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.

Second Half Questions For the Red Sox

Can you believe it? It’s already Independence day. As I was sitting at my friends’ barbecue, I looked up at the television and saw the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. As I couldn’t help but watch Joey Chestnut impressively devour another record 74 hot dogs in just 10 minutes, a different kind of record peaked my attention. The Red Sox record at the season halfway point of 59-29. A whopping 30 games over .500. It truly is impressive what Alex Cora and this team have done thus far. However, as the day went on and I was baking in the heat, waiting for the fireworks and having a good holiday, I couldn’t help but think of a few questions for the second half of this potential record Red Sox season.

Can J.D. Martinez Continue This Record First Season Pace For the Red Sox?

I have not witnessed such a great Red Sox signing in my lifetime since Manny Ramirez.Red Sox J.D. is often compared to the eccentric Red Sox great, because of his hitting ability, opposite field power, and high annual salary. Martinez seems like the same player just with a lesser personality/more game devoted approach. J.D. is currently hitting .327, with 26 dingers and 71 RBI. If he continues on the pace, he can eclipse the production of Manny Ramirez in his inaugural Red Sox season. Manny finished the 2001 debut campaign batting .306, with 41 home runs and 125 RBI. J.D. is notoriously known as a second-half player. That notion should terrorize opposing pitchers this second half. In fact, no one since the 2017 All-Star break has hit more balls out of the park than Martinez. It will be a fun summer watching J.D. continue to demolish balls at Fenway Park.

When will Dustin Pedroia Be Back In A Red Sox Uniform?

The veteran former MVP Dustin Pedroia is still sidelined. The career .300 hitter has only had 11 official at-bats this year. The Red Sox let go of Hanley Ramirez to bring back Pedroia in late May. However, his knee caused him to head right back to the disabled list in less than a week. Pedroia is, and always has been, the heart and soul of this ball club since his rookie 2007 year. He is the grit, the hustle, and the self-proclaimed laser-show that this team could use, as it chases its third straight division title. Sure these “killer B’s”, Devers, and Martinez have been terrific, but second base has been a carousel of inconsistency. The Red Sox need number 15 back healthy, sooner rather than later.

How Will the Red Sox Approach the Trade Deadline?

The Red Sox have a couple burning holes that need to be addressed. Right handed hitting as well as bullpen relief. The Red Sox already got their right-handed hitter. Last week, Dave Dombrowski acquired Steve Pearce from the rival Toronto Blue Jays. Dombrowski got some right-handed assurance early. That will help the corner infield and corner outfield depth. The other hole is still a question mark. Dombrowski loves to get bullpen help at the deadline, as he got Brad Ziegler two seasons ago and Addison Reed last year. Tyler Thornburg is now back in the majors, after missing a season and a half. We don’t know if he can return to his 2016 Brewers dominant form. Since we don’t know if Thornburg can return to form, I think Dombrowski will most likely get another arm and make yet another deadline splash.

 

 

 

David Price Is Key To Red Sox Success

For better or for worse, it seems David Price is always in the spotlight. That tends to happen to someone making 30 million annually. Last year, it was the blow up with the reporters and frequent injuries that left fans wanting more. He returned late in ’17 and after a dominant playoff series against the Astros in relief, fans were excited to see what 2018 would have in store for the southpaw. So far, David Price is earning that money.

The Red Sox need Price. They need him healthy and consistent if they want to keep upPrice with Houston and Cleveland’s rotations. They need him if they want to combat that intimidating Yankee lineup. The X-factor to the Red Sox championship hopes is indeed the starting five. The offense has been there all season. Betts and Martinez continue to wreak havoc in the minds of opposing pitching. Pitching is still key though. The Red Sox were division winners the last two seasons. However, they were outpitched by the Indians in 2016 and the Astros in 2017. In order to have any chance this year they need Sale, Porcello, and Price in peak form.

The Red Sox Need Consistency From Price

Price had a rough start to the year. He missed a start against the Yankees because of a “tingling sensation” in his fingers. The tingling sensation was determined to be a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome. The reasoning for this was because of Price’s love for video games, particularly ‘Fortnite’. The stress the game put on his fingers and his excessive play progressed the tingling. Fans and the media ridiculed this development extensively. After acknowledging the injury, as well as saying he will tone down playing video games, he has since been lights out dominant.

