West Coast Problems: Sox Stuck With Struggling

The Red Sox could not hold their lead after scoring the first 3 runs in yesterday’s game. Making his second start of the season was Eduardo Rodriguez, and for the second consecutive start, Rodriguez looked awful. In his first outing in Seattle last Saturday, E-Rod could not make it out of the 4th inning, as he allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), a home run, and 3 walks on 105 pitches. Yesterday, the left-hander could not make it out of the 3rd. He again allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (all earned), a home run, and 3 walks. He threw just 84 pitches and, with the loss, his record now stands at 0-2. The Sox west coast problems have been a combination of mental mistakes, poor pitching, and poor teamplay.

West Coast Problems: Cora at the forefront

“I pay attention to details,” manager Alex Cora told nbcsportsboston.com. “I love payingWest Coast Problems attention to details and that’s something I took pride [in] last year. And right now, we’re not paying attention to details. So that’s on me. That’s on the staff.”

There were several examples of unacceptable decision making from the entire series, but especially from yesterday’s loss. In the 4th inning, Rodriguez allowed a RBI double to Robbie Grossman that gave Oakland a 4-3 lead. Marcus Semien then flied out to center for the inning’s second out. Stephen Piscotty then came to the plate. After hitting a 3-run bomb in his previous at-bat, Piscotty sent a flyball towards the right-center warning track. A miscommunication occurred between two Gold Glove outfielders, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. The ball landed between them and hopped over the wall for a two-run, ground rule double. 6-3, Oakland.

West Coast Problems: Laureano for sure

Later in the game, in the 9th inning, the Sox found themselves down 7-3. Betts had reached first base on a walk. Andrew Benintendi subsequently sent a blooper to short-center field that dropped between Ramon Laureano and Semien. Betts aggressively rounded second and headed towards third, only to be thrown out by Laureano for his third outfield assist of the series. The Red Sox could of had runners on first and second with no outs. Instead, Benintendi was stuck at first with one out. The game ended two batters later.

Red Sox starting pitching this season looks like this: 0-5, 8.44 ERA, 13 home runs allowed, and a .301 BAA. Opponents have compiled a 1.052 OPS. Just to compare apples to apples, here is what the current division leader, Tampa Bay Rays, starting pitching looks like: 4-1, 2.19 ERA, 5 home runs allowed, a .190 BAA and a .570 OPS.

The Sox will attempt to ease the pain of their west coast problems as they play Arizona next starting tonight. Things do not get easier for Boston’s starters, as the team heads into the final series before returning to Fenway for the home opener on Tuesday. The Diamondbacks rank second in runs, home runs, and RBI in the National League through 7 games. They rank first in hits, doubles, and total bases.

Something that is not seen in the box score is how a team cooperates together from a visual perspective. One note I wanted to hit on is what Red Sox Nation knows as the ‘jump hug’ between Brock Holt and J.D. Martinez. Every time Martinez homers, Holt greets him in the dugout with a childlike, inseparable hug and the two jump together to celebrate. The tradition has lasted for about a full year now. I understand that baseball is full of quirky rituals and superstitions, but my question is, why are two grown men celebrating over one sequence when, overall, the team is in flux and in last place? It’s something that has been bugging me.

Boston’s record stands at 2-6 through their first two series. It is their worst start to a begin a season since 2011 when the team started 1-7 under former manager Terry Francona.

How Many Home Runs Will Hanley Ramirez Hit?

Hanley Ramirez

On Wednesday night, Hanley Ramirez received a flat, 78-mph knuckleball from R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, and, with one trademark, helmet-dislodging swing, launched a long home run over the Green Monster in left field. It was the 10th homer of the season for Ramirez, tying him with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the Major League lead, and equaling David Ortiz’s 2006 record for most round-trippers by a Red Sock before May 1st.

Naturally, when a player achieves something only done once before in franchise history, Hanley Ramirezpeople begin to take notice. In the case of Ramirez, fans instantly began to wonder about the sustainability of his incredible pace, with many attempting to project just how many home runs he could possibly hit this season.

On a purely mathematical level, Hanley is currently on pace to hit 77 home runs, through a full 162-game slate. This, of course, would break the all-time single season record of 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001. Obviously, that just isn’t going to happen. Eventually, pitchers will adjust to Ramirez, who, undoubtedly, will experience slumps throughout the season, as is the failure-based nature of baseball.

