Red Sox Post All-Star Break Review

The Boston Red Sox entered the All-Star break at 68-30. That was the best record in Major League Baseball, and they’ve kept a firm grasp on that honor. Back on July 2nd, Rick Porcello and the Sox took down the Washington Nationals 4-3. You may remember Porcello driving a shot into the gap and clearing the bases off a pitch from reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to put Boston ahead. They went on to win the next nine contests. In the series opener against the Blue Jays, you may remember Mookie Betts’ at-bat heard around the world when he launched a grand slam over the Green Monster on the 13th pitch he saw. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Boston’s next loss came eleven days later, on Friday the 13th no less, in their second All Star breakgame against the Blue Jays. The bad luck didn’t last long, however. The following game, the Sox and Jays headed to extra innings knotted at 2 when Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One run was all Boston needed, but Bogaerts went ahead and sent one over the fence in dead center instead, walking the game off in glorious fashion. It was Boston’s first walk-off grand slam since the year 2000.

Just a year after not hitting a single grand slam, the Sox, with nine at the break, are in striking distance of the franchise record for grand slams in a season (11), and the MLB record (14). The Red Sox concluded the first half winning 12 of their last 13 contests and 17 of their last 20. Now, as Boston’s dominant pace continues, let’s take a look back on the first half for the winningest team in Major League Baseball.

Starting Pitching

For the first time in Red Sox history, Boston entered the break with four pitchers with ten or more wins. Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have eleven, while Chris Sale and David Price, each with ten, are just behind.

Rodriguez continues to progress in Boston, with his 11-3 record, 3.44 ERA, and 110 strikeouts on pace to be career-highs. He was just placed on the ten-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and is still sidelined to this day. While Porcello hasn’t returned to his Cy Young form from two years ago, he remains a respectable arm in the middle of the rotation. However, Porcello looked like Cy Young himself in his recent start against the Yankees, where he tossed a complete, one-hit gem of a game that aided the Sox in their relentless sweep of New York, comfortably in second place in the AL East.

Price continues to be a wild card with his injury hiccups and apparent inability to pitch against the Yankees. At 10-6 with an ERA north of four, there is certainly room for improvement from Boston’s 217-million-dollar southpaw. While we’re on the subject, Price looked to find some sort of groove against the Yankees in their last series. He wasn’t dominant, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will likely return to health soon after the break, and the claim for the fifth rotation spot is something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Sale, with an AL-best 2.23 ERA and MLB-best 188 strikeouts, is throwing as well as anyone in the MLB and is a front-runner for the American League Cy Young. I’ve paid my respects to him already.

Relief Pitching

In a word, unimpressive. We all know about Carson Smith by now. Joe Kelly has enjoyed a successful year as Boston’s setup man, but his ERA had ballooned to 4.31 recently after a stretch of shaky outings. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson haven’t been anything special, and Tyler Thornburg had only appeared in four games. Craig Kimbrel had 30 saves at the break and continues to look like one of the best closers in baseball. But unfortunately, he can’t do it all.

Offense

The main reason for the best first half in franchise history? This right here. Mookie Betts led Major League Baseball with a .359 batting average and is gunning for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez, who batted .328, is third, and his 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in led the league at the break. The influence of Martinez on this lineup has been nothing short of incredible. He continues to make his case for one of the best free agent acquisitions the Red Sox have ever made. Expect his name right next to Mookie’s on the MVP ballot.

At the turning point in the season, Xander Bogaerts had already surpassed his 2017 home run total and matched his RBI total. Mitch Moreland played his way to his first career All-Star game in his second season in Beantown. Andrew Benintendi was flat out robbed of an All-Star appearance. He is on pace for career-highs in batting average, stolen bases, home runs, doubles, and RBI. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. subsided as the first half wound down and he looks to have found some sort of groove at the plate. Newly acquired Steve Pearce is fitting in nicely so far. Through nine games, he’s batting .458 and is another cog in the stacked Red Sox lineup. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Yankees in the series sweep, hitting four dingers and driving in eight runs.

