Dustin Pedroia setback: Is his role in jeopardy?

The latest version of a Dustin Pedroia setback reawakens whispers stemming from last season. They are whispers that the most loyal Pedroia supporters have tried to silence for over a year. The whispers that might suggest Pedroia’s career winding down, due to the nagging issues from his surgically repaired knee.

Yet another setback makes a timeline for Pedroia’s return unclear

News out of the Red Sox camp today proved quite discouraging. After being scratched Dustin Pedroia setbackfrom a Saturday start in Portland due to knee soreness, Pedroia reportedly suffered a setback after a doctor examined him on Monday. The news is troubling, seeing as the second baseman has already spent a month on the injured list with a bad knee.

At the time of his IL placement, it was reported that this knee issue was not related to the part of his knee that has undergone multiple surgeries. In an at bat in Yankee Stadium, Pedroia “felt something pop,” which led to his eventual rehab assignments up in Maine. More recently, he missed Saturday’s game as more of a precaution, given some general soreness. Pedroia had been rehabbing for a decently long stretch of games. The fact that he has endured another setback ensures he will be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future.

If the latest issue really does differ from past knee injuries, then perhaps there is hope he can overcome it. As things currently stand, however, the signs point negative. Pedroia missed all but three games in 2018 due to that knee, and he fought through those limitations throughout 2017 as well. His former days as a masher and a dirt dog might well be a thing of the past. If he is to return in 2019, significant recovery will have to happen.

Pedroia will have competition for playing time once he returns

The self-proclaimed “Laser Show” has had a fantastic career in Boston, earning three World Series championships, an MVP, Rookie of the Year, four All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, and a reputation for laying it all on the line. There’s no doubt that his aggressive style of play has provided many victories. It could also be said that his hunger to play daily through injuries is what is hampering him. With that, the door is creaking open for that playing time to be absorbed.

Michael Chavis currently makes the loudest case to take the spot away, as the rookie infielder has thrown up a torrid .282/.407/.563 line in his first 20 big league games. His versatility to also play at third and first base gives him the edge.

Eduardo Nunez recently returned from the IL and ripped a two-run homer in his first game back. But the veteran has not been overly productive otherwise in 2019. Meanwhile, fan favorite utilityman Brock Holt recently suffered his own setback due to a bad shoulder. His recovery timeline is indefinite.

The Dustin Pedroia setback has been a major cog in the machine that has resumed the franchise’s place as a premiere team. It would be a shame for the knee that he’s had fixed so many times continue to hold him back. If he continues to miss time, there might not be a spot for him to come back to.

Rafael Devers surging as Red Sox find offensive stride

Things looked bleak for the Red Sox after a mini-sweep at the hands of New York Yankees just under a month ago. The offense had been anemic most of the season, the rotation getting rocked on the mound, and the bullpen had just blown a late lead to lose the series. If the team was going to turn things around, somebody (virtually everybody) at the plate had to step up. Somebody had to catch fire. Rafael Devers surging at the plate was just what the doctor ordered for the resilient Sox.

Rafael Devers surging at the plate has helped carry a revitalized offenseRafael Devers surging

Since that frustrating New York series, the Sox have responded to go 16-6 over their last 22 games. A major factor in that has been the brilliant hitting of Devers. While not showcasing tremendous power, the 22-year-old has instead broken out and piled on the hits. Devers left New York hitting .262 with a .659 OPS. Since then, the young stud has risen his average 74 points and his OPS a whopping 205. Over those 22 games, Devers has ripped multiple hits in 11 of them, including back-to-back-to-back three hit performances over the weekend. He’s driven in 19 of his 21 RBI, with seven coming in just his previous three games. Not to mention, he also leads the team with five stolen bases on the year.

It’s no secret that the impact Devers has on the middle to bottom of the order has put him at the forefront of run production. Among the club, Devers ranks first in games played (41, the only player to appear in every game), hits (50), doubles (12), average (.336), and ranks second in on base percentage (.408). His OBP against right-handed pitchers is a staggering .444. If there was any doubt of whether or not he could pull out of his early season scuffling, it has been put to rest. The third-year player is giving new meaning to the term “hot corner.”

This year’s strides make sense of Devers’ sophomoric struggles last season

In 2018, Devers failed to adjust back to the league once the league figured out how to throw to him. He struck out 121 times to just 44 walks, plate discipline and the high fastball often representing a problem. An average below .250 and an OPS below .800 certainly did not help either. But so far this season, his ratio has improved considerably, having struck out just 24 times to 19 walks.

With Miguel Andujar struggling for the Yankees, Devers has a real opportunity to thrust himself into the conversation for the best third baseman in the division. He might even be competing to make that claim across the AL, Among qualifiers, Devers ranks first in average, tied for third in hits, and fourth in OBP. If Devers can continue this torrid stretch, then the sky is the limit for the young third baseman.

Red Sox closers: Will the current strategy work long term?