In David Price’s last six outings he has not allowed more than three earned runs, averaging six-plus innings and keeping hitters under seven hits a game. He is earning that hefty paycheck. The Red Sox need him to be the innings horse he was in 2016. With Sale’s dominance, Rodriguez consistency and Porcello’s confidence, the sky is the limit for that quartet.

Drew Pomeranz Should Not Be Starting

It is getting painful to watch Drew Pomeranz pitch every fifth day. Playing the Astros this weekend, it is easy to see the major difference for Houston between this year and last. It’s the Astros dominant rotation. With the addition of Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander now in the fold for the entire season, both of whom seem like early contenders for the Cy-Young award, there isn’t a weak link in their starting 5. For the Red Sox, it is clearly Pomeranz.

Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello all posses Cy-Young award caliber potential.Drew Pomeranz When those three are pitching at their peaks, it is hard to find a better trio in the league. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be staying healthy, continuously turning in quality starts and now has a 6-1 record. Pomeranz has not had that same reliability.

Last season, Drew Pomeranz looked like the all-star type of pitcher Dave Dombrowski thought he had acquired a year prior when he obtained the lefty from the San Diego Padres in exchange for the promising pitching prospect, Anderson Espinosa. Drew won 17 games for the Red Sox in 2017, as he was the consistent staple in the Boston rotation, along with Cy-Young runner-up Chris Sale. Pomeranz earned the nickname “Big Smooth” as he seemed confident and easy going in pressure situations. His ’12 to 6′ curveball baffled hitters, especially Yankees, as he amassed 174 strikeouts for the year. Ex Boston manager John Farrell, saw enough poise and success from the south-paw he decided to name him the “number 2” starter for the playoffs. Since that postseason start, he has fallen off tremendously.

Drew Pomeranz  is Replaceable

This offseason, the oft-injured Drew Pomeranz again didn’t make his season debut until late April. When he returned, his fastball was noticeably down in velocity. After averaging close to 92 on the radar gun with the pitch last season, it has since dipped to the 88 mph mark. His curveball didn’t have the same prototype bite to it. That late movement to the breaking ball we as fans were accustomed to seeing. Now after eight games started, it is easy to see last season may be an anomaly. Wright should be in the bullpen.

The knuckleballer Wright has been fantastic this season. He has only allowed four runs in 16.0 innings pitched from the pen. The knuckleball seems to regularly find the strike-zone. Alex Cora has leaned on him as the “innings eater” all year. Before Wright went down with an injury in 2016, he earned an all-star nod and was on his way to a dominant season. Wright often has had to pitch in long-relief this year. He routinely comes in as early as the third or fourth innings to replace the struggling Pomeranz. If Wright joins the rotation, then he wouldn’t be in mop-up duty, fewer runs would be given up early and Boston would have a better chance to win.

J.D. Martinez is Turning Into One of Boston’s Best Signings Ever

In November of 2015, David Ortiz announced that the 2016 season would be his last. The long and treasured career of Boston’s beloved designated hitter will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Red Sox Nation, and his retirement left the Red Sox in a very unfamiliar position. For the first time since Ortiz joined the lineup in the 2003 season, the Sox were without a trusted power bat. The 2017 season gave us no answers, with Boston finishing 27th in home runs and 26th in slugging percentage. Now, a little over a quarter of the way through 2018, I think we have an answer. His name is J.D. Martinez, signed to a five-year, $110 million contract this past offseason. Not only has he answered this question, but J.D. Martinez has emerged as one of the best free agent signings in Red Sox history.

I know it’s still early. Martinez is not even halfway through his first season with the Red J.D. MartinezSox, and this could be premature. But I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. In 46 games, Martinez ranks second in the MLB in home runs (15), runs batted in (41), slugging percentage (.674), and OPS (1.073). He would lead the American League in batting average, slugging percentage, and home runs if it weren’t for teammate Mookie Betts.

J.D. Martinez In Comparison

Looking back on Boston’s major free agent signings, the track record is less than ideal. And failing to produce or live up to expectations in Boston is a proven formula for failure. Names like Pablo Sandoval, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez come to mind.

