Eduardo Rodriguez Should Be Starting Over Nathan Eovaldi

By clinching the division so early, afforded the Red Sox some luxuries most teams can’t afford. Players can receive some well deserved time off to rest up for October, auditions can be held for postseason roster spots, and some players can be shuffled around to see if they take well to another role.

Alex Cora took advantage of this and rested several key players like Andrew Benintendi. Brandon Workman was given the chance to pitch his way onto the postseason roster and did so. Steven Wright was thrown in the bullpen and has thrived. Towards the end of the season, however, Eduardo Rodriguez came out of the bullpen and seems sentenced to relief duty this postseason. The fourth spot in the rotation might not even be featured in the division series, but I believe this is a huge mistake.

With Wright’s role cemented in the bullpen, Rodriguez’s rotation spot goes to Nathan Eovaldi. Aside from his two-start stretch when the Sox first acquired him, he hasn’t done anything to show that he’s a better pitcher than Rodriguez. Both are inconsistent with similar arsenals but unlike Eovaldi, Rodriguez has projection. Rodriguez showed the ability to pitch dominantly across longer stretches of time as recently as July before he suffered the right ankle sprain that knocked him out until September 1st. Eovaldi has flashed the ability to tear through a lineup three times through but has an entire career that says his dominant performances are outliers.

My guess is that Alex Cora views Eovaldi as the safer choice of the two. The problem with that is that Eovaldi has just as much, if not more, downside risk than Rodriguez. For example, Eovaldi’s lack of walks shows up in other ways, namely his propensity to give up hard contact. A perfect example of this was his August 10th start against Baltimore, where he allowed 10 hits and 8 runs in 2.2 innings. Rodriguez is the more visibly high variance pitcher whose performance can vary from inning to inning. He is more likely to fall into trouble with his command, but that gives Cora a chance to minimize damage if Eddy doesn’t have it that night while possessing the upside to throw six or seven quality innings, something Eovaldi doesn’t have a knack for doing.

The high variance option may blow up in his face or throw seven shutout innings. In the postseason where a quick hook will be used, the downside risk is mitigated and the upside is aggravated. If Rodriguez blows up in the first inning, Joe Kelly or Brandon Workman could come in to finish the inning and give way to Wright or Eovaldi to eat innings.

E-Rod’s cumulative numbers since returning haven’t been pretty. Four starts, 18.2 innings, and a 5.79 ERA. But in two of those starts, he wrecked opposing offenses, 5.2 innings and 12 strikeouts in his return against the White Sox. Two starts later against Toronto, he threw 78 pitches through six innings of one-run ball and struck out seven without allowing a walk.

Beyond the upside of starting Rodriguez, there’s significant upside to Eovaldi coming out of the bullpen and throwing 100 MPH fastballs complemented with 97 MPH cutters, an arsenal that should play up in short bursts better than Rodriguez’s.

What I take away from this decision is that Eovaldi has pitched very well against the Yankees three times since coming to Boston and Eduardo’s last start against New York was a clunker. From a supposedly sabermetric minded manager, I would expect better logic and reasoning than mincing apart a small handful of innings when the larger profile suggests you should choose the high variance arm as opposed to the suggested “safe play”. There’s nothing safe about Eovaldi. Starting Rodriguez and putting Eovaldi in the bullpen is a win-win situation that makes the team better in October.

Coming To Grips With Your New Manager

Just one game into the new season, Alex Cora is in hot water.

The Red Sox lost a heartbreaker, losing a very winnable game on the back of Chris Sale, 6-4. Joe Kelly entered the 8th with a 4-0 lead, walked three and gave up a double before giving way to Carson Smith, who walked one and allowed the go-ahead triple to Denard Span.

Cora is under criticism for not deploying Kimbrel in the same manner in which he was used early last season – using Kimbrel as a fireman to record a four-or-five out save – but it’s not that simple. Farrell eventually tapped the brakes the idea and shifted Kimbrel to a more traditional role, hoping to save Kimbrel’s bullets for the postseason. While Kimbrel would have been and, for a time, was an amazingly useful fireman, he couldn’t keep recording four and five out saves for a full season. The project was benched, and things went back to normal.

