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.

Does Drew Pomeranz Have Anything Left In The Tank?

Drew Pomeranz had another short rough night Sunday. Pomeranz threw 64 pitches in just 3 2/3 innings in a 5-4 Red Sox comeback win. In his outing, he gave up seven hits and four runs, including another homer by Gary Sanchez for a fortunate no-decision. Sunday marked the second consecutive outing in which Pomeranz failed to go four innings.

Going into this year, Pomeranz’s career high for innings pitched was just 96.2. His 2016 Pomeranzinnings pitched total is already up to 164.1. Granted most of his career has been in the bullpen. Add to that the fact that he was injured when the Red Sox traded for him and John Farrell may have himself a problem. Spare Dave Dombrowski though; he didn’t know A.J. Preller was the biggest scumbag in the baseball business. Preller, the Padres GM, was suspended for 30 days for withholding injury information from the Red Sox.

Considering Pomeranz’s last two starts, it is likely that he is experiencing extreme fatigue. Even from a guy who doesn’t throw hard, Pomeranz still does not have much experience starting; let alone in a stressful pennant race. During the month of September, Pomeranz has really struggled with the command of his off-speed pitches. The lack of command has led to short outings with a low-pitch count, highlighted by home runs hit off his mediocre fastball.

Pomeranz’s Role Going Forward

Obviously, Pomeranz is a big part of this starting rotation. If he is beginning to wilt, what can the Red Sox do with him? In a postseason set-up, I don’t think Pomeranz will be a starter. He should be a long guy out of the bullpen, much like Jon Lester was in 2007 and Felix Doubront in 2013. That could limit Pomeranz’s innings and they could use his off-speed stuff against lefties in high leverage situations. Most beneficially, it will keep Fernando Abad off the mound in the postseason.

Against all odds, this may not be a risky move by the Red Sox. I say that because a month ago I couldn’t believe that Clay Buchholz would be a formidable fourth starter in the playoffs. With Buchholz’s last month, excusing that one start in Toronto last weekend, he has been a pleasant surprise. Also, Stephen Wright’s shoulder injury all but ends his season so don’t expect to see him in any capacity come October.

This brings up a frustrating situation for the Red Sox considering what they gave up. Boston shipped out one of the best prospects, Anderson Espinoza, to San Diego to correct the issues with the starting rotation. Pomeranz has been a disappointment and now he really can’t get any better without rest. The real problem with the Red Sox will be finishing off the regular season with a division title if Pomeranz is this ineffective.

Looking Into September For The Red Sox

New England: brace yourselves. The last few years have brought the ringing of the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends” for Red Sox fans. However, 2016 has proven to have been a much different year than Red Sox fans are (recently) used to. This is what the fan base has yearned for.

After a see-saw month of July and a bit of a sour end to August, Boston is ready for Septembermeaningful September baseball. Luckily for the Red Sox, they will have a serious confidence builder going into the month, ending August with a three-game set against the Rays at Fenway. From this point on, the push for a playoff spot is most certainly on.

The September Schedule

It is one thing to play meaningful baseball, it is quite another to play no meaningless baseball in September. From September 9th to the regular season finale on October 2nd, the Red Sox will only play within the division. Yes, that means the last 23 games of the regular season will be against the AL East. Every game this month is going to be a high-leverage one, leaving virtually no room for error. That is the scenario the Red Sox will surely be in if they get back on track.

The Red Sox and Blue Jays will square off for a three-game series in Boston from September 30th to October 2nd. The way these two teams have been playing, it seems as if the final series of the year will decide a division champion. After last place finishes three of the last four years, this is what Red Sox fans have dreamed of.

To get there, the starting pitching will need to continue to be formidable. Rick Porcello and David Price have been anchors in the rotation this  August. They will need the Eddie Rodriguez we’ve seen most of the second half, not the one we saw Sunday night. Also, the weather should cool down soon, eliminating most of Steven Wright’s excuses. If those guys can pitch well in September, the Red Sox will certainly be a tough team to beat. Also, the bullpen needs to suck just a little bit less. There can be no more of these eight-run innings in a playoff race. If they can avoid being horrendous, the Red Sox should find themselves playing after October 2nd.

So, with that said, it is time to buckle up Red Sox fans. Your team is in for a wild ride in September.

Keeping Perspective On The 2016 Red Sox Season

The Red Sox swept the basement-dwelling Arizona Diamondbacks in a 3-game set over the weekend making it is easy to lose perspective on the 2016 Red Sox season as a whole. They outscored Arizona 31-9 over the span of the series and gave fans hope for October baseball.2016 Red Sox

Even with the series sweep, the Red Sox still have a tough road ahead. And by tough, I mean really tough. Over the next week and a half, the Red Sox will travel to four different cities with no off-days. Of those four teams, three of them are within a game and a half of a playoff spot. For all intents and purposes, they’re in the “playoff picture”.

The 2016 Red Sox Going Forward

The trip starts Monday with one game in Cleveland, a make-up from the opening series of the year. Drew Pomeranz starts against the Tribe, who is still winless in a Red Sox uniform. This road trip will also be without Steven Wright, who went on the 15-day DL Monday. Wright has gone 13-5 this year and is tied for the league lead in complete games with four. Not being able to roll out Wright for an assured eight innings may prove costly on such a long road trip.

After Cleveland, it will be two games in Baltimore then four in Detroit. Both of these teams are hot in the race and the Orioles are still ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. This next week can certainly widen a Red Sox lead in the Wild Card and could even make a push for the division lead. The Orioles are an AL-best 39-17 in their confines of Camden Yards however, making the task that much more difficult.

