Dave Dombrowski’s Firing Comes at a Strange Time

Red Sox Nation knew it was coming eventually. However, following the Red Sox’s loss to the Yankees, social media was buzzing. The Red Sox have fired Dave Dombrowski. With about two weeks left, Dave Dombrowski’s firing comes at a strange time. What was the ownership thinking, and what does this mean for everyone else? Now, this also adds onto the offseason list. The Red Sox need to find a new President of Baseball Operations.

When news of Dave Dombrowski’s firing got to the clubhouse, many players wereDave Dombrowski's firing shocked. During the press conference after the game, Alex Cora stated that he was ‘Surprised. I’m shocked, honestly.” Dombrowski hired him to take the reigns of the Red Sox following the 2017 season, which Cora said he was grateful for.

The Timing of Dave Dombrowski’s Firing is Shocking

The Red Sox are 76-67, and just dropped two key games to the Yankees. The bullpen has been a question mark all season long. Now, here we are in September with two key pitchers injured and nobody to take over for them. Also, the trade deadline came and went, with the Red Sox sitting on their hands. This was not a good look for an organization who was trying to make a push for the postseason.

As players were getting ready to leave Fenway Park, many expressed shock and surprise by the news that Cora gave them following the game. When asked about Dave Dombrowski’s firing, players like JD Martinez and Mookie Betts said that they were shocked by the news. As more information rolls in, Red Sox Nation will have a better understanding of the situation.

The Red Sox spokesman, Kevin Gregg said last night that a formal press conference will be held on Monday. From there, hopefully more insight into Dave Dombrowski’s firing will come to light.

What Could Have Led to Dave Dombrowski’s Firing

When Dombrowski came into the organization back in August 2015, he gave us a team that brought us to the postseason three years in a row. In the 2017 off season, he also brought in Alex Cora to take on the role as manager. This past off season, Dombrowski didn’t do much. He allowed Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel to walk away. He also signed Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale to long term deals. That looked like a good idea at the time, but now Eovaldi is in the bullpen and struggling, while Sale has been out with an elbow injury.

Dombrowski also had a habit of bringing in veteran players via trade. For example, in July 2017, he traded two minor league pitchers for Eduardo Nunez. While Nunez was good for Boston at first, the rest of the time he was injured. Another would be in the 2016 off season, when he traded for Chris Sale. Dombrowski traded four minor leaguers for Sale. While Sale is a dominating pitcher, he is also injury prone. Case and point, he is on the injury list, and was thought to have needed Tommy John surgery.

Dombrowski didn’t allow the farm system to grow properly. He brought in players, and kept players that were not contributing. He was given a role that he just couldn’t handle. That led to this season, and how the Red Sox will not be in the postseason for the first time since 2015.

How Will This Play Out in the Offseason?

The list of things to do for Boston just got longer. On top of everything else, they need to find a new President of Baseball operations and a General Manager. Dombrowski has been filling the role as General Manager for the past few seasons, as well as doing his job. The Red Sox have a lot of work to do come the end of the postseason. This includes fixing the bullpen, and keeping certain free agents.

The next few weeks will be strange inside the walls of Fenway Park. While many were shocked, including I’m sure Dombrowski, many were not. Dave Dombrowski’s firing may have come at a strange time, but it needed to be done eventually.

The Season is Slipping Away, and the Red Sox Keep Sinking

Here we are five days into August, and the 2019 season is slipping away. After being swept by both the Rays and Yankees, the Red Sox keep sinking. They are 59-55, and 14.5 games out of first place. Even the chance to get the other Wild Card spot seems crazy at this point as well. Right now, they are six games out of the Wild Card spot.

They currently have lost eight straight games, something that hasn’t happened since theRed Sox Keep 2015 season, two seasons after they won the World Series in 2013. There is something wrong with this team, and fans are not happy about it. From the front office, to the players, something needs to change. We are closing in on the end of the season. One that people are going to want to forget.

The 2019 Season is Slipping Away With No End in Sight

Literally, there seems to be no end in sight for this season. The 2019 season was one that the Red Sox needed to defend in after winning in 2018. From Spring Training until now, the season is slipping away. Before we know it, the book will be closed on 2019, and the players, management and office staff will be on the golf course. It’s a sad reality, but unfortunately it’s true.

As the season slowly comes to a close, the Red Sox have one more series each with AL East opponents, starting with the Orioles. They are 28-31 against AL East opponents, and 31-24 against the other opponents. Practically every game since the start of the season in Seattle has been a struggle for Boston. Yes, starting off on the West Coast can be tough, but this team didn’t change much in the offseason. The only notable absences are that of Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.

