Believing in Brian Johnson

The old expression is “You gotta believe.” For pitcher Brian Johnson, believing he can assist the Red Sox in the bullpen is something for which he is responsible. Throughout his career, Johnson has gone through a roller coaster ride – from spot starts, to coming out of the bullpen for Boston. Looking for a greater role in 2019 will be interesting for Johnson.

On May 27th, 2017, Red Sox pitcher Brian Johnson did something that hasn’t been done in a Red Sox uniform since Pedro Martinez. Johnson pitched a complete game shut out against the Seattle Mariners. Where was I? Well, I was sitting in the bleachers, a few rows back from the bullpen, watching as Johnson threw strike after strike. The game lasted a little over two hours, which was remarkable.

For the guy who is like the underdog in the Red Sox organization, Johnson has been a constant presence in the Red Sox organization. For manager Alex Cora, relying on the veteran last season was key to the success this team had going into the postseason. Johnson had career highs in game appearances, as well as innings pitched.

From Starter to Reliever Back to Starter

Throughout his career in a Red Sox uniform, Johnson has been a spot starter for the Red Sox. In his 48 MLB appearances, only 19 of them have been starts. Johnson is 7-6 in his career, with a lifetime ERA of 4.69.

Following an injury to Clay Buchholz in 2015, Johnson was called up from Pawtucket, and made his MLB debut on July 21st of that season. He pitched in 4.1 innings in a loss to the Houston Astros. That game was the only one he would play in during the 2015 season, as he was sent back to Pawtucket.

The next time Johnson saw Major League action was in 2017. In that game, he pitched that remarkable shut out against the Seattle Mariners. Following that, he made four more starts for the Red Sox, going 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA.

In 2018, Cora used Brian Johnson quite a bit. He pitched in 38 games, while making 13 starts. Johnson went 4-5 with a 4.17 ERA last season, however, he was not added to the postseason roster.

Johnson, who is currently on the injured list, is part of the 2019 team. So far, he has pitched 4 games out of the bullpen, with all those games being on the road. On Opening Day at Fenway, Johnson was presented with his first championship ring. It was well earned too, due to the work he did during the 2018 season.

Can We Call Brian Johnson The Underdog?

For a guy whose career has been up and down, Johnson has been a consistent presence in the Red Sox organization. I think that he will continue to surprise us all when he runs out of the bullpen. Johnson has the ability to dominate in games. It’s just a matter of trust in his pitches.

Many might disagree when I say that Johnson is the secret weapon in the bullpen. However, when you look at what he has been able to accomplish and overcome in his life, he is truly one of the good guys.

Transactions In The American League East

The MLB experiences the bulk of its roster turnover during the winter months. This off-season’s largest signing came in late February, when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year, $330 million dollar contract. In regards to transactions in the American League East, the most noteworthy deals came two off-seasons ago, when the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million dollar contract, and when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

Although the American League East took a step back in terms of acquiring star-power this winter, there were plenty of deals that will affect the division in 2019. Here is a look at each team’s most notable move.

Boston Red Sox – re-signed first baseman Steve Pearce (one-year, $6.25 million)

Pearce came to the Red Sox in June 2018 in a trade with Toronto for a minor league infielder. He quickly became a fan favorite after a socking a home run over the Green Monster in his first Fenway at-bat. He went on to post a .901 OPS in 50 games for Boston. More importantly, he was a postseason standout and was awarded World Series MVP. In the Fall Classic, he hit three home runs, including two in the series-clinching Game 5. He is set to platoon with fellow first baseman Mitch Moreland. Pearce can also play the outfield. He logged 38 at-bats between left and right field and 64 more as a DH.

Other noteworthy moves: signed right-handed pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Jenrry Mejia

New York Yankees – acquired starting pitcher James Paxton from Seattle Mariners in exchange for 3 minor leaguers.

This was the most notable transaction in the American League East division this off-season. Paxton threw just north of 160 innings in 2018 and started 28 games. Both were personal bests. He has always had trouble staying healthy, but when Paxton is on the mound, he is royally effective. He threw three complete games last season. One of them was a no-hitter in his native country, Canada. The southpaw joins a loaded starting staff in the Bronx, with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia by his side. Paxton has his best chance at starting 30 games this year, especially considering how lethal his bullpen is behind him.

