Updating and Predicting the AL Wild Card Race

After going 2-4 in their rigorous series with the Rays and White Sox, the Red Sox now hold the second Wild Card spot in the American League, with Toronto holding the first. Boston now sits just one game ahead of the Yankees for the second Wild Card spot, and three games in front of the Athletics and Mariners. The Red Sox will now travel to Seattle to face-off with the Mariners in a series that could have big playoff implications. 

What’s ahead? 

With the Wild Card narrowed down to just the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics, and Mariners, this is what the remaining schedule looks like for those squads. 

Toronto Blue Jays- vs Rays (3), vs Twins (3), @ Rays (3), @ Twins (4), vs Yankees (3), vs Orioles (3)

Boston Red Sox- @ Mariners (3), vs Orioles (3), vs Mets (2), vs Yankees (3), @ Orioles (3), @ Nationals (3)

New York Yankees- Vs Twins (1), @ Orioles (3), vs Indians (3), vs Rangers (3), @ Red Sox (3), @ Blue Jays (3), vs Rays (3)

Oakland Athletics- @ Royals (3), @ Angels (3), vs Mariners (4), vs Astros (3), @ Mariners (3), @ Houston (3)

Seattle Mariners- vs Red Sox (3), @ Royals (3), @ Athletics (4), @ Angels (3), vs Oakland (3), vs Angels (3)

AL West

The Athletics and Mariners are set to meet each other seven times before the end of the season. With the season series between the two at 7-5, these two very well could knock each other out of the Wild Card race. The two teams have been evenly matched this season, so it is unlikely one dominates the other in their remaining seven games. 

The Athletics also draw the unfortunate task of taking on the Houston Astros six times before the end of the season. Houston and Chicago and currently neck and neck to decide who will have home-field advantage for the ALDS. This means there will be no easy games for the Athletics when they see the Astros. 

The Mariners will see their division foe Los Angeles Angels six times before the season ends. In their 12 matchups this season, the Mariners lead the season series 7-5. The Angels have been tough for the Mariners this season, so their six games could be another factor that drops Seattle in the standings. 

The schedule is not in favor of the Mariners and Athletics moving forward. With both teams three games back of the second Wild Card spot, it is unlikely each team can catch up, IF the Red Sox take care of business in their series with the Mariners this week. If the Red Sox can take care of Seattle, Houston will do the rest with Oakland. 

AL East

The AL East is where things get interesting. The Blue Jays have clawed all the way back into things and now hold the number one spot in the Wild Card. Toronto is a team the Red Sox do not want to see. We have seen what the Blue Jays are capable of, beating up the Red Sox by double digit runs a few times this season.

This race will be tight all the way up until playoff time. As I stated in another recent article, the schedule is in the Red Sox favor once again, but they will need to capitalize.

The Blue Jays will play the first place Tampa Bay Rays six times before the end of the season. The Rays are 8-5 against Toronto this season. The Blue Jays will also see the Twins seven times before the end of the season, who have the ability to put up good offensive numbers.

The Yankees will see the Blue Jays and Rays, as well as come to Boston for a three game series. If the Red Sox hold up their end and capitalize on the schedule, they could be shaping up to land that number one spot. The Red Sox will need some help so they don’t have to see Toronto though.

Has Bobby Dalbec Earned Another Year As A Starter?

Red Sox fans first saw Bobby Dalbec in the big leagues after Mitch Moreland was traded away at the trade deadline in the shortened 2020 MLB season. Dalbec made his major league debut on August 30th of 2020, and in the final month of the season, he put up impressive numbers for a rookie. 

In 23 games in 2020, Dalbec posted a .263 batting average, a .359 on-base percentage, and 48 total bases. Dalbec also hit eight home runs, and knocked in 16 RBIs in his 92 plate appearances in 2020. 

Concerns in 2020

What was worrisome for Dalbec were the same things we are seeing this year. Too many strikeouts, and faulty defense. In his 23 games in 2020, Dalbec had a 42.4% strikeout rate, meaning he struck out 42.4% of his at bats. Much like this year, Dalbec particularly struggled with breaking balls (55.7% whiff rate), and off-speed pitches (54.5% whiff rate). Dalbec also chased 33.5% of pitches out of the zone, which contributed to his high strikeout rate. 