Also, unlike the Yankees and Astros, the team hasn’t had a real serious injury. Yes, Dustin Pedroia is out for the season, and players like Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce have been on the injury list. However, the Yankees have played games without Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and are 72-39. The Astros have gone without players like Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, and are 73-40. What’s the Red Sox’s excuse then?

Red Sox Keep Sinking. So When Does Boston Surrender?

Or have they? From the pitching, to the offense, it seems like they have started to surrender the 2019 a while back. It’s a sad reality for a team that has so much talent on it. The one thing that hurt this team the most was the lack of support from the bullpen. So many games were lost due to the inconsistency of the relief pitchers.

It didn’t help that the bats weren’t awake during some of those games as well. For a team that won 108 regular season games last year, this team looks lost. With every loss, especially a close one, the season keeps slipping away.

I’m sure many of them were hoping for some help during the one and only trade deadline, but the front office didn’t make any trades. Now, all we can do is sit, and see what happens next. It has been a tough road for Red Sox Nation as the 2019 season is slipping away.

Coming Up Next For Boston

Rick Porcello gets the ball in game one of the three game set against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway. The Royals, who are 40-73, will be sending Mike Montgomery to the hill on Monday night. One bright spot for the Red Sox is that the Royals are without veteran catcher, Salvador Perez. The 29 year old had Tommy John surgery in March due to a partial tear of the UCL in his right elbow.

After the three game set against the Royals, Mike Trout and the Angels come to Fenway for four games. The Angels are 56-57 coming into Monday. Prior to playing the Red Sox, they will be playing against the Cincinnati Reds for two games at The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Red Sox closers: Will the current strategy work long term?

Despite the bullpen being a bright spot for the Red Sox, fans are still calling for an impact arm. Red Sox closers have been effective, but Craig Kimbrel is not walking through that door. Perhaps a look at the numbers will ease concerns over the relief effort.

A change in the way the Red Sox handle the later innings

Instead of playing along with the standard MLB approach (having one man handle the Red Sox closersninth inning), the Red Sox brass have gone by committee this year. While Ryan Brasier has largely handled the closing duties, other relievers such as Matt Barnes have occasionally entered the final frame. Alex Cora has used Barnes in high leverage spots based on when the meat of the lineup is due up.

Barnes and Brasier have both found relative success in their roles

In 13 appearances, Barnes boasts the AL’s highest strikeout rate (50 percent) with three walks and a 2.08 ERA. Out of those 13 spots, five have come in the ninth, four in the eighth, once in the seventh, and he has pitched in both the seventh and eighth a pair of times. Barnes has had a steady rise over the years, and it has culminated into the impressive season he has put together so far.

However, Red Sox closers have combined to amass three blown saves through 11 chances. In comparison to the last three seasons with Kimbrel, that is a troubling trend. The team has already struggled to bring leads into the later innings. But the individual numbers suggest the Sox will be just fine.

Braiser has handled the bulk of the save opportunities, securing the game in six of eight tries. Despite his 2.57 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 innings, the calls to make a change were loud after he allowed a walk-off home run to Nick Delmonico (hitting about .150 at the time) against the White Sox on Thursday night.

Brasier has been a lot better than he’s earned credit for

An article by Alex Speier of The Boston Globe analyzed the work of Brasier between this season and last. HIs findings showed that the journeyman is still about as effective as he was in 2018. Although, he has allowed three homes runs through his 14 innings so far. That is one more than he allowed through 33.2 innings of work last season. Speier points out that there is not any direct reason for concern, as Brasier’s strikeout and walk percentages remain in tact. He is still generating lots of swings and misses with his fastball/slider/splitter makeup.

While fans might be uneasy about the plan’s long term success, Cora has put the team in a good position. There’s no analytical evidence that either Barnes or Brasier are in danger of coming undone. As long as they keep posting numbers like these, the Red Sox are in good hands.

Red Sox Bullpen Has Become A Mess

To begin the season, Boston’s starting pitching was the team’s biggest weak link. Now, the starters have begun to settle down. Chris Sale allowed two runs yesterday and struck out 10 through five frames. Rick Porcello is coming off his best start (5.2 innings, 2 earned runs). After allowing 11 earned runs in his first two starts, Eduardo Rodriguez has permitted just 5 earned runs in his past two. Hector Velázquez has started three games since April 7 and has done a nice job in his role as a spot-start pitcher. And David Price has been the club’s best starter through four starts: 3.75 ERA,1.04 WHIP, 30 k’s in 24 innings. The Red Sox bullpen, however, after having started the season on a strong note, has reverted to become a complete liability.

In yesterday’s day-night double header against the Tigers, in game 1’s top of the 5thRed Sox Bullpen inning, Chris Sale escaped a jam. Runners were on first and third with Detroit’s best hitter (Niko Goodrum – .838 OPS) at the plate. Sale struck him out looking to keep the game tied at two. Heath Hembree then relieved Sale in the 6th, and allowed a solo home run to Detroit’s Ronny Rodriguez (career .645 OPS). The Red Sox were now suddenly playing from behind.

