What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

So on Wednesday night, I had just gotten home from work and was having a few beers while my brother and I watched a replay of the Edge vs Mick Foley Wrestlemania 22 Hardcore match. You know, this one:

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After we got done watching that, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a user pointed out that on mlb.com’s depth chart page for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer is the only starting pitcher listed. I thought that was weird and sent it to a buddy who said “looks like Archer will be getting his innings in.”¬† I then went and watched the James Cameron movie “Aliens,” which was badass, but the Rays’ pitching situation wouldn’t leave me alone. So finally, when the movie was done, I got to thinking: what if ALL of baseball did away with pitching rotations?

A little background first on why Tampa’s depth chart probably looks the way it does. So at the start of the season, manager Kevin Cash announced that the Rays would go with a 4-man rotation and would make the 5th day an all-bullpen day. A pitcher that usually comes out of the bullpen will get the start, go as long as he could (typically no more than 4 innings) before other bullpen arms got in the mix. It led to the creation of the term “opener,” rather than “closer.” Tampa opened the year with a starting rotation of Chris Archer-Blake Snell-Jake Faria-Nathan Eovaldi (who didn’t debut until a little over a month later). Snell and Faria are currently on the DL while Eovaldi was just traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitching prospect Jalen Beeks. So right now, of those four, only Archer is currently standing. As for who the “openers” are, the Rays have sent out Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Johnny Venters, and Sergio Romo among others. All in all, 14 pitchers have made a start for the Rays.

So how well has it worked? Well the Rays currently sit in 3rd place in the AL East at 52-50 (this blog was written before the start of play on July 26), 18.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 9 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. However that’s due in large part to the fact the Rays have struggled to score runs, as they’re 22nd in all of baseball in runs scored. Their pitching has put up very good numbers, though. Right now they’re currently 9th in pitching WAR at a combined 10.6 with the 7th best ERA at 3.70. That’s the main contributing factor for why a team as untalented on paper as the Rays has a winning record in late July. In fact, if the Rays were in the weak AL Central rather than having to face the Red Sox and Yankees a million times every year, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them battling the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the division (they currently trail Cleveland by just 3.5 games overall).

So how would Major League Baseball look if they took Tampa’s formula a step further and did away with starting rotations? Well, for one, there would be a lot more opportunities for managers to get creative. I’m going to use the Red Sox as my example team in order to simplify things for myself. The pitchers at manager Alex Cora’s disposal are, in alphabetical order: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Eovaldi, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, and Brandon Workman (this is not accounting for the injured Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, and Steven Wright). Assuming each staff follows Tampa’s model, the Red Sox could send any one of these guys out to start and go up to four innings. Not only that, but they could appear in back-to-back games and pitch in more games overall over the course of a season. As if we couldn’t get enough Chris Sale already, now he could be pitching back-to-back days and 70 times in a season as opposed to now where he only pitches every 5 games and about 30 times in a season. We could also see David Price come in relief for Sale, meaning teams will have to face two Cy Young-caliber pitchers back-to-back. Which sounds pretty menacing to me. Or Hell, the Yankees could start the game with Aroldis Chapman, go to Luis Severino for the second-fifth inning, then send out Dellin Betances. The combinations managers would have at their disposal are endless. Plus, we won’t have to think of bullpens as having just 7 or 8 options available to choose from. When you add guys who normally start to the mix, that gives teams 11 or 12 guys to choose from.

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

We will also definitely see a rise in fastball velocity. The reason some of these starters aren’t hitting 100 mph on every fastball is due to the fact that they’re preserving some energy in case they need to go deep into the game, whereas relievers put everything they have behind every pitch because they know they’re probably only going the one inning. So take this into account: a few years ago, the Cincinnati Reds toyed with the idea of making their superstar closer Aroldis Chapman into a starting pitcher. They tried him out in the role in Spring Training. Chapman’s fastball in his career has topped out at an MLB record 105.1 mph. Chapman’s fastball as a starter never got over 94 mph. The 105.1 mph pitch is obviously an outlier, but Chapman’s fastball still is routinely clocked at around 101 mph. Now let’s take into account what some guys are throwing despite the knowledge that they’re going to have to go multiple innings. Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Mike Foltynewicz, and Eovaldi’s fastballs all average about 97 mph. By the logic of Chapman’s dropped velocity as a starter of -7 mph (typical 101 to 94), we can imperfectly assume that these guys’ fastballs would rise by about 7 mph (the math that got me to that assumption is probably very wrong, but you get what I’m trying to say here), meaning we’d have four dudes averaging a 104 mph fastball. I’m not sure how teams would manage to hit that on a day-to-day basis, especially when you consider that guys who normally throw 91 are now throwing 98.