Dalbec also committed three errors at first base in just 20 games started.  

High Expectations in 2021

Coming off the impressive numbers at the end of 2020, and an incredible spring training campaign, Red Sox fans had high expectations for Dalbec in 2021. Dalbec earned the start at first base in the 2021 season opener, thus beginning the roller coaster ride it has been with Dalbec this season.

Slow Start

Unfortunately for Dalbec, he got off to a very slow start to the 2021 season, and really didn’t find himself until after the All Star break. Dalbec hovered around the Mendoza Line for most of the first four months of the season. 

MonthAVGOBPSLGOPSHRSO
April.214.276.343.619129
May.200.243.429.672425
June.237.280.500.780532
July.210.234.30.541125
Pre- All Star .219.264.409.6731095

Dalbec’s struggles had Red Sox fans (Including myself) begging Chaim Bloom to get a first baseman at the trade deadline. Understandably so, the 26-year-old was not putting up good power numbers, and was leading the team in strikeouts. But Dalbec seems to have heard the noise surrounding the first base position because he has elevated his game. 

Post All Star Break

Since the All-Star break, Dalbec has been red hot. He has posted a .297 batting average, .376 OBP, and has hit 10 homeruns, which matches what he had pre All Star break. Since the trade deadline, Dalbec is hitting .350 with 28 RBIs. 

Though Dalbec has significantly improved his game, we are still seeing the same problems. Trouble in the field, and an alarmingly high strikeout rate. Dalbec has 40 strikeouts since the All Star break which puts him in the bottom 2% in strikeout rate in the league this season, with an unnerving 34.5% strikeout rate. 

In terms of Dalbec’s defense, he was a third baseman turned first baseman so there is reason to be patient with his defensive struggles. 

Has Bobby Earned Another Year?

I think he has. The Red Sox are only paying Dalbec $575,000 and he has started over 110 games for the team this season. Dalbec is also under team control until 2023, and then has three years of abirtation until 2027 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. 

Dalbec has shown us over the past month that he is capable of being a solid bat in the lineup. With star prospect Triston Casas ready to take over the reins at first base within the next few seasons, it wouldn’t make sense to break the bank for a first baseman. 

When Casas does take over at first base, which is only a matter of time, that wouldn’t necessarily mean Dalbec wouldn’t have a spot in the lineup. With J.D. Martinez set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023 at the age of 35, the Sox could potentially move on from Martinez and move Rafael Devers to the designated hitter spot. 

Devers’ defense has been atrocious this season and for much of his career. This season alone Devers has 19 errors. Eventually the Red Sox are going to have to take him out of the field if he can’t figure out his defensive issues. Which could leave the door open for Dalbec, who really plays third base.

Red Sox Host Rays In Must Win Series

Despite being 2-8 in their last 10 games, and having lost their last three series, the Red Sox still remain well in the thick of things in the AL East race. But this upcoming series with the Tampa Bay Rays could be their last gasp. 

Frustration mounts as Red Sox get jumped by Blue Jays in fifth | Sports |  eagletribune.com

The Red Sox have looked like a completely different team since the trade deadline, and it’s hurting them in the AL East race. The Red Sox have had a chance to bury both the Blue Jays and the Yankees in the standings and have failed to do so, now both teams have crawled back into the picture. I mentioned the Red Sox are 2-8 in their last 10 games… the Rays, Blue Jays and Yankees are all 8-2 in their last 10. Yet the Red Sox still sit in second place in the division with another golden opportunity to prove themselves looming ahead. 

The Red Sox will have today off before taking on the Rays for a three game set at Fenway Park. Needless to say, this will be a must win series for the Red Sox, as Boston currently sits four games behind Tampa, who is slowly starting to run away with the AL East. The reason for the Red Sox struggles are simple, and honestly, could be worrisome. But if there is one thing we have learned from this 2021 Red Sox team, it is that they don’t give up. So what is it the Red Sox need to fix prior to taking on the Rays in this monumental series? 

