Red Sox Journal: Sox won 5 of 7 in the last week

A week ago today, the Sox defeated the Oakland A’s in the second of a three-game series at Fenway Park. Rick Porcello had his best outing of the season. He pitched 8 shutout innings and allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks. The Sox won the game, 5-1.

A day later, on a rare Wednesday afternoon game, Boston was gunning for their first homesox won sweep of the season. Hector Velazquez started and pitched 2 innings of one-run ball. Marcus Walden, who has pitched exceptionally well after starting 2019 at Triple-A, pitched in relief and hurled 3 scoreless innings. Andrew Benintendi broke the game open in the sixth inning when he scored two runners on a bloop single to center field. Final score: Boston 7, Oakland 3.

On Thursday, the team sent second baseman Dustin Pedroia on a rehab assignment to Double-A Portland. The veteran has since played in three games for the Sea Dogs. He has recorded 3 hits and 1 RBI.

Also on Thursday, the Sox were in search for a season-high fourth straight victory. But, mistakes in the ninth inning by third baseman Rafael Devers and closer Ryan Brasier resulted in a White Sox win on a walk-off home run.

Boston responded by winning the final three games of the series in impressive fashion. After the game 1 loss, they outscored Chicago 30-to-5. By the end of the weekend, the Red Sox had captured their third three-game winning streak of the season.

In-season Acquisitions

The team made several other transactions last week. On Friday, they added infielder Cody Asche to their 40-man roster. Pedrioa played in two games over the weekend in Double-A Portland.  Asche most recently played at the Triple-A level for the Sugar Land Skeeters of Sugar Land, Texas. His last major league appearance came in 2017 with the White Sox.

On Saturday, Boston placed shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin on the 10-day Injured List (left knee sprain). The team recalled Eduardo Nunez from Pawtucket. Since being activated, Nunez has started two of three games.

Also on Saturday, first baseman Joey Curletta was added to the 40-man roster after being claimed off waivers from Seattle. The 25-year-old has no major league experience, but was named the 2018 Texas League Player of the Year (Double-A) after posting 23 home runs and 94 RBI in 129 games. Curletta was assigned to the Paw Sox roster.

Yesterday, before opening up a three-game series in Baltimore, the Red Sox placed starting pitcher David Price on the 10-day Injured List due to elbow tendinitis on his pitching arm. Price had been the team’s most consistent starting pitcher this season (1-2, 3.75 ERA, 1.14 WHIP). Right-handed pitcher Ryan Weber filled the roster spot after being called up. Weber pitched 4 scoreless innings last night in relief for starter Josh Smith.

After losing last night in Baltimore 4-1, the Sox will send Hector Velazquez to the mound tonight. Chris Sale will pitch the series finale on Wednesday.

April Awards: Hitters, Pitchers, Fielders

April has come and gone. The Sox finished the month on a strong note – two wins at home against the Athletics. Their overall record is 13-17, good for 7 games back in the AL East. After some fast starts (Mitch Moreland: 10 extra base hits in first 14 games) and slow starts (Rick Porcello: 11.12 ERA through first 3 starts) to the season, the team heads into May with some optimism, as they look to capture their second sweep of the season today. The following are April awards for Red Sox players:

Player of the Month: Mookie Betts

  • Betts has batted second in the lineup for most of the season. He leads Red Soxapril awards hitters in at-bats, runs, walks, on-base percentage, and OPS. He has also been very efficient in the field, as he leads all Boston outfielders with 5 assists. He has permitted zero errors in mostly right field and some center field. After batting as low as the Mendoza-line through the season’s first three weeks, Betts has turned things around. He batted .452 in the final 11 games of April.

Best starting pitcher: David Price

  • This April award was easy to hand to Price, not because Price’s stuff has been dominant, but because everyone else’s hasn’t been great. Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez have ERAs above six. Rick Porcello’s ERA is above five-and-a-half. Nathan Eovaldi made four starts (6.00 ERA) before going under the knife. Price owns an ERA of 3.60 and a WHIP of 1.07. He finished April with two quality starts.

Best reliever: Ryan Brasier

  • The Red Sox started the season without a firm understanding of their team’s closer. Brasier has become their guy. Six saves in seven opportunities is good for 5th in the American League. His 1.32 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and .188 batting average against are all elite numbers. Matt Barners, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman have all been stellar as well, but Brasier takes the cake here.

Best hitter: J.D. Martinez

  • Martinez, who is batting .312 on the season, edges out Betts by a hair. The former leads the team in batting average and hits (34), and is third in on-base and slugging. Martinez led the led in hits, home runs, and RBI last year. I expect him to do the same this season.