We would also see the absolute annihilation of the pitching wins stat. As if it wasn’t already useless enough in today’s game, now it will pretty much only favor the second pitcher to be used, since in order for a starter to qualify for a win, he has to go 5 innings and his lead can’t evaporate. If the first pitcher used only goes 4 innings with a 10-0 lead, whomever replaces him first will vulture his win even if he struck out all 12 batters he faced. However other stats would likely be significantly improved, such as the ERA and opponent batting average stat. Think of it this way. In seemingly every game where a pitcher is going deep into his outing, the broadcast shows a graphic that showcases how a pitcher does each time through the lineup. Usually, the hitters will have the pitcher figured out by their third time seeing him in the game. With this type of pitching staff, you deny hitters the opportunity to see a pitcher for a third time, thus relinquishing that late-inning value at their disposal, leading to potentially fewer runs being scored. Now, of course, bringing in a bunch of relievers makes it more likely that you’re going to bring someone in who is having an off-night, but I think overall the number of runs scored is going to drop substantially.

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

There will also be more talented pitchers take the next step and become studs than before. Consider the fact that Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Archie Bradley, Wade Davis, and Brandon Morrow all began their careers as starting pitchers but flamed out and failed to realize their great potentials. Then consider the fact that they became dominant bullpen arms upon their move to that role. Well now everybody will make that switch so we could see extremely talented guys such as Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, or Tyler Glasnow be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. David Price even looked like his Cy Young-winning self during his brief stint in the Red Sox bullpen to finish the 2017 season, as he didn’t give up a run in his 9 relief outings.

Sadly, though, the individual no hitter would cease to exist as any future no hitter would be of the combined variety. The most exciting outcome for a pitcher where nothing happens has been something that has always been a goal of mine to see from start to finish would be a thing of the past since the starter would likely be gone by the third or fourth inning. However I’m sure there are plenty of managers out there who don’t really care, as long as they got the win, which is ultimately what really matters.

There will be a few changes that will have to happen, though, in order for this change to work. For one, guys who are currently starting pitchers need to COMPLETELY overhaul their routine. Starting pitchers have routines they do on their off days to get ready for their next start, but without the certainty that comes with being a starting pitcher, that will change dramatically and will more than likely affect some guys for the worst. Another change will be MLB’s requirement of teams announcing who will start each game. If a manager is going to run with this type of pitching staff, they’re going to have to give a few days’ notice for each pitcher. If this type of staff were to be rolled out, I’d personally be more invested in a surprise starter for every game, keeping opposing teams on their toes. Though I guess managers typically fill out their batting orders based on who the opposing pitcher is so that would probably cause a problem. Damn, thought I was on to something or a moment.

In short, I think that taking the Rays’ formula for a pitching staff a step further and doing away with starting rotations could potentially be a very innovative way to go about pitching and re-think the way teams construct their staffs. Did I just break baseball? Or did I have way too much to drink and this idea is stupid? Let me know what you think of the idea of no pitching rotations in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: New York Mets

So a couple stories I want to bring to light here. First off, former LSU runningback and potential first round pick Derrius Guice was asked by an unknown NFL team during his Combine interview a couple of very inappropriate questions, which Guice claims was to provoke him and get a feel for his response. The anonymous team asked Guice if he was gay and if his mom was a hooker. I can understand the reasoning behind asking these questions, as you’re trying to gauge how this guy’s going to deal with the media, but you have to use better judgment here. Asking if someone is gay is totally inappropriate and asking someone if their mother is a hooker is downright disrespectful. They should’ve learned when the Dolphins did that to Dez Bryant in his Combine interview. I remember I was in Canton, Ohio to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame with my mom and she went for a walk outside of our hotel. When she got back, she told me that some guy had driven up to her and asked if she was “working.” I’m not a confrontational person, but I was ready to throw haymakers at this dude that I’d never met so kudos to Guice for keeping his cool. Also, the Kansas City Royals held an anti-porn seminar for the players and coaches, most likely to protect the wrists on their throwing hands when they’re away from their wives because athletes definitely stay faithful to their wives on road trips. That’s really all I have to say on that because otherwise I can’t see any reason to be against something that brings people so much joy. Also, the Rams acquired another corner in a trade, this time landing Aqib Talib from the Broncos. So basically with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib the Rams may have the shit talking-est cornerback duo in NFL history. Anyways, on to the Mets for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

