The Underappreciated Mitch Moreland

Mitch Moreland is an all-star. Yep, that is right. Whether that says more about the lack of first-base production in the A.L., or not, you can’t discredit what Mitch has done for the Red Sox thus far. Moreland’s numbers aren’t ungodly by any means, but he is incredibly consistent. Moreland currently sits at a very respectable .282, with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Looking around the league, he more than deserves to be wearing that American League jersey next week.

Time and time again, when Boston needs a clutch hit, its often “Mitchy 2bags” thatMoreland delivers. While batting 4th, Alex Cora can count on him to drive in runs routinely and expect him to have game-altering at-bats. Moreland also is a great team leader, very durable and plays gold-glove defense, somewhat anchoring the infield with his almost non-existent errors.

Players and coaches acknowledge Moreland’s humble, yet steady baseball approach and awarded him with his first appearance. Around the league, Moreland has always been just a decent hitter with a stellar gold-glove. Now playing every day, he is putting up the numbers he is capable of. He will back up White Sox first-baseball Jose Abreu for the American League next week in the summer classic.

Mitch Moreland Is More Than Earning His Paycheck

This winter, Moreland became a free agent. Many thought that Dave Dombrowski would stay away from offering him a contract considering Hanley Ramirez was slated for first-base. Additionally, the inevitable mega J.D. Martinez contract was looming. Dombrowski acted quickly, however, and signed Mitch to a two-year 13 million dollar contract. Considering the lack of first base production around the league, the fact that Hanley was cut from Boston and his ability to be an underrated cleanup hitter for this potent offensive club, that contract is an absolute steal.

Moreland is making 6.5 million a year. When 2017 free agency opened, it seemed nobody had him in the same upper echelon of free agents in the likes of say Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. San Diego shelled out an immense 144 million dollar contract to Hosmer. Hosmer is hitting .253 this year, that seems underwhelming for that deal. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has to pay Santana 20 million annually for the next 3 years. Santana is currently hitting .214  I would have to say that the Red Sox like their underappreciated first-baseman just fine.

Chris Sale is Creeping Back Into the Cy Young Conversation

Believe it or not, but Chris Sale has never won a Cy Young award. Since entering the league, Boston’s ace has been nothing short of dominant year in and year out. His highest earned run average came in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox, when he posted a 3.41 with 13 wins and 11 losses. And he still messed around and placed fourth on the Cy Young ballot and earned an All-Star selection.

In his eight seasons as a starting pitcher, Chris Sale has appeared on the Cy Young ballot Chris Salesix times and finished as the runner-up last year in his first season with the Red Sox. He’s been named to the All-Star team in each of those seasons as well, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes home the most coveted pitching award in the MLB. On Sunday, Sale was announced as an All-Star for the seventh straight year. While he came out of the gates a bit shaky this year, Chris Sale’s recent performances has him right back where he belongs: firmly in the conversation for the best pitcher in the American League.

Last season, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians took home the honor, and he deserved it. He went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and led his club to a first place finish in the AL Central. Kluber had the lowest WHIP (0.869) of any starter on the ballot, and the second most strikeouts (265). Who had the most strikeouts you ask? That would be Chris Sale, whose 308 punchouts comfortably led the entire MLB. The next closest was NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer with 268.

Chris Sale’s Competition

Sale’s competition this year will feature some familiar, and talented, names. Yankee ace Luis Severino, who placed third in voting last year, is building a strong case with his 14-2 record, 143 Ks, and 2.12 ERA, the second-best in the American League. Justin Verlander is emerging as an early favorite to take home his second career Cy Young with his 2.15 ERA and 154 strikeouts. Kluber, at 12-4 with a 2.49 ERA, will likely return to the ballot as well.

In comparison, the Red Sox ace leads the American League in strikeouts with 176, 18 ahead of Gerrit Cole’s tally of 158. His 2.36 ERA ranks fourth in the American League, and his WHIP of 0.89 is good for third, with Kluber (0.88) and Verlander (0.84) just edging him out. Lastly, Sale leads the AL in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.0, and if it holds this would be the fourth season he has done so.

