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.

Red Sox Dominated 2018 All-Star Lineup

Five members of the Boston Red Sox played in the 2018 American League All-Star team this week. Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, Chris Sale, and Craig Kimbrel represented Boston. As the Red Sox dominated the All-Star lineup this year, they got a taste of what they’ll be up against if and when they reach the World Series this season.

These Red Sox players brought a lot of history to Nationals Park this year. Chrisred sox dominate Sale started the All-Star game marking only the third time in history that a pitcher has started three straight All-Star games. The other two are Robin Roberts, and Lefty Gomez. Mookie Betts was named leadoff hitter for the American League team. Sale and Craig Kimbrel, Boston’s premier closer, now both have seven All-Star appearances. Surprisingly enough, this was only J.D. Martinez’s second All-Star game. He hit 45 home runs last year but didn’t make an All-Star appearance. SO what does all this mean? To Red Sox Nation, it’s a sign of what’s to come this fall. These All-Stars, a few of who are carrying Hall of Fame-worthy numbers, will carry the Red Sox to the post-season this year.

Red Sox Dominated All-Star Line-Up, And Possibly the National League Come October

The All-Star game itself saw its fair share of home runs. Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Jean Segura hit homers for the American League. Wilson Contreras, Christian Yelich, Scooter Gennett, Joey Votto, and Trevor Story hit home runs of their own for the National League. Overall there were ten home runs hit in this year’s All-Star game, breaking the 1971 record by four. This year’s All-Star game also saw 25 strikeouts. The American League went on to win their sixth straight All-Star game 8-6 in 10 innings.

The Red Sox have the best record in baseball right now. They’re 68-30 at the All-Star break. That’s slightly better than the World Series-defending champs Houston Astros. With four of their pitchers (Sale, Price, Rodriguez, and Porcello) projected to win 17 or more games this season, it’s clear the Red Sox have the pitching and the hitting to make it to the Fall Classic.

Carson Smith is Likely Done for the Year

As many of you may recall, Carson Smith was shut down in mid-May after injuring his throwing shoulder. On May 14, Smith surrendered a run to the Oakland Athletics in the eighth inning, putting the A’s up for good, 6-5. As he returned to the dugout, Smith threw his glove in the dugout out of frustration. Boston’s promising reliever hasn’t seen the field since.

Carson Smith’s fit of rage not only left his glove on the dugout floor but the rest of his Carson Smithseason in jeopardy. Until this week, there had not been any medical decision as doctors did not want to rush to any conclusions. Now, about a month after the temper tantrum, the severity of the injury has become clear. On Wednesday, Smith underwent shoulder surgery which likely spells the end of his 2018 season.

The late-inning relief pitcher spent the majority of the previous two seasons recovering from Tommy-John surgery. To begin the 2018 campaign, Smith emerged as a solid option out of a Red Sox bullpen which has had its fair share of struggles this year. But now, the 28-year-old will have yet another season cut staggeringly short because of injury.

Carson Smith Continues to Frustrate

His tenure in Boston has been a frustrating one. The Red Sox acquired Carson Smith from the Seattle Mariners in 2015, trading southpaw Wade Miley and a prospect for Smith and starting pitcher Roenis Elias. He joined the Red Sox after dominating in his first full season, posting a 2.31 ERA and 92 strikeouts out of the Mariners’ bullpen. Smith began his tenure as a promising 26-year-old that would not hit the free-agent market until 2021. To say it has not gone as planned would be an understatement. Through his first three seasons with the Red Sox, Smith has appeared in a mere 29 contests. In those 29 games, he’s pitched in under 25 innings and just underwent his second season-ending surgery in three years.

After a shaky start to the year, the Red Sox’s corps of relievers actually has improved of late. Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes have established themselves as trustworthy late-inning arms to precede the ever-consistent Craig Kimbrel. While the struggles have subsided, Carson Smith’s inability to control his temper has put another significant blemish on his Red Sox tenure and provided yet another test for Boston’s bullpen.