Moreover, Hanley has typically struggled to remain healthy for a full season and, in recent years, the left fielder has required occasional days off to rest his ageing body. For instance, in the past four full seasons, Ramirez has played 115 games on average, due to injury and subsequently cautious management of his playing time.

Interestingly, at his current pace, Hanley would hit 54 home runs through 115 games played, which, of course, would equal the Red Sox single-season record, set by Ortiz in 2006. However, such a figure seems unlikely in the long run of a Major League season. Ramirez can be a very streaky hitter, and his aggressive approach may lead to more strikeouts once pitchers begin to catch up in mid-season.

But, in the spirit of fair argument, it is important to point out that, through April, Hanley showed a large increase in line-drive percentage (33%) compared with his career average (21%), and currently has a batting average right around .300 despite a BABIP in the low .230s. This suggests that, in the early going, Ramirez has been a flat-out better hitter than what he was in recent seasons; perhaps better in April 2015 than he has been at any point throughout his career.

Hanley Ramirez

Furthermore, 30.3% of Hanley’s fly balls this season have resulted in home runs, which, considering the league average of 9.5%, is quite astonishing, and indicates his fresh determination to take advantage of the famous left field wall at Fenway, which can convert even the laziest of flies into a homer. Whilst, overall, Ramirez has hit better on the road this year, his swing has seemingly been transformed due to the temptation of the Green Monster, with 80% of his home runs so far going to left field, compared with 53% last season, which he spent with the Dodgers.

Therefore, where pitchers adjusting and Hanley slumping may detract from his ultimate home run total in 2015, a new pull approach and the friendly confines of Fenway may make up the difference. Thus, while Bonds’ record won’t come under threat, and Ortiz’s franchise mark should remain intact, Hanley Ramirez, health-permitting, may well hit between 45 and 50 home runs this year, which would be one of the top five home run-hitting seasons in Red Sox history.

Predicting Mookie Betts’ Future Numbers

Mookie Betts

It’s often foolish to make predictions about young players with a paucity of big league experience, but anybody who has watched the opening salvo of Mookie Betts’ career knows just how much the kid makes you dream.

Barely sixty games into his enthralling Red Sox tenure, the 22-year old Betts has already left a significant footprint in Boston sports lore. For instance, last August, he became the youngest Red Sox player to hit a Grand Slam in 49 years. Similarly, just last week, he became the team’s youngest Opening Day lead off hitter since Rico Petrocelli in 1965, and its youngest Opening Day center fielder since Tony Conigliaro in 1964. Moreover, Betts’ bomb off of Cole Hamels made him the third-youngest player ever to homer for the Red Sox in a sMookie Bettseason opener. Quite simply, he’s doing things which very few people his age have ever done, setting the tone for the fabled Red Sox and garnering nationwide attention.

But, more than that, Mookie is chasing history, thanks to an awe-inspiring start that has the baseball universe wondering just how far this precociously talented starlet may go. Accordingly, it’s only appropriate that we have a little fun with the numbers, and try to project, moving forward, what records Betts may break, and where his career may wind up, in a historical context.

Right now, through the first 59 games of his Major League career, Mookie has a .281/.355/.446 slash line, with 63 hits, 14 doubles, 7 home runs, 26 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 24 walks and 38 runs scored. By extrapolating that performance to represent a typical 162-game season, we see that Betts will, on average, produce 173 hits, 38 doubles, 19 home runs, 71 RBI, 27 stolen bases, 66 walks and 104 runs scored per year, numbers which ought to garner him a smattering of MVP votes.

However, the real fun begins when we expand that baseline seasonal output to represent a 15-year career. For instance, if he played fifteen full seasons at the present rate, Mookie would wind up with 2,595 hits, 570 doubles, 285 home runs, 1,065 RBI, 405 stolen bases, 990 walks and 1,560 runs scored. Presuming he stayed with the Red Sox for life, those numbers would place him 3rd, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 1st, 5th and 3rd in franchise history in the aforementioned, respective categories.