Best fielder: Christian Vázquez

  • The April award could have gone to Betts, or Mitch Moreland, or Xander Bogaerts. Vázquez’s presence behind the dish has been extremely valuable, with the unexpected departure of Blake Swihart and easing-in of Sandy León. Vázquez has caught 5 base runners stealing, which ranks 3rd in the AL. However, more spectacularly, his zero errors ranks first in the AL.

Best rookie: Michael Chavis

  • Of all the April awards, this was an easy one – not just because Chavis is the only Red Sox rookie to receive regular looks this year. His numbers are terrific. His batting average is above .300, on-base above .400, and OPS above 1.000. He has earned an everyday role at second base, and has even seen time at first and third. His bat is for power (3 home runs), and he seems to feel comfortable with his glove while lined up at several infield positions.

Sox Have Yet To Win A Series At Fenway

The Red Sox began a 10-game home stand last Monday. Their record is 2-4 through six games and two rainouts. In their two wins, they scored 18 total runs. But in their four losses, they plated just 9 runs. They now sit six games below .500, at 11-17. That’s good for 7.5 games behind Tampa Bay in the division. After two losses this weekend and three series’ splits in April, the Sox have yet to win a series at Fenway this season.

Chris Sale started yesterday. He pitched 7 innings and threw 111 pitches while facing 27Sox Have Yet batters, all of which were season bests. He took the loss though to drop to 0-5 on the season. Even worse, the Red Sox have lost all six of his starts. Michael Chavis has 3 home runs since making his major league debut on April 20. He has made seven consecutive starts at second base, which is not his natural position. Chavis also made a key error yesterday in the ninth inning when Rays outfielder Guillermo Heredia hit a ground ball to shortstop. Xander Bogaerts flipped to Chavis at second and the rookie’s throw sailed over Mitch Moreland’s head at first base. Avisail Garcia scored on the play to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to three runs.

J.D. Martinez did not play in the two games against the Rays over the weekend due to back spasms. Martinez leads the team with a .340 batting average, 33 hits, and a 1.052 OPS. His presence in the lineup could have proved to be valuable against a divisional opponent, considering the Sox lost by just 4 combined runs over the weekend.

Sox have yet to get results from bottom-third of lineup

Steve Pearce was the team’s DH against the Rays, instead of Martinez, and went 0-7 with one walk and a pair of strikeouts. Pearce’s 2019 batting average shrunk to minuscule .103. His teammate, Jackie Bradley Jr., went 1-for-5 in the series with two walks. His batting average stands at .150. Both Pearce and Bradley Jr., who hit towards the bottom of the lineup, are hurting their team at the plate.

What really hurt the Red Sox yesterday was Chris Sale allowing a 2-run homer in the first inning. It put a vulnerable team in a hole early. David Price, in Saturday’s game, also allowed a home run in the first inning.

Boston’s offense was most to blame against the Rays. They put together zero multi-run innings in both games. Rays starters Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow each threw quality starts and Tampa Bay’s bullpen allowed just one run through 5.1 innings.

The Red Sox have yet to put together a win-streak of more than three games this season. Their winning percentage at Fenway Park sits at 42 percent. To put things into perspective, the 2012 and ’14 Red Sox finished with home records of 42 percent. We all know how those seasons turned out.

Boston starts a three-game set against the Athletics tonight to finish off the home stand. Eduardo Rodriguez toes the rubber this evening, followed by Rick Porcello tomorrow and Hector Velázquez on Wednesday.

Champs Playing Themselves Into Unfamiliar Territory

Off to their worst 25-game start since 1996, seeing the champs playing themselves into unfamiliar territory is a little more than concerning. As we know, the Red Sox have won 4 World Series championships in the last 15 years. From 1967-’82, the Sox put together 16 consecutive winning seasons, and 14 more from 1998-2011, Since the inauguration of the AL East in 1969, Boston has won the division in three consecutive seasons just once. That accomplishment came to fruition last year in 2018, as the team won AL East titles from 2016-’18. Plain and simple, the Red Sox don’t like losing.

Since 1967, which is regarded as the “Impossible Dream Team” season of the franchise,champs playing Boston’s longest stretch of consecutive losing seasons is just 3, from 1992-’94. In ’92, they went 73-89. A year later, 80-82, and 54-61 in ’94 (the lockout shortened the 1994 season to 115 games). In 2012, after the team changed managers from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine, the team finished in last place with a 69-93 record. Through Boston’s first 25 games that season, they had 11 wins, which is one more than this year’s 10.

In 2014, a year removed from winning their 8th World Series, the Sox finished last again with a 71-91 record. The following season resulted in consecutive last place finishes in the AL East (78-84). It was the first time the Sox finished in last place in consecutive seasons in the history of the AL East.