Review of the Red Sox After the All-Star Break

The Red Sox entered the break with a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, and it has skyrocketed since then. Betts, Martinez, Moreland, Sale, and Kimbrel all secured a trip to the All-Star Game. The Sox were the only team in the American League with multiple starters in the All-Star Game (Betts, Martinez).

Looking back, the Red Sox started the year 17-2 on their way to the best start in franchise history. And they hit the All-Star break after going 17-3 over their last 20. The Boston Red Sox are statistically the best team in Major League Baseball. If their historic first half is any indication, this ballclub will be a force to be reckoned with come October.

The Underappreciated Mitch Moreland

Mitch Moreland is an all-star. Yep, that is right. Whether that says more about the lack of first-base production in the A.L., or not, you can’t discredit what Mitch has done for the Red Sox thus far. Moreland’s numbers aren’t ungodly by any means, but he is incredibly consistent. Moreland currently sits at a very respectable .282, with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Looking around the league, he more than deserves to be wearing that American League jersey next week.

Time and time again, when Boston needs a clutch hit, its often “Mitchy 2bags” thatMoreland delivers. While batting 4th, Alex Cora can count on him to drive in runs routinely and expect him to have game-altering at-bats. Moreland also is a great team leader, very durable and plays gold-glove defense, somewhat anchoring the infield with his almost non-existent errors.

Players and coaches acknowledge Moreland’s humble, yet steady baseball approach and awarded him with his first appearance. Around the league, Moreland has always been just a decent hitter with a stellar gold-glove. Now playing every day, he is putting up the numbers he is capable of. He will back up White Sox first-baseball Jose Abreu for the American League next week in the summer classic.

Mitch Moreland Is More Than Earning His Paycheck

This winter, Moreland became a free agent. Many thought that Dave Dombrowski would stay away from offering him a contract considering Hanley Ramirez was slated for first-base. Additionally, the inevitable mega J.D. Martinez contract was looming. Dombrowski acted quickly, however, and signed Mitch to a two-year 13 million dollar contract. Considering the lack of first base production around the league, the fact that Hanley was cut from Boston and his ability to be an underrated cleanup hitter for this potent offensive club, that contract is an absolute steal.

Moreland is making 6.5 million a year. When 2017 free agency opened, it seemed nobody had him in the same upper echelon of free agents in the likes of say Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. San Diego shelled out an immense 144 million dollar contract to Hosmer. Hosmer is hitting .253 this year, that seems underwhelming for that deal. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has to pay Santana 20 million annually for the next 3 years. Santana is currently hitting .214  I would have to say that the Red Sox like their underappreciated first-baseman just fine.

Who On the Red Sox Is All-Star Worthy?

Summer is almost here which means it is almost time to start talking about the MLB All-Star Game. This season the game will be held in Nationals Park, in Washington D.C. Each year, fans can cast their ballots and vote for whoever they want to see start in the game. However, the rules state each team must be represented in some way. Players, coaches and a final fan vote determine the rest of the rosters. Major League Baseball gives weekly updates all June on the voting. The first installment is very Red Sox friendly. So who might be representing the Red Sox in the All-Star Game?

Boston outfielder Mookie Betts leads all vote-getters with roughly 100 thousand moreAll-Star votes than second place Angels’ Mike Trout. J.D. Martinez leads all potential designated hitters. J.D. currently holds the DH lead in front of New York’s Giancarlo Stanton. Meanwhile, both Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi remain in the running

It’s easy to pencil in Martinez and Betts as Red Sox all-stars. Betts is hitting a gaudy .350 while approaching 20 home runs and 40 RBI. He is doing so all while missing two weeks earlier this month, for “backside tightness”. Martinez looks like an early favorite for MVP, as he has already eclipsed the 20 home-run mark and looks destined to have one of the best statistical seasons of all-time for a Red Sox player.

