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.

An Improving David Price Needs Run Support

There’s no doubt that David Price is struggling. He’s 9-7, which is not bad, but not great either. Rather than focus on an improving David Price, we’re too focused on a failing David Price. That’s not fair, especially if you look at the fact that he currently leads the league in game starts, innings pitched, and batters faced. Despite his flaws, I think he will only get better. Like ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst John Kruk said, “Price is a veteran and can figure things outs.” The larger problem lies in the infield defense, and the inability to get crucial hits and RBIs.

Since June 8th, Price has pitched four 10+ strikeout games. Five of his losses since then were byImproving David Price two runs or less. Instead of blaming Price, look at the lack of run support. This leads me to the bigger problem that David Price faces.

Why can’t the Red Sox get crucial hits? Why does it seem like they choke when it’s do-or-die? Let’s take a look at the July series against the Texas Rangers as an example. Price pitched eight innings and gave up three runs on the 5th. The day before, the Red Sox left 12 runners on base (even though we won). The team left another 13 runners on base in a 7-2 loss to Texas the next day. 25 runners left on base in two days? That’s inexcusable.

Hanley Ramirez has trouble throwing home. His error in the July 28th game against the Angels allowed Elvis Andrus to score the go-ahead run. Ramirez does well at first base most of the time, but it’s not the first time this season that he botched a throw to home. Yes, they’re more than half way through the season and players are getting tired. But now’s not the time to fall apart.

An Improving David Price Would Be More Improved By Better Hitting

The Red Sox hitting is not at fault. As of July 29th, they lead the league in batting average (.289), on-base percentage (.355), and slugging (.475). When it comes to leaving runners on base, however, they lead the American League with an average of 7.35 per game. An improving David Price will do better if batters focus on driving home more runners.

Hanley Ramirez Deserves More Praise

Entering the season, Hanley Ramirez caused plenty of debate across New England. After signing a four-year, $88 million deal to rejoin the Red Sox, Ramirez delivered a sub-par season in 2015, leading many to question his future in Boston. Hanley hit just .249 last year with 19 home runs and only 12 doubles. He was also one of the worst defenders in baseball, as judged by a slew of metrics. Therefore, little was expected of him entering 2016.

Hanley Ramirez

Unlike his under-performing sidekick Pablo Sandoval, Ramirez was willing to make sacrifices to prolong his Red Sox career. Hanley recommitted to a winter training program and agreed to move positions yet again. First base became his new home and fans at least appreciated the effort. Nevertheless, few dared expect anything other than league average performance at best in 2016, with many bracing for something far worse. Thus, his strong resurgence in recent months has been a pleasant surprise.

The Resurgence of Hanley Ramirez

With David Ortiz soaking up much of the attention, Hanley Ramirez has found the time and space to rediscover himself. While the power numbers of old may never return, Ramirez has been a steady contributor at the plate. As August rounds into view, he’s currently hitting .283 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI. Ramirez has already surpassed his RBI total from last season with over two months remaining, while his on-base percentage has risen by seventy points.

Defensively, Hanley has also been decent. He ranks fifteenth among first basemen in Ultimate Zone Rating and has made only three errors all season. Of course, first base isn’t the most demanding of positions, especially for a former shortstop, but what Hanley Ramirez is currently providing far exceeds what many expected from him. And that should be praised.

Aside from the numbers, Ramirez just seems to have rediscovered some of his old spark. In one game this week, he hit three mammoth home runs, becoming the first Red Sox player to do so at Fenway Park since Kevin Millar in 2004. Those moments of inspiration may still be fleeting for Hanley Ramirez, but they’re far more frequent than last season and are now backed by a solid baseline performance.

Is Hanley Ramirez an elite player right now? No, probably not. A Wins Above Replacement score of 1 ranks him thirteenth among first baseman. The Red Sox are still destined to overpay grossly on this contract. However, it’s impossible to overstate the improvement from last season, when Fangraphs WAR adjudged him to be the third-worst position player in baseball.

Why Hanley Ramirez Deserves More Support

On a spiritual level, Hanley Ramirez deserves our appreciation here. With criticism poring in from every quarter, he identified and made the necessary changes to justify his continued inclusion on this team. When everybody doubted him, Ramirez swallowed some pride and worked hard to win back support. Deep down we must admire that from a human standpoint. The guy has worked his butt off to make Red Sox Nation happy, and that effort should be acknowledged.

