The Red Sox Rotation is Now a Strength

For almost three years, the Red Sox rotation has been a source of frustration. In 2014, Jon Lester was traded away, and Ben Cherington didn’t replace him. Boston lacked an ace for what felt like the longest time, until David Price was signed last winter. Under-performance early this season increased the worry among fans, but things have gradually clicked into place, giving the Red Sox a starting corps to be relied upon as October looms ahead.

A Resurgence for the Red Sox Rotation

In the past thirty days, the Red Sox rotation has pitched to a 3.19 ERA. Only two teams have a better mark in all of baseball: the Cubs and Rays. Boston is also fourth overall in FIP during that span, while a WHIP of 1.110 is the best any American League team can muster. Only the Blue Jays and Tigers have induced more soft contact in the past month among AL rivals, which suggests the Red Sox rotation has definitely turned a corner.

Red Sox rotation

Rick Porcello has emerged as the staff ace, as his 2.08 ERA in the past thirty days illustrates. But David Price has also improved greatly as the season has progressed. The big southpaw has a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts, and he appears to be peaking when it matters most. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has a 2.67 ERA in his last five starts; Drew Pomeranz is at 3.31 over his last six; and Clay Buchholz has even returned from the dead with a 2.70 mark in his last 16.2 innings pitched.

Once a Weakness, Now a Strength

Whichever way you dice it, the Red Sox rotation, so often maligned, is quietly becoming a strength. Aside from the numbers, this group just inspires more confidence than it ever has before. Porcello and Price are experienced guys who should handle the pennant race pressure. Rodriguez seems to have ironed out a few issues. And the Sox still have Steven Wright to return from his stint on the disabled list, to compliment Pomeranz and Buchholz, who are also doing just fine.

All things considered, Boston is rounding into form at just the right time. The offense has been relentless all season, but it is now backed by a more consistent pitching staff. In general, the Sox seem to be grinding harder right now, and there is a newfound toughness to this team that has enabled it to win plenty of close games recently. That bodes well for the stretch run, which will feature plenty of games against division rivals such as Toronto and Baltimore.

Through all the hardship and uncertainty, here the Red Sox stand. It’s late August and they have a 71-54 record, good for a share of first place. Just thirty-seven games remain, and one last push is needed for a return to postseason play. For the first time in a long while, the Sox have a strong balance between offense, defense and pitching. Don’t look now, but this may be the most complete team in the American League.

The Search For Xander Bogaerts

After a scorching start to the 2016 season, Xander Bogaerts has hit a rut. Though the humidity has run rampant through Boston lately, Bogaerts has experienced a rather cold summer at the plate.

In May and June, Bogaerts looked like a serious MVP candidate, if not a favorite along with BogaertsDavid Ortiz. Bogaerts hit .395 in May and and .324 in June. Also, those two months provided 40 of his 69 RBI this season. During that time, his average reached into the .350s and he was battling Jose Altuve for the league lead in that category. Since then, Xander’s production has plummeted.

Bogaerts Since The All-Star Break

Since Bogaerts was selected to his first All-Star game in San Diego last month, his season has taken a turn for the worse. Since the break, he has batted just .271 and has only four doubles and 13 RBI in 140 at-bats. That has brought his average all the way down to .310. Also, in his last 15 games he is hitting a measly .238 with an  OBP of .269.

In all seriousness, most guys would still love to have the numbers Bogaerts has this year. That is not what I am trying to say. He is still a tremendous talent and among the league’s best shortstops. But during this recent hot streak the Red Sox appar to be on, Xander has not been able to be a major contributor. In high leverage situations he has struggled and has made a habit at lunging at pitches and popping up constantly.

The Red Sox have tried a multitude of methods to try and get Bogaerts back to his former self. He has had a few days off, which he did deserve. The hitting instructors have also worked meticulously with him to fix his swing. So far, we are still waiting on the guy we saw the first half of the season. There is little doubt that his star will shine again, but it remains to be seen whether he will get his swing back in time to help his team make the postseason.