Bullpen Needs To Find Themselves

Let’s start with the obvious, the bullpen needs to be better. The Red Sox bullpen may have over achieved a bit prior to the All Star Break, but they have been really bad as of late. In the last seven days, Red Sox relievers have an average ERA of 4.25, and an average WHIP 1.34. The Red Sox bullpen has been great most of this season, but they have been struggling mightily during this skid. That is the team will need to fix to return to where they were. 

Bats Need To Get Going

Prior to Sunday’s eight run game, the Red Sox were averaging just 2.5 runs per game over their last series. Prior to the All Star break, the Red Sox were averaging 5 runs per game. With the bullpen struggling the way they are, the Red Sox need to provide more run support. 

If the Red Sox want to keep their AL East championship hopes alive, this is the biggest series of the season so far. Luckily for the Red Sox, they will be returning back to Fenway Park for this series, where they are 20-9 since the stadium returned to full capacity. 

Should We Be Worried About The Red Sox Struggles?

With last night’s 9-1 loss to the New York Yankees, the Red Sox have lost their last three series. They are now 6-7 in the month of July. The Red Sox have been outscored 47-35 in their last three series and have a record of 3-6 in those games. These numbers certainly raise some eyebrows, but should we be worried about the Red Sox struggles?

Boston Red Sox's bats go quiet in 9-1 loss to Yankees; team has now lost 6  of last 8 games, last 3 series - masslive.com

In short, no we shouldn’t. Prior to going on this mini skid the Red Sox won eight games in a row. The MLB season is 162 games long, so the team is bound to face some adversity over the course of the season. Boston really hasn’t faced any adversity since the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Red Sox Have Plenty Of Chances To Build Division Lead

Relax, The Red Sox still sit on top of the AL East. They also have one of the best records in baseball. With that being said, the Red Sox will need to turn their recent misfortunes around if they want to remain at the top of the AL East. 

The Red Sox also have plenty of opportunities to prove why they are the best team in the AL East. Boston will play AL East teams in 26 out of their next 29 games. Though only three of those games will be against the Tampa Bay Rays, who sit just a half game behind the Red Sox for the division lead, the Red Sox will have opportunities to narrow the race to just them and the Rays. The Red Sox will also see the Rays seven times between August 30th and September 8.

In such a long season, it is inevitable that a team drops a few games. For the Red Sox, the schedule is luckily in their favor for division play. The Sox will have their first test tonight, as they take on the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo.

One More Thing…

All though this article wasn’t necessarily about the Red Sox and Yankees most recent series in New York, I feel this has to be mentioned. The way the fans in Yankees stadium behaved throughout the course of this series was completely unacceptable. First with throwing a ball at Alex Verdugo, then delaying the game by shinning a light in the batter’s eye, then spitting on Jason Varitek’s daughter? Jason Varitek’s daughter is nine years old, and was spit on for wearing her father’s jersey, which is absolutely disgusting.

Heckling at opposing fans is one thing but to throw a baseball at player, and to spit on a nine year is another. These are criminal offenses happening at Yankee’s stadium. It feels like this kind of stuff happens too much at Yankee’s stadium to brush it under the rug. The events from this past series are just another reminder of ignorant their fan base can be.

What the Return of Chris Sale Means For The Red Sox

“Boogeyman’s coming” tweeted Red Sox pitching prospect Connor Seabold. Seabold’s tweet was in response to the news that Red Sox ace Chris Sale would be joining the Red Sox as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Sale has been out since March of 2020 but he is expected to begin facing batters soon. So what does the return of Chris Sale mean for the Red Sox? First, let’s look at the rumors about his potential return.

Sale was seen throwing in the outfield at Fenway Park prior to Monday’s 5-3 victory over the Miami Marlins. Sale’s return to the club has fans optimistic that he could be back on the mound this summer, in hopes that he can make a difference in the AL East race.