Record: 70-92, 27 games behind Washington Nationals, 17 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Jay Bruce, 3B Todd Frazier, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RP Anthony Swarzak, OF Matthew den Dekker

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Erik Goeddel, SP Tommy Milone, RP Josh Edgin

Best Offensive Player: LF Yoenis Cespedes

Best Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard

Depth Chart:

C-Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

1B-Adrian Gonzalez, Dominic Smith

2B-Asdrubal Cabrera

3B-Todd Frazier, Wilmer Flores, David Wright

SS-Amed Rosario, Jose Reyes

LF-Yoenis Cespedes

CF-Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares

RF-Jay Bruce

SP-Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas, Robert Gsellman, Zach Wheeler, Seth Lugo

Bullpen-Jeurys Familia (CP), Jeremy Blevins, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Mickey Callaway (1st season with Mets

Hitting Coach-Pat Roessler

Pitching Coach-Dave Eiland

1st Base Coach-Ruben Amaro Jr

3rd Base Coach-Glenn Sherlock

Bench Coach-Gary DiSarcina

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It feels like so long ago that the Mets were good even though they just had one bad season. They won the NL pennant in 2015, losing the World Series in 5 games to the Royals, and they lost the NL Wild Card game against the Giants in 2016. But in 2017 the wheels seemed to fall off, causing the Mets machine to fall off the wheels, crash and burn, and kill everybody inside as injuries ravaged the team. But when healthy, this has the potential to be a scary team. Here’s how I’m projecting their lineup to look in 2018.

1. Asdrubal Cabrera-2B

2. Michael Conforto-CF

3. Yoenis Cespedes-LF

4. Jay Bruce-RF

5. Todd Frazier-3B

6. Adrian Gonzalez-1B

7. Travis d’Arnaud-C

8. Amed Rosario-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of talent in this lineup, particularly in the middle of the order. Michael Conforto broke out in 2017, earning an All Star nod by hitting .279 with 27 home runs and was worth 4.4 WAR. He will likely miss the start of the season due to injury (shocker) and it will probably be defensive wizard Juan Lagares in centerfield. Yoenis Cespedes is a guy I really liked but he didn’t seem to hit his stride until he was traded to the Mets, as his bat was what really propelled them to the 2015 NL pennant. Come to think of it, good things tend to happen to teams involved in a Cespedes trade. The A’s landed Jon Lester from the Red Sox, the Red Sox landed Rick Porcello from the Tigers, and the Tigers landed Michael Fulmer from the Mets. Go figure. But despite missing half the 2017 season due to injury, Cespedes was on pace for an MVP-caliber season. He was hitting .292 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI, which in a full 162-game season would be 34 home runs and 84 RBI. Jay Bruce is returning to the Mets after they traded him to the Indians at last year’s trade deadline. Bruce was terrific for the Mets, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 75 RBI in just 103 games with the club. Frazier and Gonzalez both struggled last season but they both have powerful bats and can cause some serious damage to a pitching staff if taken lightly.

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The Mets may have the single most injury-prone pitching rotation I’ve ever seen. It seems like within the last two seasons every member of their 4-headed monster of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz all have missed significant time due to injury, the latter two’s effectiveness having been harmed the most. While Syndergaard looks like he’s fully recovered from the lat injury that sidelined him for nearly all of 2017 (his fastball was touching 101 mph in his first Spring Training outing), the rest of the rotation isn’t so sure. DeGrom was solid last season, going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings, but Harvey and Matz left a lot to be desired. Matz had an ERA over 6 in 13 starts while Harvey was better known for having not shown up to a game due to being hung over after drinking his sorrows away after seeing his ex girlfriend, supermodel Adriana Lima, hanging around with Julian Edelman. So the only guys I’m not concerned with are Syndergaard and deGrom but Matz and Harvey make me nervous. Again, assuming everybody’s healthy.