The bullpen could still be an issue for this team, though. With the exception of the tremendous inning by Brad Ziegler Saturday night, the last week has been nightmarish for the pen. The Red Sox will need better work from Robbie Ross, Fernando Abad, and Junichi Tazawa to make a serious playoff push.

That being said, the sweep means the Red Sox are far from out of it. If they can come out on the plus side of this road trip, they will have a new lease on life. After the summer they have had, Red Sox fans should count their blessings. Basically, this road trip will show what the 2016 Red Sox are really made of.

Ortiz Leads Red Sox All-Star Team

As David Ortiz leads Red Sox All-Stars to San Diego next week, Red Sox Nation will cheer for an AL victory. Six Red Sox players have been chosen for the 2016 American League All-Star team at Petco Park in San Diego. This will be the first All-Star game for all but two of the chosen Red Sox players. Here are your 2016 Red Sox All-Stars (Player numbers are current as of July 8th).

David Ortiz will be playing in his tenth, and final, All-Star game this year as he closes in onOrtiz leads Red Sox finishing a historic season. Ortiz is leading the American League with 34 doubles and a .429 on base percentage. He’s also hitting .337 with a .677 slugging percentage. Despite pleas to reconsider, Ortiz insists that he’s retiring—stating that he can no longer tolerate the pain in his feet and ankles. Ortiz should be a shoe-in for induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Craig Kimbrel has struggled in recent weeks, but has accumulated 17 saves this season. This will be his fifth All-Star game.

Kansas City’s manager Ned Yost chose Steven Wright for this year’s All-Star game, his first. However, Wright probably won’t be the starting pitcher. Wright has developed a nasty knuckleball that rotates slower than planet earth, deceiving batter after batter. He’s leading the league in complete games (3) and has a 10-5 record overall.

Mookie Betts finally made the All-Star team for the first time despite a spectacular 2015 season. Betts currently leads the American League in plate appearances (401), at-bats (374), and total bases (197). Betts has only made one error in 179 defensive chances too.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has revived what was once seen as a floundering career. After hitting .189, .198, and .249 over the last three seasons, respectively, Bradley Jr. is hitting .293 with 14 home runs. In 197 defenses, Bradley Jr. has made only one error. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the Gold Glove Award for this season’s defense.

After missing last year’s All-Star game by a narrow margin, Shortstop Xander Bogaerts will finally get his chance to show the rest of the league how good he is. Hitting .332 this season, Bogaerts has emerged as a Red Sox fan favorite. While not known for his power, Bogaerts is a clutch hitter who comes through when needed most.

The 87th All-Star Game will take place on July 12th, 2016 at 7:30 Pacific time. Boston will be smiling down on San Diego as David Ortiz leads Red Sox All-Stars on the field to take on the National League.

Rivalry Resumes This Weekend

After sweeping the Yankees at Fenway Park last weekend, the Red Sox look to break out the brooms again when baseball’s most storied rivalry resumes this weekend at Yankee Stadium.

The divisional foes are heading in opposite directions as they begin their second series of the seasonRivalry Resumes This Weekend. The Sox have surged into first place with their recent hot streak, winning nine of their past 11 to overtake Baltimore at the top of the AL East. The slumping Yankees, meanwhile, are languishing in last place, seven games back of Boston.

Pitching Matchups Favor Sox

Boston looks to keep rolling when the rivalry resumes this weekend behind Rick Porcello, who’s pitching like an ace these days. Porcello is off to a 5-0 start and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 13 2/3 innings, the last seven of which came in Saturday’s 8-0 rout of the Bombers. His opponent, Michael Pineda, will have to be more efficient with his pitches to win their rematch; Pineda needed 106 pitches to get through five innings last time and has yet to go past the sixth this year.

Saturday’s matinee features a frustratingly inconsistent duo in David Price and Nathan Eovaldi, both of whom can be dominant when they’re on but have been terrible when they’re not.  Price, for instance, leads the league in strikeouts and earned runs—a rare combination. Eovaldi has also been up and down, averaging over a strikeout per inning but carrying a 5.46 ERA. Both struggled in their most recent duel, allowing six runs apiece in Sunday’s slugfest. If both bring their best stuff, however, the final score will be 2-1 instead of 8-7.

Sunday’s series finale could go either way, with Steven Wright on the hill for Boston against New York’s Luis Severino. Wright has been a revelation with a 1.67 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in five starts this year, but like all knuckleballers he’s completely unpredictable. The same could be said of Severino, who has a 6.31 ERA this year but posted a 2.89 ERA last year. The last time either appeared in a Yankees-Sox game was last August, when Severino made his major league debut against Wright at The Stadium. Both were fantastic, allowing only one run each as Boston edged New York 2-1, so their rematch certainly has pitching duel potential.

Another Sweep?

Based on pitching matchups and recent results, Boston should be favorites in every game. The Red Sox have their top three starters going this series, while the Yankees will be without their two best (Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia). Both Porcello and Wright have outperformed their respective counterparts by a wide margin this year, while Price is a good bet to bounce back. None of them are expected to face much resistance from a Yankees lineup that ranks last in the AL in runs and just lost Alex Rodriguez to the DL.

Predicting a sweep is always risky given the sheer randomness of baseball, but don’t be surprised if Boston sweeps their arch-nemesis again when the rivalry resumes this weekend.