Problems the Red Sox Will Face This Season

We’re weeks away from another baseball season. Spring training is up and running. The Red Sox made some impressive off-season moves, most notably in obtaining Chris Sale from Chicago. Along with David Price and Rick Porcello, Sale’s addition makes the team a strong contender. But let’s not forget about the problems the Red Sox will face as they prepare for the 2017 season.

John Farrell is entering his fifth season as the Red Sox skipper. Undoubtedly, calls to fireRed Sox Will Face him will rise again if the Red Sox hit the kind of slumps they faced last year. Farrell has to avoid a repeat of those issues or else he’ll finally get the ax. The fact that Farrell is still with the team reflects the level of confidence the Red Sox have in him but how long will that last, especially when their pitching staff will potentially carry them to the post season? The margin of error for Farrell is tighter than ever this year.

Farrell’s problem isn’t just that he’ll walk on thinner ice this season, but that ice will crack open if he doesn’t figure out how to rally the team when they fall behind.

Ghosts of Fenway’s Past Offer Solutions to Challenges the Red Sox Will Face

Recently I interviewed a few former Red Sox players from the 1967 and 1975 World Series teams. Jim Lonborg, Bill Lee, and Rico Petrocelli all agreed that focus and discipline made their teams successful. They stopped slumps before they gained momentum, and rallied each other to maintain morale. Talent and hard work took those teams all the way into the post-season, but what made those teams successful was how well they kept up their momentum.

A problem the Red Sox face time and time again is their inability to face dejection. That’s how they’ll make it to the post-season. It’s hard for them to rally when they fall behind. They can’t depend on David Ortiz anymore. The Red Sox don’t have an heir-apparent yet, but that player won’t reveal himself through talent alone. Ortiz’s heir will have to rise to the occasion to take the reins.

The Red Sox problem is not a lack of talent, it’s their inability to take advantage of the right opportunities.

Will Red Sox Pitching Go Deep This Year?

The excitement of having David Price, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale in the rotation has everyone in Boston talking. Will Red Sox pitching go deep this season? It’s hard to say no. The three have a combined 24 years of experience and a whopping 3,837 K’s. It doesn’t hurt to have several All-Star appearances and a few Cy Young Awards between them either. Most teams in baseball today are thankful enough to have two solid starters on their rotation. But with such a dominant pitching staff the Red Sox are sure to give the American League a run for its money.

There’s three reasons to believe that Price, Porcello, and Sale will carry the team thisRed Sox Pitching Go Deep season. After a solid 2016, Price is learning from last year’s mistakes to find a new rhythm. He still posted a 17-9 record with 228 strikeouts last season so he can only go up from there. Then there’s Rick Porcello who won the 2016 Cy Young Award while posting a 22-4 record and 189 K’s. His performance certainly wasn’t something people expected but it was an added bonus. Then there’s Chris Sale who the Red Sox acquired last year. Sale posted a 2.73 ERA with 274 K’s in 2015 with an additional 233 K’s and six complete games last season. One of the issues Sale had with the White Sox was a lack of run support. But with a solid offense in development for 2017 Sale is sure to have all the run support he’ll need.

We’ll See Red Sox Pitching Go Deep, But Will Offensive Back Them Up?

A pitching staff is only as good as the run support behind it. Filling the void David Ortiz leaves after retiring isn’t an easy task. But Hanley Ramirez proved he can come through in clutch situations like Big Papi did. Then there’s Andrew Benintendi who’s proven he’s the real deal. Despite his limited playing time, Benintendi didn’t let many down with his hitting. If he can keep that momentum going into the 2017 season he’ll run away with the Rookie of the Year award. There’s also Pablo Sandoval who literally worked his butt off to get in shape. Boston did not have a solid 3rd baseman last season and having Panda back is an added bonus, despite what others might think.

