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.

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.

General Sports: April 12

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-The rivalry is back. Red Sox and Yankees finally means something again. For awhile, the rivalry felt pretty dead as it’s hard to top one team coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant like the Red Sox did in 2004. For a while, things were pretty tame between these two teams. That was until last night. It started with a National Anthem staredown where Andrew Benintendi outlasted Sonny Gray, which was nice and harmless. Then Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin took a hard slide into Red Sox shortstop Brock Holt trying to break up a double play. Things got a little chippy at that point, when the two butted heads, resulting in the benches clearing. Things settled down, though. That is until Austin came up to bat against Joe Kelly and we got this.

I always love me a good baseball fight and this is no exception. Love the bat slam by Austin, no particular reason behind it other than it looked kinda cool. Kelly and Austin exchange words and it’s on. Kelly put a swift move on Austin and was able to get the takedown before throwing a punch at the Yankees first baseman’s head. Kelly was, of course, ejected and will likely get a suspension. Austin was tossed as well and will probably face some sort of discipline and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin was also sent to the showers. Can’t remember the last time I heard about a third base coach getting ejected. But when the Red Sox and Yankees hate each other and both teams are stacked with great talent, that’s when baseball’s at its best. This brought back memories of Jason Varitek punching Alex Rodriguez in the face back in 2004.

-Believe it or not, that wasn’t the first baseball fight of the day. There was one out in Colorado, too, as Luis Perdomo of the Padres and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies got into it. Here’s the play in question.

Perdomo’s glove throw isn’t nearly as bad as Bryce Harper’s monumentally poor helmet throw from last season, but it’s still pretty bad. I’m not sure what the precedent was for Perdomo bringing the heat at Arenado’s back because it kind of came out of nowhere. With Kelly throwing at Austin, it was retaliation for Austin’s hard slide into Holt. There wasn’t really an inciting incident for this one. But I always enjoy a good baseball fight. The second game I ever attended had a baseball fight and I almost missed it. It was at Tropicana Field as I was visiting my grandparents in Florida back in 2005 (I was 9 years old). My grandma was taking me and my brother to the gift shop to get something when I heard a commotion in the stadium. I ran to the nearest entryway and sure enough, the Red Sox and Devil Rays (this was back when they still carried that name) were swarmed together around the mound. What happened was Tampa Bay pitcher Dewon Brazelton had plunked Manny Ramirez then threw at David Ortiz as the very next batter. He missed Ortiz, but Big Papi took exception and he charged the mound. The Red Sox won the game 11-3 on the strength of a grand slam by Jay Payton of all people.

-I got a chance to watch Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines over the course of this past week. It’s 8 episodes long and chronicles Michigan’s season from their spring trip to Italy to their Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. Amazon Prime has been doing All or Nothing in the NFL for the last couple years and it’s been fantastic every time. This year’s NFL team is the Cowboys and it will be released on April 27. But this was the first time they focused on a college football team and I’m not sure they could’ve picked a much better subject to focus on.

at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jim Harbaugh basically expressed every emotion imaginable during these 8 episodes. When Michigan won handily, I don’t think there’s a human being alive who is a happier dude. When Michigan lost, particularly the Michigan State loss, Harbaugh seemed terrifying to be around. It was almost like he was going to snap at the first person who talked to him. His wife seemed like she was doing everything she could to tread lightly. We also got a look at his coaching style and I’ll tell you what, he’s a pretty unique dude. His speeches can get a little bizarre but strangely motivating. We find out in the final episode where he gets it from, his father Jack. In the final episode, before the South Carolina game, Jack Harbaugh speaks to the team and gives them a rousing speech about a boxing match he saw once and basically every mannerism and word choice was pretty similar to Jim’s.

Some other things of note: Rashan Gary’s intelligence isn’t highlighted enough by the media. Everyone talks about how he was the nation’s #1 recruit a couple of years ago and that he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the country. But the guy carries a GPA of around 4.0 at one of the toughest universities in the country and he’s really well-spoken. The dinner scene he has with his mom about not wanting his dad to be a part of his life is pretty moving and I thought was the best scene in the whole series and that includes the NFL seasons. His passion is also very apparent in games as he was often mic’d up for the games. You could really feel his intensity.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown didn’t get enough screen time. The guy was electric every time he was on camera and he kind of reminded me of Mike Ditka at times. There was surprisingly very little cussing from anyone on the staff, players or coaches (Hell, Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton yelled “FUDGE” after an Ohio State touchdown). I don’t know if that was planned ahead of time or if that’s just how they run things in Ann Arbor. But I’m pretty sure every single ‘f’ bomb uttered came out of Brown’s mouth while he was coaching or hyping players up. He pretty much stole every scene he was in.

Another scene-stealer was defensive end Chase Winovich. Off the field he was kind of bland but when he was on the field he was an absolute riot with his trash talking. My favorite was in the Wisconsin game after he got a sack. He walked up to a Wisconsin offensive lineman and yelled “protect your quarterback!” at him. It was pretty much like this all the time for every game that was shown.

That’s going to do it for this one. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed 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.

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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.