What Happened to E-Rod?

For the fourth time in five games, Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez failed to pitch five innings. While he struck out eight Atlanta Braves hitters in only four innings, he gave up six hits and four runs. After seeing his ERA stand at 3.82 on May 7th, E-Rod has seen that number jump up to 6.21. For a guy that was suppose to be the team’s ace with Chris Sale injured, it’s been a really tough year for the lefty. Nobody seems to have an answer either.

After last night’s game, manager Alex Cora could not offer any explanation on what’s going on with Rodriguez.

“Right now, I don’t know. Honestly, I think stuff-wise he’s good. The changeup was good, velocity was good, elevated fastball was good,” Cora said according to NESN. “He wasn’t able to finish them off in that spot and he needs to be more aggressive in that situation with the ninth hitter there with a pinch-hitter. And that walk put us in a bad spot.”

E-Rod

So, what has changed since we saw Rodriguez win 19 games in 2019 and had an ERA of 3.82?

Bad Luck?

Rodriguez currently has his highest career K/9 rate (10.53), and his lowest BB/9 (2.43). His 1.35 HR/9 would tie his career high but that’s not far from his norm. While his ERA is 6.21, his fielder independent pitching (FIP) is 3.63, indicating that he has done better than his ERA suggests.

This season hitters are batting .294 against Rodriguez, much higher than his career average of .248. Opponents are also hitting an absurd .380 on balls in play, a full .076 higher than throughout Rodriguez’s career. That high figure could indicate that he is suffering from some bad luck and a not-so-great defense. It is realistic to expect those figures to drop as the season goes on.

More Line Drives

While Rodriguez has been fairly good a limiting fly balls and home runs, he is not getting the same number of ground balls that he usually does. In 2019, 19 percent of batted balls against him were classified as line drives, whereas 48.5 percent were ground balls, according to Fangraphs. This season line drives have jumped to 25 percent and ground balls have dropped to 41.7 percent. What is Rodriguez doing different this year to allow that?

Fewer and Slower Fastballs

For one, he is throwing his fastball at an all-time low and is relying on his off-speed pitches more often. According to Fangraphs, this is the first season where Rodriguez is throwing his fastball less than 50 percent of the time. He went from throwing his slider 4.3 percent of the time in 2019 to 9 percent in 2021. His change-up percentage is also at a career high at 24.6 percent. It is important to note that his average fastball velocity is under 93 MPH for the first time in his career as well at 92.5.

Maybe E-Rod is still working back from his elbow inflammation early in the season. Maybe he is still working on mechanics after missing a full season. There is no way around how bad a 6.21 ERA is, but it’s unlikely to stay that high all year. At some point, those line drives are going to average out and he will give up fewer hits. Even with the dip in velocity, it’s not far from his average where he can’t bring it back up. It’s been a bleak season for Rodriguez, but there is still plenty of time and potential to turn things around.

Reevaluating the Andrew Benintendi Trade

Last night, the Kansas City Royals placed outfielder Andrew Benintendi on the 10-day injured list with a fractured right rib. The injury will cause Benintendi to miss playing against the Red Sox, his former team, when they come to Kansas City this weekend. As many know, Benintendi was traded to the Royals this offseason in a three-team trade along with the New York Mets. That trade netted the Red Sox outfielder Franchy Cordero, minor league pitcher Josh Winckowski, and three players to be named later. With the Red Sox-Royal series coming up, and every player involved either in the minors or the IL, right now is a perfect time to reevaluate the Benintendi trade.

Kansas City Royals

Benintendi trade

If the Royals can sign Benintendi to an extension that keeps him in Kansas City past 2022, they would be the clear-cut winners of this trade. Even if they don’t, having a solid outfielder on a cheap contract can’t hurt the rebuilding process. Benintendi’s $6.6 million contract looks even better when you factor in Boston sending the Royals $2.8 million.

Before his injury, Benintendi has appeared in 60 games for the Royals. After a tough stretch between 2019 and 2020, he is looking like the hitter he was early in his career. With eight home runs and seven stolen bases, he has the chance for his second 20-20 season. His .283 is batting average would be his second highest over the course of a full season. In May, he led the Royals with 33 hits and batted .340.

While the Royals are far from contenders, they are having a decent rebuilding season. At 30-35 they are third in the AL Central and sit a respectable seven games out of the Wild Card. With another move or two, they would vie for a playoff spot in 2022.

Boston Red Sox

If Cordero can carry over his hot-streak from Worchester then this trade would not be a total loss for the Red Sox. But at this point, his career in Boston has been a disaster. In 95 at-bats he is hitting a low .179 with only one home run. For a guy that was suppose to have some power, it was definitely not the start Red Sox fans wanted to see.

There is some hope though. Since being sent down to AAA, Cordero has gone one a tear. In 15 games for the WooSox, he is hitting .377 with 15 home runs and an OPS of 1.195. Replicating even a little of that would be huge for Boston.

