. I listed Bradley as the 9th hitter mainly because he’s had so much success in that position. In fact, it’s been a while since I updated this stat, but last I checked, Bradley was a career .346 hitter when batting 9th. Benintendi was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season and probably would have won it, too if Aaron Judge didn’t set the rookie record with 52 home runs and finished runner-up for AL MVP. Benintendi hit .271 with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, and 20 stolen bases while playing a solid left field. Another guy the Red Sox have to be excited about is third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers is a bad defender at the hot corner and I think that he’s going to have to eventually switch to either first base or start DH’ing before long. But he shows bat discipline well beyond his years (he turns 22 in October). Watching Devers’ at bats as a youngster, I noticed that he doesn’t try and do his own thing at the plate. He takes what the pitcher gives him and goes with the pitch. For example, he’s not going to try and pull everything. If he’s thrown a curveball low and away, he’ll wait patiently for it to get to him and will send it the other way. He’s a guy I’m really excited for in his first full season in a Red Sox uniform.

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The Red Sox pitching was fantastic in 2017, as they finished 4th in the Majors with a 3.73 team ERA. That was thanks in large part to their trade acquisition of Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in the 2017 offseason. Sale was an absolute monster in his first season in a Red Sox uniform, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. He was 5 strikeouts away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record, a record he likely would’ve broken had he been allowed to pitch his last start. However that start came at a time that would’ve affected his ability to start Game 1 of the ALDS so I think then-manager John Farrell made the right move there. David Price was battling injuries throughout the year but he was pretty solid when he was on the mound and even better when he was placed in the bullpen. He finished the year at 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA, which included an ERA of 0.00 in 5 relief appearances. A fully healthy season for Price would be huge for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello had a rough follow-up to his Cy Young-winning 2016 season, as he went 11-17 (most losses in baseball) with a 4.65 ERA. However he is still one of the more talented pitchers on the Red Sox roster and if he can return to form in 2018, that’s three aces at the top of the Red Sox rotation. And that’s without even mentioning Drew Pomeranz, who after a brutal first 2 months of the season, was absolutely terrific for the Sox. In the second half of the season, his ERA was 3.01, bringing his overall line to 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Not bad for your fourth starter.

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The Red Sox bullpen is also expected to be very strong, spearheaded by the American League’s Reliever of the Year in Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was dynamite in 2017, as he finished with 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA, and a Strikeout per 9 rate of 16.43, which is absolutely ridiculous. Provided Kimbrel can stay healthy, the 9th inning will be a sure thing for the Red Sox. It’s the rest of the bullpen that has some question marks. Joe Kelly had a breakthrough season as a reliever, including throwing the fastest pitch ever by a righty at 103.5 mph and finished with a 2.79 ERA but that was after being in the low 1’s for much of the year. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith hope to be big parts of the Red Sox bullpen but both guys are recovering from injuries. Smith was able to appear at the end of the 2017 season and he did pitch pretty well, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 8 appearances. Thornburg, however, has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox after being acquired from the Brewers in the Travis Shaw trade. He was Milwaukee’s closer prior to the trade so he’s another guy the Sox have to be excited for. The Red Sox could potentially have one of the top bullpens in baseball if they can stay healthy.

Overall, I think the Red Sox have a legitimate shot at a World Series. Basically every facet of their team could rank amongst the top 5 in baseball. The problem is going to be getting by the Yankees, who made the biggest move of the offseason when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Marlins. It’s going to be a fight to the death between those two teams. The return to form of the hitters in this Red Sox lineup will go a long way towards the success of Alex Cora’s first year as manager. If all goes well, this team could win 100 games.

Projected Finish: 95-67, Host AL Wild Card Game against Anaheim Angels

That’s going to do it for Day 5 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Chicago Cubs, who are looking to win the NL Central for the third straight season and will try and win their second World Series in 3 years. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

JD Martinez Signs with the Red Sox

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First, my reaction to the news as a general baseball fan:

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Also, my reaction as a Red Sox fan:

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The saga is finally over, JD Martinez has finally signed with the Red Sox. It seems like this has gone on a lot longer than it really should have as Martinez and Red Sox GM (he’s technically not the GM but we’re just going to call him that because he basically acts as the GM) Dave Dombrowski were in a staring contest for the ages and it appears that Martinez blinked first. The deal he’s receiving is for 5 years $110M, which is a drop from the 5 years $125M we initially heard the Red Sox were offering and a significant drop from the 7-year $210M deal Martinez was allegedly looking for. I’m not totally surprised that Martinez decided to settle, considering that the first Spring Training game is Thursday (god that feels good to say) and it was pretty apparent that the Red Sox, the only team that still seemed interested in signing him, weren’t going to budge. It is worth noting, though, that the contract has an opt-out clause after 2 years, during which he will be making $50M of the $110M of the contract. That pretty much guarantees he’s going to elect to use that opt-out clause to try and get a better deal in a couple years. But for the time being, Martinez is just the impact bat the Red Sox needed.

Despite boasting a lot of excellent young talent, the Red Sox finished last in the American League in home runs in 2017, finishing behind weak power-hitting teams such as the White Sox and Athletics of all teams. After David Ortiz’s retirement, the Red Sox have been desperately searching for that huge power threat. They were hoping that it would be Hanley Ramirez, as he had hit 30 home runs in 2016. But Ramirez regressed significantly in 2017 and the need for a big bat was further emphasized. Here’s how the Red Sox are expected to look come Opening Day in Tampa.

1. Eduardo Nunez-2B

2. Andrew Benintnedi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Rafael Devers-3B

7. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

8. Christian Vazquez-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

It’s worth mentioning that I have Nunez slated as the Red Sox second baseman because Dustin Pedroia is expected to miss the first month or so of the season recovering from offseason surgery. But immediately Martinez makes this lineup significantly more deadly. Last season between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI. The leading home run hitter for the Red Sox last year was Mookie Betts with 24. The only other members of the team to hit 20 home runs were Mitch Moreland (22) and Andrew Benintendi (20). Martinez was a poor defender last season, being worth -5 DRS last season in right field, but the Red Sox don’t need him to play any defense this season, as they already have three quality defensive outfielders in Benintendi, Bradley, and the #1 outfielder in DRS, Betts. All Martinez will need to do is worry about his at bats.

Martinez will likely serve as the team’s cleanup hitter and it will be interesting to see how he does in Fenway Park. Being a right-handed hitter, the Green Monster is going to come into play for him. A lot of balls that might have been home runs in places like Arizona (probably the second most hitter-friendly park in the Majors after Colorado) will be turned into doubles because of it. But take a look at Martinez’s spray chart, courtesy of Fangraphs.

chart

That looks like a pretty balanced spray chart to me particularly on balls that he puts in the air. When he hits a ground ball he REALLY favors the third base line, but his home runs seem to be relatively evenly-distributed and it seems that regular fly balls tend to go the opposite way a little more frequently. Considering the Pesky Pole in right is only about 300 feet from home plate, Martinez could steal a couple home runs by keeping that trend up. I think he’ll be fine at Fenway based on what that spray chart tells us.

So finally, the wait is over, JD Martinez has signed with the Red Sox. I wish I could say it was fun while it lasted, but that’s just not true. It was pretty goddamn infuriating. Let me know what you think of the Martinez signing in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.