Next Up For The Red Sox – The American League East Leading Rays

After facing three out of the four American League East teams this past week, The Red Sox turn to face the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, who have been red hot since the beginning of the season, are currently 13-4. They also hold a 5.5 game lead over the second place New York Yankees.

Over the past few seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays have given the Red Sox headaches.american league east They have also proven to be a competitive team in the American League East. They have reached the playoffs in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Only once did they make it to the World Series. That was in 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.

Last season, the Rays went 90-72, landing in third place behind the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. That team, which saw Blake Snell win his first Cy Young Award, did a lot this past offseason. This led to some believing that they may be in rebuilding mode, especially after they traded hurler Chris Archer at the 2018 trade deadline.

Before I go any further, let’s take a look back at the last three series.

Coming Home to The Toronto Blue Jays

After a long road trip on the West Coast, the Red Sox headed back to Fenway Park. There, they faced the Toronto Blue Jays for a mini two-game series.

Game One saw the World Series Champions get their rings and raise the banner. Although it started off as a magical day for the players and fans alike, it did end in a loss to the Jays. The starter Chris Sale, went four innings, giving up five runs. On the positive side, Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts homered in the game. Final score: 7-5.

Game Two, and the final game of the series saw the Red Sox win in walk off fashion. After starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up five runs in the third, the Red Sox powered back to win the game. After a walk to Betts, Moreland hit a run scoring double to tie the game. From there,  Moreland was replaced by Eduardo Nunez, who stole third. Their closer, Ken Giles walked both JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts next.

Then up came Rafael Devers. On a 2-1 count, Devers ripped a single to right field, which scored Nunez. This game ended with a score of 7-6, and had the Fenway crowd going wild. This moment, brought to us by some great hitting and a few walks, was a turning point for the Red Sox.

Patriots Day and The Baltimore Orioles

After splitting the series against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox’s attention turned to the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles, who were playing a four-game set at Fenway, took two out of the four from the Red Sox.

The first game saw a mini win streak occur for the Red Sox. After a solid outing by Eduardo Rodriguez, who went 6.2 inning giving up two runs, the bullpen shut down the Orioles. The offense, led by Andrew Benintendi’s third inning home run, exploded, allowing Rodriguez and the pen to hold down the led. Final score: 6-4 Red Sox.

Game Two wasn’t so lucky for the Red Sox. The Saturday afternoon game ended the mini win streak. Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young Award Winner, only lasted four innings, giving up three runs. Probably the most important thing to note about this game is that Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis’ bat woke up. Davis, who had 62 plate appearances without a hit, decided to hit a two run single off of Porcello in the first inning. From there, the Orioles would go on to win the game. Final score: 9-5.

Game Three was a win for the Sox at Fenway Park. led by a stellar performance by David Price and Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox blanked the Orioles. The final score: 4-0 Red Sox.

Game Four, which is the yearly Patriot’s Day game at Fenway Park, didn’t go so well. It found Chris Davis hitting his first home run of the season, and the bullpen being worked quite a bit. The only run scored by the Red Sox came in the fifth inning. Final score: 8-1 Orioles.

Back On The Road to Yankee Stadium

Back to the scene of the crime – The 2018 ALDS, which led the Red Sox to move onto the ALCS and the World Series, took place at Yankee Stadium. Fans can recall those last two games, the last one being the one that crushed the Yankees dreams of moving on. This game, however, was more of a nightmare than anything else. James Paxton, an offseason addition for the Yankees, allowed four hits over eight innings. Final score: 8-0 Yankees.

Game Two started off great for the Red Sox. A first inning solo shot for JD Martinez, and a two run home run for Christian Vazquez, put the Red Sox on top 3-0. Nathan Eovaldi, pitched 6 innings of great baseball, before the bullpen let the lead go. Final score: 5-3 Yankees.

Onto the Trop…

After the mini series in New York, the Red Sox will enjoy an off day on Thursday, before heading to Saint Petersburg, Florida to take on the Rays. After finding themselves near the bottom of the American League East, can the Red Sox play spoiler to the Rays? Let’s hope that they do. Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and David Price look to have solid outings down at the Trop.

Martinez Versus Judge: Who Provides More Value?