It was a good idea on paper, but the problem with the experiment was that Kimbrel had too much heaped on his plate for a modern closer.

Managers are only willing to stray so far from normal practice when it comes to their closers. If Kimbrel enters a 4-3 game with two outs in the 8th, who’s going to save the game? It’s gotta be your closer because that’s your closer’s job. No one else could possibly save the game! Put your closer in for too many four-out saves, and he’ll be gassed in the long-term. Then again, using an inferior pitcher in a pivotal moment risks losing the game.

There are two ways to solve this:

1) Acquire a bunch of really good relievers so games are impossible to mismanage (example: the New York Yankees).

2) Change the structure in which Major League bullpens operate. It’d both make for a more entertaining game and make you more likely to win ball games! Alas, it’s hard to see this being implemented anytime soon. Every time a closer-by-committee approach is floated, someone immediately takes the job and runs away with it. Any modernization of the bullpen appears to be headed towards piggy-backing starters relegated to the bullpen due to durability deficiencies or an inability to face a lineup more than twice through the order.

With that being said, the move Cora made is a move every manager (with the possible exception of Gabe Kapler) makes. It is virtually impossible at this point to expect a manager to do otherwise. We can only have this debate so many times before realizing that nothing is going to change and we have to work around it. The only lesson this game should reinforce is that the Sox lost on a chance to go in hard on the reliever market, opting to bet on the false hope of last year’s success. Any replacement you bring in for Cora would’ve made the same move, so have fun making a fool of yourself by his head on a spike after one game.

Game 72 – Bullpen Lays Egg, Red Sox Lose 6-4.

So the Sox blew a 6-4 game against the Royals because Matt Barnes and Robbie Scott combined to throw 11 straight balls to load the bases. Eventually, Scott left a high fastball over the middle of the plate that Salvador Perez deposited over the left field fence for a go-ahead grand slam.

There are several layers to unpack here. John Farrell’s managing in of itself did not lose this game, but Robbie Scott should not have been put in a position to face Salvador Perez with the bases loaded. Scott is a LOOGY through and through. If you wanted a lefty to face Hosmer and Perez, Abad is your choice.

A second option here would be warming up Hembree in conjunction with Scott so he could come in and face Perez after Scott faced Hosmer. Then, the LOOGY would perform his designated duty and would be out so he would not be placed in a situation to fail.

The third option that is being talked by most is putting in Craig Kimbrel. After being used as a modern fireman throughout the year, Kimbrel hasn’t pitched before the 9th since June 6th despite there being several times where he could’ve been used. After that game, where Kimbrel struck out five batters in 1.1 innings, Farrell stated that “there’s a relunctance to continue to [throw Kimbrel for more than an inning].” That night, Kimbrel said that he “would prefer to throw one inning two or three nights in a row,” but backed up his manager’s aggressiveness with his usage by saying “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to help this team win.”

I’m sure, if asked, that Farrell would inform us that there were 0 outs in the 8th inning and that he did not want to throw Kimbrel for two innings. If that’s the case, it is a good thing that there isn’t a rule stating that you have to allow your closer to finish the game once he’s been thrown into a save situation. Kimbrel was needed more in the 8th against Perez than he would have been at the beginning of a 9th inning. I am aware that no manager would do this unless it was the postseason (and even then, they would let their closer finish the game), but it is infuriating when the only lethal weapon in the pen is available in a set of carefully defined situations, especially when he was WILDLY successful in such a role earlier in the year.

Aside from Kimbrel, Scott, and whoever the last man in the pen happens to be at any given time, the talent in this bullpen is clustered closely together. Over 60 innings, Barnes, Hembree, Kelly, and Abad are likely to put up similar ERA’s hovering from league average to slightly below. You could argue that Kelly (and even Barnes) have upside, but on the aggregate, these are comparable pitchers. To get the most out of these men, you have to play match-ups with them and pray the wind is blowing the right way that day. Given your lack of impact options with Carson Smith on rehab and Tyler Thornburg on the shelf, you have to unleash your best weapon when he is most needed and worry about piecing the end of the puzzle together at another time.