So, can they still turn it around?

I believe they can salvage a 90-win season, but it’ll be tough. In 2010 and ’11, they started 11-14 each year. They missed the playoffs, but not by much. They reached 89 wins in ’10 and 90 wins in ’11. The Sox had a chance to make the postseason on the last day of the season in 2011, but a loss to the then last place Orioles had them ousted.

The Sox swept the Rays on the road last weekend and came home to play the Tigers on Monday, which began a 10-game home stand. Monday’s game was washed out by rain. Boston responded, discouragingly, with back-to-back losses in Tuesday’s double header. They won last night in impressive fashion, 11-4. The series finale is tonight. I believe if they win tonight, and split the series, it would be a huge win.

Champs Playing A Tough Schedule In May

They begin a tough 3-game set with Tampa Bay on Friday, where they will have to face Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow on the mound, again. April has clearly been a lost month for the Sox. They begin May with one game at home against the A’s. They will have to face Seattle, Colorado, Houston twice, the Indians, and the Yankees all in May. Things do not get any easier.

Red Sox Bullpen Has Become A Mess

To begin the season, Boston’s starting pitching was the team’s biggest weak link. Now, the starters have begun to settle down. Chris Sale allowed two runs yesterday and struck out 10 through five frames. Rick Porcello is coming off his best start (5.2 innings, 2 earned runs). After allowing 11 earned runs in his first two starts, Eduardo Rodriguez has permitted just 5 earned runs in his past two. Hector Velázquez has started three games since April 7 and has done a nice job in his role as a spot-start pitcher. And David Price has been the club’s best starter through four starts: 3.75 ERA,1.04 WHIP, 30 k’s in 24 innings. The Red Sox bullpen, however, after having started the season on a strong note, has reverted to become a complete liability.

In yesterday’s day-night double header against the Tigers, in game 1’s top of the 5thRed Sox Bullpen inning, Chris Sale escaped a jam. Runners were on first and third with Detroit’s best hitter (Niko Goodrum – .838 OPS) at the plate. Sale struck him out looking to keep the game tied at two. Heath Hembree then relieved Sale in the 6th, and allowed a solo home run to Detroit’s Ronny Rodriguez (career .645 OPS). The Red Sox were now suddenly playing from behind.

Two innings later, with the score tied 3-3, Colten Brewer was called on to pitch. He eventually escaped the inning on a double play, but not before he allowed 3 runs to cross the plate. Going into the bottom of the 8th, with six outs left for Boston, Detroit had taken a 6-3 lead. The Red Sox ended up losing 7-4.

Game 2

In the night cap, the first reliever out of the ‘pen was Marcus Walden. He came on in the top of the 4th inning, with the bases loaded and one out. He did not deliver and, consequently, surrendered a bases-clearing double to Brandon Dixon (career .636 OPS). The Tigers took a 3-0 lead.

In the next inning, manager Alex Cora called on southpaw Darwinzon Hernandez. It was his major league debut after being (temporarily) recalled earlier that day as Boston’s 26th player for the double header. He threw 50 pitches in 2.1 innings, allowed four hits, one walk, and struck out four.

With one out in the top of the 7th, with the Tigers still leading 3-0, Hernandez was replaced by Travis Lakins, making his ML debut. Lakins was recalled between games for reliever Bobby Poyner, who, in two appearances, owns a 18.00 ERA for the Red Sox. Lakins pitched 2.2 innings. He threw 34 pitches and allowed 1 earned run.

The Red Sox bullpen has become a mess

David Dombrowski’s Red Sox bullpen experiment is starting to become embarrassing. In an interview with NESN correspondent Tom Caron on April 11, Dombrowski was quoted saying, “Overall, we’re very happy with them (bullpen) and they have good stuff and we think they’ll continue to pitch well for us.” We now find ourselves just two weeks removed from that conversation. Things have changed.

Poyner and Erasmo Ramirez have both been summoned from Triple-A. They each pitched poorly and Ramirez was designated for assignment after being signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason. Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, and Colten Brewer all have earned-run-averages (ERA) above 5.50. Brewer’s sits at a disgusting 8.31.

Matt Barnes started the season superbly with just one earned run in his first 7 appearances. In his last two games, though, he has a blown win, a blown save, and has allowed two home runs in late-game situations.

Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, and Marcus Walden have all been terrific, with ERA’s of 1.59, 2.61, and 2.38, respectively. But, Walden was optioned to Triple-A by Dombrowski on April 15 after allowing earned runs in back-to-back appearances against the belittled Orioles. He was recalled on April 20.