The Next Red Sox Ace is Here

6 IP, 5 Hits, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 Ks, 3.00 ERA. Not a bad debut for the new Boston Red Sox ace, David Price.

Command looked pretty good early on, especially having to deal with the cold temperatures at game time. Of his 103 pitches thrown, he threw 71 for strikes and worked both sides of the zone. He employed a nice mix of his fastball, curveball and change-up tored sox ace keep Francona’s Indians off-balance.

One thing I did notice was the velocity on his fastball. Price routinely sat in the 94-95 range in 2015, but Tuesday’s debut had him sitting in the 90-92 range, while topping out at 93.9.

But let’s not hit the big red panic button just yet. Game time temps were hovering around 34 degrees so that most certainly played a big role in the drop of velocity as well as it being his 1st start of the year. With temps expected to be around 55 degrees for the Red Sox Home Opener, and Price’s 2nd start of the season, I anticipate the velocity to reappear sooner than later.

What to Expect From the Red Sox Ace Moving Forward

Consistency, that’s what you can expect to see moving forward. David Price’s next start will be the Sox Home Opener on April 11th. In 11 career starts over at the Fens, Price is 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA, in 74 innings. Look for Price to not only build on those stats, but also thrive.

Now I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and talk postseason play, because quite frankly on paper this team is not postseason material, but everyone’s big concern when they heard Price was coming to Boston was his postseason numbers. Hard to disagree with most fans when you look at what he’s produced in 14 postseason appearances.

2-7, 5.12 ERA , 63.1 IP, 62 Hits, 36 ER, 11 HR.

Are those numbers “ace worthy”? Not by any means, but it begs the question, why can’t he produce in the postseason? Well, for starters in the 2013 ALDS against the Sox, the Rays offense combined for a dismal .225 batting average. Right there, if your team is not producing offensively that automatically throws the world’s weight onto the pitcher to keep you in the game.

In last year’s ALCS match up with the Royals, the Jay’s offense didn’t fare much better— hitting a combined .234 batting average. Do we see a pattern?

Now I’m not saying offense is the key to a pitchers success, but if your hitters are not hitting and putting runs on the board what more can a pitcher do for the team? I would love to hear someone come up with a good explanation because I have not figured one out yet.

Instead of focusing on the postseason though let’s live in the now. David Price is your Red Sox ace and he’s not going to take that responsibility lightly. He’s going to go out to that mound every 5th day and prove to not only the Sox brass that he belongs here but the fans as well that he’s the real deal and he will help the Sox achieve their goal of reaching October baseball.

So David, and Astro (Price’s dog)…Welcome to Boston. Enjoy riding your bike through the city, explore the city and all its offerings. And for God’s sake, lead us to the promise land.

With ALCS Game 2 Won, Sox Must Prepare Offense for Game 3

ALCS Game 2

Courtesy of nydailynews.com/sports

What just happened? I thought we were cooked for sure during last night’s ALCS Game 2. The comeback kids of Yawkey Way do it again against the Detroit Tigers bullpen. Never, I mean, never, count these guys out! Red Sox Nation is grateful for Detroit’s weak bullpen and Superman, David Ortiz, to save the day with a four run homer. WOW! Rarely am I speechless, but tonight I am at a loss for words.

We squeaked that game out. Where do we go from here, as the series moves to Comerica Park in Detroit?

The Red Sox players must focus on believing in their offensive talent. The hitters already show great plate patience. If a Sox player decides to hit, they must start the swing a bit earlier. Unfortunately, there is little time to work on this with the hitting coach with only one day off for travel. My second suggestion, one a bit more likely to take place, would be watching some game tape of Justin Verlander.  Finally, adding pinch hitters and pinch runners earlier in the game may throw off Detroit’s defense. Inserting players that the Tigers are not expecting may be the key to run production earlier in the game.