Other noteworthy moves: signed RP Adam Ottavino, re-signed SP J.A. Happ

Tampa Bay Rays – signed starting pitcher Charlie Morton (two-years, $30 million)

The 2017 World Series hero is a player, like Pearce, who is hitting his prime later than most. Entering his age-35 season, Morton was named an All-Star for the first time in 2018 and has posted a record of 29-10 in his last two seasons, to go along with an ERA in the mid-3s, a WHIP below 1.20, and 364 strikeouts.

Other noteworthy moves: signed OF Avisail Garcia, traded for C Mike Zunino

Toronto Blue Jays – signed starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (one-year, $3 million)

This signing was one of the sneakier ones and occurred earlier this month. Buchholz, who is a two-time All-Star, has spent the bulk of his career with the Red Sox. He left Boston, after nine years with the club, in late 2016 when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He started only two games for Philadelphia due to an elbow injury. He returned to action last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and put together his best season since 2013. In sixteen games he started in 2018, he threw one complete game, accumulated a 2.01 ERA, and limited hitters to a 1.03 WHIP.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker, signed right-handed pitchers David Phelps and Bud Norris

Baltimore Orioles – signed shortstop Alcides Escobar (Minor League contract)

The Orioles made close to zero notable transactions this off-season. Although this was the least, most notable transaction in the American League East, this deal makes sense in several ways. Before acquiring Escobar, the Orioles were projected to start rookie shortstop Richie Martin, who has never played an inning in the majors. Still, Martin may outplay the veteran and earn the starting nod, but at least the O’s now have some insurance at the position. Escobar is durable (nine-straight seasons of at least 530 plate appearances) and has experience playing with an exceptional team (Royals 2014-’15). Bringing those qualities to a rebuilding team in need of leadership will fare well.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Nate Karns. 

Red Sox Nation Loves To Hate John Farrell

Look at any comment thread beneath a Red Sox article and you can see how fans love to hate John Farrell. They call for his ouster when the Red Sox are losing. They demand his head when they lose badly. Red Sox Nation is even lukewarm towards him when the Red Sox are winning. So why all the hate?

I’ll admit I’m one of those writers who has gone back and forth on Farrell. Some days I’llhate john farrell defended his honor. There’s no doubt Red Sox Nation gets worked up sometimes and says irrational things. Then there’s other days when I read about low morale in the Red Sox clubhouse and assume Farrell’s the source. But is Farrell a consistent manager or do fans and writers just love to hate him?

Bill “Spaceman” Lee once shared his opinion about fickle Boston fans. The pilgrims came here from England and decided to settle in this area where it gets bitter cold in the winter and the snow is often brutal. Facing this hard weather year and year has turned Bostonians into a moody brood who love to hate, and hate to love. So is Farrell a victim of this New England attitude or is he really that bad at managing?

Do Fans Hate John Farrell Or Just Every Red Sox Manager?

Farrell led the Red Sox to a World Series win in 2013, followed by two last-place seasons in 2014 and 2015. The Red Sox won a playoff spot last year but it was more of a limp into the post-season than a sprint. But was that Farrell’s fault? It’s no secret that injuries plague the Red Sox, especially their pitching staff. Farrell did, however, make some questionable decisions last year when he continued to insert Clay Buchholz after it was clear he didn’t have what it took to win ballgames. Then there’s his questionable use of inexperienced pinch hitters.

So do fans love to hate John Farrell? Well, I’ll admit that this writer does. He’s an easy target the same way a teacher is for students when they get poor grades. Is it because he or she is a bad teacher, or is it because the students didn’t study hard enough? You don’t have to look far to find Red Sox players who don’t hustle as much as they should (cough cough Pablo Sandoval). So is that Farrell’s fault? No.

But should Farrell do more to motivate his players? Yes. If not, it’ll eventually cost him his job.