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The Mets bullpen has some guys with really electric stuff. In fact, the only regular member of last year’s bullpen with a K/9 rate below 8 was Josh Edgin and he’s now a member of the Baltimore Orioles. The closer for the Mets is Jeurys Familia, however he’s also coming off an injury-plagued season, as he only managed to pitch 24.2 innings in 2017. However when healthy, he’s amongst the best closers in the game. Should he struggle to return to health, though, the Mets have AJ Ramos, whom they acquired from the Marlins last trade deadline. Ramos was an All Star as the Marlins’ closer in 2016, though he struggled with his command upon joining the Mets. He struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings but also walked over 5 batters per 9. He’s going to need to drop that second number significantly if he hopes to earn new manager and pitching guru Mickey Callaway’s trust. Newly-acquired reliever Anthony Swarzak was a revelation last season with the White Sox and Brewers last season, pitching to an ERA of 2.33 with over 10.5 K/9 in his age-31 season. Whether he repeats that success remains to be seen but if last season was any indicator, the Mets have themselves a reliable 8th-inning option.

Overall, I don’t think the Mets are nearly as bad as last season’s record might indicate but they NEED to limit the injuries if they’re going to have any hope of competing for the playoffs. When fully healthy, I think this team is good enough to compete with the Nationals for the NL East crown. However that seems to be asking a lot out of them as of late and I’m not so sure they’re going to be able to overcome these shortcomings this season. However the NL East is pretty weak right now so I don’t think it’ll be too hard for the Mets to come in second place in the division, in fact I do think they’ll be healthy enough to compete for a Wild Card spot, though I think they will fall short.

Projected Finish: 84-78, 2nd in NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I feel like I wrote this blog twice (that’s because I did. I was halfway through my first edition when my computer freaked out on me and I lost my entire draft. Though to be honest, I feel like this version is way better than the one that got deleted). Join me tomorrow when I preview the New York Yankees, who on paper have the most dangerous 3-4 combo since Ruth-Gehrig. Let me know what you think of the Mets’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also, if you’re looking for something to do at 3 PM as you get ready for Spring Break (or continue partying during Spring Break), I’ll be on the call for a college baseball game between Indiana and Pacific on BTN Plus.

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.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

The big story outside of baseball for me today is the fact that Dallas Mavericks owner and Indiana alumnus Mark Cuban got fined $600K by the NBA for openly admitting that it was in the Mavericks’ best interest to tank this season. I mean, he’s right and bad teams tanking is not some unknown phenomena going around, it’s pretty well established at this point. But you can’t openly say that’s what your team is doing, especially considering the league sees tanking as a big issue and is trying to take steps to prevent it. That being said, the $600K fine is ENORMOUS overkill. Let’s take it easy, here, Adam Silver. I know Cuban wipes his ass with $600K, but you’re setting a pretty rough precedent here. Tanking really isn’t THAT bad for the league, I actually think it’s good for eventual parity, as it ensures the top college prospects aren’t going to the teams that are already absolutely loaded already. Speaking of tanking, we are in Day 3 of my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and today we’re focusing on the Atlanta Braves. Let’s take a look at how the Braves are projected to do in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 72-90, 3rd in NL East, 25 games behind Washington Nationals, 15 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Peter Moylan, C Chris Stewart, RP Chase Whitley

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Jason Motte, RP Ian Krol, 1B Matt Adams, SP RA Dickey, 2B Jace Peterson, 3B Adonis Garcia, CP Jim Johnson

Best Position Player: 1B Freddie Freeman

Best Pitcher: Julio Teheran

Depth Chart

C-Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Stewart

1B-Freddie Freeman

2B-Ozzie Albies

3B-Johan Camargo, Rio Ruiz

SS-Dansby Swanson, Charlie Culberson

LF-Lane Adams, Preston Tucker

CF-Ender Inciarte

RF-Nick Markakis

SP-Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Sean Newcomb

Bullpen-Arodys Vizcaino (CP), Peter Moylan, Rex Brothers, Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Dan Winkler

Coaching Staff

Manager-Brian Snitker (2nd Season with Braves)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Seitzer

Pitching Coach-Chuck Hernandez

1st Base Coach-Eric Young

3rd Base Coach-Ron Washington

Bench Coach-Walt Weiss

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I’m not going to sugarcoat things, it’s going to be a long season for the Braves. The thing I would look forward to the most if I’m a Braves fan is the later part of the season, August-Septemberish, when they start making their September call-ups because their farm system is absolutely loaded and it’d be exciting to see what kind of young talent the team has for the future. Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies were the first in this talented group to really get their first taste of action but the Braves also feature Ronald Acuna (MLB.com’s #2 prospect), Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, and Max Fried, all of whom could get their shot with the big club this season. Something worth noting, all those guys I just mentioned with the exception of Acuna are pitchers so perhaps the Braves may be in for a Mets-like rotation within the next couple of years. But offensively, Atlanta is going to struggle. Here’s how they’re projected to look to start the season.

