Not Saying The Red Sox Need Pedroia, But Maybe?

The early struggles of the 2019 Red Sox derive from multiple departments. Starting at the top, Mookie Betts is 6-for-27 in the batters box, which is equates to a .222 batting average. That’s a problem. The team’s pitchers have allowed a total of 16 home runs in just six games. That tops the American League. The team’s poorest output, offensively speaking, has come from center field and second base. Jackie Bradley Jr., in 23 PAs, has a .174 on-base (OBP) and the combination of Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt looks like this: 23 PAs, 2 hits, an OBP of .130, 2 steals, and 2 strikeouts. I’m not saying the Red Sox need Pedroia back, and I am not saying they don’t. But perhaps his admittance to the 25-man roster could do some good for this team.

Fact: The Red Sox did not need Dustin Pedroia last year to win the World Series.Red Sox need Pedroia

The team occupied Eduardo Nunez, Ian Kinsler, and Brock Holt at the keystone in 2018. Nunez reached base at a .289 clip and Kinsler’s .294 clip was in 143 PAs for the Sox. Holt, on the contrary, posted a .362 clip in 367 PAs.

Pedey played in just 3 games last season and in 2017, he logged 463 PAs in 105 games. He tallied 201 hits in 2016. It was just the second time in his lengthy career that he eclipsed the 200-hit mark.

Now at age 35, he’s on the outside looking in. His recovery from knee surgery has been a long, grueling process. His contract with the Red Sox expires in 2021. It has seemed that all along, he has been to do whatever needs to be done in order to get back to a playing role with this team.

According to Alex Cora, via Ian Browne of MLB.com, Pedroia is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment tomorrow with Low-A Greenville. He is expected to play in back-to-back games Thursday and Friday, have a day off on Saturday, and then play a full nine innings on Sunday.

So, how would Pedroia’s return be helpful? Some may actually view it as a distraction. The thinking is that the team needs to focus on winning games and not become distracted and emotional over the return of the “little leader.”

Pedroia is a true leader

While some may think that way, I believe that the opposing perspective is true. The one constant that has always remained with Pedroia is his leadership. When healthy, he is the first player in the clubhouse. He is all business. I’m not saying the Red Sox need Pedroia and his counsel, but that type of attitude could reflect well on Red Sox players at this juncture. Other than last season, Pedroia is a two-time World Series champion. He won a WS with Alex Cora as his teammate in ’07.

Pedroia is also recognized as a leader while playing the field. Besides being a four-time Gold Glove winner, Pedey helps his pitchers in other ways too. In 2016, while David Price was struggling on the mound during his first season in Boston, Pedroia helped point out issues he was seeing in Price’s arm mechanics.

In addition, Pedroia’s entry could break up some staleness in the Red Sox fielding depth chart. Brock Holt, who is known primarily as a utility man, could start to platoon more all around the diamond, instead of backing up Nunez at second. He could give players like Andrew Benintendi and Bradley Jr. breaks in the outfield on certain days. The same could be said about Nunez, whose must comfortable fielding position is said to be third base. I’m not saying the Red Sox need Pedroia, but more fielding flexibility could help loosen things up.

In 13 seasons, Pedroia owns an on-base percentage of .366. In some thinking, Pedroia could be this season’s version of 2018’s Kinsler, who owns a .339 career OBP along with two gold gloves, including one last year. Pedroia and Kinsler were teammates at Arizona State University in 2002 before Kinsler transferred to University of Missouri in ’03. Both Pedroia and Kinsler are four-time All-Stars as well. I’m not saying the Red Sox need Pedroia, but maybe he could be this team’s missing link.

2019 MLB Top Five First Basemen

Historically, the best first basemen around the league bat in the middle of the lineup. In the past two decades, players such as Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira have not only been the best hitters on their respective teams, but the best hitters in baseball. In Pujols’s eleven seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, he made the All-Star team nine times, averaged 40 home runs, 120 RBI, a .328 batting average and a 1.037 OPS. He also won Rookie of the Year, three MVPs, and two World Series titles. Though Teixeira’s first seven seasons were split between four teams (TEX, ATL, LAA, NYY), he remained a pitcher’s nightmare, averaging 34 homers, 114 RBI, and a .921 OPS. Both Pujols and Teixeira were, at one point in their prime, Top Five First Basemen.