Despite the bullpen being a bright spot for the Red Sox, fans are still calling for an impact arm. Red Sox closers have been effective, but Craig Kimbrel is not walking through that door. Perhaps a look at the numbers will ease concerns over the relief effort.

A change in the way the Red Sox handle the later innings

Instead of playing along with the standard MLB approach (having one man handle the Red Sox closersninth inning), the Red Sox brass have gone by committee this year. While Ryan Brasier has largely handled the closing duties, other relievers such as Matt Barnes have occasionally entered the final frame. Alex Cora has used Barnes in high leverage spots based on when the meat of the lineup is due up.

Barnes and Brasier have both found relative success in their roles

In 13 appearances, Barnes boasts the AL’s highest strikeout rate (50 percent) with three walks and a 2.08 ERA. Out of those 13 spots, five have come in the ninth, four in the eighth, once in the seventh, and he has pitched in both the seventh and eighth a pair of times. Barnes has had a steady rise over the years, and it has culminated into the impressive season he has put together so far.

However, Red Sox closers have combined to amass three blown saves through 11 chances. In comparison to the last three seasons with Kimbrel, that is a troubling trend. The team has already struggled to bring leads into the later innings. But the individual numbers suggest the Sox will be just fine.

Braiser has handled the bulk of the save opportunities, securing the game in six of eight tries. Despite his 2.57 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 innings, the calls to make a change were loud after he allowed a walk-off home run to Nick Delmonico (hitting about .150 at the time) against the White Sox on Thursday night.

Brasier has been a lot better than he’s earned credit for

An article by Alex Speier of The Boston Globe analyzed the work of Brasier between this season and last. HIs findings showed that the journeyman is still about as effective as he was in 2018. Although, he has allowed three homes runs through his 14 innings so far. That is one more than he allowed through 33.2 innings of work last season. Speier points out that there is not any direct reason for concern, as Brasier’s strikeout and walk percentages remain in tact. He is still generating lots of swings and misses with his fastball/slider/splitter makeup.

While fans might be uneasy about the plan’s long term success, Cora has put the team in a good position. There’s no analytical evidence that either Barnes or Brasier are in danger of coming undone. As long as they keep posting numbers like these, the Red Sox are in good hands.

Latest Red Sox homestand offers hope for winning streak

After a crucial weekend series in Tampa that resulted in a sweep, the latest Red Sox homestand presented the team an opportunity to do damage on some beatable opponents. The team remains under .500, but did start to show signs of rising up from the ashes of a losing April. Following the sweep of the Rays, optimism was abound as the fan base thought, “maybe this is when the team turns it around!” A lopsided Detroit series followed by a part of tightly contested losses to Tampa got the homestand offer to an undesirable start. A strong finish over Oakland pulled Boston back above water though. Let’s look back at the key points of each series.

Series One: Detroit (10-10), split series 2-2

  • In game one of a doubleheader, following a rainout the night before, the Red Sox Red Sox homestandhomestand started off with a strong start from Chris Sale, but a start that only saw him work five innings.
  • 2019 rising star Matthew Boyd tossed a quality start (7 IP, 3 R, 3 K) and led Detroit to a 7-4 day-game victory.
  • In game two, rookie hurlers Darwinzon Hernandez (2.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 K) and Travis Lakins (2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 K) appeared out of the bullpen in impressive fashion in their major league debuts.
  • Much like in game one, the Red Sox offense had a quiet evening at the plate, losing 4-2.
  • In game three, the Sox bats broke out for the first time, powered by a balance attack that saw Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Christian Vazquez drive in a pair of runs each
  • The Sox were also powered by Eduardo Rodriguez’s best start of the season to date (6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 7 K) in an 11-3 laugher.
  • In the finale, the Red Sox bat’s again showed burst, leaning on a home run from rookie Michael Chavis and a two-run double from Devers, as well as quality start from Rick Porcello in a 7-3 victory.

Series Two: Tampa Bay (18-9), lose series 0-2

  • A strong start by David Price (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 7 K) but a poor night from the Red Sox offense in a 2-1 loss in game one.
  • In the second matchup, Chris Sale rebounded after allowing four runs in the first two innings to go seven strong. It was not enough though as the Red Sox fell to Tyler Glasnow and the Rays 5-2.
  • Charlie Morton and Glasnow both shined in their starts against Boston, allowing just three earned runs combined.
  • The loss was Sale’s fifth on the season, and he remains without a victory.

Series Three: Oakland 14-16), win series 3-0

  • With the Red Sox homestand looking like yet another setback, the team rebounded well to pound Oakland over three games.
  • In game one, another spread out offensive attack, including three RBI from Chavis and three hits from Mookie Betts, helped the Sox come back from a 4-0 deficit to claim an eventual 9-4 victory.
  • The bullpen allowed just one hit and no runs in 4.1 innings of work among the six players that appeared.
  • Game two received a gem for Porcello (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 8 K) as Boston rose victorious 5-1.
  • Game three featured strong work out of the stable, as six relievers combined to allow three runs.