Major League Baseball’s hottest debate heading into the 2019 season is the battle between Mookie Betts and Mike Trout for being the sport’s top dog. However, it would be hard to leave out two big names receiving a bit less flare in the media. J.D. Martinez and Aaron Judge, two of baseball’s biggest sluggers, deserve some love too. As so, we present Martinez versus Judge: Who Provides More Value?

By the Numbers- Measurements

By now you have heard that Aaron Judge is one of baseball’s biggest stars, but thatMartinez Versus Judge: Who Provides More Value? also applies in a literal sense. Judge is listed at 6’7″ and 282 lbs., a true mammoth in the sport. Martinez is no slouch, countering at 6’3″ and 220, but few players possess the shear mass of Judge. Advantage to the judge’s chambers on this one.

By the Numbers- Contracts

Aaron Judge is a bargain, as he has yet to make more than $650,000 in a season. Martinez is raking in an impressive $23.75 million per year, as he enters year two of his five-year, $110MM contract. Advantage to Judge, and especially the Yankees, at least until it’s time to pay the big man.

By the Numbers- Offense

In a side-by-side comparison, Martinez bested Judge in nearly every offensive category in the 2018 season. It is important to note that Judge was sidelined with a wrist injury that held him to 112 games. Even so, Judge only managed to surpass Martinez in walks (76 to J.D.’s 69). The Red Sox off-season splash put together a historic season for Boston that pushed him past the Yankee star in many statistics including batting average (.330 to .279), home runs (43 to 27), RBI (130 to 67), and OPS (1.031 to .919). Martinez’ 43 homers, in fact, were the most ever for a player in his first season in Boston.

Martinez takes the upper hand, but in a full season for Judge, we can expect closer results in 2019.

By the numbers- Defense

In this side of the Martinez versus Judge debate, Judge surely takes the cake. Martinez struggles in the outfield according to his defensive metrics on Fangraphs, with a Defensive UZR/150 of -4.6 for the 2018 season. That would place him towards the bottom of the list of qualifying outfielders from last season. Judge, on the other hand, posted a UZR/150 of 14.1, which would place him near the very top of the list of qualifiers. Defensive analytics are no perfect science, as it’s quite difficult to make easily decipherable numbers of defensive value. But in this instance, Judge is off the charts compared to Martinez.

By the numbers- Awards won

In fairness to Judge, who has only played full seasons in 2017-2018, we’ll consider hardware won the last two years. In 2018 alone, Martinez amassed an All-Star selection, 4th place in MVP voting, and a historic benchmark: two Silver Slugger awards, for both outfield and designated hitter, an unprecedented feat. Judge, meanwhile, collected AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, a Silver Slugger, has two All-Star selections, and finished second in MVP voting in 2017. Both have decorated their trophy cases, but there is one achievement that separates the pair, and that is Martinez’ 2018 World Series ring. We’ll give the slight edge to Martinez, but both are in great position to expand their winnings in 2019 as well. Provided both mashers can stay healthy in 2019, they should be the focal points of their offenses.

The Verdict

Judge’s ability on both sides of the ball, plus his pay rate, makes him more valuable going forward. Ultimately, Martinez Versus Judge is going to be a treat for us to watch in the battle for first place.

Can the 2019 Boston Red Sox Repeat as Champions?

The 2019 Major League Baseball regular season begins on March 28th with renewed hope, excitement, and expectations for the new season. There’s one club in particular that will be defending its World Series title with aspirations of repeating as champions. The last time any team repeated as champions was the 1998-2000 New York Yankees.

The Red Sox began Spring Training with key question marks surrounding the team in itsworld series champions quest to repeat as World Series Champions. This team certainly has the capability to pull off such a remarkable feat. However, the reality is that the 2019 Boston Red Sox  have concerns that will be a major factor in their ability (or lack thereof) to repeat as World Series Champions.

1. Red Sox Bullpen

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski took a gamble at the July 31st trade deadline by not adding any high quality relievers to the bullpen. It paid off, thanks to key starting pitchers  David Price and Nathan Eovaldi who pitched out of the bullpen. However, the Red Sox lost two major pieces of the bullpen to free angency in closers Craig Kimbrel  and Joe Kelly. The Red Sox as of now are planning to potentially use relief pitcher Matt Barnes as an option to close the 9th inning for the Red Sox. It remains to be seen if the bullpen will be able to duplicate last October’s success for the 2019 season.

