Hanley Ramirez Grand in Opening Day Win

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia each swatted two home runs, and Mookie Betts had one of his own to pace the Red Sox to an 8-0 rout of the Phillies on Opening Day in Philadelphia.

Clay Bucholz was dominant in seven innings, allowing only three hits and striking out nine,Hanley Ramirez while allowing only one base on balls. The pitcher that so many thought would be starting for the Red Sox today, Cole Hamels, was roughed up in five innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs, and four home runs—the most he has ever allowed in a game at Citizens Bank Park.

All of the Sox offense was via home runs. Pedroia got things started in the first, and two innings later Mookie Betts delivered with a solo bomb, making it 2-0 Red Sox. In the fifth, Pedroia did it again, with another solo shot. Considering he had seven home runs last year, it’s safe to say he’s off to a good start. He was also magnificent in the field.

Another player who is off to a roaring start is Hanley Ramirez. He had a solo shot in the fifth, and then hit a grand slam in the 9th inning to make it 8-0 Sox, joining Jack Clark (1991) and Carlton Fisk (1973) as just the third player in team history to hit a grand slam on Opening Day.

Some of the big bats were quiet today, with David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval each hitless, and each striking out three times. Shane Victorino went hitless, but reached twice via walks, and even stole third base. He also went charging into the right field wall to make a gutsy catch in the fifth inning. New catcher Ryan Hanigan reached base twice in four appearances, with a single and a walk.

So what did we learn? Buchholz is pacing for Cy Young Award, Pedroia for MVP, and Hanley Ramirez for the Triple Crown? Well, it’s nice to dream like that early on, but what we did learn is that this team should be a lot more fun to watch than the 2014 version was.

Clay Buchholz Looking for Positive Start to 2015 Season

clay buccholz

Clay Buchholz has had some trouble with either staying healthy or being able to consistently pitch at a high level his entire MLB career with the Boston Red Sox, but the 2015 season might be the last straw for the upper management if he can’t pitch like the top of the rotation starter that he has shown glimpses of in the past.

Buchholz Recent Health

The 30-year-old battled through injuries and lack of fastball control in 2014 that ended withBuchholz a 5.34 ERA in 28 starts and an 8-11 record. The 1.39 ERA was his highest since 2008 while his 132 strikeouts were his career-high. He did show signs of being elite with two complete-game shutouts, but that was just an aberration to the awful season he produced.

In 2013, Buchholz pitched to the tune of a 12-1 record with a 1.74 ERA, but missed over half the season with a shoulder injury that was caused by holding his infant child the wrong way while they were napping. The injury derailed the rest of a great campaign as he was the front runner for the Cy Young in the American League at the time of his injury. When he came back in late September, his fastball lost some speed and the rest of his pitches lost the crispness they had earlier in the season.

Over the previous six seasons, Buchholz has modeled inconsistency with injuries and his ability to pitch effectively with no season with over 189 innings pitch or 30 starts. From a no-hitter to a 17-7 season in 2010 to injury after injury in recent memory, Buchholz has not been the veteran the Red Sox can rely on, but could that change?

The 2015 Buchholz

The one thing that Buchholz has going for him is that no one really expects too much from him this season. Sure, he will be started the first game of the season against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday and struck out nine batters against one of the worst lineups in MLB without allowing a run, but he is the veteran on the staff currently.

The right-hander has shown through the spring that he can still pitch at an effective level with a 2.84 ERA in five games started with a 22:4 K:B ratio. Sure, he posted similar numbers with the ERA in 2014 and spring stats are not really indicative of how the season could go for any player, but pitching as the lead guy in the rotation might be just the kick in the pants Buchholz needs to get off to a hot start.

Also, 2015 is technically a contract year for the 30-year-old as the Red Sox hold a $13 million option for the 2016 season along with a $13.5 million team option for 2017. Most players play well for that final contract and, if Buchholz can pitch to his abilities without worrying about being hurt or being ridiculed for not being mentally tough, then 2015 should be another season that he pitches well enough to be a frontline starter in this Red Sox rotation.