Despite ALDS Loss, Red Sox Had a Good Year

This is the point in the season where fans of eliminated teams start to complain about what went wrong. I’ll admit I’m one of those fans, but I also like to look at what went right. Let’s admit it, despite the ALDS loss, the Red Sox had a great year. They overcame inconsistent managing from John Farrell. They overcame Clay Buchholz’s shoddy pitching.  And they overcame setbacks from a flawed bullpen. Was it enough to advance to the ALCS? Unfortunately, no. This doesn’t mean, however, that the Red Sox won’t play well next season. If anything, I expect them to do even better in 2017.

I stood along those who called for John Farrell’s termination. His decisions to leaveALDS Loss certain pitchers in the game, insert questionable pinch hitters in clutch situations, and his general failure to take advantage of bases-loaded situations left me wondering what he was thinking half the time. But by September the team came together. The Red Sox won eleven in a row. Clay Buchholz evened out. But focusing on Farrell and Buchholz made a lot of fans overlook the improvements other Red Sox players made this season, notably Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rick Porcello.

Despite ALDS Loss, Many Red Sox Were Winners This Season

How many of us prayed the Red Sox would unload Ramirez before the start to the 2016 season? His dismal 2015 season included a .249 and only 53 RBIs. His performance in left field was like something out of a horror movie. So I wasn’t the only one who groaned when the Red Sox converted him to a first baseman. Much to everyone’s (and my) surprise, Ramirez had a fantastic year! A respectable .286 average, 30 home runs, and 111 RBIs significantly contributed to clinching the AL East. His .996 fielding percentage was even more astounding (he made only 4 errors at first base). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Ramirez snag a Gold Glove Award. Speaking of Gold Gloves…

Looking at Jackie Bradley Jr.’s fantastic center field performance is another way to forget about the ALDS loss. I loved seeing opposing base runners hesitate to advance when they saw Bradley Jr. snag the ball and wind up to fire it back into the infield. Most baserunners didn’t fear Mookie Betts or Brock Holt as much as they feared Jackie. His cannon arm will hopefully lead to his first Gold Glove Award.

Who saw Rick Porcello becoming a 20-game winner this season? I certainly didn’t. Everyone expected David Price to run away with 20 wins and a Cy Young Award. His rough start to the season and inclination to give up home runs at the worse times put him in Porcello’s shadow though. Now that we know what he’s capable of, Porcello will likely become the Red Sox new ace.

There’s Always Next Season

Don’t worry. An ALDS loss doesn’t mean the Red Sox won’t bounce back next season. If anything, now that we know what their players are capable of doing, I’m expecting to see players like Porcello, Bradley Jr., and Ramirez to play even better next season.

Discipline Key To Red Sox World Series Title

The Boston Red Sox overcame poor press and play over the last two seasons to break into the playoffs. This 2016 season saw many ups and downs. We saw strong pitching from Rick Porcello, and weak pitching from Clay Buchholz. We saw strong hitting from Hanley Ramirez, and weak hitting from Aaron Hill. And we saw strong fielding from Dustin Pedrioa, and weak fielding from Travis Shaw. The weaknesses didn’t come anywhere near overshadowing the successes the Red Sox had this season though. Ramirez redeemed his weak 2015 performance as a clutch hitter. Porcello emerged as a Cy Young favorite. And last, but not least, David Ortiz is retiring after perhaps the best season of his career. In order to gain another Red Sox World Series Title though, the team will have to focus on strengthening its discipline.

The Boston Red Sox led the American League with 878 runs this season. The team alsoRed Sox World Series Title led the league with a .282 batting average and a .348 on-base percentage. Despite these remarkable numbers, the Red Sox also led the American League in leaving runners in scoring position per game (3.63) and runners left on base per game (7.17). Despite their strong offensive numbers, these last two stats aren’t anything to be proud of. One of the most frustrating things about this season was how the Red Sox blew multiple opportunities to bring runners home. More than once the Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs only to rack up three outs without driving anyone home. Instead of cheers, Red Sox Nation responded with boos and grunts as they left Fenway Park in frustration.