Tyler Thornburg’s Return Can’t Come Soon Enough

In December of 2016, the Boston Red Sox acquired relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Travis Shaw and two additional prospects. If that name doesn’t grab your attention, you’re probably not alone. Thornburg has not thrown a single pitch in a Red Sox uniform.

Thornburg was shut down in February of 2017 with shoulder soreness. It was not until Tyler Thornburg June of that year when he underwent surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in his throwing shoulder. Former manager John Farrell maintained his belief that surgery was not necessary, resulting in the delayed operation. It also resulted in Boston’s promising new setup man missing the entire 2017 season, and the start of this one.

It is no secret that the Red Sox bullpen has struggled this season. And this should come as no surprise. Relief pitching was among the most pressing needs of this team in the offseason. Dave Dombrowski decided to spend his money on Boston’s other need, signing J.D. Martinez and filling the void of a power bat left vacant by David Ortiz. While that signing has paid off, and then some, it does not change the fact that the bullpen needs help.

And just recently, the bullpen woes worsened. Setup man Carson Smith, who has pitched as well as any of Boston’s relievers, found his way onto 10-day disabled list earlier this week. After throwing his glove in frustration during a 6-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics, Smith injured his shoulder and is expected to miss an extended period of time. Dubbed a subluxation by Red Sox officials, this injury puts even more pressure on the already depleted Boston bullpen. In 2006, closer Jonathan Papelbon suffered an injury similar in nature, and ended up missing the rest of the season.

Get to Know Tyler Thornburg

That’s where Tyler Thornburg comes into play. In his last active season, Thornburg went 8-5 in 67 appearances out of the Brewers’ bullpen. He ended the year with a career-best 2.15 ERA and 90 strikeouts. Joining Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale as the new arms in Beantown, Thornburg was expected to become a trustworthy setup man for Kimbrel.

Thornburg is making strides and Dombrowski said he is “very close to coming back” in a press conference on Tuesday. In his last outing with Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday, he allowed a home run, a walk, and 2 earned runs on only 19 pitches before exiting. These struggles delayed his next start until Friday, but he says he feels fine health-wise.

The services of this talented relief pitcher have been dearly missed by the Red Sox, and are now needed more than ever.

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. 

Red Sox Fans Really Like Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is having a truly dominant season for the Red Sox. In just his second year Craig Kimbrelwith Boston he has posted a 1.23 ERA to go with just 5 earned-runs all season. He also has a league-leading 23 saves already. What exactly is it that makes Kimbrel so unhittable? Is it the pre-pitch death-stare? The blazing fastball that blows guys away? Or is it the absolutely filthy knuckle-curve that he spins with 2-strikes to make professional-hitters look totally foolish? “Gas Masterson” can strike you out in a multitude of ways. If you can find a way to not strike out, that still does not mean you’re getting on base. The 6-time MLB All-Star has done nothing but great things for the Sox since he joined the squad, and looks to continue that trend in the second half.

Craig Kimbrel Is Not Slowing Down

The only way Craig Kimbrel is going to stop getting hitters out is if John Farrell doesn’t bring him in. The guy is a stud; simple as that. Hitters just do not want to see Kimbrell jogging in from the Red Sox bullpen in the ninth. Kimbrel’s blazing fastball is consistently pumping 99 mph, while his knuckle-curve could be considered “disgusting” by opposing hitters. He’s in the prime of his career at 29 years-old and is hungry for a World Series title. Kimbrel wants the ball in the last-inning of Game 7, and he wants to shut the door. Sure, he might find a way to make it interesting. When it’s over, we’ll all think back and say “Man, I knew he had it the whole time!” just like every time before.

How To Retain Craig Kimbrel

Though Red Sox fans do not have to worry about it quite yet, Craig Kimbrel’s contract does expire at the end of the 2018 season. He will become an unrestricted free-agent after making $13,000,000 that season. To retain Kimbrel, Boston will have to prove to him that their organization is where he belongs. Also, they will need to assure him that the deal he is offered from the Red Sox (assuming they do make him an offer) is the best one available to him. Keeping Craig Kimbrel on a long-term deal is something the Red Sox should definitely look at if they plan to compete four or five years from now.