Pomerania

The Sox got a big win over the best team in baseball because of an awesome performance from Drew Pomeranz. After a rough go of things against Detroit, the lefty pitched with poise, confidence, and command until the middle of the 6th where his fastball command began to slip.

Pomeranz dominated the first time through the order, facing the minimum and only allowing a cheap infield single to Jose Altuve. He was efficient in addition, wrapping up the third inning having just thrown 40 pitches. Pomeranz was commanding everything well, occasionally missing high on arm-side fastballs that were supposed to stay low and away, but avoided the heart of the plate with all of his pitches. Once his pitch count got around the high 70’s, he couldn’t touch the zone, let alone his arm-side edge. Pomeranz was bailed out in part due to a boneheaded decision to send Springer home, which led to home being thrown out by a mile. Farrell would keep a blown up Pomeranz in long enough to serve up a spicy meatball to Brian McCann.

Pomeranz pitched better than his line indicated. He commanded everything well and avoided making the big mistakes. He threw the cutter sparingly, but when he did it looked good. He was able to use the curve as a get-ahead pitch and a change of pace pitch using its different shapes and putting it in different spots. He tried to get swing and misses a multitude of times, a few times in the beginning of counts, but only recorded one whiff with it all night. The Sox need this Pomeranz to stick around for a while.

1st time thru: 3 IP. 1 H, 2 K’s, 0 BBs, 2 K’s
2nd time thru: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
3rd time thru:  .2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Final Line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K’s, 1 HR; 97 pitches (60 strikes/37 balls)

Since I’m tired and Dave Meltzer is my leading journalistic inspiration, here’s a list of stray thoughts of mine from the game in bullet point form.

Notes

  • Pomeranz used a curveball heavy approach against Jose Altuve.
  • Pitchers continue to pound Mitch Moreland up and in with heat.  Fiers missed over the middle with a fastball in the 3rd and Moreland took it the other way for an RBI single.
  • I’ve noticed that Christian Vazquez lets a lot of really hittable pitches go by early in the count. He’s having a total fluke BABIP fueled year and needs to capitalize on those early mistakes if he has any hope of maintaining offensive relevance.
  • Mike Fiers pitched really well tonight. A lot like Pomeranz, he commanded the edges with the fastball very well and avoided mistakes over the heart of the plate. While he had trouble putting his splitter where he wanted it, he was able to induce plenty of weak contact with it, racking up 13 ground outs. He worked in the low 90’s and continues on his impressive string of pretty good starts.
  • The bullpen continues its stellar streak of performance, but as anyone paying should know, this team cannot rely on Matt Barnes High Leverage Reliever to keep this up for much longer. Same with Joe Kelly and his shiny 1.27 ERA. Kimbrel? Sure, he’s ridiculous. He could put up a sub 1.50, but he needs help, and with Thornburg out for the year and Smith coming off of Tommy John, an extra arm is needed.
  • The comeback play sucks and no one should ever run it.
  • Do you like balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil? If so, you should buy from www.everydaygourmets.com! It’s the best!

The Sox Need To Sell

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of delusion on #RedSoxTwitter regarding the competitive state of today’s team. Well, I’m afraid I’ve got some BAD NEWS. This team, as currently constructed, is not fit to make a run at a wild card. In fact, not many teams would be prepared to claw themselves out from this big a hole.

According to Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds page,  the final standings should look something like this.

Yankees: 87-75
Blue Jays: 84-78
Red Sox: 81-81
Rays: 80-82
Orioles: 78-84

There are 72 games remaining in the season. To win 88 games, the Sox would need to win 46 games. 46 wins with 72 games remaining is a .639 winning percentage.

That’s outperforming an already optimistic projection by 7 games.

Now Clay Buchholz is out indefinitely, meaning the rotation lacks any consistently good arms. E-Rod is on an undetermined innings limit and currently sits at 101 innings. Porcello should be better (and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was fine the rest of the season,) but he isn’t talented enough to carry a rotation even at his best.

