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.

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!

 

Red Sox Can’t Afford to Lose Mookie Betts

The Boston Red Sox felt Mookie Betts’ absence while he was on the disabled list. While the Red Sox were 9-5 while Mookie Betts was out, the Red Sox fell behind in the standings. The Red Sox could have one at least three of those five losses if Mookie had been healthy. Then the Red Sox dropped two out of three to the White Sox last weekend. If there’s one thing for sure it’s that the Red Sox can’t afford to lose Mookie Betts again this season.

There’s not many players like Mookie Betts in the majors. Players like Betts, along withlose rookie Mike Trout, and Bryce Harper, are superstars above your common all-stars today. They’re for-sure Hall of Famers as long as they continue to play the way they do. But history is full of players whose careers were cut short by injuries. As a result, they didn’t make it to the Hall of Fame. Don Mattingly is one example. He was a six-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Winner, and the 1985 American League MVP. But injuries he sustained towards the end of his career cut his chances for induction short. Both Mattingly and Betts are already legendary in their respective communities. But the difference between the both will be whether Betts can stay healthy for years to come.

To Lose Mookie Betts Would Mean Losing Out on a World Series Championship

According to ESPN, Betts is projected to hit a career high 41 home runs and hit .354 for the season. There’s not too many Red Sox legends who’ve accumulated those numbers in their careers. Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz, and Ted Williams had better numbers. Each of those three players led the Red Sox to the World Series. Ortiz achieved three championships for Boston during his tenure. Betts will be no different. But he’s got to stay healthy if he’s going to take Boston to the World Series.

Andrew Benintendi Picked A Great Time to Heat Up

As the Boston Red Sox blazed out of the gate to a 17-2 start this season, the bat of Andrew Benintendi was nowhere to be found. But it didn’t matter. The rest of the offense picked up the slack, and then some. Through the month of April, he batted .274 with 23 hits, 15 runs batted in, a .376 on-base percentage, a .440 slugging percentage, and only managed to hit one home run.

His struggles at the plate were largely overshadowed by the rest of the offense. Namely Andrew BenintendiJ.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, who had much less trouble hitting dingers. The duo captivated Boston. Betts emerged as a surefire MVP candidate and Martinez warmed the hearts of Red Sox Nation as a home run of a free agent signing. Pun intended.

But those struggles were never ignored completely. Between the lines of the Red Sox’ historic start was curiosity as to where the production from Boston’s handsome left fielder had gone. Then the calendar turned to May, and the beautiful swing of Andrew Benintendi started making things happen. And the timing could not have been better.

Andrew Benintendi Back In Form

Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment on May 25th. Mookie Betts was shut down with a left abdominal strain that same week. Later placed on the 10-day disabled list, Betts is still out of the lineup. And all of a sudden the Red Sox lineup was missing some serious offensive firepower. Benintendi’s missing bat finally started to show up, resulting in a drastically more productive month of May. Improving upon his batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.633), hit total (38), RBI total (23), and HR total (6), he finally returned to the form we know and love.

And it gets better. Benintendi’s month of June is off to an even better start. Against the reigning champion Houston Astros on June 2nd, Benintendi launched a ball into the Milky Way to put the Sox ahead for good and secure the team’s 40th victory. He then put another one into orbit the following night en route to a 9-3 win. His power surged helped the Sox salvage a series split against one of the best teams in the nation. Thanks in large part to him, the Boston Red Sox were the first team in the league to win 40 games.

At 41-19, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in Major League Baseball. And while Benintendi may not have contributed early on, he is more than making up for it now.

Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez: The New Bash Brothers

Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are leading the American League in home runs with fifteen each as of May 20th. Betts is a serious 2018 MVP candidate. Martinez is proving to be worth every penny of his $110 million salary so far this season. The way Betts and Martinez are hitting home runs reminds older fans of another hitting duo of the 1980s: the Oakland A’s Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Their home run totals led the media to dub them the Bash Brothers. Now, thirty years later and 3,108 miles to the east, Betts and Martinez are emerging as the new bash brothers.

The New Bash Brothers Are Following the Original Duo

Red Sox fans can take stock in this title, especially if they look at the parallels between thenew bash brothers A’s of the 1980s and Red Sox of today. Canseco and McGwire hit over 200 home runs combined between 1988 and 1990. Canseco was named American League Most Valuable Player in 1988 after hitting .307 and 42 home runs with 124 RBIs. He also became the first major leaguer to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season. Meanwhile, McGwire hit 49, 32, 33, and 39 home runs in his first four full seasons in the Majors between 1987 and 1990. Canseco and McGwire also led the A’s to a World Series championship in 1989. The parallels between the original Bash Brothers and Betts and Martinez are hard to miss.

