Firing John Farrell Not the Answer

In light of Boston’s recent struggles, many have suggested that it’s time for John Farrell to go. He’s the first manager in more than 20 years to guide the Sox to back-to-back losing seasons, and they’ve faded after a fast start this year. Fans and media are understandably frustrated with the team’s recent performance, but firing John Farrell is not the answer.

Dismissing Farrell would be an overreaction to one bad month; the Red Sox were great under him in April and MayFiring John Farrell. They stunk in June, but that was because their lineup cooled off and their pitching staff was exposed. Farrell doesn’t have a dependable fourth or fifth starter right now; his bullpen options are limited. Dave Dombrowski needs to get him some help, not kick him to the curb.

Making Farrell the scapegoat for one bad month of baseball isn’t just unfair—it’s wrong. It’s not his fault that the rotation is in shambles, or that a bunch of key players got hurt around the same time. Boston’s crazy offense was bound to cool off sooner or later.

The Red Sox have a lot of problems, but Farrell is the least of them. He’s not a great manager, but he’s not terrible, either. He has the respect of his players and handles the media well. Often times managers are fired to send a message, but what kind of a message would that send to Boston? They’re only a few games out of first and could easily regain control of the AL East if their hitters get hot again.

Firing Farrell isn’t going to magically fix the rotation or bolster the bullpen. It won’t make Pablo Sandoval any skinnier or Koji Uehara any younger. It’s not Farrell’s fault that David Price is struggling or that Clay Buchholz has turned into a pumpkin. The best manager in the world couldn’t help Joe Kelly find the plate or Christian Vazquez hit major league pitching.

The Red Sox are flawed, and firing John Farrell isn’t going to change that. At least give him until the end of the season. If the Sox go nowhere, then fine, fire him. But right now, there’s no need.

Sox Need Pitching Help

Coming into the season, most pundits predicted that the Red Sox lineup would produce enough runs to keep the team in contention, which it has. Most analysts also expected that Boston’s pitching staff, specifically the starting rotation, would be a problem, and in that regard they were also correct. Many anticipated Dave Dombrowski dealing prospects to upgrade their pitching at the deadline, which he seems likely to do. Because the Red Sox need pitching help, and they need it now.

With Boston fading fast, Dombrowski can’t afford to wait another month before bolstering the staffSox Need Pitching Help. The Red Sox are 9-14 in June with a minus-12 run differential. They’ve gone from three games up on the AL East at the start of June to four games out of first in under four weeks. Boston’s offense has cooled considerably, but that’s less worrisome because lineups typically rise and fall over the course of the season. Barring serious injuries, that lineup will be fine.

The same can not be said, however, of Boston’s pitching staff. The rotation has been a mess, particularly at the back end. David Price has not been up to snuff. Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz have bombed. Rick Porcello has been hot and cold. John Farrell has exhausted all his options for the last two rotation spots with middling results.

With none of the young Red Sox starters proving ready to contribute, Dombrowski must seek pitching help outside the organization. Several big-names will likely be available, including Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran, but would require bundles of prospects to acquire. Boston must stabilize its rotation, however, and it’s worth trading a few kids now to avoid relying on Sean O’Sullivan and Henry Owens down the stretch.

The bullpen could also use reinforcements, as reliable options for high leverage situations are lacking. There’s Craig Kimbrel, obviously, and Junichi Tazawa, but that’s pretty much it. Carson Smith’s done for the year and Koji Uehara is finally showing his age. Boston needs another power arm to strengthen the bridge to Kimbrel. Relievers are always plentiful near the deadline, so acquiring one shouldn’t be too difficult.

So even though the trade deadline is still more than a month away, Boston shouldn’t wait. The Red Sox need pitching help now. If they wait, it might be too late.

Boston’s Bats Saved the Day

The Red Sox won a wild game on Thursday afternoon, edging the White Sox 8-7 in a see-saw affair. As has often been the case this year, they won because Boston’s bats saved the day.

For much of Thursday’s tilt, it looked like the White Sox were going to sweep a four-game series from the Red Sox (and at Fenway Park, no less) Boston's Bats Saved the Day. Chicago took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth, as Boston’s bats had once again gone into hibernation. After scoring once in each of the series’ first two games, the Red Sox offense remained eerily silent.

Until the sixth inning, at which point Boston erupted for four runs to take the lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Jose Abreu immediately put the White Sox back on top with a three-run homer. Abreu’s long ball was a classic Fenway homer, finding the Monster seats when it probably would have been caught elsewhere.

And just like that, the Red Sox were down again, but not for long. They got a run back in their half of the seventh to trim the deficit to one. They scored again in the eighth to tie the game at 7-7.

Neither side scored in the ninth, so the game went to extra innings. Craig Kimbrel, who had pitched a clean ninth inning, came back out for the top of the tenth. After loading the bases with nobody out, he buckled down. By some miracle, Chicago failed to score.

After watching the White Sox squander a golden scoring opportunity, Boston’s bats saved the day in the bottom of the frame. With two on and one out, Xander Bogaerts delivered, rifling a single up the middle to plate Mookie Betts and win the game. The Red Sox mobbed their star shortstop near first base, celebrating their first walk-off win in over a month and second all season.