Where Chris Sale will falter to his competition will be his record, as he is just 9-4 on the year. However, his wins and losses serve as a poor reflection of his performance this year. The Red Sox seemingly hate giving their ace any sort of run support. On the year, the Red Sox average 4.65 runs in games started by Sale, and it’s reflected in his four losses and an additional six no-decisions. Granted, I’m not saying Chris Sale has been perfect, but I am saying some more runs would go a long way.

Back in Form

Sale truly returned to form in June, striking out 60 and going 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA. The Red Sox scored a combined three runs in those two losses. His lone start in July follows the same positive trend, as he punched out 12 and secured a win behind 10 runs from his offense. He has won his last three starts, and, in those games, the Red Sox have scored 26 total runs.

Chris Sale still has some work to do if he wants to take home the honor this year. His slider is still one of the deadliest pitches in the league. He must sustain his recent dominance to keep pace with his competition. This offense has shown they are more than capable of providing run support, and if they simply do so when Sale is on the bump, his case for the American League Cy Young will continue to strengthen.

Steven Wright Needs A Permanent Rotation Spot

The Boston Red Sox are in a tight battle with the New York Yankees for superiority in the AL East, and that won’t change anytime soon. It’s time to stop letting Drew Pomeranz take the mound and give Steven Wright, one of the league’s only knuckleballers, a permanent spot in the starting rotation.

Steven Wright joined the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2013. After acquiring the Steven Wrightknuckleballer from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Lars Anderson, the Sox only used Wright in ten contests over his first two seasons with the club. Wright found a niche in 2015 as a reliever, going 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 16 appearances. After a last-place finish in the AL East that year, the Red Sox entered 2016 with a revamped starting rotation. Wright was a part of this makeover, and he capitalized on his first season as a full-time starter. In 24 starts, he went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA, 127 strikeouts, and four complete games. Wright’s breakout 2016 season also landed him a spot on the American League All-Star Team.

After consecutive last-place finishes, the Red Sox went 93-69 in 2016 and looked to have mended their rotation with the signing of David Price, the CY Young season of Rick Porcello, and the rise of Boston’s newest knuckleballer. Wright’s reign was short-lived, however. The following May, he underwent surgery to restore cartilage in his left knee and missed the remainder of 2017.

His problems followed him into the 2018 season. In March, the league suspended Wright for 15 games for violating the MLB’s personal conduct policy. Having completed his suspension on May 14,  Wright returned to his ballclub, but without a starting job. The culprit? Drew Pomeranz, who became a starter in Wright’s absence in 2017.

I will give credit where credit is due. In 2017, Drew Pomeranz looked every bit deserving of a spot in the Red Sox rotation. He went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 174 punchouts and was a key cog in helping the Sox replicate their 2016 record of 93-69. And to begin this season, there was no justifiable reason to demote Pomeranz. He pitched as well as Wright did in his All-Star season, if not better.

Steven Wright Got His Groove Back

But now, over 60 games into the year, Steven Wright needs his spot back. Drew Pomeranz has allowed at least two earned runs in every single one of his starts this season. In eight starts, he is 1-3 with a staggering 6.81 ERA. And most recently, the team placed Pomeranz on the 10-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left bicep. Steven Wright made his first start of 2018 on June 5th against the Detroit Tigers. Throwing seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and just two hits, he reminded everyone what they’d been missing out on. On June 11th, Wright followed it up with another scoreless start against the Baltimore Orioles, surrendering just four hits in six innings of work. The knuckleballer has not allowed a run in 22 consecutive innings, and his ERA is down to 1.21 on the season.