Are Red Sox Fans Getting the All-Star Vote Right?

Xander Bogaerts not being shown in the all-star vote of top 5 of shortstops is puzzling to me. Xander has changed his approach at the plate. Under new hitting coach Tim Hyers, Bogaerts already has nine home-runs. He had a total of 10 in 2017. Hyers has preached launch angle and “hard contact”. The results of that new approach are not going unnoticed. Xander looks primed to have one of the best offensive seasons for shortstops in the American League this season. The problem for Bogaerts is the competition at that position. Star names like Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor are currently the one and two leading vote-getters, respectively, at the position. Star power is certainly going to hinder Bogaerts’ chance to win the all-star starting nod.

First-base seems to be an anomaly this year. There are less ‘big name stars’ occupying the current top 5 spots. First base is annually very tough competition for any player due to the production and name value at that position. Cabrera and Pujols are some of the usual suspects of all-star names thrown around for first base. However, they are both aging, their skills are noticeably regressing and Cabrera is injured. That is opening the door for guys like Moreland to get the nod. Currently, Moreland ranks second in votes to White Sox’s Jose Abreu. Moreland started the year on the bench because of Hanley Ramirez. Now Mitch is hitting cleanup for the Boston lineup. He already has double-digits in the home run column and has hovered around a .300 average all year.

We will keep an eye on the All-Star Game voting updates for sure. Get your all-star votes in Red Sox fans!

 

It’s Time to Trade Jackie Bradley Jr.

As much as I love the man, it’s time the Red Sox trade Jackie Bradley Jr. away. For years, I’ve been saying that Bradley Jr. only needed a few more years to develop his swing and improve his batting average. But he’s only hitting .173 as of May 8th. He’s also not hitting the home runs he used to hit. With over 500 games played and 1800 at-bats, his career average is only .235. While he’ll always have one of the best gloves in the American League, it’s clear Bradley Jr. is becoming a detriment rather than an asset to the Red Sox.

Last night’s game against the Yankees only solidified this notion. He went 0-3 against thetrade jackie bradley Yankees in a crucial 3-2 loss. In the month of May alone, Bradley Jr. has only two hits in twenty-three at-bats. According to ESPN, “Bradley’s .173 batting average and .528 OPS are better than only three qualified hitters in baseball.” So when does Dave Dombrowski say enough’s enough?

It’s not like the Red Sox need him anyway. J.D. Martinez could easily take his place, and he has one of the hottest bats in the American League right now. Bradley Jr.’s current WAR is -0.3 whereas Martinez’s is 1.6. Bradley Jr. has a .173 batting average vs. Martinez’s .346 as of May 9th. Martinez has eight home runs compared to Bradley Jr.’s two. If the math doesn’t make it clear who’s more valuable, that what can?

Trade Jackie Bradley Jr. for the Benefit of the Team

Trading Bradley Jr. would allow for stronger players to get more playing time and solidify the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East. Alex Cora could replace Bradley Jr. with J.D. Martinez in the outfield. Hanley Ramirez could become the designated hitter again, a role he thrived in. Cora could then replace Ramirez at first base with Gold Glove-winner Mitch Moreland.

Cora and Dombrowski can no longer keep giving Bradley Jr. more chances to improve his hitting. After so many seasons, it’s clear he’s never going to be a .300 hitter. If anything, his lack of offense is now a liability. If the Red Sox were to trade Jackie Bradley Jr., stronger players like Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland would get more playing time, and they have great offensive numbers.

I love Jackie Bradley Jr., especially his glove, but if Dombrowski wants to win a third straight AL East title and go to the World Series, it’ll have to be without him.