The Red Sox are in the midst of a seven-game road trip. They will play the White Sox before stopping in Baltimore.

Mookie Betts heating up at the right time for Boston

It’s no secret that the Red Sox have not been impressive in the opening month of their title defense. After all, finishing April at a 13-17 clip is nothing short of a disappointment to start 2019. The Sox have won 7 of their last 11 and there’s been big reason for that: Mookie Betts heating up.

The 2018 AL MVP generally starts his seasons with a cold couple of weeks, and this Mookie Betts heating upcampaign was no different. Up until about two weeks ago, Betts was slashing .212/.321/.394. Those are numbers that a lot of players would be happy with. But the Red Sox right fielder is capable of much more, and that is starting to show.

Over the 11 games since, he has started to blossom back into form. He’s hit .405 (17-for-42) with five doubles, two homers and seven RBI. But not only do the numbers suggest that he is starting to find his stride, it is clear that his approach at the plate improved as well.

A change in approach has re-calibrated Betts’ bat

Mookie Betts was the topic of discussion last night when Alex Speier of the Boston Globe joined the NESN broadcast booth. Speier pointed out that Betts had been allowing pitchers to work further into counts, a deviation from his 2018 approach. Instead of jumping on a 1-0 fastball, the right fielder was letting those pitches go by. More recently, you will notice Betts not taking strikes in the box, but instead jumping all over a middling pitch and driving it. The more aggressive approach has led to Betts becoming the middle-of-the-order hitter that manager Alex Cora envisioned.

Not only has Betts been “attacking the strike zone” as Cora would call it, but he has also started to spray the ball all over the field. According to Speier, Betts was a heavy-pull hitter through most of the 2018 regular season. But he started to shoot the ball to the opposite field at the end of the season. Betts has multiple hits in five of his last six games, and he has used all different parts of the field to place them. In Tuesday night’s game, Betts ripped a solo homer to dead center and slapped a single between a shift to left. Throughout this scorching streak, the decorated youngster has also started to avoid the pull-heavy tendencies and starting spraying hits to the opposite field based on pitch location.

Betts is taking off and becoming one of, if not the league’s hottest, hitters. Wherever Mookie goes, the Red Sox go. If he continues to produce at this level the Red Sox will be ready to re-enter the division title race.

Is Red Sox Prospect Michael Chavis the Future at Second?

Due to modern day defensive shifts in the major leagues, the physical requirements of a second baseman have changed in recent years. Nowadays, you can spot players built like corner infielders manning a middle infield position. For Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis, the evolving nature of the position might be his best chance to get that quality bat tool of his into the major league lineup.

Mostly known for his hitting prowess, the newest addition to the Boston clubhouse is going to get a chance to show what he can do on the field. Let’s look at some of the reasons why Chavis’ stay in the big leagues might blossom into something more.

Dustin Pedroia’s uncertain status opens the door

With Pedroia back to the injured list with knee issues, the future of second base sort of Red Sox prospect Michael Chavishangs in the balance. This was supposed to be the season in which the team’s longest-tenured vet would return to full health for the first time since 2016. Another setback, albeit not expected to be serious, relegates Pedroia to the injured list. Joining him are Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt, who had been struggling anyways, leaving the Sox thin at the position. Enter Chavis.

Drafted as a shortstop, Chavis has spent most of his time in pro ball at third, while also seeing some work at first the last couple seasons. Before his call up, he appeared in five games at second in Triple-A Pawtucket. The versatility could indeed add to Chavis’ value, given his proven ability to hit well across all levels so far. If Pedroia continues to battle injuries, this might be Chavis’ opportunity to steal the position away. That opportunity is contingent on whether Holt and Nunez remained injured and/or ineffective.

The physical requirements of a second baseman have changed

Previously, teams looked for quick, agile players that could cover a lot of ground on the right side of the diamond. You needed somebody who could avoid contact on the base and still turn two. But with analytics has come more targeted field positioning, more often putting second baseman right in line with where hitters are most commonly putting the ball. With that, teams are starting to place bulkier players at second to keep their bats in the lineup. Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis, weighing in a 216 lbs., far exceeds the build of the traditional second baseman.

The Milwaukee Brewers are the trendsetters in this area, given how they have used Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas in the field. Shaw, a corner infielder with pop, and Moustakas, a natural third baseman with power, both saw significant innings at second base last season. That trend has continued into 2019, with Moustakas getting the majority of the time there. The versatility of these players allows manager Craig Counsell to keep their productive bats in the everyday lineup. This can be a similar path to get Chavis innings at the big league level.

Chavis can be a spark plug like former prospects before him

In 2016 and 2017, the Sox were in search of a spark, and in came Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. The two top prospects emerged and hit .295/.359/.476 and .284/.356/.329, respectively, in their first tastes of the majors. As an early season addition, Chavis, if given enough playing time, could be the next in line. If the depth chart remains thin, the job could be Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis’ to lose.