If everything goes well with Buchholz’ changeup and fastball, then maybe he can pitch well enough to earn another year or two with the Red Sox. However, if he struggles, then it might be time to actually add an “ace” who can get the job done in 2016.

Former Sea Dogs Shine for Sox on Opening Day

Opening Day

The Boston Red Sox put on an impressive Opening Day show against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, with many former members of the Portland Sea Dogs contributing in big ways.

Dustin Pedroia, a 2005 alumni of the Sea Dogs, didn’t waste any time Opening Day getting the scoring started when he crushed a first inning, one-out pitch from Cole Hamels over the left field fence for a solo home run.

22-year old Mookie Betts, who was the starting second baseman for the Sea Dogs against the Reading Phillies to begin last season, started in center field and went 2-4 with a long solo home run off Hamels to lead off the third inning.

Pedroia launched another home run to left field with one out in the fifth, showing that for the first time in a few seasons, he may be completely healthy. He added a brilliant defensive play in the bottom of the seventh inning, scooping up a ball on a short hop and firing to second base to force out Grady Sizemore and save a run from scoring.

Sea Dogs Hall of Famer, Hanley Ramirez, who spent 2004-05 with the Double-A club, followed suit in the fifth with a long home run of his own to left field.

Ramirez added his second home run in the top of the ninth inning, a grand slam, giving him five RBI’s on the day to go with two hits, a walk and two runs scored.

Clay Buchholz, a 2007 Double-A All-Star for the Sea Dogs, took a huge step in the right direction in showing he is ready to take over as the ace of the staff. Buchholz fired seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out nine. The tall right-hander seemed in complete control of his full arsenal of pitches, throwing 66 of 95 of them for strikes.

Advanced Statistics: Comparing the 2013 and 2014 Red Sox

Daniel Nava Advanced StatisticsBaseball is a game of luck—it’s been that way since its inception—but only more recently have advanced statistics indicating good or bad fortunate been established. The 2013 Boston Red Sox were blessed while the 2014 squad’s been fairly unfortunate. This claim is abundantly apparent within the stats, and hopefully you’ll be able to see the difference.

Record in 1-Run Games: 2013- 21-21| 2014- 17-20

When the score is tied there’s roughly a 50-50 chance a team emerges victorious. Obviously talent and late-game decision-making has an influence, too. However, for the most part, luck tends to sway records in 1-score contests.

While the 2013 and 2014 records in those games are actually pretty similar, there’s a big takeaway from looking at the two. The 2013 Red Sox played in 42 games all year that were determined by one run, compared to the 2014 team who’s already played in 37 1-run games. This shows Boston is not winning games by a wide margin like they did in 2013, and instead are finding themselves in a lot of close games. Boston’s played the most 1-run games in the American League this season.

Record in Extra Inning Games: 2013- 10-6 | 2014- 6-8

The same magic in extra inning games last season hasn’t necessarily carried over in 2014. They no longer can claim “Walk-off City,” and have been downright mediocre playing free baseball.

Run Differential: 2013- +197 | 2014- -38

Unlike the other two categories, this one isn’t dictated as much by luck. In fact, it is one of the best tools for identifying team’s skill.

The Red Sox aren’t scoring nearly as many runs as they did last year, and that’s the reason for the substantial difference. Only the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros have a worse run differential than Boston in the A.L. this season.

Offensive BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play): 2013- .329 | 2014- .300

Seemingly everyone on the 2013 Red Sox had a career-year, so it makes sense they led the league in offensive BABIP. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Mike Napoli, and Jacoby Ellsbury all benefited from unsustainable BABIPs last season. This year, however, their BABIPs have neutralized, and so have their production. Nevertheless, they are exactly average this season.

Pitching BABIP: 2013- .294 | 2014- .304

Following script; the 2013 Boston Red Sox were somewhat fortunate with their pitching BABIP and the 2014 Red Sox weren’t.