The Red Sox Current Rotation

Sale would be joining a staff that has already exceeded the expectations of many. In the shortened 60-game MLB season last year, the Red Sox went 24-36 with a team ERA of 5.85 and allowed 325 earned runs. Through 60 games this season, the Red Sox are 37-23 with a team ERA of 3.81 and have allowed just 223 earned runs. Every pitcher on the Red Sox current starting rotation has a winning percentage of at least .500, and none of their ERAs surpass 4.00.

In three seasons with the Red Sox, Sale has posted a career ERA of 3.08, with a .603 win percentage, and 763 strikeouts. Sale has also finished top five in AL Cy Young voting twice, and has appeared in two All Star games in his Red Sox career. Adding Sale to a rotation that has already been impressive this season could be a big a boost for the Sox

The Red Sox Will Have Some Decisions To Make

Assuming Sale is able to make a return to the mound this summer, the Red Sox will have some decisions to make. With Sale coming up, the Red Sox would have to remove a pitcher from the starting rotation, unless they adopt the rare six man rotation. We have seen teams such as the Mariners and Tigers use the six man rotation, but it is not very common. The Red Sox have five capable pitchers in their rotation, along with the return of Chris Sale looming. We also can’t forget about 24-year-old Tanner Houck, who made two early season starts for the Red Sox and is now in Worcester. One thing that is for sure, the Red Sox pitching depth doesn’t seem like it will be a problem.

Another Alternative For Sale

Another alternative for Sale and the Red Sox could be to bring him out of the bullpen once he is ready to go. As we have seen with reliever Garrett Whitlock, Alex Cora and the Red Sox do not rush guys coming off Tommy John surgery. Garrett Whitlock has been one of the better relievers for the Red Sox this season, but still only pitches every four or five days due to coming of Tommy John surgery.

The Red Sox signed Sale to a five-year $145 million extension in 2019 that keeps him with the club until the 2025 season, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Given how the Red Sox starters have pitched this season, the Red Sox shouldn’t have any need to rush Sale.

Given the contract Sale is currently on, and the position the Red Sox will likely be in when he returns , pitching Sale out of the bullpen to start might be best for the Red Sox.

A Look At Jarren Duran’s Numbers And When We Could Possibly See Him With The Red Sox

The Worcester Red Sox will be without star prospect Jarren Duran for a few weeks. Duran is prepping to suit up for Team USA in the qualifying games for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. The U.S. will kick off the qualiifying games on May 31st against Nicaragua.

The 24-year-old out of CSULB has played a key role in the WooSox 11-9 start to the season. Duran was picked in the seventh round of the 2018 draft by the Red Sox. He is now one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization. The 6’2” outfielder’s play in Worcester has been nothing short of incredible, and his numbers back it up.

After starting the 2021 season 0-11, Duran quickly turned things around. He is now batting .278 and has 20 hits, including four doubles and seven home runs. To go along with his 20 hits, Duran has also driven in 12 RBIs and has an on-base percentage of .366. 

In Worcester’s 7-4 win over the Buffalo Bisons, Duran was 5-5 with two home runs and three RBIs. The first home run traveled 480 feet and the second traveled 475 feet. Duran’s impressive play in Worcester along with the struggles from Franchy Cordero has Red Sox fans wondering when Durran will get his shot with the big club.

When Can We Expect To See Durran?

Duran will be in good hands, while also receiving some valuable reps throughout his time with Team USA. The team has a slew of big leaguers on the roster including Todd Frazier, Homer Bailey, Matt Wieters, Jon Jay, and Matt Kemp.

Alex Cora has been in no rush to call Duran up to the Red Sox roster, so Duran representing the U.S. team could be the best-case scenario. If Duran continues to play the way he has in Worcester, the Red Sox will have no choice but to option him to the big league roster.

Duran will not be available for the Red Sox until the conclusion of the qualifying games. His availability will depend on how the team plays in the games, but will probably be around mid-June. Duran could be lining up to join the Sox in a crucial part of the season. Duran’s play, as well as the play from the Red Sox outfielder’s, will be something to monitor in the coming weeks.