ALDS Pitching Match-Ups

The importance of pitching in the postseason has been abused to the point that it is now clichéd. The focus of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS pitching will be no different. So much has been made about the starting rotation for both teams that it is tough to find a more crucial factor in this series. Plenty of question marks occupy the starting slots for these two division winners, which is why it’s imperative to take a deeper look at each game.

Game One ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Game One seems like a rare postseason mismatch, at least on paper. Going for the RedALDS Pitching Sox is Cy Young-frontrunner Rick Porcello, toting along his ML-leading 22 wins. Porcello has nary had trouble with the Tribe in his career. The Indians may have home-field advantage, but that shouldn’t faze Porcello either. In the past three seasons, he has two wins there with an ERA of 0.90. On the other hand, Trevor Bauer’s numbers don’t quite stack up. Bauer has had his struggles this year, which includes a stint in the bullpen, culminating in a 12-8 record with a 4.26 ERA. This year, Bauer is 0-1 with an ERA of 9.00 against the Red Sox. Also, the normal Red Sox lineup (with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt) is hitting .455 against Bauer in his career, that per Boston Sports Info on Twitter. Give the advantage to Boston in Game One.

Game Two ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Friday will bring about quite an intriguing match-up in Game Two. The Red Sox turn to their 217 million dollar man, David Price. While Price has picked it up in the second half, his frightening postseason numbers still lurk in the shadows. In eight postseason starts, Price has a 2-7 record and a 5.12 ERA. In 63.1 postseason innings, he’s allowed 12 home runs, 11 walks, and about a hit per inning. For Cleveland, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding their former Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber did win 18 games again this year, but he has had a nagging groin hinder the last month of his season. Kluber has won 10 games at home this year, but also has a 4.38 ERA against Boston in 2016. When Kluber is on, he’s on, no matter the situation. Price’s uncertainties outweighs Kluber’s, advantage Cleveland.

Game Three ALDS Pitching Match-Up

To conclude a massive day in Boston sports sunday, the Red Sox will host Game Three. Clay Buchholz will go to the hill for Boston and Josh Tomlin for the Indians. This is part of the “roll the dice” mantra for the Red Sox after starting Porcello and Price. Buchholz has been sharp in the second half with a 5-1 record and a 3.22 ERA. Tomlin doesn’t offer much deception outside of his fastball and has proved to be hittable this season. He hasn’t started much lately (only three in September), and has a 4.76 ERA at Fenway the past three years. Coming home in a tie series, the upper hand will go the Red Sox here.

Games Four-Five ALDS Pitching

Game Four on Monday brings a dilemma to Terry Francona’s Indians. It appears as if they’ll start their “ace” Trevor Bauer on four days rest. With Eduardo Rodriguez going for the Red Sox, there will be plenty of crooked numbers on the left field scoreboard. They will surely be playing long ball at Fenway in Game Four (if necessary.) With that, give me the league’s best offense in a shootout. Advantage Red Sox.

While I don’t think Game Five will necessarily happen, it’s definitely a toss-up. It is always hard to pick a winner-take-all game like that. If we are to look at the raw statistics though, it looks like no contest. Picking against Rick Porcello at all the past few months would have been foolish. Also, Cleveland still does not know what to expect from a laboring Corey Kluber. If it gets to that, I don’t care where it’s being played, give me the Red Sox.

Obviously, there are plenty of other factors to think about in this series. Bullpens, switch-hitters, and a struggling Mike Napoli are not to be forgotten. But if we’re purely going on starting pitching, this is the Red Sox’s series to lose.

Travis Shaw Making His Case for 2016

The good thing about the Red Sox being so far out of playoff contention at the moment is the team getting a good, hard look at some of their guys down on the farm. Notably, guys like Henry Owens and Travis Shaw have gotten an extended look at the big league level, and for the most part they have responded pretty well.

Especially Travis Shaw. With Mike Napoli traded to the Texas Rangers, there is now an Travis Shawopportunity for a guy like Shaw to fill in, and he has responded very well. Since his August 1st call up, he’s hit .372, and has hit all 5 of his big league home run since his call up. Overall, he’s hit .321, 5 home runs and 10 RBI’s in 21 big league games for the Red Sox.