The numbers alone are compelling enough. The knuckleball is a rare commodity in today’s MLB, and Wright’s superior numbers and novelty pitch make him all the more worthy of a starting job for this team.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best

More than two decades after playing his last game for the Boston Red Sox, Wade Boggs had his number retired at Fenway Park last night. The ceremony felt long overdue, as Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters in franchise history.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best…

Fans and media tend to overrate hitters who drive runs while underrating those who score themBoggs Was One of Boston's Best. He was destined to be under-appreciated, then, for Boggs was one of Boston’s best table-setters, an on-base machine who often put himself in scoring position via doubles (he clubbed 578 for his career). Batting in front of prolific RBI men such as Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, Boggs averaged 100 runs scored per 162 games and twice led the majors.

Everyone knew Boggs was a tremendous hitter, but few understood his true worth as a ballplayer. His gaudy OBPs and plus defense at the hot corner (which wasn’t recognized until later, when he won back-to-back Gold Gloves in his late 30s) made him incredibly valuable. Baseball-Reference defines an MVP-caliber season as one where a player accrues at least eight wins above replacement, which Boggs did every year from 1985 to 1989, yet never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting. Moneyball was still two decades away, and nobody had WAR to tell them he was the American League’s top position player in 1986, 1987, and 1988.

That might not have been the case had he played elsewhere, however. He was helped immensely by Fenway Park, whose Green Monster allowed him to wait back on pitches until the last possible second, at which point he would flick his wrists and stroke another double or single off the wall in left. Nobody did this better than Boggs, who holds the highest Fenway average of all-time at .369. He was most proficient at this before the EMC Club–then called the 600 Club—was erected in 1989, altering the wind currents within the park and making it much less favorable for hitters. It’s no coincidence that Boggs never won another batting title after 1988.

…And Baseball’s Best

Age and the 600 Club caused Boggs to tail off a bit in the early ’90s, but his final year in Boston—1992—was the worst of his career. He slumped to .259/.353/.358 as the Sox sunk to last place. His contract was up and Lou Gorman, Boston’s general manager at the time, let the 34-year-old walk, even though he was just one year removed from a .332/.421/.460 campaign worth 6.4 bWAR.

That proved to be a terrible mistake, as Boggs found a second wind with Boston’s arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. Boggs batted .313/.396/.407 in his five years in pinstripes, making four All-Star teams and helping the Bombers to a championship in 1996—10 years after his previous World Series bid ended in agony. Following his New York stint he returned home to finish out his playing days in Tampa Bay, where he ended his career on a high note by batting .301 and notching his 3,000th hit on his 118th, and final, home run.

Boggs retired in 1999 as one of the five best third basemen in baseball history. His .328 lifetime average is the second-highest of anyone who debuted after World War II, while his .415 OBP ranks fifth among players who have debuted since 1945 and appeared in at least 2,000 games. He was an eight-time Silver Slugger winner, a five-time batting champion, and an All-Star every year from 1985 to 1996. His most impressive accomplishment, however, was batting .401 over a 162-game span from June 9th, 1985 to June 6th, 1986.

Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters—perhaps second only to Ted Williams—and top third baseman. It’s a good thing he was finally recognized for it.

Boggs Better Than Gwynn?

Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn both debuted in 1982, won multiple batting titles, and joined the 3,000 hit club in 1999. They were perennial All-Stars, multi-Gold Glove winners, and first-ballot Hall of Famers. They played 2,440 games in careers that perfectly paralleled each other. But was Boggs better than Gwynn? Boggs Better Than Gwynn?

By looking at the numbers it’s almost impossible to tell. See below:

Boggs 1,513 R 3,010 H 578 2B 118 HR 1,014 RBI .328/.415/.443 (132 wRC+) 1,412 BB 745 K
Gwynn 1,383 R 3,141 H 543 2B 135 HR 1,138 RBI .338/.388/.459 (132 wRC+) 790 BB 434 K

As you can see, it’s a virtual wash. Boggs scored more runs, but Gwynn knocked in more. Boggs stroked a few more doubles, while Gwynn socked a few more homers. Boggs walked twice as often, but also struck out twice as much. Boggs got on base more, but Gwynn had more hits and greater power.