On the defensive side, pitchers must keep the pitches low and inside. Big guys like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder seem to love the high fastballs. For this fan, it looks like Cabrera and Fielder see these pitches as mere lobs over the plate. Pitchers must keep their emotions in check. One cannot be too pumped up like Jake Peavy or too down in the dumps like Clay Buchholz.

I’m not sure if any of these strategies will work. The Sox seem comfortable allowing the game to unfold naturally, relying just as much on skill and experience as they do grit and hope. Red Sox Nation and Sox players must dig deep for the kind of hope that helped us win Sunday night.

What do you believe will happen on Tuesday night?

Thoughts on ALCS Game 1

ALCS game 1

Courtesy of cbssports.com

The Red Sox will play the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS Game 1 tonight. Admittedly, I hoped that it would be Oakland because the pitching was a bit weaker and it would have been fun to play against former Red Sox players. I fear Detroit. They won 4 of the 7 games the Sox played during the regular season. We have beaten them soundly 10-6 and 20-4. While on other days, their pitchers got the best of us. For me, games won all depend on a strong lineup. Why?  The Tigers have a great lineup, too.

Our defense has been strong. We turned enough double plays in Game 4 of the ALDS to impress me. It really isn’t defense for the Sox that has me concerned; balls get in from the outfield. Stephen Drew has been great on the shifts and as cut-off man.

The offense would be where I would focus my attention if I were John Farrell. One option would be to have Mike Napoli sit because he has been in a slump. I believe he walked at least once in the last game. I don’t know why he was so happy during the ALDS champagne celebration. I definitely see some major platooning and pinch hitting happening in this series. I look to players like Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp as part of the platoon. They have not had consistent playing time in the seven games the Sox had against Detroit. In one or two games, Carp and Gomes scored some runs, 2 or 3 here and there. Xander Bogaerts may be another possibility as pinch hitter, or runner in later innings. Consistent producers like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, if they continue with solid placement, and “small ball” tactics, would get Bogaerts in scoring position. The more I look at the numbers, the more worried I become.  The other side of me is optimistic. The Red Sox, and the fans, overcame a great many obstacles this season. This is just one more hurdle that the team must clear.

I am very excited for the weekend games. How do you feel about the ALCS and the Red Sox’ chances?

Postseason, Fenway Park Draws Fans of all Ages

postseason

Game 1, postseason: The Red Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays. They win by a landslide, 12-2. The fans go wild, but I have to say, I was slightly perturbed by the number of fans who were, at the bottom of the eighth, on their way out and making their way to the exits through Fenway – the opposite direction to which the game was being played. Why was everyone leaving so soon? They were winning and yes it was by a landslide, but come on, it’s the playoffs, game 1! Fans need not miss a waking moment at this point! It’s the playoffs for crying out loud! Who would have thought we’d get this far in the first place?! Well, in retrospect, no matter, it gave me a chance to get down on the action. It was time to hit the bars, but first I needed insight from the innocent. As I was walking down Yawkey Way I scouted out a few young fans; fans that were at Fenway for their first time. Hannah, 9, Evan 6, and Meghan 8, took a trip with their dad to Fenway to see the Sox play their first game in postseason. I’m glad, for their sake, the team pulled through and won. All the way from New Hampshire, these kids were more than excited. They were ecstatic. You could see it in their demeanor and in their eyes. When I asked what their most memorable moment was, Hannah replied, “when Big Pappi hit not one, but two homeruns!”

JD Drew is Evan’s favorite player, while Big Pappi and Dustin Pedroia are Meghan and Hannah’s respectively. Coming all the way from New Hampshire, these young fans show great pride in their Boston team. As their first time at Fenway came to an end, I could not let them go until I knew just how cool it was for them. Their responses were nothing more than whimsical: Two “Awesome!” and a “Great!

I had the opportunity, game 1, to interview others so stay tuned for those interviews about a diehard Yankees fan and what brought him to Fenway, the double Dan’s and what the Red Sox have in store for the upcoming postseason games, and predictions based on preseason’s flawless performances.