I don’t need to go into detail on Sandoval, as that disaster is still fresh in the minds of this city. You may have managed to erase Carl Crawford from your memory by now. But let’s not forget his 7-year, $142 million monster of a contract that gave Boston fans so much hope after years of dealing with him in Tampa Bay. And now? Among the biggest busts in the history of the Red Sox. Adrian Gonzalez actually played well in his one full season with the Red Sox, but never quite fulfilled the expectations surrounding him. The list goes on and on. John Lackey, Rusney Castillo, and Josh Beckett join the list of players that never quite lived up to their price tag. Quick note of appreciation to the Los Angeles Dodgers for liberating us from Crawford, Gonzalez, and Beckett.

But now it’s time to forget all of that and relish in the present. J.D. Martinez is hitting as well as anyone in the MLB, and is currently on pace to break his home run record for a season. Paired with fellow slugger Mookie Betts atop the Red Sox order, Martinez has found, and embraced, his role in this lineup. And he’s earning every bit of his paycheck.

The formula to succeed as a Boston athlete has become pretty simple over the years. Just do your job. And Martinez is doing it as well as anyone.

Red Sox Offense Continues to Flourish

You can wave goodbye to the narrative that the Red Sox’ unheralded start to theRed Sox Offense season is a result of poor competition. After opening the season with nine games against the Rays and Marlins, they took two of three from the Yankees. Then they swept the Orioles. Then they took their high-powered offense across the country and swept the Los Angeles Angels. The Red Sox offense picked up right where they left off against their counterpart atop the American League standings, outscoring the Halos 27-3 in the series. Boston has won 7 straight and their 16-2 record is the MLB’s best start since 1987.

The brilliance of Boston’s offense has been no secret this season. They entered the series on a 4-game win streak with a top-two offense in Major League Baseball. The Angels boasted the league’s top offense as of Monday. Just days later, the Red Sox now own the best offense, and best record, in the nation.

Red Sox Offense: The Ohtani Test

In the series opener, the Red Sox got their first look at rookie phenom Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani has taken the MLB by storm with his dynamic two-way talent and jumped out to a 2-0 start with only four hits allowed. Boston’s juggernaut of an offense had other plans.

The Red Sox matched Ohtani’s hit total for the season in just two innings. The first came a mere seven pitches into the game when Mookie Betts sent one of his praised fastballs 411 feet over the center field wall. Ohtani’s night ended after just two innings, but Boston’s offense was just getting started. Betts added two more solo shots, tying Ted Williams’ franchise record for most career games with three home runs (3). Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all went deep as well. The Sox, totaling 15 hits in this offensive showcase, cruised to a 10-1 victory in the series opener.

Consistent Offense

In game two, the best offense in the MLB picked up right where they left off. Home runs from J.D. Martinez and Mitch Moreland, and a grand slam from Rafael Devers paced the Red Sox in their 9-0 win. In game three, Mookie Betts hit his second leadoff home run of the series, only needing three pitches this time. Andrew Benintendi, who sat out game two, added a home run and 3 RBI to the team’s 8-2 win.

With their latest sweep, the Red Sox extend their win streak to seven games as their offense looks more dangerous by the day. In 18 games, Boston has scored 6 or more runs in 11 of them, and average a league-best 6.35 runs per game. They lead the MLB in hits (190), batting average (.292), on-base percentage (.362), slugging percentage (.496), runs (116), and extra-base hits (82). After not hitting a single grand slam in 2017, they already have four this year. Able to produce with contact or power, this dynamic offense is the real deal, and here to stay.

It Gets Better

Let us not forget about Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, both sidelined due to injury. Bogaerts was proving to be a valuable cog in this offense, batting .368 before hurting his ankle. Pedroia hasn’t seen the field yet, but his value to this lineup is undeniable.

Bogaerts took batting practice on Tuesday and is expected to return sometime next week. Pedroia is still a couple weeks away from returning, nursing his knee after receiving surgery over the summer.

Clearly, these absences have not impacted Boston’s bats in the slightest. But with two important starters set to return over the next few weeks, Red Sox Nation has every reason to be excited about this commanding offense.