2. Red Sox Starting Rotation

The Red Sox starting rotation is  one of the best in Major League Baseball when fully healthy. In 2017 and 2018, Chris Sale’s performance dipped in the second half of both seasons. Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi pitched a high amount of innings last season. All eyes will be on the rotation to watch for any potential dip in performance as a result of the heavy workload.

3. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez

When the Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez in February 2018, no one could have predicted the full impact that Martinez would bring to the entire lineup. No hitter benefited more than Mookie Betts, who won the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player with a career season batting .346 with 32 HR and 80 RBIs. Martinez had a Triple Crown caliber season batting .330 with 43 HRs and 130 RBIs. It will be worth watching to see if both Betts and Martinez can continue their offensive success in 2019.

The sky is the limit for the 2019 Boston Red Sox. However, a lot will have to fall into place if the Red Sox are to successfully defend their World Series crown. It will be fascinating to watch this team beginning on Opening Day in Seattle, as the Red Sox seek to become the first to repeat as champions in nearly 20 years.

Transactions In The American League East

The MLB experiences the bulk of its roster turnover during the winter months. This off-season’s largest signing came in late February, when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year, $330 million dollar contract. In regards to transactions in the American League East, the most noteworthy deals came two off-seasons ago, when the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million dollar contract, and when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

Although the American League East took a step back in terms of acquiring star-power this winter, there were plenty of deals that will affect the division in 2019. Here is a look at each team’s most notable move.

Boston Red Sox – re-signed first baseman Steve Pearce (one-year, $6.25 million)

Pearce came to the Red Sox in June 2018 in a trade with Toronto for a minor league infielder. He quickly became a fan favorite after a socking a home run over the Green Monster in his first Fenway at-bat. He went on to post a .901 OPS in 50 games for Boston. More importantly, he was a postseason standout and was awarded World Series MVP. In the Fall Classic, he hit three home runs, including two in the series-clinching Game 5. He is set to platoon with fellow first baseman Mitch Moreland. Pearce can also play the outfield. He logged 38 at-bats between left and right field and 64 more as a DH.

Other noteworthy moves: signed right-handed pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Jenrry Mejia

New York Yankees – acquired starting pitcher James Paxton from Seattle Mariners in exchange for 3 minor leaguers.

This was the most notable transaction in the American League East division this off-season. Paxton threw just north of 160 innings in 2018 and started 28 games. Both were personal bests. He has always had trouble staying healthy, but when Paxton is on the mound, he is royally effective. He threw three complete games last season. One of them was a no-hitter in his native country, Canada. The southpaw joins a loaded starting staff in the Bronx, with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia by his side. Paxton has his best chance at starting 30 games this year, especially considering how lethal his bullpen is behind him.

Other noteworthy moves: signed RP Adam Ottavino, re-signed SP J.A. Happ

Tampa Bay Rays – signed starting pitcher Charlie Morton (two-years, $30 million)

The 2017 World Series hero is a player, like Pearce, who is hitting his prime later than most. Entering his age-35 season, Morton was named an All-Star for the first time in 2018 and has posted a record of 29-10 in his last two seasons, to go along with an ERA in the mid-3s, a WHIP below 1.20, and 364 strikeouts.

Other noteworthy moves: signed OF Avisail Garcia, traded for C Mike Zunino

Toronto Blue Jays – signed starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (one-year, $3 million)

This signing was one of the sneakier ones and occurred earlier this month. Buchholz, who is a two-time All-Star, has spent the bulk of his career with the Red Sox. He left Boston, after nine years with the club, in late 2016 when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He started only two games for Philadelphia due to an elbow injury. He returned to action last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and put together his best season since 2013. In sixteen games he started in 2018, he threw one complete game, accumulated a 2.01 ERA, and limited hitters to a 1.03 WHIP.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker, signed right-handed pitchers David Phelps and Bud Norris

Baltimore Orioles – signed shortstop Alcides Escobar (Minor League contract)

The Orioles made close to zero notable transactions this off-season. Although this was the least, most notable transaction in the American League East, this deal makes sense in several ways. Before acquiring Escobar, the Orioles were projected to start rookie shortstop Richie Martin, who has never played an inning in the majors. Still, Martin may outplay the veteran and earn the starting nod, but at least the O’s now have some insurance at the position. Escobar is durable (nine-straight seasons of at least 530 plate appearances) and has experience playing with an exceptional team (Royals 2014-’15). Bringing those qualities to a rebuilding team in need of leadership will fare well.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Nate Karns. 