1. Ender Inciarte-CF

2. Ozzie Albies-2B

3. Freddie Freeman-1B

4. Nick Markakis-RF

5. Tyler Flowers-C

6. Dansby Swanson-SS

7. Lane Adams-LF

8. Johan Camargo-3B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Not good. Not good at all. One thing I pride myself in is knowing who everybody in baseball is. I’m sorry to report that going into this blog I had no idea who Lane Adams and Johan Camargo were. It’s bad that you have one guy I’ve never heard in your starting lineup but these guys have two. Plus they’ll be featuring Nick Markakis near the top of their order, who hasn’t been worth more than 2 WAR since 2014. The only positives are Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman. Granted, they are HUGE positives for this lineup, but not enough to get them out of the bottom third of the league in runs scored like they were last season. But these two guys really are the only offensive threats the Braves have right now. Inciarte is one of the most underrated centerfielders in baseball both defensively and offensively. Last season, Inciarte hit .304 with 11 home runs, 57 RBI, 22 stolen bags, a DRS of 5 in centerfield, and a WAR of 3.0. Meanwhile Freeman continued to put himself in the discussion for best first basemen in the game as he hit .307 with 28 home runs, 71 RBI, slugged .586, and was worth 4.5 WAR despite battling injuries all season. But if the Braves are going to head in the direction they need, Dansby Swanson has to take the next step forward. The former #1 overall pick that the Braves traded Shelby Miller to the DBacks to acquire (a trade that would an all-timer of a steal if he can develop) struggled in his first full season of action, hitting just .232 with 6 home runs and 51 RBI with -7 DRS and only had a WAR of 0.1 in 144 games played. Not good at all. He is a very talented player but another season like that could be really damaging for the Braves’ rebuilding process.

during a game  at Marlins Park on September 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Pitching is not a strong suit for the Braves either. Julio Teheran is easily the most talented pitcher on the roster but he’s also the most inconsistent. His seasons seem to always be good-bad-good-bad. Last year he had a career-worst ERA of 4.49 a year after making the NL All Star team in 2016 and finishing with an ERA of 3.21. Teheran also had an ERA of 2.89 in 2014 but followed that up with an ERA of 4.04 in 2015. Based on that trend, it appears that 2018 will be a strong season for Teheran but the rest of the Braves staff leaves much to be desired. Mike Foltynewicz (pronounced FOLT-in-EV-ich) is very talented but he hasn’t been able to put that talent together for a full season. You’ve also got over-the-hill starters like Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir who were basically the excess from the Dodgers’ pitching staff that they were trying to get rid of. Once upon a time both guys were quality starters (in Kazmir’s case, an ace), but nowadays they’re just drifting off towards the sunset.

There are some decent pieces in the Braves’ bullpen that I think could be assets for playoff-caliber teams. Arodys Vizcaino has some really dominant stuff and pitched well last season with a 2.83 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Newly-signed Peter Moylan is an underrated middle relief guy who, despite being 39 years old, can still pitch well, as he had an ERA of 3.49 last year with the Royals. He’s one of those submarine pitchers, which I have noticed tends to add a couple of years to a pitcher’s career as long as they can remain productive. He could be a guy that can help the Braves out late in games. There’s also some young talent in that bullpen such as Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, and Dan Winkler who could quietly have strong seasons for the Braves’ ‘pen.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Braves this season, but I’m sure they’re well aware of that. But their plethora of prospects is so loaded that I don’t think they’re going to suck for a whole lot longer provided their coaches can properly develop them (Swanson’s 2018 season will be a big barometer for whether or not these guys are up to the challenge). The only thing that’s really going to keep them out of the cellar of the NL East this season is a healthy Freddie Freeman because he’s such a good hitter that he can take over games if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, there is absolutely zero protection around him right now so if he’s on a hot stretch, opposing pitchers have literally no incentive to pitch to him. This season is basically an opportunity for the organization to see what the younger guys can do and plan for the future.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in the NL East

That’s going to do it for Day 3 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow on my 22nd birthday where I will be previewing the Baltimore Orioles, who are kind of in no-man’s land at the moment, as the front office will have some HUGE decisions to make when July rolls around. Let me know what you think of the Braves’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.