Two innings later, with the score tied 3-3, Colten Brewer was called on to pitch. He eventually escaped the inning on a double play, but not before he allowed 3 runs to cross the plate. Going into the bottom of the 8th, with six outs left for Boston, Detroit had taken a 6-3 lead. The Red Sox ended up losing 7-4.

Game 2

In the night cap, the first reliever out of the ‘pen was Marcus Walden. He came on in the top of the 4th inning, with the bases loaded and one out. He did not deliver and, consequently, surrendered a bases-clearing double to Brandon Dixon (career .636 OPS). The Tigers took a 3-0 lead.

In the next inning, manager Alex Cora called on southpaw Darwinzon Hernandez. It was his major league debut after being (temporarily) recalled earlier that day as Boston’s 26th player for the double header. He threw 50 pitches in 2.1 innings, allowed four hits, one walk, and struck out four.

With one out in the top of the 7th, with the Tigers still leading 3-0, Hernandez was replaced by Travis Lakins, making his ML debut. Lakins was recalled between games for reliever Bobby Poyner, who, in two appearances, owns a 18.00 ERA for the Red Sox. Lakins pitched 2.2 innings. He threw 34 pitches and allowed 1 earned run.

The Red Sox bullpen has become a mess

David Dombrowski’s Red Sox bullpen experiment is starting to become embarrassing. In an interview with NESN correspondent Tom Caron on April 11, Dombrowski was quoted saying, “Overall, we’re very happy with them (bullpen) and they have good stuff and we think they’ll continue to pitch well for us.” We now find ourselves just two weeks removed from that conversation. Things have changed.

Poyner and Erasmo Ramirez have both been summoned from Triple-A. They each pitched poorly and Ramirez was designated for assignment after being signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason. Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, and Colten Brewer all have earned-run-averages (ERA) above 5.50. Brewer’s sits at a disgusting 8.31.

Matt Barnes started the season superbly with just one earned run in his first 7 appearances. In his last two games, though, he has a blown win, a blown save, and has allowed two home runs in late-game situations.

Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, and Marcus Walden have all been terrific, with ERA’s of 1.59, 2.61, and 2.38, respectively. But, Walden was optioned to Triple-A by Dombrowski on April 15 after allowing earned runs in back-to-back appearances against the belittled Orioles. He was recalled on April 20.

How does Boston’s bullpen stack up?

In comparison to all other American League teams, Dombrowski’s bullpen has the fifth highest ERA (4.87). The bullpen has allowed the fourth-most hits and second-most runs, earned runs, and home runs. What’s most eye-opening is that Red Sox bullpen relievers have allowed 30 more runs than Houston Astros relievers this season.

Cemented starter Nathan Eovaldi underwent surgery yesterday on his elbow and will not pick up a baseball for six weeks. The club is now stuck with four starters. There is a chance that a fifth starter arrises before Eovaldi comes back, but that scenario seems unlikely. Hector Velázquez will continue to be a spot-starting option, especially with Brian Johnson still on the shelf. Perhaps Darwinzon Hernandez gets called back up and becomes a spot-starter? Nonetheless, the Red Sox bullpen will be subject to a heavy workload.

Dombrowski has reached into his pockets and has spent $335 million dollars on Sale, Eovaldi, and Xander Bogaerts since December. This is the Boston Red Sox. Hence, no one is going to scrutinize the front office for going all in. How do they do that? Cough up some more dough for Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel, who surprisingly still remain on the free agent market. Kimbrel would add stability to the ‘pen and Keuchel could eat up innings as a fifth starter. Keep Keuchel as a starter the rest of the way, and, when Eovaldi is ready to return, have him stay in the pen.

Shockingly Poor Start For The Red Sox

Not what you expected to happen, right? The Sox played four meaningful games in March, one last night, and now it’s April 2nd. The team lost 3 of 4 in Seattle and were shut out last night in Oakland. To say the least, 2019 has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

The starting pitching has been horrific. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez,shockingly poor start Rick Porcello, and David Price have now all pitched. The results are ugly: 26 earned runs and eleven home runs allowed in 21 innings. The bullpen has not been much better. The club’s eight relievers have all been used, and in 20 innings, have surrendered 20 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 home runs, and eight walks. Matt Barnes has collected the team’s lone save.

In regards to hitting, reigning MVP Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, who bat one-and-two in the lineup, both have on-base percentages (OBP) of .250. Only Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez own an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) over .800. In comparison to other teams, Boston ranks in the top-5 in all hitting categories, but in the bottom-5 in most pitching ranks.