Red Sox Walkoff In Back to Back Games Over Phillies

The Sox are coming off of a two-game stretch against the Philadelphia Phillies in which the Red Sox Walkoffteam took home back to back walkoff wins. Fenway Park was buzzing on Monday and Tuesday night when Boston came away victorious in a couple of extra-inning affairs. The hero on Monday night was Dustin Pedroia, while the clutch hitter of the night on Tuesday was Andrew Benintendi. These wins are more than just a W in the column. Walkoffs not only raise confidence, but also team chemistry and usually performance catches a boost as well. The Red Sox walkoff wins should do just that.

Red Sox Walkoff Against Phillies Monday Night

On Monday night, the Red Sox trailed 4-0 after the first inning. Rick Porcello has unfortunately continued to struggle in finding a rhythm this season. The Sox did manage to battle back though, as Mookie Betts went for 3 doubles on the night and Benintendi had 3 hits. In the eleventh inning, the stage was set as Dustin Pedroia lined a ball past the second baseman Howie Kendrick. Devin Marrero score the game winning run on a head-first slide, and the celebration ensued.

Red Sox Walkoff Again on Tuesday

Fast forward to Tuesday night where Boston and Philladelphia played very evenly, matching each other with a 3-3 score in the 6th. That score would stay the same until the 12th until Andrew Benintendi came to the plate. The young Red Sox outfielding phenom ripped the ball down the right field line, scoring Xander Bogaerts and walking off for the second night in a row. Xander led the way with three hits while Mitch Moreland hit his ninth home run of the season.

What Do the Red Sox Walkoff Wins Mean?

I’m not sure why this team likes to give the fans so much stress sometimes, but a win is still a win. No matter how good we look on paper, this is still baseball where anyone can win on any day. In a league where the Cubs can lose three out of four to the Rockies, anything can happen. As long as the Sox get the win, that is really all that matters. They just have to make sure they compete against the great teams in our league, as well as the bad.

John Farrell’s Next Move

Bill Belichick is the greatest professional football coach of all time. Hands down. There isn’t much of a debate anymore since the man has won five Super Bowls. He has created a dynasty that not many organizations will be able to top. Meanwhile, the Bruins relieved Claude Julien of his coaching duties on the day of the Patriots’ championship parade. They have actually played quite well since the move, winning four straight games. Brad Stevens is paving a path for a young Celtics team towards a top seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time; Stevens coached the East in the NBA All-Star Game. With John FarrellSpring Training officially underway, Boston sports fans look toward John Farrell and wonder what his impact will be this year on the Red Sox.

The Red Sox exercised John Farrell’s 2017 option following their first round defeat to the Cleveland Indians. Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, told the media he is not sure of a 2018 extension yet. Dombrowski said he would have to sit down with the front-office if there were a long-term decision to be made.

John Farrell’s Resume

John Farrell can get the job done—that has already been proven. The man has two World Series rings with Boston, (one as a head coach in 2013 and one as a pitching coach in 2007) and Boston sports fans know better than anyone else that rings talk. 

On the other hand, the Red Sox finished 25 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in 2014, and 15 games out in 2015 behind the Toronto Blue Jays. Just this past year, the Red Sox won the AL East, but were swept out of the first round. A lot can come from analyzing Farrell’s first four seasons as our head coach. 2013 was a magical year for the organization, and it was one of redemption for the city of Boston. Is the manager capable of getting his team back to the promised land?

Farrell has the talent on his roster to do it. The addition of Chris Sale gives the Red Sox one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball. Trading for Tyler Thornburg will give Craig Kimbrel a consistent set-up man to work behind. Since the Sox sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee, Mitch Moreland has the opportunity to play first-base. This leaves Hanley Ramirez the DH job he has been waiting for. Red Sox fans have plenty to be excited about, and John Farrell also has plenty to look forward to. 

Personally, I think John Farrell is a legit manager in this league. He fits in nicely in Boston, given his experience. Don’t forget though, a disappointing finish could mean the end of the road for any manager in the MLB. This is especially possible in the City of Champions.