All in all, the Red Sox are shaping up to have a solid season. Between its pitchers, young hitters, and experienced players who’ve been around for a while, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see the Red Sox bring a second championship to Boston this year.

Red Sox Land Chris Sale in Blockbuster Deal

And then the stove got hotter.

The Red Sox pulled off a nice deal Tuesday morning. They shook the baseball world Tuesday afternoon. In the morning, they acquired a hard-throwing set-up man in Tyler Thornburg, parting ways with Travis Shaw. Then, the rumors Red Sox fans have heard forChris Sale over a year now have come to fruition and Chris Sale is a Boston Red Sock. The best part of the deal is: they didn’t break the bank.

Don’t get it twisted: Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. That is an indisputable fact. Since 2012, Sale leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, complete games, shutouts, and OPS against. In his sevens seasons, he has made the All-Star team six times and he led the league in ERA and strikeouts in 2015 and complete games in 2016. He has also never been outside the top six in Cy Young voting the last five seasons. Sale led the league in strikeouts per nine innings twice in his career and is the active leader among all AL pitchers.

Dave Dombrowski has now made his starting rotation nearly obsolete. They now have two of the top pitchers in the American League this decade in Sale and David Price along with the AL Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. They also have Eduardo Rodriguez, who was lethal after coming off the DL and Drew Pomeranz, their best pitcher in the postseason. That being said, Pomeranz is clearly the weakest link in the rotation and that’s a good position to be in. If Steven Wright is as healthy as the management says he is, he could even return to All-Star form.

Chicago’s Side of the Sale Deal

On the other side of the deal, the Red Sox did also give up two of their top five prospects. They parted ways with the Minor League Player of the Year in Yoan Moncada and their top pitching prospect, Michael Kopech. Moncada has every chance to be an All-Star and Kopech has hit triple digits on the radar gun. Moncada still has some work to do as we saw at the end of the season, but he should be a good player. Kopech didn’t get above Single-A last year and injured himself punching a teammate. The other two prospects were Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz. In the end, you got a perennial Cy Young candidate without touching your Major League roster. That is a deal any GM would be dumb to turn down.

The Red Sox have attacked this season the right way. They have gone for the arms. They added a top-of-the-line starter and a dynamite set-up man in front of Craig Kimbrel. Also, Red Sox fans should know one more Chris Sale stat before they question this trade again. Against the Yankees, Sale has a 1.17 ERA, the lowest in the live ball era (1920) against the Bronx Bombers in a minimum of 50 innings. Finally, it’s very team friendly. Boston will have him under control for three years with an average of just over 12 million a year. In comparison, Rick Porcello gets about 21 million and David Price gets about 34 million. The Red Sox were a contender already. With Sale added to their rotation, they are a favorite…if they have discarded their throwback uniforms of course.

Indians Closely Studied Red Sox Pitching

Like many Boston fans, I thought the Red Sox would steam roll over the Indians in Cleveland before coming back Boston to clinch the ALDS. Rick Porcello and David Price gave us little reason to think otherwise. Unfortunately, that plan fell through. Porcello gave up three home runs in the third inning of Game One for a 5-4 Tribe win. After allowing the Indians to blank the Sox 6-0, Price reinforced the “Can’t pitch in the postseason” stereotype in Game 2. Its clear the Indians studied Red Sox pitching very closely before the ALDS began.

Some people are surprised the Red Sox lost the first two games. I am too, but not for theStudied Red Sox Pitching same reasons. David Price doesn’t have a great post season record. He has a 2-8 record with a 5.54 ERA in the post season. Rick Porcello is 0-3 with a 5.66 ERA in post season play. So it’s no wonder they struggled, especially with a combined 2-11 post season record. That leaves few other options in the rotation though. Steven Wright isn’t available for the ALDS, but he is for the ALCS. Clay Buchholz has a 0-0 record with a 4.21 ERA in post season play. So how did the Indians learn so much about the Red Sox pitching staff? That’s easy. Terry Francona.

