Red Sox Post All-Star Break Review

The Boston Red Sox entered the All-Star break at 68-30. That was the best record in Major League Baseball, and they’ve kept a firm grasp on that honor. Back on July 2nd, Rick Porcello and the Sox took down the Washington Nationals 4-3. You may remember Porcello driving a shot into the gap and clearing the bases off a pitch from reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to put Boston ahead. They went on to win the next nine contests. In the series opener against the Blue Jays, you may remember Mookie Betts’ at-bat heard around the world when he launched a grand slam over the Green Monster on the 13th pitch he saw. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Boston’s next loss came eleven days later, on Friday the 13th no less, in their second All Star breakgame against the Blue Jays. The bad luck didn’t last long, however. The following game, the Sox and Jays headed to extra innings knotted at 2 when Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One run was all Boston needed, but Bogaerts went ahead and sent one over the fence in dead center instead, walking the game off in glorious fashion. It was Boston’s first walk-off grand slam since the year 2000.

Just a year after not hitting a single grand slam, the Sox, with nine at the break, are in striking distance of the franchise record for grand slams in a season (11), and the MLB record (14). The Red Sox concluded the first half winning 12 of their last 13 contests and 17 of their last 20. Now, as Boston’s dominant pace continues, let’s take a look back on the first half for the winningest team in Major League Baseball.

Starting Pitching

For the first time in Red Sox history, Boston entered the break with four pitchers with ten or more wins. Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have eleven, while Chris Sale and David Price, each with ten, are just behind.

Rodriguez continues to progress in Boston, with his 11-3 record, 3.44 ERA, and 110 strikeouts on pace to be career-highs. He was just placed on the ten-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and is still sidelined to this day. While Porcello hasn’t returned to his Cy Young form from two years ago, he remains a respectable arm in the middle of the rotation. However, Porcello looked like Cy Young himself in his recent start against the Yankees, where he tossed a complete, one-hit gem of a game that aided the Sox in their relentless sweep of New York, comfortably in second place in the AL East.

Price continues to be a wild card with his injury hiccups and apparent inability to pitch against the Yankees. At 10-6 with an ERA north of four, there is certainly room for improvement from Boston’s 217-million-dollar southpaw. While we’re on the subject, Price looked to find some sort of groove against the Yankees in their last series. He wasn’t dominant, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will likely return to health soon after the break, and the claim for the fifth rotation spot is something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Sale, with an AL-best 2.23 ERA and MLB-best 188 strikeouts, is throwing as well as anyone in the MLB and is a front-runner for the American League Cy Young. I’ve paid my respects to him already.

Relief Pitching

In a word, unimpressive. We all know about Carson Smith by now. Joe Kelly has enjoyed a successful year as Boston’s setup man, but his ERA had ballooned to 4.31 recently after a stretch of shaky outings. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson haven’t been anything special, and Tyler Thornburg had only appeared in four games. Craig Kimbrel had 30 saves at the break and continues to look like one of the best closers in baseball. But unfortunately, he can’t do it all.

Offense

The main reason for the best first half in franchise history? This right here. Mookie Betts led Major League Baseball with a .359 batting average and is gunning for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez, who batted .328, is third, and his 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in led the league at the break. The influence of Martinez on this lineup has been nothing short of incredible. He continues to make his case for one of the best free agent acquisitions the Red Sox have ever made. Expect his name right next to Mookie’s on the MVP ballot.

At the turning point in the season, Xander Bogaerts had already surpassed his 2017 home run total and matched his RBI total. Mitch Moreland played his way to his first career All-Star game in his second season in Beantown. Andrew Benintendi was flat out robbed of an All-Star appearance. He is on pace for career-highs in batting average, stolen bases, home runs, doubles, and RBI. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. subsided as the first half wound down and he looks to have found some sort of groove at the plate. Newly acquired Steve Pearce is fitting in nicely so far. Through nine games, he’s batting .458 and is another cog in the stacked Red Sox lineup. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Yankees in the series sweep, hitting four dingers and driving in eight runs.

Review of the Red Sox After the All-Star Break

The Red Sox entered the break with a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, and it has skyrocketed since then. Betts, Martinez, Moreland, Sale, and Kimbrel all secured a trip to the All-Star Game. The Sox were the only team in the American League with multiple starters in the All-Star Game (Betts, Martinez).

Looking back, the Red Sox started the year 17-2 on their way to the best start in franchise history. And they hit the All-Star break after going 17-3 over their last 20. The Boston Red Sox are statistically the best team in Major League Baseball. If their historic first half is any indication, this ballclub will be a force to be reckoned with come October.

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.

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.

Red Sox Failed To Give Pitchers Run Support

The Boston Red Sox failed to give its pitchers the run support they needed in their series against the Chicago White Sox. Chris Sale absolutely dominated the White Sox Friday night by striking out ten but got the 1-0 loss. The Red Sox won the second series game on Saturday. The third game though ended in a 5-2 loss with Rick Porcello taking the loss. The box score clearly shows that it wasn’t the pitchers’ fault. If anything, it’s clear they didn’t the run support they needed. You know how many runs the Red Sox scored in the entire series? Four. The starting lineup for the Red Sox failed to give their pitchers the support they needed.