The New Bash Brothers Are Just Beginning

While Betts and Martinez have been around for a few seasons now, uniting in Boston is giving the Boston faithful a lot to be hopeful about. Like McGwire before him, Martinez is on pace for a 50+ home run season. Like Canseco before him, Betts is a leading candidate for the MVP award. If history is any indicator of how this season will end for the Red Sox, then fans can certainly look forward to seeing Boston in the post-season.

Which Active Red Sox Player Has the Best Chance at Cooperstown?

Cooperstown, New York remains as baseball’s hallowed grounds. It is there whereCooperstown past legends are forever remembered within the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This year, the Boston Red Sox are off to a historic start. Their roster is filled with many talented players. But which of those players has the best chance at going to Cooperstown and joining these hallowed few?

 

 

Craig Kimbrel

Earlier this month, Kimbrel became the youngest closer ever to reach 300 saves. He was also the NL leader in saves from 2011-2014 before joining the Red Sox in 2016. Throughout his entire career as a closer, he has recorded at least 30 saves in each season. In 2011, he was the NL Rookie of the Year and is a six-time all-star, including last season in which he had a 1.43 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. The only active closers with more saves are Huston Street, Fernando Rodney, and Francisco Rodriguez, all of which are significantly older than Kimbrel. When all is said and done, I believe Craig Kimbrel will join Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Dennis Eckersley as the best to ever close.

Mookie Betts

Of any player on the Red Sox in the last decade, Betts has the highest ceiling. The combination of his power, speed, and defensive prowess have put him in the upper echelon of players in today’s game as well as team history. This season he is currently tied for first in home runs, second in average, second in doubles, first in slugging, and first in OPS league-wide. At age 25, Betts likely still has at least ten years of highly-productive seasons left. At the end of his career, Betts will have a good shot at making it to the Hall.

Chris Sale

Few left-handed pitchers have been as dominant in their early careers as Chris Sale.  Among active pitchers, he trails only Clayton Kershaw in career ERA, opponent average, and WHIP. That being said, Kershaw has 29 more career starts than Sale and is slightly older. His win-loss record is 95-59, which is lower than his contemporaries, however he was a part of some poor Chicago White Sox teams. While not even 30, I believe Sale still has the ability for 3-5 more dominant years and 7-9 more strong seasons. To make his way to Cooperstown, he’ll need to avoid serious injury and stay on competitive teams.

Dustin Pedroia

Of any Red Sox, Pedroia is the most intriguing to talk about in terms of Hall of Fame prospects. There is no question that he has remained the heart and soul of this franchise throughout his career, no matter the circumstance. However, he has begun to show signs of physical wearing down via frequent injuries, especially in the second half of his career. That being said, he has never batted lower than .278 in a season and has never committed more than six errors in a season. He is a 4-time Gold Glove winner, 4-time All-Star, a 2008 MVP, and the only Red Sox player other than Kimbrel to win Rookie of the Year. He will forever be remembered as the catalyst for the team in this era.

Cooperstown Breakdown

So who has the best chance of these four? The easy answer is that it depends. I think the best way of looking at Hall of Fame prospects is three-pronged. The first is did they win during their careers; was their impact big enough to yield pennants and championships. Between the four, only Pedroia has a World Series ring. However, all four have been a part of winning teams, even though they’re all in different parts of their careers.

The second, and most obvious, is their career numbers and stats. Frankly, I would not have written this article if it weren’t apparent that these guys had the accolades to be in the conversation.

That leads me to the last and most intriguing factor: their era and its comparables. In other words, what was the climate of baseball at their respective position in terms of character, performance, and competition? For Sale, he’s had Kershaw and Madison Baumgarner, as well as Justin Verlander. For Kimbrel, he entered the league as Rivera and Hoffman were leaving. Betts will always have the Mike Trout and Bryce Harper comparison on his back. Pedroia’s main counterpart throughout his career was Ian Kinsler, but Kinsler never really won anything. His other main comparison was always Robbie Cano, but Cano’s latest PED scandal will likely dampen his reputation a bit.

Given all these variables, I believe that Kimbrel has the best chance because there are few closers in his era to compare him to besides Aroldis Chapman, who has character problems of his own. If Betts and Sale can continue dominating and avoid the pitfalls of free agency, they could make it there too. Should Pedroia finish strong like I expect, he’ll always have my support too.

Show me your thoughts!

I ran a Twitter with a similar question last week, and this is what I gathered. Feel free to tweet with your thoughts or leave comments below.