For the time being, Travis Shaw has dismissed any doubts about bringing up Allen Craig from the Pawtucket Red Sox or potentially moving Hanley Ramirez over to first from left field. And, for the time being, can anyone complain about that? His production more than warrants his place in the lineup at the moment, and the other 2 possibilities are far less appealing at the moment.

Hanley’s offensive production has been there for the most part, but his defense is an entirely different story, and the idea of moving him to one of the most important on the field scares me. While Allen Craig might be a better defensive option, his performance at the plate has been pretty disappointing for the most part since being sent to Boston in the deal that sent John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals at the 2014 trade deadline. While Travis Shaw is still finding his feet with the big league team, he is the team’s best option at first base at the moment, outside of possibly Brock Holt, who has shown he can play just about every position.

There is plenty of time between now and Opening Day 2016, but right now, I would put Travis Shaw as the front runner to start at 1st on Opening Day next April. Obviously, a lot can happen between now and then, but I would be happy with him as our Opening Day first baseman.

Who Will Play First Base for the 2016 Red Sox?

The recent departure of Mike Napoli to Texas opened up fresh questions about the Red Sox’ immediate future. While the slugger is enduring an awful 2015, with a poor .207/.307/.386 slash line through 98 games with the Red Sox, he at least figured to be in the team’s conversations for next year, despite being a free agent. However, by cutting Napoli loose, the Red Sox displayed their willingness to move on, which raises questions about the team’s first baseman in 2016 and beyond.

Red Sox

In recent times, Boston has enjoyed great continuity at first, with Napoli, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis holding down the fort for the past decade. However, such certainty at the position is no longer possible for the Red Sox, who face some difficult decisions in recruiting a new first-sacker.

Initially, the front office will likely consider all internal options at its disposal, which immediately draws attention to Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, two expensive free agent signings who have really struggled this year. Hanley’s transition to left field has been an unmitigated disaster, with the former shortstop ranked by Fangraphs’ metrics as the worst defensive player in all of baseball. Moreover, Sandoval has shown a shocking lack of range, and he is rated as the fourth-worst fielder presently playing in the Majors.

If the Red Sox are to compete moving forward, this situation just has to be rectified. Ramirez is clearly incapable of playing left field, while Sandoval is plainly awful at third. To seriously contend in 2016, Boston needs new players in those positions. That’s an irrefutable fact. Therefore, in an ideal world, either Sandoval or Ramirez would move to first base, a far less challenging position, where they wouldn’t hurt the team as much.

However, Red Sox management can be stubborn and, though it’s plainly obvious for the world to see, they likely won’t admit their mistakes in signing Hanley and Pablo. Quite incredibly, Ben Cherington has already said that he doesn’t foresee a position change for either player, which leaves Brock Holt and Travis Shaw as other organizational options for the first base gig next year. Holt’s greatest value is as a super utility guy, while Shaw doesn’t inspire much long-term confidence, despite a strong performance this season.

Thus, with a lack of strong internal candidates, Red Sox may once again be forced into the free agent market, which is always an adventure with this front office. Yet, aside from Napoli, the only available first baseman of note is Chris Davis, who is too inconsistent to be worth a large financial investment.

Red Sox

A few first basemen may be available via trade over the winter, with Joey Votto and Pedro Alvarez being the most intriguing chips, but the Red Sox have been hugely disinclined to move any of their top prospects in recent years, so that would also be an unlikely move.

Ultimately, the Red Sox should use the remainder of this desperately disappointing season to evaluate their internal candidates at first base, with Ramirez and Sandoval and Holt sharing time with Shaw. If they stumble upon some success, that’s great. But if they discover that none of those options are viable antidotes to the first base conundrum, at least Ben Cherington will know that it’s time to go shopping again this winter.

The Rusney Castillo Question

The Red Sox invested $72 million in outfielder Rusney Castillo towards the end of last season, assuming that he would be an integral part of the team’s plans in the future. Yet, so far, it hasn’t panned out that way. He’s spent a significant time in AAA Pawtucket and struggled to get significant playing time with the big league Red Sox when he has been up.

I find it most curious that Rusney Castillo hasn’t nailed down a consistent spot, especiallyRusney Castillo recently. He’s been slashing .385/.429/.577 in the last nine games he’s played, with a home run and 2 doubles. According to Over the Monster, the rationale behind the team’s decision might be that they want to respect the veteran guys on the roster, like Mike Napoli, but it could also have to do with showcasing guys like Nap with the waiver deadline coming up.