Yet, due to his early arrival in the Major Leagues as a 21-year old, Betts figures to have a legitimate opportunity to play more than fifteen full seasons. Thus, for arguments sake, let’s extrapolate his average baseline numbers to encompass twenty full big league seasons. The results? A remarkable 3,460 hits, 760 doubles, 380 home runs, 1,470 RBI, 540 stolen bases, 1,320 walks and 2,080 runs scored. That’s more home runs than Joe DiMaggio, more RBI than Mark McGwire, more stolen bases than Ichiro Suzuki, and more hits than Honus Wagner, Willie Mays and Tony Gwynn.

Of course, I’m aware the math is more than a little flawed, and, yes, I know it’s highly unlikely that Betts’ career will follow such a linear track. But, just for a moment, as he blazes a trail through the American League, it’s tremendous fun to marvel at the numbers and daydream about the potential. According to the somewhat skewed, yet nonetheless entertaining, projected career stats, right now, in Mookie Betts, the Sox have a cornerstone player with Jeter’s stroke, Manny’s patience, Rice’s power, Bonds’ speed, and Vlad Guerrero’s clutch production, which begs one question: who on Earth would trade all that for Cole *Bleeping* Hamels?

‘Twas The Night Before The World Series…

world series fenway

‘Twas the night before Fenway, and all through the park, all the creatures were stirring; the ballpark not dark;

The staff all scurried ‘round the park with care, in hopes that a championship soon would be there;

The Cardinals were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of home runs danced in their heads;

And Molly in her ‘kerchief, Wally in his cap, had just settled down for a short monster nap;

When up in the bleachers there arose such a clatter, Wally sprang from his hideout to see what was the matter!

Away to the field he flew like a flash, ran through the outfield… he made a mad dash!

The glow of the lights on the freshly cut grass, blinded Wally, who almost fell on his A**

When what to his wondering eyes should appear, but Manager Farrell and a team full of beards!

More rapid than eagles, his players they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

Run Ellsbury! Pitch Lester! Catch Salty and Ross! Short Peddy! First Nava! Hit Papi and Nap!

To the top of the bleachers, to the top of the wall, now hit away, hit away, hit away all!

Wally heard him exclaim, as balls flew out of sight,

It’s the World Series guys, let’s continue to fight!

Why We Are Red Sox Nation

Red Sox Nation

I catch myself using “we,” “our” and other pronouns that include me when talking about the Red Sox. I’m not part of the organization or the team, but as a member of Red Sox Nation I am delusional enough to believe that I am part of the franchise. Do you do that? More to the point, why do we take our sports so seriously in the city of Boston?

I see other’s devotion seep through in this way, too. People call into radio shows, or post on Twitter, and use the same “we,” and “our” pronouns. We all dream of sitting behind the GM’s desk, our hand hovering above the phone, calling the shots. Fans feel deeply about all the Boston teams, but especially the Red Sox. We take decisions made by the Red Sox as if our own relatives were involved. We especially feel this after this trade. We only want the best for our family, right? Turning family away just doesn’t feel right, though.

Fans seek community. A Nation of fans is a beautiful thing. The need for community comes from our stressed out, fast-paced lives. Fans across the country are busy, members of all walks of life, working hard to make a living and feed their families. This hustle and bustle becomes isolating, though people may surround us. At the end of the day, we all know that we have the Red Sox. We high-five, weep, and come together to watch our team— in the stands of ballparks across America, in bars, and our homes each night.

Boston Blues, Save for the Sox

chara Boston

Times are tough in the Boston sports world.  If the above picture of Chara doesn’t sum it up, I don’t know what will.  The B’s lost the cup. Aaron Hernandez is allegedly a murderer.  The C’s lost their coach, soul, and captain in one fell swoop.  But the biggest disappointment of the last few seasons is offering a ray of hope.  Fenway has become a sanctuary.  A pure palace of baseball made of verdant outfield grass, orderly white lines—even the dirt seems clean—has been devoid of controversy and losing.  The Sox have become the great cleanser of New England sports palate.

fenway Boston

I recommend taking in a game to restore your sanity.  Let the field wash over you as you stroll up a ramp.  If you don’t get goosebumps, see a doctor.  Once you enter the field, shield the high summer sun from your eyes and look towards the scoreboard.  You’ll see that the Sox are in first with one of the best records in baseball.  You’ll also see, if you gaze down the scoreboard, the Yankees are five games back.  The Yankees have given up more runs than they’ve scored.  If they continue this trend they will be well out of contention.

So take a step back.  The Sox are in first and the Yankees are losing.  Everything is right in the baseball world at least.