Chris Sale dominated Friday night. He took a shutout into the seventh inningred sox fail before giving up a run. He struck out ten for a season total of 120. It should have been an easy win for him. Unfortunately, ESPN is projecting him to go 12-10 this season. That’s not because he’s struggling on the mound. It’s because he’s only gotten four runs in support in his last three starts. Those last three starts were all losses too.

Rick Porcello Is Dominating Again, But He Needs Run Support Too

Rick Porcello is pitching like he did back in 2016 when he won the Cy Young Award. ESPN is projecting that he’ll win twenty games again this season. Unfortunately, the Red Sox’s hitters are playing like they did in 2016 when they’d leave a number of runners on base at the end of each inning.

The Red Sox can’t afford to sacrifice run at this point in the season. The New York Yankees are right at the Red Sox’s heels and they’ll run away with first place if Sale and Porcello don’t get the run support they need. While David Price is projected to go 17-10 this season, there’s no reason why the Red Sox’s number one and two starters should have double-digit losses.

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.

Which Active Red Sox Player Has the Best Chance at Cooperstown?

Cooperstown, New York remains as baseball’s hallowed grounds. It is there whereCooperstown past legends are forever remembered within the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This year, the Boston Red Sox are off to a historic start. Their roster is filled with many talented players. But which of those players has the best chance at going to Cooperstown and joining these hallowed few?

 

 

Craig Kimbrel

Earlier this month, Kimbrel became the youngest closer ever to reach 300 saves. He was also the NL leader in saves from 2011-2014 before joining the Red Sox in 2016. Throughout his entire career as a closer, he has recorded at least 30 saves in each season. In 2011, he was the NL Rookie of the Year and is a six-time all-star, including last season in which he had a 1.43 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. The only active closers with more saves are Huston Street, Fernando Rodney, and Francisco Rodriguez, all of which are significantly older than Kimbrel. When all is said and done, I believe Craig Kimbrel will join Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Dennis Eckersley as the best to ever close.

Mookie Betts

Of any player on the Red Sox in the last decade, Betts has the highest ceiling. The combination of his power, speed, and defensive prowess have put him in the upper echelon of players in today’s game as well as team history. This season he is currently tied for first in home runs, second in average, second in doubles, first in slugging, and first in OPS league-wide. At age 25, Betts likely still has at least ten years of highly-productive seasons left. At the end of his career, Betts will have a good shot at making it to the Hall.

Chris Sale

Few left-handed pitchers have been as dominant in their early careers as Chris Sale.  Among active pitchers, he trails only Clayton Kershaw in career ERA, opponent average, and WHIP. That being said, Kershaw has 29 more career starts than Sale and is slightly older. His win-loss record is 95-59, which is lower than his contemporaries, however he was a part of some poor Chicago White Sox teams. While not even 30, I believe Sale still has the ability for 3-5 more dominant years and 7-9 more strong seasons. To make his way to Cooperstown, he’ll need to avoid serious injury and stay on competitive teams.

Dustin Pedroia

Of any Red Sox, Pedroia is the most intriguing to talk about in terms of Hall of Fame prospects. There is no question that he has remained the heart and soul of this franchise throughout his career, no matter the circumstance. However, he has begun to show signs of physical wearing down via frequent injuries, especially in the second half of his career. That being said, he has never batted lower than .278 in a season and has never committed more than six errors in a season. He is a 4-time Gold Glove winner, 4-time All-Star, a 2008 MVP, and the only Red Sox player other than Kimbrel to win Rookie of the Year. He will forever be remembered as the catalyst for the team in this era.

Cooperstown Breakdown

So who has the best chance of these four? The easy answer is that it depends. I think the best way of looking at Hall of Fame prospects is three-pronged. The first is did they win during their careers; was their impact big enough to yield pennants and championships. Between the four, only Pedroia has a World Series ring. However, all four have been a part of winning teams, even though they’re all in different parts of their careers.

The second, and most obvious, is their career numbers and stats. Frankly, I would not have written this article if it weren’t apparent that these guys had the accolades to be in the conversation.

That leads me to the last and most intriguing factor: their era and its comparables. In other words, what was the climate of baseball at their respective position in terms of character, performance, and competition? For Sale, he’s had Kershaw and Madison Baumgarner, as well as Justin Verlander. For Kimbrel, he entered the league as Rivera and Hoffman were leaving. Betts will always have the Mike Trout and Bryce Harper comparison on his back. Pedroia’s main counterpart throughout his career was Ian Kinsler, but Kinsler never really won anything. His other main comparison was always Robbie Cano, but Cano’s latest PED scandal will likely dampen his reputation a bit.

Given all these variables, I believe that Kimbrel has the best chance because there are few closers in his era to compare him to besides Aroldis Chapman, who has character problems of his own. If Betts and Sale can continue dominating and avoid the pitfalls of free agency, they could make it there too. Should Pedroia finish strong like I expect, he’ll always have my support too.

Show me your thoughts!

I ran a Twitter with a similar question last week, and this is what I gathered. Feel free to tweet with your thoughts or leave comments below.