Is Manny Machado the Missing Piece?

Red Sox fans know that July 31st is always an important date on the baseball calendar. It is the non-waiver trade deadline. The big prize this year will presumably be Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado. Machado is having his usual MVP caliber year hitting over .300, with more than 50 runs batted in at the halfway point. He will be a free agent this offseason and will inevitably demand a big payday. The Orioles are already 29.5 games back and will likely look to get assets for their current star this summer.

Orioles general manager Dan Duquette wants a current promising major leaguer in anyMachado package. Usually, the Red Sox have a lot of assets and clout at their disposal during this time of year, enough to make a generous offer for such a player. However, most of those prospects have been either promoted or traded. Top prospects Michael Chavis, unfortunately, is suspended for PEDs and Jason Groome is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Therefore, the main pieces in any deal would probably be from the big league club.

With young star players such as Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi seemingly off the table, the logical name becomes Red Sox third baseman, Rafael Devers. Devers gives the Orioles some young pop, the talent now and for the future. Meanwhile, Machado, who has third base experience, could slide to the hot corner and not only improve the offense, but the defense. He’s a gold-glover at that position, meanwhile, Devers currently leads the position in errors.

Manny Machado Could Be the Missing Championship Piece

The problem with Machado is the impending free agency. Devers is under team control and the Red Sox will be risking taking on the free-agent to be and him not signing long-term with the team. However, that risk may be worth it considering how much he would improve the team this season. Dombrowski would want to have an initial talk with Machado about a framework of an extension, before dealing Devers. Devers is too good to let go for a rental.

The other caveat, of course, is Machado’s recent disdain for the Red Sox organization. Last year he was involved in the Red Sox-Orioles second base, year-long confrontation with Pedroia. This could be an issue. Many thought Machado went in too strong at second and Pedroia wasn’t happy. That caused a back and forth between the teams, with pitchers throwing at different batters, causing Machado to say “I’ve lost respect for that organization”. Now that seems to be a distant memory. The Orioles are almost irrelevant and Machado probably wants a shot at playing for a title. Also, Alex Cora is now at the helm for the Red Sox, not John Farrell. This could change Machado’s thoughts on the franchise.

Where Is The American League Competition?

As the calendar turns to June, a third of the baseball season will have been played. Looking at the standings, it might as well end now. The American League’s best two teams may play in the east division. Those teams of course are the Red Sox and Yankees, as their historic rivalry has been renewed. The consensus other two potential A.L. World Series threats, Astros and Indians, seemingly already have their divisions locked up. Where is the rest of the A.L. competition?

The central division Indians are one game above .500 but have a 6.5 game lead on the Leaguesecond place Twins. The east division third place Rays, are already double digit games behind the Yankees and Red Sox. The lone somewhat competitive division is the west. Although it does seem to already be a lock that the Astros will win another division title, thanks in large part to their dominant pitching staff, at least the Angels and Mariners remain competitive.

The Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, and Astros, are going to run away with the American League.

Shohei Ohtani and his “Babe Ruthian” like play has sent shockwaves to the west division. Ohtani has given the Angels a much needed facelift. He has also been someone to take pressure off Mike Trout, as they try and keep up with the Astros. The Mariners and Angels look like they are going to be fighting all season for the final wild card spot. That seems to be the only playoff race.

Part of what has made baseball so great, especially recently in the last decade, has been the parody throughout the league. Low market teams such as the Kansas City Royals or Tampa Bay Rays, have reigned supreme in the A.L., both getting to the World Series in the last decade. Other sports such as the NBA seem very predictable. Fans, media members and experts, even from as early as the preseason, can pretty much pencil the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, due to the league’s collection of top end talent.

The American League Seems To Be Top Heavy.

The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry is the best in sports, but while they continue to thrive and deliver an impressive payroll, other low end markets such as the Chicago White Sox, are forced to “rebuild”. In other words, forced to trade their established stars for prospects. This way teams can have more team control on promising players for longer and pay them less. The Chicago White Sox are currently in the process of this rebuild. They currently have just 15 wins almost a third of the season through. Obviously with less wins, come less fans. It seems that these lower market teams, like Chicago, have completely empty ballparks and declining intrigue.

Teams who do not have money due to lack of revenue, can not spend on established stars, therefore can’t keep up with the stalwarts of the top markets. This is leading towards a top heavy league.

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