A Red Sox World Series Title Depends On Plate Discipline

The Red Sox are more than capable of driving in runs, and rallying from behind. Hanley Ramirez proved that he’s a valuable clutch hitter. David Ortiz, going into his final days as a player, tied for the most RBIs this season, and should have plenty of experience and ability to rack up a few more runs. The problem will be with players who don’t have a lot of post season experience. The stakes are high (as they always are in a playoff series) but that has to be taken more seriously than ever. Players like Sandy Leon, Aaron Hill, Travis Shaw, and even Xander Bogaerts have to learn how to stay patient at the plate and wait for the right pitch. That’s an easy thing for me to say though because it’s not me up there hitting. Regardless, these small moments will make or break the Red Sox.

Getting guys on base is what the Red Sox do well. Bringing them home is another story. If we want to see another Red Sox World Series Title, the players have to buckle down on plate discipline, and stay patient. That’s how Boston will get to see another victory parade.

ALDS Pitching Match-Ups

The importance of pitching in the postseason has been abused to the point that it is now clichéd. The focus of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS pitching will be no different. So much has been made about the starting rotation for both teams that it is tough to find a more crucial factor in this series. Plenty of question marks occupy the starting slots for these two division winners, which is why it’s imperative to take a deeper look at each game.

Game One ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Game One seems like a rare postseason mismatch, at least on paper. Going for the RedALDS Pitching Sox is Cy Young-frontrunner Rick Porcello, toting along his ML-leading 22 wins. Porcello has nary had trouble with the Tribe in his career. The Indians may have home-field advantage, but that shouldn’t faze Porcello either. In the past three seasons, he has two wins there with an ERA of 0.90. On the other hand, Trevor Bauer’s numbers don’t quite stack up. Bauer has had his struggles this year, which includes a stint in the bullpen, culminating in a 12-8 record with a 4.26 ERA. This year, Bauer is 0-1 with an ERA of 9.00 against the Red Sox. Also, the normal Red Sox lineup (with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt) is hitting .455 against Bauer in his career, that per Boston Sports Info on Twitter. Give the advantage to Boston in Game One.

Game Two ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Friday will bring about quite an intriguing match-up in Game Two. The Red Sox turn to their 217 million dollar man, David Price. While Price has picked it up in the second half, his frightening postseason numbers still lurk in the shadows. In eight postseason starts, Price has a 2-7 record and a 5.12 ERA. In 63.1 postseason innings, he’s allowed 12 home runs, 11 walks, and about a hit per inning. For Cleveland, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding their former Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber did win 18 games again this year, but he has had a nagging groin hinder the last month of his season. Kluber has won 10 games at home this year, but also has a 4.38 ERA against Boston in 2016. When Kluber is on, he’s on, no matter the situation. Price’s uncertainties outweighs Kluber’s, advantage Cleveland.

Game Three ALDS Pitching Match-Up

To conclude a massive day in Boston sports sunday, the Red Sox will host Game Three. Clay Buchholz will go to the hill for Boston and Josh Tomlin for the Indians. This is part of the “roll the dice” mantra for the Red Sox after starting Porcello and Price. Buchholz has been sharp in the second half with a 5-1 record and a 3.22 ERA. Tomlin doesn’t offer much deception outside of his fastball and has proved to be hittable this season. He hasn’t started much lately (only three in September), and has a 4.76 ERA at Fenway the past three years. Coming home in a tie series, the upper hand will go the Red Sox here.

Games Four-Five ALDS Pitching

Game Four on Monday brings a dilemma to Terry Francona’s Indians. It appears as if they’ll start their “ace” Trevor Bauer on four days rest. With Eduardo Rodriguez going for the Red Sox, there will be plenty of crooked numbers on the left field scoreboard. They will surely be playing long ball at Fenway in Game Four (if necessary.) With that, give me the league’s best offense in a shootout. Advantage Red Sox.

While I don’t think Game Five will necessarily happen, it’s definitely a toss-up. It is always hard to pick a winner-take-all game like that. If we are to look at the raw statistics though, it looks like no contest. Picking against Rick Porcello at all the past few months would have been foolish. Also, Cleveland still does not know what to expect from a laboring Corey Kluber. If it gets to that, I don’t care where it’s being played, give me the Red Sox.

Obviously, there are plenty of other factors to think about in this series. Bullpens, switch-hitters, and a struggling Mike Napoli are not to be forgotten. But if we’re purely going on starting pitching, this is the Red Sox’s series to lose.