Sent over by the Mets, Winckowski has been a solid starter for the Portland Sea Dogs. In seven starts, he sports a 2.39 ERA and has 33 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. Unlikely to make an immediate impact, if he continues to pitch well, he could be a September call-up.

Boston also received three PTBNL that were finalized earlier this month. Chaim Bloom has made it clear that all three players are far from making the big leagues, though there is a lot of potential. Freddy Valdez is only 19 and is already ranked as Boston’s 21st best prospect. Pitcher Luis De La Rosa has yet to play this year, but he is only 18 and was an All-Star in the Dominican Summer League in 2019. Grant Gambrell is in High-A and allowed one run in his first start with the Greenville Drive.

Swapping Benintendi for Cordero definitely hurt Boston in the short-term, but Bloom was thinking long-term when he made this trade. While PTBNL are tough to project, it may be a few years before Boston can evaluate their full return from the trade.

My First Time At Fenway Park

There are few things that baseball fans or even sports fans in general can agree on. But one thing that everyone can agree on is how special Fenway Park is. The 109-year-old ballpark has seen some special moments and serves as a time capsule to the early days of Major League Baseball. As a diehard Red Sox fan, I dreamed of the day I would finally get to visit and watch some baseball at America’s most beloved ballpark. Living in Alabama definitely made it hard, but I finally got my chance over Memorial Day Weekend.

When I landed at Boston Logan International Airport last Friday, I instantly could tell that Boston was a special place. Looking out the window at the Chesapeake Bay running all the way up to the skyscrapers created a picture-perfect scene that made me never want to leave. Boston is a very special place; from the food, to the prestigious educational institutions, to the history, to the people and culture, and obviously a great history in professional sports. I honestly do not know of any other city that has such a fine blend of all those things.

First time at Fenway Park

Walking up Jersey Street and hanging a right onto Lansdowne Street made me feel like I was at home. The game experience at Fenway Park is one of the best experiences in all of sports. The enthusiasm of the fans mixed with the ballparks wow-factor made for an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. The Red Sox hosted the Miami Marlins when I was in town. Not only was it Memorial Day Weekend, but it was also the weekend that capacity restrictions at Fenway were lifted. Despite the cold and rainy weather, the ballpark was rocking. It really showed how dedicated Red Sox fans truly are. There are a lot that separate Fenway Park from every other ballpark in the MLB. Obviously Fenway is significantly older than just about every other, but it still looks just as good as a brand new park. The best thing about Fenway Park is the feeling of being in such a special and historic place. You simply can not beat that.

In addition to seeing the Red Sox play, I also had the chance to take the Fenway Park tour. The experience is awesome and very informative. You also get to see areas of the ballpark that you would not normally have access to, such as the press box and Green Monster. The tour lasts about an hour and allows for a bunch of phenomenal photo opportunities.

The Best Food At Fenway?

I got to spend a good bit of extra time at Fenway thanks to every game having a rain delay. Waiting around gave me quite the appetite, which allowed me to try many of the great concession options available at America’s most beloved ballpark. The chicken fingers and fries come in third place. The fries at Fenway were great, the chicken tenders were just average. At second I have the iconic Fenway Frank. This classic hotdog was one of the best I have had. The usage of a slice of bread instead of a hotdog bun is an interesting change I had never seen before. I have to give the first place prize to Regina’s Pizza. It was perfect and I can honestly say it was the best pizza I have ever gotten to enjoy.

Who Should Hit Lead-off for the Red Sox?

After going 0-5 against the Blue Jays, lead-off hitter Enrique Hernandez saw his average drop down to .233 and his on-base percentage down to .288. It’s been a tough year for Hernandez who was expected to be a table setter for the offense. While he has hit out of the lead-off spot in 41 games, it’s clear that Hernandez is not the answer. The only question is, who should Boston move to the top of the lineup?

lead-off

Alex Verdugo has always been an option to move up a spot in the lineup. With a OBP of .353, he would be an ideal candidate for the role. At the same time, Cora has made it clear that he likes having Verdugo in the two-spot and doesn’t want to mess with the heart of the lineup.

Outside of Hernandez, four guys have hit lead-off for the Red Sox. Only one has had any success this season and that is second baseman Christian Arroyo. Even though he has only hit lead-off in seven games, that is the second most on the team. His OBP of .345 is significantly higher than Marwin Gonzalez or Danny Santana, the two other players on the roster who have hit lead-off.

Arroyo has also been on a hot streak that is deserving of a promotion in the lineup. In his last 14 games, he is hitting .313 with a OBP of .405. Perfect numbers for lead-off guy. Arroyo has hit all three of his home runs in the same span, including a late-inning home run that tied the game against the Blue Jays. While his low walk total can stand to increase, Arroyo is the best option to lead-off.

Who Should Hit Lead-Off?