Buchholz Back to the Rotation

The back of Boston’s rotation has been a mess lately. Their lack of a stable fourth and fifth starter is their most glaring weakness, albeit one they can hopefully address through the trade market. That may not be necessary, however, if Clay Buchholz can return to form. The Red Sox welcomed Buchholz back to the rotation Monday night following a brief stint in the bullpen.

Buchholz was solid in his first start since May 26, allowing three runs on four hits and one walk in five innings while striking out five Buchholz Back to the Rotation. The way Boston’s been hitting this year, that would have earned him a win most nights. Not against Chris Sale, however, who limited the Sox to one run across seven innings.

It looked like Buchholz had a long night ahead of him after surrendering a leadoff homer to Tim Anderson on the first pitch. When he allowed another run in the first, Sox fans started wondering how long John Farrell’s leash would be. But Buchholz settled down after that, keeping Boston in the game by allowing just one more run over the next four innings. He exited after just 78 pitches, as Farrell did not want to over-extend him in his first start back.

Buchholz reclaimed his rotation spot after his first extended run in the bullpen. Before this season, Buchholz had relieved just twice in his 10-year career. But after allowing a 6.35 ERA through his first 10 starts, Buchholz was removed from Boston’s rotation. He quickly earned his way back with several strong relief appearances.

Unlike Roenis Elias, Joe Kelly, Frank O’Sullivan, and Henry Owens, Buchholz has a track record of success. At his best, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League. None of the aforementioned starters have that kind of upside. He’s only one year removed from a 3.26 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 4.65 K/BB ratio. The Red Sox should give him a few more starts, and if he’s still struggling then they can trade for someone at the deadline. For now, though, moving Buchholz back to the rotation is their best option.

David Price in Top Form

The Red Sox have cooled off from their hot start, playing sub-.500 ball over the past few weeks. Several Sox, including Travis Shaw and Hanley Ramirez, are in a bad slump. One Bostonian playing well lately, however, is star pitcher David Price. Price began the year in a terrible rut, but has since turned his season around after discovering a mechanical flaw in his delivery (with some help from Dustin Pedroia). He delivered another dominant turn Sunday, with Price in top form as Boston edged Seattle 2-1 at Fenway Park.

Victory would not have been possible without David Price’s phenomenal performance, which saw him limit the Mariners to one run on eight hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over eight inningsDavid Price in Top Form. Seattle’s lone run came on a solo shot by the red-hot Franklin Gutierrez, who reached out and flicked Price’s 44th pitch just past Pesky’s Pole for a cheap home run. Other than that, Price stifled a dangerous Mariners offense.

With Boston clinging to a one-run lead, Price buckled down. He capped his excellent start with a 1-2-3 eighth, fanning the final two batters. In came Craig Kimbrel, who nailed down the save by striking out the side in the ninth. Without David Price, however, there is likely no save opportunity.

After completing eight innings just once before June, Price has gone eight innings in each of his last three outings. He leads the league in innings as well as strikeouts and has ripped off eight straight quality starts. Except homers, the rest of his stats are falling in line, too. Fans and media haven’t forgotten his early season funk, but it’s quickly fading away. Every time David Price pitches now, his slow start looks increasingly anomalous.

With the back of Boston’s rotation in flux, Price has given his team stability at the top. He’s come as advertised. More importantly, he’s been the stopper they hoped for when they opened the vault for him last winter  Now the Red Sox would like to see David Price in top form come October. That’s when he’ll really earn his money.

Sox Should Trade Blake Swihart

After moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen and demoting Joe Kelly to Pawtucket, the Red Sox desperately need starting pitching. Their starters have been battered to the tune of a 4.79 ERA and .748 OPS this year, which isn’t a recipe for a successful season. Boston’s won anyways because the offense has been crushing it, but when happens when the lineup slumps? The Red Sox don’t really have much minor league talent ready to make an impact in the rotation, so the quickest and most direct way to an upgrade is through the trade market. To accomplish this, the Sox should trade Blake Swihart.

Not too long ago, such a proposal would have seemed outrageousSox Should Trade Blake Swihart. Swihart is a prized prospect, an athletic 24-year-old catcher who can switch-hit and provide plus offense at a premium position. Teams love to build around guys like that. He seemed destined to become the next Jason Varitek or Carlton Fisk.

Now, his future in Boston is uncertain. The team has committed to Christian Vazquez, another talented young backstop, due to his superior game management and receiving skills. Swihart was demoted in April despite a strong start at the plate, learned to play left field, and is now back with the big club in a part-time role. The problem is, his bat plays much better behind the plate, where he’s a clear offensive plus. In left, however, his hitting is average at best.

So therein lies the problem. Swihart is a great player without a clear role on the Red Sox, which limits his value to them at the present. He’s still very attractive to other teams, however, where he would represent a clear improvement at catcher. Ipso facto, Swihart is worth more to other teams than he is to the Sox, which is why they should move him now while his perceived value is still high, before a prolonged slump or injury potentially drags it down.

Swihart alone should net a pretty sweet return, and if Boston packages him with some prospects they could land another top-shelf starter to pair with Price (Sonny Gray, perhaps?). The Red Sox should trade Blake Swihart soon, however, because if they wait until late July it might be too late.