This season, there were four clear-cut players that made the list. Finding number-five wasTop Five First Basemen difficult. One may have favored Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, who has averaged a .869 OPS in five seasons since being signed as an international free agent out of Cuba. Other candidates were Eric Hosmer (San Diego Padres) and Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians). The selection, however, goes to up-and-coming star Rhys Hoskins, who slugged an .850 OPS in his first full season in 2018.

Top Five First Basemen – 5 – Rhys Hoskins (Philadelphia Phillies)

Hoskins’s 38 doubles and 34 home runs last season were no fluke. He made his MLB debut in August 2017, and in 50 games, hit 18 home runs, knocked in 48 runs, and posted an OPS of 1.014. Back in 2016, Hoskins spent a full season playing at Double-A Reading. He hit 38 homers and 116 RBI. In 2017, at Triple-A, he played 115 games and set the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs franchise-record in HRs with 29. After eclipsing the 30 home-run-mark in 2018, look for Hoskins to hit closer to 40 this season, if not more.

Top Five First Basemen – 4 – Paul Goldschmidt (St. Louis Cardinals)

Goldschmidt has been an All-Star in each of the past six seasons. His most notable strength is that he is a master at reaching base, averaging a .406 clip since 2013. He is one of the very few at his position to add speed on the base paths (17 per season). Goldy has finished top-3 in the MVP voting three times. He joins a new team in the Cardinals this year after spending his entire career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cardinals rewarded him with a 5-year contract extension on March 21st. The D-Backs never won a division title in the Goldschmidt era.

Top Five First Basemen – 3 – Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds)

The 2010 NL MVP turns 36 in September and has put together a spectacular career. Besides Pujols and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, JV is the only other active 1B to win a MVP award. In terms of reaching base, no one else comes close. His career OBP clip is an astounding .427. He has led the league in walks five times and OBP seven times. His slugging percentage, however, took a big dip last year (.419). The three years prior he had averaged .556. That decline, combined with the fact the Reds have won just 2 games in Votto’s career, puts him at 2019 first baseman number-three.

Top Five First Basemen – 2 – Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs)

The only first baseman to put together four straight 100 RBI seasons is Rizzo. He won his second Gold Glove in the past three years in 2018 and was a major contributor to the Cubs 2016 World Series championship. Rizzo is extremely durable, at least 616 plate appearances in each season, and has led Chicago to four straight playoff appearances.

Top Five First Basemen – 1 – Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)

Freeman led all first basemen in hits, doubles, and batting average last year. In his last three seasons he has averaged a slash line of .306/.397/.949. Freeman’s Braves won the NL East in 2018. He won his first Gold Glove last year and enters 2019 as the most feared first baseman.

Mookie Betts Was Robbed of MVP

Most of the baseball world saw the AL Cy Young decision Wednesday as a real head-scratcher. In fact, it’s been a while since America has been content with any kind of election results. On Thursday, Major League Baseball gave them something to be very mad about. For the second time in his career, Mike Trout was named AL MVP, but did he deserve it?

This news really floored me. This surprised me because for the first time that I remember, MVP an MVP was decided because of a reputation, not by statistics or value. Mookie Betts took the baseball world by storm in 2016, but his remarkable season was not enough. Mike Trout clearly won this award based on his reputation, because his numbers certainly did not.

Betts’ MVP Pedigree

As we look at the major offensive categories, Betts stands above Trout in all of them. Trout hit a formidable .315 on the season but Betts’ was .318, with 41 more hits. Trout, however, is seen as more of a power hitter. He had 29 homers this season with 100 RBI. Surely, voters must’ve valued his power over Betts’, right? How? Betts hit 31 homers with 113 RBI, with half the season batting in the leadoff spot. Betts also had the edge in doubles, 42-32. Even in the best part of Trout’s game he was not as good as Betts.