While Arroyo has seen the majority of hit at-bats in the seven-spot, he has had some success hitting lead-off. In eight games as lead-off, he is hitting .267 which is higher than Hernandez’s .239. Maybe Cora wants to keep Arroyo down in the bottom of the lineup to provide some production after the main part of the lineup. Even still, putting Arroyo in the top spot would give him the chance to have more at-bats and give the offense a boost early in games.

Already Hot, Improving Red Sox Staying on Track

With 60 games now in the books for 2021, it’s clear that the Red Sox overachieving is no fluke. After a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees, the improving Red Sox find themselves with the second-best record in the American League and only one and one half a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for first place as of June 9th. The rotation has been much more consistent than last year and the offense has improved thanks to some bounce back performances from guys like J.D. Martinez. What should scare the rest of the AL is that for as good as the Red Sox are playing, they are only going to improve even more.

This week Chris Sale started throwing off the mound at Fenway. The lefty threw 25 pitches. He also told the media that he fully plans on pitching in 2021. Best case scenario for Boston, Sale returns to form and they can either roll with a six-man rotation or send E-Rod or Richards to the bullpen. Worst case scenario, Sale struggles and Boston shuts him down early. Even then, Boston would still have five solid starters for the rest of the season.

Chris Sale

On the offensive side, Boston has been looking for a third outfielder to play everyday alongside Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe. Franchy Cordero, Enrique Hernandez, and Danny Santana have all failed to secure that spot, whether due to poor performance or injury. Luckily Boston has a prospect in waiting who has the potential to be an everyday outfield in Jarren Duran.

In 18 games for Worchester, Duran has hit seven home runs to go along with a .278 batting average and .991 OPS. He has also yet to commit an error in the outfield. The 29th ranked prospect according to Baseball America also went 7 for 19 while playing for Team USA this summer. Unless somebody on the roster can hit at a respectable rate, the door may be wide open for Duran to take the spot.

Improving Red Sox Not Done Yet

While a trade is always an option to improve this team, it may be in Boston’s best interest to see what this team can do when fully-loaded. Sale is capable of being a top-5 pitcher in the AL and if Duran can hit .250 with some power, it would be an improvement over what Boston is currently sending out as their third outfielder. Boston could be really scary come late July.

What the Return of Chris Sale Means For The Red Sox

“Boogeyman’s coming” tweeted Red Sox pitching prospect Connor Seabold. Seabold’s tweet was in response to the news that Red Sox ace Chris Sale would be joining the Red Sox as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Sale has been out since March of 2020 but he is expected to begin facing batters soon. So what does the return of Chris Sale mean for the Red Sox? First, let’s look at the rumors about his potential return.

Sale was seen throwing in the outfield at Fenway Park prior to Monday’s 5-3 victory over the Miami Marlins. Sale’s return to the club has fans optimistic that he could be back on the mound this summer, in hopes that he can make a difference in the AL East race.

The Red Sox Current Rotation

Sale would be joining a staff that has already exceeded the expectations of many. In the shortened 60-game MLB season last year, the Red Sox went 24-36 with a team ERA of 5.85 and allowed 325 earned runs. Through 60 games this season, the Red Sox are 37-23 with a team ERA of 3.81 and have allowed just 223 earned runs. Every pitcher on the Red Sox current starting rotation has a winning percentage of at least .500, and none of their ERAs surpass 4.00.

In three seasons with the Red Sox, Sale has posted a career ERA of 3.08, with a .603 win percentage, and 763 strikeouts. Sale has also finished top five in AL Cy Young voting twice, and has appeared in two All Star games in his Red Sox career. Adding Sale to a rotation that has already been impressive this season could be a big a boost for the Sox

The Red Sox Will Have Some Decisions To Make

Assuming Sale is able to make a return to the mound this summer, the Red Sox will have some decisions to make. With Sale coming up, the Red Sox would have to remove a pitcher from the starting rotation, unless they adopt the rare six man rotation. We have seen teams such as the Mariners and Tigers use the six man rotation, but it is not very common. The Red Sox have five capable pitchers in their rotation, along with the return of Chris Sale looming. We also can’t forget about 24-year-old Tanner Houck, who made two early season starts for the Red Sox and is now in Worcester. One thing that is for sure, the Red Sox pitching depth doesn’t seem like it will be a problem.

Another Alternative For Sale

Another alternative for Sale and the Red Sox could be to bring him out of the bullpen once he is ready to go. As we have seen with reliever Garrett Whitlock, Alex Cora and the Red Sox do not rush guys coming off Tommy John surgery. Garrett Whitlock has been one of the better relievers for the Red Sox this season, but still only pitches every four or five days due to coming of Tommy John surgery.

The Red Sox signed Sale to a five-year $145 million extension in 2019 that keeps him with the club until the 2025 season, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Given how the Red Sox starters have pitched this season, the Red Sox shouldn’t have any need to rush Sale.

Given the contract Sale is currently on, and the position the Red Sox will likely be in when he returns , pitching Sale out of the bullpen to start might be best for the Red Sox.