How does Boston’s bullpen stack up?

In comparison to all other American League teams, Dombrowski’s bullpen has the fifth highest ERA (4.87). The bullpen has allowed the fourth-most hits and second-most runs, earned runs, and home runs. What’s most eye-opening is that Red Sox bullpen relievers have allowed 30 more runs than Houston Astros relievers this season.

Cemented starter Nathan Eovaldi underwent surgery yesterday on his elbow and will not pick up a baseball for six weeks. The club is now stuck with four starters. There is a chance that a fifth starter arrises before Eovaldi comes back, but that scenario seems unlikely. Hector Velázquez will continue to be a spot-starting option, especially with Brian Johnson still on the shelf. Perhaps Darwinzon Hernandez gets called back up and becomes a spot-starter? Nonetheless, the Red Sox bullpen will be subject to a heavy workload.

Dombrowski has reached into his pockets and has spent $335 million dollars on Sale, Eovaldi, and Xander Bogaerts since December. This is the Boston Red Sox. Hence, no one is going to scrutinize the front office for going all in. How do they do that? Cough up some more dough for Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel, who surprisingly still remain on the free agent market. Kimbrel would add stability to the ‘pen and Keuchel could eat up innings as a fifth starter. Keep Keuchel as a starter the rest of the way, and, when Eovaldi is ready to return, have him stay in the pen.

It’s Time To Say Goodbye To JBJ

The Red Sox invested $8.55 million dollars in their starting center fielder this season. They drafted Jackie Bradley, Jr. in the first round (40th overall) back in 2011. Although JBJ has been one of their better home-grown players, along with Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Barnes, his numbers to start this season should help explain why Boston’s hitting statistics rank in the bottom third of American League teams. Bradley is 9-for-64 this season (.141 batting average). He has struck out 21 times compared to 5 walks and has just 2 extra-base hits. Time has come to officially say goodbye to JBJ.

When we think of Jackie Bradley, Jr., we think of the best defensive center fielder inSay Goodbye baseball. Truth be told, Bradley has won just one Gold Glove, which came last year. Bradley has been the regular center fielder for the Sox since 2014, the year after the team won their eighth World Series championship. He took over for Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year/$153 million-dollar contract with the Yankees that offseason.

In the five seasons that Bradley has been manning center, the AL Gold Glove has been awarded to the likes of Adam Jones, Kevin Kiermaier twice, Byron Buxton, and Bradley, respectively. Bradley’s teammate Mookie Betts has won a Gold Glove in right field for three years running.

Bradley’s OPS numbers from 2014-’18 read like this: .531, .832, .835, .726, .717. He has averaged a .239 batting average over that span. His best season as a hitter came in 2016, when he started alongside Betts in the All-Star Game. That year, he posted career highs across the board: 156 games – 94 runs – 149 hits – 26 home runs – 87 RBI – .835 OPS – 271 total bases.

Compared to other top AL center fielders in 2016, Bradley finished second in RBI, third in runs, home runs, and WAR, and fourth in batting average. The following season, in 2017, he sank from third to seventh in runs and batting average. Also, individually speaking, his OPS dropped more than one-hundred points, he hit 9 less home runs, and his WAR dropped from 5.3 to 2.2. Last year, in 2018, Bradley saw his OPS drop again. His .234 batting average was his worst since his rookie year. Some might believe that downward trends like this should have authorized the Red Sox to say goodbye to JBJ some time ago.

Say Goodbye To JBJ: Always been a streaky hitter

A .926 OPS, 14 home runs, and 55 RBI in 2016’s first half are really what earned Bradley an All Star appearance in 2016. However, in the season’s second half, his numbers changed drastically. His OPS fell nearly two-hundred points (.728). He posted just 20 extra base hits after collecting 36 from April-July.

When looking at his overall career, JBJ is a .257 hitter at Fenway Park. His road batting average, however, sits at an ugly .216 clip. When facing right-handed pitchers, his career OPS of .734 warrants an average hitter. Against lefty’s his OPS drops to .664.

At this moment, tough to cut ties

Waiving or trading JBJ right now might not make the most sense, but sitting him more regularly would be smart. Betts has plenty of experience in center field. Benintendi is comfortably the everyday left fielder. Perhaps J.D. Martinez, the team’s DH, would entertain more starts in the outfield. Brock Holt, who is currently on the Injured List, has experience playing the outfield, as well as Steve Pearce.

The Red Sox have a plethora of talented hitters: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, Pearce, Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis. The more manager Alex Cora can get this group in the lineup card, the more runs will cross the plate. With more talent (Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez) due back to the lineup in the impending future, the Red Sox should say goodbye to JBJ.