Eduardo Rodriguez is Finally Back

Starting pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez will finally make his long awaited return to the major league club tonight against his former organization, the Baltimore Orioles. Rodriguez had been injured with a knee injury and following a setback, Rodriguez ended up making five starts at Pawtucket.

Rodriguez pitched very strong in his last start at Pawtucket, throwing seven innings of oneEduardo Rodriguez run ball and striking out seven. Following this start, Rodriguez’s had a 3.54 ERA in 28 innings pitched at Pawtucket, only striking out 17 in those innings. The lack of strikeouts can be seen as a concern as Rodriguez has been seen as a guy with strong strikeout potential but has yet to flash that at the big league level. Although, with Buchholz having struggled greatly in the rotation and coming off a shaky start, the timing was perfect for Rodriguez to replace him in the starting rotation.

Last season Rodriguez was the ace of the Sox staff. To go along with his 3.85 ERA, his command at a young age was very impressive. Rodriguez does not seem to get phased by tough situations in a game. He walked just 37 batters in 121.2 innings pitched. As he approaches his second year at the major league level, expect Rodriguez to improve on these numbers.

Rodriguez will eventually become a strong strikeout pitcher and president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, believes Rodriguez can be an ace at the major league level. Rodriguez’s strong three pitch make-up featuring his fastball, slider and changeup give him three impressive pitches to bring at major league hitters. To improve upon his second season, new ace and veteran pitcher, David Price, can be of great help to propelling Rodriguez to that next level. One pitch that Price features and Rodriguez doesn’t is the cut fastball. If Rodriguez can learn this pitch from Price and begin to add it to his repertoire, he could become a very lethal starting pitcher.

Tonight is an exciting night for Sox fans and Rodriguez in general. With Buchholz to the bullpen and Rodriguez back, the Sox have a more reliable option on the mound even if he doesn’t improve but stays on track with last year’s numbers.

How Many Home Runs Will Hanley Ramirez Hit?

Hanley Ramirez

On Wednesday night, Hanley Ramirez received a flat, 78-mph knuckleball from R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, and, with one trademark, helmet-dislodging swing, launched a long home run over the Green Monster in left field. It was the 10th homer of the season for Ramirez, tying him with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the Major League lead, and equaling David Ortiz’s 2006 record for most round-trippers by a Red Sock before May 1st.

Naturally, when a player achieves something only done once before in franchise history, Hanley Ramirezpeople begin to take notice. In the case of Ramirez, fans instantly began to wonder about the sustainability of his incredible pace, with many attempting to project just how many home runs he could possibly hit this season.

On a purely mathematical level, Hanley is currently on pace to hit 77 home runs, through a full 162-game slate. This, of course, would break the all-time single season record of 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001. Obviously, that just isn’t going to happen. Eventually, pitchers will adjust to Ramirez, who, undoubtedly, will experience slumps throughout the season, as is the failure-based nature of baseball.

Moreover, Hanley has typically struggled to remain healthy for a full season and, in recent years, the left fielder has required occasional days off to rest his ageing body. For instance, in the past four full seasons, Ramirez has played 115 games on average, due to injury and subsequently cautious management of his playing time.

Interestingly, at his current pace, Hanley would hit 54 home runs through 115 games played, which, of course, would equal the Red Sox single-season record, set by Ortiz in 2006. However, such a figure seems unlikely in the long run of a Major League season. Ramirez can be a very streaky hitter, and his aggressive approach may lead to more strikeouts once pitchers begin to catch up in mid-season.

But, in the spirit of fair argument, it is important to point out that, through April, Hanley showed a large increase in line-drive percentage (33%) compared with his career average (21%), and currently has a batting average right around .300 despite a BABIP in the low .230s. This suggests that, in the early going, Ramirez has been a flat-out better hitter than what he was in recent seasons; perhaps better in April 2015 than he has been at any point throughout his career.

Hanley Ramirez

Furthermore, 30.3% of Hanley’s fly balls this season have resulted in home runs, which, considering the league average of 9.5%, is quite astonishing, and indicates his fresh determination to take advantage of the famous left field wall at Fenway, which can convert even the laziest of flies into a homer. Whilst, overall, Ramirez has hit better on the road this year, his swing has seemingly been transformed due to the temptation of the Green Monster, with 80% of his home runs so far going to left field, compared with 53% last season, which he spent with the Dodgers.

Therefore, where pitchers adjusting and Hanley slumping may detract from his ultimate home run total in 2015, a new pull approach and the friendly confines of Fenway may make up the difference. Thus, while Bonds’ record won’t come under threat, and Ortiz’s franchise mark should remain intact, Hanley Ramirez, health-permitting, may well hit between 45 and 50 home runs this year, which would be one of the top five home run-hitting seasons in Red Sox history.