Clearly, Betts was more valuable at the plate. That being said, let’s look at the other facets of the game. Trout had the slight edge in stolen bases, but Betts had 57 more total bases and led the league with 359. Also, Betts not only won the Gold Glove for right field, but was voted the best defender in the American League. Trout, on the other hand, did not win a Gold Glove this year. So while Betts was the best defensive player in the entire league, Trout wasn’t even top three.

So I ask, where is Trout more valuable? All-Star votes? Endorsements? Whatever it is, it’s not on the field clearly. Say all you want about WAR (wins above replacement), but regular wins have to pull some weight too. The Red Sox won 19 more games than the dismal Angels this season. On top of that, Betts did all this in playing in one less game than Trout, playing in the best division in baseball, and winning that division. Mike Trout may be your American League MVP, but to that I ask: how do you measure value?

Gold Glove Winner Hanley Ramirez?

Hanley Ramirez move to first base from left field was first met with skepticism from Red Sox Nation. Ramirez was doing so badly as an outfielder that many were sure it would be a contributing factor in Hanley’s trade or release after the 2015 season. But Hanley Ramirez has proven his critics wrong as he carries a .995 fielding percentage with only two errors so far this season. So could potential Gold Glove winner Hanley Ramirez maintain this defensive ability in the future?

There are many factors contributing to Ramirez’s newfound defensive abilities. First, heGold Glove Winner Hanley Ramirez wasn’t comfortable in the outfield. “Going to the infield to the outfield is like going to another house,” Ramirez told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford last April. “I’m back home. I never lost that feeling, of the infield. Ever. Never did. I’m always going to be an infielder.” So right away, Ramirez went into the position with the right attitude.

Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia: Infield Tag Team

Another factor is the Red Sox infield. The team already has excellent infielders, especially with Dustin Pedroia at second base, who no doubt has had a calming influence on Ramirez. With four Gold Gloves and a Most Valuable Player award of his own, Pedroia has been a big part of Ramirez’s success. This isn’t a fluke either. If you look at the .995 fielding percentage Ramirez is currently carrying, it towers over his previous seasons where it ranged from .954 to .983. In his first three seasons alone Ramirez had 72 errors at shortstop. Given that we’re almost to the All-Star break, it’s amazing that Ramirez has only committed two so far this season.

Of course, Ramirez still has to work on his hitting. He’s batting only .275 with five home runs, although he did hit one against Baltimore on June 15th. It was Ramirez’s first home run in over a month and he hit it so hard and far that I don’t think it’s landed yet. So if potential Gold Glove winner Hanley Ramirez can continue playing great defense and get his batting average up then he could be a serious MVP contender.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best

More than two decades after playing his last game for the Boston Red Sox, Wade Boggs had his number retired at Fenway Park last night. The ceremony felt long overdue, as Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters in franchise history.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best…

Fans and media tend to overrate hitters who drive runs while underrating those who score themBoggs Was One of Boston's Best. He was destined to be under-appreciated, then, for Boggs was one of Boston’s best table-setters, an on-base machine who often put himself in scoring position via doubles (he clubbed 578 for his career). Batting in front of prolific RBI men such as Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, Boggs averaged 100 runs scored per 162 games and twice led the majors.

Everyone knew Boggs was a tremendous hitter, but few understood his true worth as a ballplayer. His gaudy OBPs and plus defense at the hot corner (which wasn’t recognized until later, when he won back-to-back Gold Gloves in his late 30s) made him incredibly valuable. Baseball-Reference defines an MVP-caliber season as one where a player accrues at least eight wins above replacement, which Boggs did every year from 1985 to 1989, yet never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting. Moneyball was still two decades away, and nobody had WAR to tell them he was the American League’s top position player in 1986, 1987, and 1988.

That might not have been the case had he played elsewhere, however. He was helped immensely by Fenway Park, whose Green Monster allowed him to wait back on pitches until the last possible second, at which point he would flick his wrists and stroke another double or single off the wall in left. Nobody did this better than Boggs, who holds the highest Fenway average of all-time at .369. He was most proficient at this before the EMC Club–then called the 600 Club—was erected in 1989, altering the wind currents within the park and making it much less favorable for hitters. It’s no coincidence that Boggs never won another batting title after 1988.