Now that we know all of that, we must address the key question, which is: what is going on with the Red Sox and why have they come out “flat” after winning the World Series last year?

Pitching is the problem

The starting pitching, besides Price’s performance last night, have not given the offense a chance to get going. 7 runs were allowed in the first 3 innings of game-1, 3 runs through two innings in game-2, 2 runs in the first inning of game-3, and 9 runs through 3 innings of game-4.

In 2018, the Red Sox were the only team that qualified for the postseason to have four hitters (with at least 500 plate appearances) record an OPS of at least .830: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, and Bogaerts. First baseman Steve Pearce, who played in just 50 regular season games with the team down the stretch, recorded a .901 OPS. One could attribute Betts’s .598 OPS, Benintendi’s .375 OPS, and Pearce’s absence (calf injury) to the poor start for the Red Sox.

Also in 2018, Boston was the only team (postseason eligible) to have a player save more than 40 games with a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) less than 1.00. That player? Craig Kimbrel – he is not back with the club this year. Kimbrel’s presence in the bullpen could factor in nicely moving forward and take some pressure off relievers.

Poor attitude

One factor to the shockingly poor start for the Red Sox that cannot be measured by statistics is their attitude. Their leader, manager Alex Cora, was asked during postgame if there was any concern following the team’s loss last night.

“Not really. It’s five games. When you go through stretches like this, it (stinks) that it’s early in the season, but yeah, we have to pick it up.”

Cora’s nonchalant demeanor is not changing the way the team is approaching games. The top of the lineup needs to get going. Cora announced today on MLB Network that Betts will move back to the leadoff spot. The starting pitching now starts its second turn. So far this season, Sox pitchers have allowed the most runs in the American League. They rank second-to-last in earned run average (ERA) and batting average against (BAA). In addition, Boston is the only AL team to not record a quality start.

Tonight’s first pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET. We’ll see if things start to change this evening in what has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

The Case for Matt Barnes, 2019 Closer

If we’ve learned anything about how Red Sox President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski, it is that when he says he is going or not going to make a particular move, that tends to be true. On numerous occasions this off-season, Dombrowski has been quoted as saying that “major moves will be unlikely” when addressing the bullpen. With Craig Kimbrel riding the free agency pine, the franchise turns to the arms that it already has. This is the case for Matt Barnes, 2019 closer.

Barnes has shown steady improvement each season

When Barnes was taken in the first round of the MLB June Draft in 2011, the Matt Barnes, 2019 closerConnecticut was taken out of UConn as a starting pitcher. Given his pitch arsenal and powerful four seam fastball, it made more sense to the organization that Barnes move to the bullpen to help the major league squad.

Initially, upon entering the big leagues, Barnes became slightly walk prone, and has posted particularly troublesome home/road splits thus far in his career. But the numbers do not lie. Barnes has shown consistent improvement across the board in each of his three full major league seasons.

If Matt Barnes, 2019 closer is going to be a legitimate thing, then he will need to continue that upward trend he has been on. Let’s take a look at Barnes’ 2016-2018 seasons to get a feel for how he has improved:

2016: 62 G, 66.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 62 H, 71 K, 3.72 FIP

2017: 72 G, 69.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 57 H, 83 K, 3.33 FIP

2018: 62 G, 61.2 IP, 3.65 ERA, 47 H, 96 K, 2.71 FIP

While these numbers might not show exponential increases, the statistics prove that Barnes has risen to the occasion. Barnes even finished among the top five in SO/9.0IP among American League relievers. And remember, Barnes’ role in 2018 increased to higher leverage situations, such as the 8th inning, in most games. More often than not, he delivered.

Barnes fared well against both righties and lefties in 2018

An advantage to Barnes’ case is how well he did against hitters from both sides of the plate. He held hitters, collectively, to an OPS under .650, and most outstandingly, held right-handed hitters to a lowly .191 average. The sample size is larger against righties, and the numbers are better still. A hurler that can reverse splits and still maintain dominance is on the path to success.

Barnes performed even better in the 2018 postseason

While the big righty featured stuff above league average last season, it was the playoffs where he really shined. Through 10.1 innings, Barnes allowed just one run and struck out ten batters, all in high leverage situations against three of the best lineups baseball has to offer. Barnes bounced around anywhere from the fifth through the ninth inning, and found success at each stop. A pitcher with the moxie to fit into different roles makes the Matt Barnes, 2019 closer decision an easy one.

There are no guarantees that Cora sticks with a traditional ninth inning closer this season. There is a good chance Barnes and fellow postseason standout Ryan Brasier switch roles on a match up basis. One night Barnes might get the call, and Brasier the other. After three years of gradual improvement, one thing is clear- if Barnes gets that call, he is going to answer.