Francona managed the Red Sox from 2004 to 201, leading them to two World Series Championships. He managed David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Clay Buchholz. He knows their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it’s that knowledge that might very well guide the Cleveland Indians to victory. This situation is just one more reason why the Red Sox shouldn’t have let him go in 2011.

Indians Studied Red Sox Pitching, But That’s Not All They Studied

In addition to the pitching, many thought the entire team wasn’t ready for post season play. The team is enthusiastic but young. The stress and excitement is straining them. Some of they players couldn’t even legally drink a year ago. So of course they’re going to have a hard time in the playoffs. That’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.

Like the Chicago Cubs of last year, Red Sox are seeing a glimpse of that potential that makes them a fun team to watch. Also like the Cubs of last year, the Red Sox are struggling in the post season. If the Red Sox manage to beat back the Tribe this year and advance to the ALCS, then all the more power to them. I’ll be in the stands cheering my head off with everyone else. Regardless of this season, I honestly think that next year’s Red Sox team will play much better next year given all they’ve learned this year. They’ll have more experience, their pitchers will pitch better, and their hitters will know how to hit opposing pitchers better.

So even though the Indians studied Red Sox pitching well enough to gain an advantage over them this season, they’ll end this season with new knowledge that will make them a better team next year.

Red Sox On The Brink Of Elimination

With all the optimism September brought for the Red Sox, October is sweeping it away. Winless this month, the Red Sox are facing a harsh reality: elimination. Cleveland quickly became the setting of Red Sox Nation’s nightmares with the debacles of games one and two. After two utter disappointments, the season will hang in the balance of game three on Monday at Fenway.

Game one was seen as crucial in that the Red Sox would need to win to feel Eliminationcomfortable. With Rick Porcello going against Trevor Bauer, it seemed like a sure win for Boston. Porcello, however, dug his own grave in the third inning, giving up three home runs. Even though the Red Sox had the lead twice before that, they were never able to recover. They cut it down to one twice and stranded the tying run at third in the eighth. A gutsy five-out save by Cody Allen closed out a 5-4 Indians victory.

Down 1-0 in the series, David Price got the ball to try and tie the series. This seemed like the perfect setting for Price to “earn” his contract money after an under-performing regular season. Once again, Price couldn’t resist the urge to let us down. Adding to his atrocious postseason resumé, Price gave up five runs on six hits in three and one/third innings. If this were his last start of the season, it would only be fitting. A four-run second inning capped by a three-run home run by Lonnie Chisenhall finished off the Red Sox in game two. An injured Corey Kluber stuffed my foot in my own mouth and shut the Sox out in seven innings en route to a 6-0 victory.

The Smell Of Elimination In The Air

So now the stage is set for the Red Sox. Game three at Fenway with Clay Buchholz on the mound. Dustin Pedroia talked post game about how this performance does not embody the team. Well, it’s time to put up or shut up. Pedroia is just 1-8 this series. Also, David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts are a combined 3-28 in the first two games. It’s a bit scary to think the only bright spots, offensively, in both games have been Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi.

A rah-rah kind of speech rarely works in baseball, but if Dustin Pedroia lit a fire under his team, they’ll certainly need it. They sleep-walked in Cleveland and it’s yet to be determined whether they’ll wake up before they walk right off the cliff. History may be on their side, the Red Sox are the only franchise to ever come back from this same deficit in the ALDS twice. The first time they did that was in 1999, coincidentally against Cleveland.

After game two, it really can’t get much worse. Monday should be a slugfest. The Red Sox should get their act together and Buchholz is pitching in Fenway, so the balls should fly. That should favor the league’s best offense, but who knows with this team anymore? Let’s just hope the Red Sox save us the embarrassment of avoiding a sweep. On the bright side, if they lose this series it’ll surely be the end of John Farrell’s tenure. That is, if they have any pride at all. It’s the little things.

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.