The offense is littered with over performers such as Brock Holt and Alejandro De Aza, but should be balanced off by better performances by Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz. All in all, I feel it’s a wash with some potential upside. Either way, it’s not enough to carry the terrible pitching staff.

Competing this year was a fun idea, but it’s time to let it go and get ready for 2016 and beyond. This team sucks.

Who Closes After Koji?

It’s the year 2014. We know that a good closer isn’t integral to a team’s success. That being said, having the closest to a sure thing in the back of the bullpen is an incredibly useful asset (an asset that contributed 3.6 WAR according to Baseball-Reference in 2013.)

Koji Uehara’s two year deal ends after 2014. When the 2015 season opens, he’ll be closing in on his 40th birthday. There have only been four pitchers since the DH era to save over 20 games at age 40 or older; Dennis Eckersley, Doug Jones, Trevor Hoffman, and Mariano Rivera. A one year deal for Uehara could possibly work out, but is the risk necessary? With the recent injury to Uehara, I wanted to take a look at the Sox’s internal options.

Edward Mujica
The former Cardinals closer was brought in to be the latter part of the bridge to Uehara with Junichi Tazawa in a deal that was widely appraised, and with good reason. Mujica’s K/BB ratio was the second best in baseball, only behind Uehara. He doesn’t strikeout a lot of guys, but his groundball tendencies make up for it. Mujica should remain an effective pitcher, although the 2 MPH decline on his fastball is troublesome.

Junichi Tazawa
It’s only when you look at Tazawa’s stats that you realize how comparable he is with Uehara. Tazawa isn’t on Uehara’s level by any means, but since 2011 he is third among relievers in K/BB ratio, 4th in BB%, within 3.3% of Uehara’s GB%. While Uehara relies on spotting his high 80’s fastball on the corners, Tazawa will consistently pump mid 90’s fastballs in the zone in an attempt to blow hitters away. With two strikes, Uehara will often go to his splitter while Tazawa prefers to stick with his fastball, but if he feels comfortable ahead in the count, he becomes more likely to attack with his splitter. Tazawa would be my personal choice to take over as closer in 2015. He’s a click away from becoming a top notch relief option, in my opinion.

Rubby De La Rosa
The long-time prospect has been brought up as a starter since he signed with the Dodgers in 2007, but he has always projected toward a bullpen role. De La Rosa kept his trademark velocity after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, making his future role in the bullpen a near certainty.

Allen Webster
It pains me to say this, but Allen Webster might not work out as a starter. While this has been a popular opinion in the scouting world since he was traded to the Red Sox, I irrationally refuse to accept that his future is in the bullpen. However, with a plus plus fastball and the potential for a swing and miss secondary pitch, he could dominate in the bullpen.

Taking Ben Cherington’s previous history of acquiring closers into account, none of the aforementioned pitchers could take over the closer role in 2015. I hope Cherington has learned from his recent mistakes and turns to an in house option for the closer role.

Series Recap: Brewers Complete Sweep at Fenway

After Sunday’s contest at Fenway park, I knew that writing a well-reasoned recap for the series as a whole would be difficult. After all, getting swept at home against a team that’s projected to be under .500 this year in the first week of the season does not inspire much confidence, and invites the Dan Shaughnessys of the world to slam the panic button until the damn things breaks. Instead, I’ll quickly talk about the ugly, the bad, and the good, to end things on a positive note.

The Ugly

Sunday’s Strikezone

I could talk about the strikezone, but pictures certainly do it more justice, so I’ll leave it at that.
Here’s Sunday’s strikezone maps courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:


Yeah, it was all over the place. Moving right along..

Daniel Nava

I would have put this in the “bad” column, but Nava was making a lot of solid contact on Sunday. After doing a lot of flying out the first two games, Nava hit line drives all over the field on Sunday. Unfortunately, the first two he hit found their way into the gloves of Mark Reynolds and Yovani Gallardo. Nava was finally rewarded in his 3rd at bat with a line drive double down the first base line, but was stranded at second to end the inning. He also has yet to draw a walk, but it’s still early and I’m confident in Nava’s ability to see pitches. After the series, Nava’s BABIP stands at .111, so I’m also confident that we’ll see some of those sharp line drives start falling for hits in the near future, though I doubt Farrell will keep him so high up in the lineup.