…And Baseball’s Best

Age and the 600 Club caused Boggs to tail off a bit in the early ’90s, but his final year in Boston—1992—was the worst of his career. He slumped to .259/.353/.358 as the Sox sunk to last place. His contract was up and Lou Gorman, Boston’s general manager at the time, let the 34-year-old walk, even though he was just one year removed from a .332/.421/.460 campaign worth 6.4 bWAR.

That proved to be a terrible mistake, as Boggs found a second wind with Boston’s arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. Boggs batted .313/.396/.407 in his five years in pinstripes, making four All-Star teams and helping the Bombers to a championship in 1996—10 years after his previous World Series bid ended in agony. Following his New York stint he returned home to finish out his playing days in Tampa Bay, where he ended his career on a high note by batting .301 and notching his 3,000th hit on his 118th, and final, home run.

Boggs retired in 1999 as one of the five best third basemen in baseball history. His .328 lifetime average is the second-highest of anyone who debuted after World War II, while his .415 OBP ranks fifth among players who have debuted since 1945 and appeared in at least 2,000 games. He was an eight-time Silver Slugger winner, a five-time batting champion, and an All-Star every year from 1985 to 1996. His most impressive accomplishment, however, was batting .401 over a 162-game span from June 9th, 1985 to June 6th, 1986.

Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters—perhaps second only to Ted Williams—and top third baseman. It’s a good thing he was finally recognized for it.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Catcher’s Life (pt.1)

Doug Wilson’s Pudge explores the life of Boston’s Carlton Fisk, born in Vermont, raised in New England, and grew up to play twenty-four seasons of baseball, first with the Boston Red Sox then with the Chicago White Sox. Fisk is best known for hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. The win kept the Red Sox alive to play Game 7, but they lost to the Cincinnati Reds. Doug Wilson's PudgeFisk was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, entering as a Red Sox.

Wilson’s well-written biography (the first one written about Fisk on a large scale) goes into great detail about the catcher’s disciplined upbringing. His tough but caring father taught his son the true meaning of integrity and hard work, which helped Fisk reach the major leagues in 1969 at the age of 22 for two games. After playing in the Red Sox farm system for a few years, Fisk’s break out year in 1972 saw him win Rookie of the Year Honors as well as his first (and only) Gold Glove at Catcher Award.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge portrays Fisk as a quiet but well-determined player who wanted nothing more than to play the game with honor and integrity. Nicknamed “The Human Rain Delay,” Fisk often took his time walking to the mound to talk with pitchers, which frustrating his teammates to no end. In Fisk’s mind though, communication between teammates as well as having a solid plan for the next batter was all a part of winning.

While Doug Wilson’s Pudge goes into great detail about Fisk’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Wilson’s extraordinary story-telling abilities extend to his description of Fisk’s rivalry with the New York Yankees’ catcher Thurmond Munson. Fisk and Munson, whose devotion to the game was just as intense, got into a brawl during a game in 1973. Munson crashed into Fisk at home plate in an effort to advance the Yankee runner on base. The fight that followed was the height of long rivalry between the two that had been fueled by Munson’s jealousy of Fisk, who he thought got more attention from the press. Fisk and Munson’s fight, told well by Wilson, will always be known as one of the most intense brawls between the two teams (which says a lot of you consider the long rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees).

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Much More About Fisk

Most Red Sox fans probably don’t think about Fisk’s career after leaving Boston to play for the Chicago White Sox in 1981. Doug Wilson’s Pudge, however, keeps it interesting by detailing the prickly yet interesting relationship between Fisk and the ownership that led to his departure in the first place, describing it as one of the most insulting points in Fisk’s career (you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened). Fisk would play for another fourteen years with Chicago before retiring in 1993, being one of 29 players to have played in four different decades. Fisk’s Chicago years included another post-season appearance, as well as a confrontation with NFL and MLB player Deion Sanders at home plate.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge shines best when it expands on the in-depth interviews with many of Fisk’s family members, teammates, and coaches. While Fisk declined to assist Wilson in any way, as he’s a very private individual, Wilson took what he had to work with to craft one of the best biographies of the year.