What is Wrong With the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

OK, I will go ahead and say what every baseball fan is thinking: what the hell has happened to the Boston Red Sox?! What happened to the team that went 97-65 last year and won the World Series? This team isn’t even remotely close to the team we saw raise the World Series trophy last October.

The low point of the 2014 season happened on Thursday when the Red Sox were routed by the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park 7-2. The loss was Boston’s seventh in a row.

The Red Sox went winless on their home stand for the first time in 20 years. Boston has a multitude of issues right now, the first of which is their lack of offense.

Last season, the Red Sox had one of the best offenses in baseball as they were second in the AL in batting average and fifth in homeruns. This season, Boston is 22nd in the majors in hitting as the team is averaging .245. They are also 19th in runs scored.

David Ortiz, who is having another All-Star like season, doesn’t have any protection in the lineup. The Red Sox also don’t have a true lead-off hitter who can take walks and steal bases batting in front of Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz.

First baseman Mike Napoli has missed the last two games with flu-like symptoms, so that hasn’t helped. While he hasn’t had a homerun since April 22, Napoli still provides enough of a threat that teams have to be careful about walking Ortiz.

The signing of shortstop Stephen Drew will help the Red Sox offense a bit since he was .284 with nine home runs against right-handed pitchers last season. However, the team still needs players like Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. to improve on their batting average and production.

The biggest and probably the most shocking issue for the Red Sox right now is the way their starting pitching has performed in 2014.  Clay Buchholz has been plain awful as he has a 2-4 record and a 6.32 ERA. His ERA is the second-highest among all major league pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings.

Only Minnesota’s Kevin Correia (6.52) has a worse ERA than Buchholz, who has given up 14 runs on 29 hits in his last 15 innings. Buchholz isn’t the only pitcher struggling for the Red Sox right now.

Felix Doubront has been inconsistent as he has a 2-4 record with a 5.12 ERA. Jake Peavy has already given up nine home runs in nine games the season.

Jon Lester, Thursday’s game aside, has been the Red Sox best pitcher, and John Lackey has been steady throughout the season. The problem is the Red Sox need more consistency in the three, four and five spots in the rotation.

There aren’t any immediate plans to bring up Brandon Workman and/or Allen Webster from Triple-A, but if the bottom of the rotation continues to struggle, the team may have to think about bringing one or both of them up.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski has also been labeled as a problem for the Red Sox and for good reason. He has been behind the plate for four of Jon Lester’s starts, including yesterday when the pitcher allowed seven runs in the first two innings. Lester is 0-4 with a 5.76 ERA while working with Pierzynski this season. When backup catcher David Ross is behind the plate, Lester is 4-2 with a 1.92 ERA.

On May 23, 2013, the Red Sox were 28-20. This year, they are 20-26 and in fourth place in the AL East. Only Houston and Tampa Bay have more losses than Boston.

So while it is only May, the Red Sox really need to start to turn it around now. With the Braves, Tigers and Orioles all on the schedule in the next couple of weeks, the team really can’t afford to get in a deeper hole than they are already in.

Red Sox need to offset Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

Red Sox fans are going to love Jonny Gomes; there’s absolutely no question about that.

He says all the right things, has a passion for the game, hits home runs, and never takes off his jersey at the end of the game unless it has dirt on it. He’s your stereotypical Boston fan favorite. However, there’s a flaw in Gomes’ game in that he can’t hit right-handed pitching, which is, you know, kind of important in this league.

For his career, Gomes is a .223/.307/.425 hitter against righties, with a .284/.382/.512 line against lefties. The numbers, overall, are pretty drastic. But his overall career numbers weren’t as drastic as the splits from last season with the Oakland A’s when Gomes tuned up left-handed pitching to a .299/.413/.461 line, while struggling mightily against right-handed pitching, hitting .209/.324/.391 for the year.

Gomes’ .715 OPS against right-handed pitching ranked 203rd in the MLB among batters with at least 100 plate appearances. However, when facing off against lefties, Gomes’ .974 OPS was 11th of 134 players in the MLB with at least 150 plate appearances.

To put things in perspective, Gomes hit lefties better than American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, runner-up Mike Trout, and let’s even throw Albert Pujols’ name in there for good measure. Gomes was better than all of them. But his batting average against right-handed pitching in 2012 ranked 350 out of 398 players with at least 100 plate appearances, which means that 88% of the entire MLB was better than Gomes against right-handed pitching.

The Red Sox need to find an outfielder who can hit right-handed pitching, because the numbers speak for themselves. When there’s a lefty on the mound, Gomes is your man. But for the majority of the time when there isn’t, the Red Sox need to have an alternative option on the bench to hit right-handed pitching.