Corner Outfielder Defense

This weekend saw some pretty ugly play from both Nava and Jonny Gomes, manning the corner outfield positions. While Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. held their own in center field all weekend, Gomes and Nava confirmed a lot of concerns about how the outfield defense might hold up without Victorino in right field. Nava’s error in Sunday’s game served as a perfect example of this, as did Mike Carp’s misplays on multiple wall balls which only added to the meltdown that was Clay Buchholz’ outing (more on that below). Hopefully with Victorino off the DL in a week this problem will resolve itself, but until then we may just be getting more of the same from the combination of Gomes, Carp, and Nava.

Injuries

The weekend saw Mike Carp dealing with some issues, Will Middlebrooks was placed on the DL, and David Ortiz appeared to limp after his final at bat of Sunday’s outing. None of this bodes well, but it is certainly not the end of the world. Middlebrooks will do his time on the 15 day DL and be back in 2+ weeks, and Mike Carp’s issues can likely be attributed to the cold weather. Ortiz might be the most troubling, but as of now there hasn’t been much word on an injury, if any.

The Bad

Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz did not look good Saturday night. Quite the opposite of good in fact, as the Brewers tagged him for more hits than he’s ever given up in a start with 13 for 6 earned runs. Most concerning was his fastball velocity, sitting around 89-90 mph all night long. At his best last season, Buchholz’ fastball would sit around 93-94 mph, and when mixed in with his nasty breaking stuff made him one of the most effective pitchers in baseball. Saturday, however, the Brewers capitalized on the lost velocity and hit just about every pitch left up in the zone. While some of this can be attributed to BABIP luck for the Brewers, they were making a lot of solid contact that cannot be ignored. I’m optimistic that Buchholz will settle down for his next start after shaking off the rust Saturday though, provided some of that fastball velocity comes back and he can locate his pitches as well as he did in 2013.

AJ Pierzynski

Pierzynski was one of the more questionable signings of the offseason, but possesses the upside of being a clubhouse guy with decent enough defensive skills and a slightly above average bat. So far this season though, he has grounded into more double plays than he has actual hits. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal wrote an interesting article about how Pierzynski rarely sees pitches or walks because of how often he makes contact, but until I see that contact generate actual results, I’m skeptical. If Pierzynski keeps up his current pace for a few more weeks, we’ll probably see the Sox call up Christian Vasquez from AAA.

The Good

Xander Bogaerts

Some worried that Bogaerts might be slow out of the gate this season, but thus far he’s been anything but slow, with a first week slash line of .412/.524/.529. He’s been an extremely productive member of the lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved into the 1, 2, or 3 slots for the upcoming series against the Rangers. Time will tell if this pace can continue, and while it probably won’t, it’s an encouraging sign of things to come from the young shortstop.

The Bullpen on Saturday

Even though it eventually gave up the win, the bullpen was excellent on Saturday. Chris Capuano, Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara combined for 5.2 IP, 0 R, 13K, 1BB. When Buchholz was not up to the task, the bullpen delivered. This was probably the most encouraging thing to happen all weekend until Jon Lester’s outing on Sunday.

Jon Lester

He may have received the John Lackey treatment in the third game of the series by receiving no run support, but Lester still tossed 7.1+ innings of 3 run ball. Along with his first start of the season against the Orioles, Lester has thrown 14.1 innings for 5 earned runs, which is about as good as you can hope from one of your best starters. The most encouraging part of this is that we may be seeing Lester at his most consistent. Coming off of his worst starts in 2013 (June), Lester has frequently been good for 7 innings of 2-3 run ball, which only adds to the case for extending him.

 

It’s hard finding positives in a weekend like this one, but there were definitely positives to be found. Plenty of baseball left to play this year, and the Sox will look to turn it around against the Rangers on Monday with John Lackey on the hill.