We were all quick to chastise Hanley Ramirez when things didn’t go well, and perhaps he deserved it. Even now, nothing is perfect, and there are still flaws in the game of a man paid to be flawless. But instead of getting carried away and looking too far back or forward, we should take some time to stay in the moment and appreciate his determination to salvage some respectability.

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.

Boston Breaks Out Bats in Clean Sweep

The Red Sox offense has been on fire lately, torching the Oakland A’s for 40 runs in a clean sweep this past week and racking up 17 more in the first two games of this weekend’s four-game set against the Houston Astros. Boston now leads all of baseball in runs, hits, doubles, slugging, total bases, and OPS while hitting .296 as a team, looking like the murderer’s row that made three straight playoff appearances from 2003-2005.

Boston Breaks Out Bats in Clean Sweep

Monday marked the unofficial start of spring in Boston as temperatures in the city pushedClean Sweep 70 degrees, which, along with a return to Fenway’s cozy confines, seemed to help the Olde Towne Team break out of their mini-slump. After scoring just nine runs in their Mother’s Day weekend series at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox kicked off their home stand in grand fashion, pummeling the A’s 14-7.

That set the tone for the rest of the series, which saw Boston batter Oakland for 13 runs and 16 hits in the middle game, followed by 13 more runs and 17 hits in the series finale as they put the finishing touches on their clean sweep.

Though every Red Sox player contributed in some form or fashion, Jackie Bradley, Jr. was the star of the series with a pair of six-RBI games, continuing his recent breakthrough at the plate.

New Opponent, Similar Results

Boston’s bats didn’t cool off when Oakland left town. The Red Sox greeted the Houston Astros with another offensive outburst on Thursday, pounding last year’s AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel for eight runs on 10 hits in six innings. They later added three more runs to their ledger against Houston’s bullpen, breaking double digits for the fourth night in a row. Every Sox starter notched at least one hit, which had been the case the previous night as well.

Boston’s streak finally came to an end Friday night, as the Sox lost (there will be no clean sweep of Houston) after scoring “only” six runs on 11 hits. It looked like they might reach double digits again after getting halfway there in the second inning, but they scored only once more the rest of the way. Perhaps the evening’s rain dampened their bats as well as the field.

But with warm weather and plenty of sunshine forecast for the weekend, Boston looks to finish its home stand with a flourish. With thumpers such as Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Colby Rasmus, and Carlos Gomez, among others, the Astros have a thunderous lineup that rivals Boston’s, so the Sox will need to keep up the pace to continue winning. Seeing as how Houston’s pitching staff ranks last in the AL in hits allowed and second-to-last in runs allowed, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Yes, Ramirez Can Play First Base (For Now)

The 2016 season is still young but many in the Red Sox Nation are cautiously optimistic about Hanley Ramirez. Since moving to first base, Ramirez has shown consistency at the plate and in the field. As of April 22nd, Ramirez hasn’t committed an error. In fact, Ramirez is starting to re-establish himself as a superstar, one that fans in Boston may come to respect for years to come. So far, Ramirez can play first base!

“We have a player, I think, completely different than a year ago,” Red Sox manager FarrellRamirez can play first base told MLB.com’s Aaron Leibowitz. “He’s engaged, he’s having fun playing the game, [and] I think being back on the infield has been a big boost to that. He’s doing one heck of a job.” Ramirez had played third base and shortstop with the Miami Marlins, and Los Angeles Dodgers before signing a four-year $88 million contract with the Red Sox in November of 2014.

While Ramirez had a decent start to the 2015 season, his season went downhill after a May 4th game against the Tampa Bay Rays. In the top of the first inning, Ramirez crashed into the Green Monster trying to field a catch, spraining his left shoulder. By September, Ramirez was sporting the worst defensive rating in the league, leading then-interim manager Tory Lovullo to pull him from his outfield position (just another sign that Lovullo should replace Farrell sooner than later).

The Red Sox have been struggling recently, first against the Toronto Blue Jays, who managed to overcome setbacks in two of the four games between the two to split the series, and now with Tampa Bay, who took two wins out of three games in the series on April 21st. The Sox were held to one hit during the first of a three-game series against the Rays that started on April 19th, and lost in the 10th inning. The third game on April 21st saw Boston take an early lead before David Price gave up eight runs in 3 and 2/3 innings before Farrell yanked him from the game, which the Red Sox lost 8-5. While the Red Sox are starting to slip back into a familiar pattern from last season, one of the shining glimmers of hope the Red Sox Nation can look forward to is in Hanley Ramirez’s command of defending first base. He continues to show a strong and consistent ability to play first base, giving the Red Sox Nation something to pin their hopes on as the season progresses.