Was Boggs better than Gwynn by advanced metrics? Once again it’s really close:

Boggs: .302 true AVG .381 wOBA 1,750 runs created 479.7 batting runs
Gwynn: .300 true AVG .370 wOBA 1,636 runs created 437.7 batting runs

Boggs comes out on top, barely. His edge in adjusted batting runs is roughly two per season, while his advantage in runs created is about four per year. You’re splitting hairs at that point, albeit in Boggs’s favor.

But then, Boggs spent much of his playing days in hitter’s parks—nobody took greater advantage of Fenway—whereas Gwynn spent his entire career in Qualcomm Stadium—the Petco Park of its time. Accordingly, when you neutralize their numbers, Gwynn’s get better while Boggs’s get worse:

Boggs .321/.407/.435 (.842 OPS) 1,664 runs created
Gwynn .340/.391/.461 (.852 OPS) 1,735 runs created

Now it’s flipped, as it’s Gwynn who holds the slight edge. Had Gwynn played in Fenway, he probably hits .350 for his career. Meanwhile, had Boggs spent his whole career in San Diego, he wouldn’t have come close to batting .328.

Boggs could hit anywhere—he batted .302/.387/.395 on the road—but that would have been a bad season for him. It also pales in comparison to what he did at home (.354/.443/.495). Most hitters benefit from their home parks, but not to the same degree that Boggs did (unless they play in Coors Field).

Gwynn, on the other hand, hit nearly as well on the road as he did at home. His .334/.384/.451 road averages are nearly identical to his .343/.393/.466 home record. Gwynn would have been a .330 hitter no matter which team he played for, but Boggs might have batted closer to .300.

Was Boggs better than Gwynn? After taking their environments into account, it appears Gwynn was the superior batsman.

Robby Scott Looking Impressive So Far for Sea Dogs

Robby Scott Portland Sea Dogs

Robby Scott continued his hot start to the season against the Trenton Thunder on Sunday afternoon at Hadlock Field; tossing two innings of relief and allowing just a single unearned on one hit, while striking out two.

Scott has not allowed a run in four of his five appearances this season, including four shutout innings against the New Britain Rock Cats last Tuesday, only the second start of his professional career.Robby Scott Portland Sea Dogs

So far this season Scott is 0-0, with a 2.70 ERA and nine strikeouts in 10 innings.

The 25-year old Miami, FL native is coming off a strong 2014 campaign in which he owned a 8-2 record to go with a 1.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts.

Those numbers were good for a trip to the 2014 Mid-Season All-Star Game for the Eastern League. Scott was also voted to the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Star team in October.

“Between being in the All-Star game last year in the Eastern League and then having the opportunity to play in the All-Star game in the Fall League was awesome, two opportunities, two accolades that I will remember when my playing career is over,” Scott told Yawkey Way Report.

“It’s one of those things where you get to reward yourself for something for your efforts, for the work you put in throughout your time. It’s not the last time I want to be on an All-Star team, and hopefully can be on an All-Star team at [every] level.”

Despite a shortened off-season because of the Arizona Fall League, Scott felt no ill effects during Spring Training this year.

“I [actually] felt better, just because I didn’t have that extended period of time off. My arm felt a lot better getting ready to go for Spring Training because I didn’t have that extra month and a half off, so I felt actually a lot better the first time I started throwing,” Scott said.

Robby Scott also realizes that with his recent string of success, his promotion could be just a phone call away.

“That’s what it’s all about, seeing guys have that opportunity. You got to be able to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed and be ready for that opportunity when your name is called, and hopefully that opportunity comes,” he said.

“A year ago now Mookie Betts was in this locker room. Now seeing him doing what he’s been doing [for the Red Sox] it’s been awesome. It’s exciting for us and exciting for the entire organization.”