OPS with Runners in Scoring Position: 2013- .795 | 2014- .694

The Red Sox were clutch in 2013 with runners in scoring position, but not so much the next year. They had the paramount OPS with RISP in the league last season, and rank just 21st this year.

Comparing the 2013 Boston Red Sox to the 2014 team, you can see that luck is not on their side this season.

At Fenway, a celebration short on words, but not class

Fenway Park Ring ceremony Ortiz

Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox outdid themselves Friday at Fenway Park with their Opening Day and World Series ring ceremony under a sun-splashed sky and chill that for two centuries has defined April baseball on Yawkey Way.

The ceremony was classy. It was touching.

The irony? Hardly a word was spoken. And that’s the best part.

The Red Sox’s 2013 World Series celebration didn’t need words. Just images. Smiles. Hugs. Laughter. Tears. Applause. Goose-bump music.

On the big screen in center field, the Red Sox simply showed each player’s 2013 montage as that player emerged from the dugout and received their World Championship rings. No announcements necessary.

On the field itself, the Red Sox brought out Boston Marathon bombing victims, their families and heroes from that day, like Carlos Arredondo, who leaped into action last April and saved lives. No introduction needed. Everyone knows Carlos. Everyone feels for the families, especially the Red Sox, whose players greeted each family member as if they were their own.

Also on the field was the Boston Fire Department, including members from Engine 33, Ladder 15 — the very same crew that serves to protect Fenway. They lowered the American flag in center field at half-mast in honor of their fallen firefighter brothers, Michael Kennedy and Ed Walsh, each of whom died fighting a fire in the city last week.

And of course, there were the iconic sounds synonymous with Boston music: The Boston Pops Orchestra and Dropkick Murphys. Conductor Keith Lockhart and crew belted out an awesome rendition of Richard Strauss’ 1896 “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as massive world champion banners from 2004, 2007 and 2013 were draped over the Green Monster. The Dropkicks performed “Shipping up to Boston” with help from the Pops.

This is all we needed. Sights and sounds.

Words? Not on this day.

We don’t even need to say “Boston Strong” anymore. It’s inherent in Bostonians now. In our veins, like it always has been, even before the marathon bombings.

The Red Sox reminded us of all this with one awesome ceremony and one very touching scene from Fenway Friday. Even if it was short on words.

Random Thoughts From MLB’S First 48 Hours

MLB's first 48 hours Big Papi and Obama

Here are my random thoughts from MLB’s first 48 hours of the 2014 season:

Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington broke new ground Tuesday when he appeared at the White House with the team to be honored by the President. Former GM Theo Epstein opted to skip both of his teams’ appearances.

Although Jenny Dell is no longer on the Red Sox beat, she too was at The White House today, with boyfriend Will Middlebrooks. One has to wonder if the South Lawn was littered with discarded sunflower seeds when the 2013 World Champions left the grounds.

Big Papi stole the show at The White House when he took a selfie with President Obama. Apparently, this is the first selfie the President has been in since December, when he and Danish prime minister Helle-Thorning Schmidt decided it would be a good idea to take one at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Our nation’s skipper mispronounced Mike Napoli’s last name (Nuh-POE-lee), but he has almost a year to get it right with Pierzynski when the 2013 World Series Champions return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the 2014 champs.

Los Angeles Angels hitting coach, Don Baylor, broke his leg while catching the ceremonial first pitch from recently retired Vladimir Guerrero on Monday night. For those of us who remember Baylor when he was the Red Sox DH in the late 80s, he’d have been much better off just letting Guerrero’s pitch him.

If you have $20,000,000 to $30,000,000 you can spare and you appreciate art, get to New York City next month when Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Rookie” is auctioned off. The painting shows pitcher Frank Sullivan, right fielder Jackie Jensen, catcher Sammy White, second baseman Billy Goodman, and the greatest hitter who ever lived, Ted Williams. One can only wonder what a painting involving Kevin Millar doing shots and Johnny Damon doing naked pull-ups in the clubhouse would have fetched.