The latter is probably the case with Nap, and also with a guy like Alejandro De Aza. Both guys will be free agents at the end of the season, and it seems probable that they won’t be wearing Red Sox uniforms come the end of the 2015 season. This is speculation, but I’m guessing that the Red Sox would rather get something for those guys than just let them walk for nothing at the end of the year, which makes sense to me. I would think playing a guy they gave $72 million to would trump that.

This is just my opinion, but if it were me, I would play the $72 million guy as much as possible—at least in his first full season with the club—and give him a chance to let him show what the organization paid so much money for. I think he has the talent to justify the big contract, but he just needs a consistent opportunity to show it. And yes, I know we have other guys—Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr.—but of those guys, Hanley is the only other guy making big money. If Rusney Castillo doesn’t work out I’m all for having the 3 guys I just mentioned be our starting outfield (OK, probably minus Hanley if his defense doesn’t pick up), but for now I say give the guy a chance.

Mike Napoli Headed Back to Rangers

On Friday, Mike Napoli was dealt to the Texas Rangers along with cash considerations for a player to be named later or cash according to ESPN. Mike Napoli became the latest member of the 2013 World Championship team to be dealt, joining the likes of Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and John Lackey from last year, and Shane Victorino this year.

While this seemed inevitable, I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed and sad that he’sMike Napoli going back to the Rangers. He was big for the Red Sox in 2013, both on and off the field. Off the field, he was one of original guys who started the beard trend, and of course that was a big part of the culture change from 2012 to 2013. On the field, he hit .259, but more importantly, he hit 23 home runs and drove in 92 runs that year. He struggled a bit in the postseason, but he did hit a big home run off Justin Verlander in the ALCS, and a big 3-run double in game 1 of the World Series.

So, yeah, I’m sad to see him go. The struggles he had this season  were definitely unfortunate, but he is still a fan favorite. He’ll always be one of the guys that stands out for me from the 2013 team. At least now he has a chance to compete for a potential playoff contender, as well as a team that he is familiar with. He was extremely close to winning the World Series MVP with the Rangers in 2011, but the Rangers lost out to the St. Louis Cardinals that year.

The Rangers are 3 games out of the 2nd wild card spot at the moment, and a guy like Napoli could really push them over the top if he plays well. Even just having a guy who has played in 2 World Series, and won 1, should be a big help for the Rangers.

See ya, Nap. Thanks for what you did in 2013.

Red Sox Acquire Ryan Cook from A’s

The Red Sox had a quiet trade deadline not dealing any of the veterans many of us expected them to. Mike Napoli and Alejandro De Aza were still in the lineup for Friday nights game with the Rays, while many Sox fans feel the Sox need to look elsewhere and give the younger players a shot.

The Sox did make one small move in acquiring A’s pitcher Ryan Cook. Cook, now 28, was the A’s former closer, who was an All-Star in 2012.Ryan Cook It is expected Cook will be activated tomorrow and supply some help in the Red Sox depleted bullpen. Cook was pitching in Triple-A Nashville, but did appear in 4 games with the A’s this season allowing 5 runs. He also was once traded for now teammate Craig Breslow, when he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Cook had a 4.05 ERA in 30 appearances with the Nashville Sounds this season, so the Red Sox seem to be taking a flier on a player they expect to rebound while controlling him for two additional years. Cook does come cheap, as the Sox will either surrender a player to be named later or cash in the deal. Cook spent two stints on the disabled list last season but this year has been working to get his effectiveness back, as he sometimes has trouble find the plate.

Obviously the Red Sox did not seem to find a taker for any bad contracts they have signed in recent years and did not want to deal of of their prospects with many of the top prospects in the lower levels. The Red Sox bowed out of the Cole Hamels sweepstakes after Hamels had listed the Red Sox on his no trade list but I feel if they offered to pick up his option for 2020 he would likely have approved the deal. Tyson Ross’ name was tossed around Friday as well who were looking for a shortstop of the future but apparently Deven Marrero was not the shortstop they were looking for.

The Red Sox can still make moves until August 31 but the player needs to pass through waivers to be dealt. Mike Napoli and his salary would likely pass through waivers but the Pirates who were rumored to have interest in Napoli, acquired Michael Morse on Friday so they seem to have a right handed hitter to platoon as first.