 

Series Grades: Baltimore

The Red Sox wrapped up a very solid opening series against Baltimore with a 4-3 win on Thursday night. Both the starters and the bullpen already looked locked in, and most of the lineup looks the same way. Great way to start the year.

OVERALL GRADE: A

Hitters Overall: B

Designated Hitter: B+

All he needs to do is hit, and that’s essentially what Papi did against the Orioles. Ortiz had a rough go of things in the first game of the series, but he came through with a big home run in the middle game and recorded 3 singles in the finale.

Catcher: C

A.J. Pierzynski had a serviceable debut to his career in Boston,  but it would be nice if he could improve upon his 2/8 start to the season. If Pierzynski can have similar numbers to what he posted last year he will end up being another positive free-agent pickup. David Ross had a solid game 3 as he reached base twice, but he was also not able to stay in front of a Brandon Workman pitch that cost the Sox a run in the 6th.

First Base: A-

Mike Napoli had a solid series against the Orioles; most importantly he provided 4 big RBI in the second game of the series. Napoli picked up right where he left off last season — hitting for extra bases and striking out.  He did make an error in the 9th inning of game 2 that made Koji’s save a bit more difficult than it should have been, but the Sox had a 4 run lead at the time of the error so we’ll let him off the hook.

Second Base: A

Dustin Pedroia played all three games of the series, and he came out of the gate swinging a red-hot bat. Pedroia had 2 hits in the first game and 4 base hits in game 2 (to go along with a sweet diving stop), and in the third game he had a 1-out double in the 9th but was left stranded by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. Overall, the Sox will always take a 7-hit series from their franchise player, so keep up the good work Pedey.

Shortstop : A-

Xander Bogaerts had a fantastic start to his year. The Rookie Shortstop sensation reached base 8 times in the series and provided a great boost to the lower part of the lineup. His bat will likely see him moving up in the lineup in the near future.

Third Base: C

Will Middlebrooks struggled with the bat in the first two games of the series, but he picked up his first two hits (one of which was a double) in game 3. Middlebrooks is a player who’s spot in the lineup in relatively safe for the time being, but he needs to keep having positive at bats like he did in the third game if the Red Sox lineup is going to be as potent as it was last year. His glove looked a bit iffy at times in the series as well, but he played relatively solid overall.

Center Field: B

Grady Sizemore started the first two games of the series in center and it was great to see him back in the big leagues. In the first game he went 2/4 and produced the Sox only run, but he failed to reach base in the second game. As we noted after Opening Day, if he could keep up a consistent bat and remain healthy it will very much help make up for the loss of Jacoby. Jackie Bradley Jr. started the third game and managed two hits (one of which produced a run). Hopefully he can hit better than last season, and if he can he will pick up some much needed playing time over the course of the year.

Left Field/Right Field: B-

These spots were manned by a platoon of Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp and Jackie Bradley Jr. The platoon at these positions (mostly in left field, as Shane Victorino played right field most of the year) was a key aspect of the deadly offensive attack from last year, so it would be nice if Farrell could again maximize the output from these positions by using a rotation of the players listed above. They had a solid series, and they’ll have their ups and downs throughout the year, but mostly it was just very fun to see Gomes hitting leadoff in the last game.

Pitchers Overall: A

Jon Lester: A 

Lester was masterful in his 7 innings on Opening Day. The Sox ace threw 104 pitches, and the only 2 runs he gave up were off of a double play ball by Delmon Young in the 2nd and a long ball by Nelson Cruz in the 7th.  Lester fanned 8 Orioles batters, and he did a great job of mixing pitches — PITCHf/x says he through 5 different pitches today. He got into some trouble in the early innings, but was able to work out of it well. Overall, the Sox couldn’t have asked for any more from Jon in his first start of the regular season.

John LackeyA-

Lackey pitched an extremely solid 6 innings in the second game of the series, and he picked up the Red Sox’ first win of the year. The Orioles’ only runs again came off the bat of Nelson Cruz (a 2-run shot in the 4th), and Lackey only allowed 2 other baserunners during the rest of his time on the mound. Just like Lester, Lackey could not have pitched any better — aside the fact that his pitch count was a bit high by the 6th inning.

Felix Doubront: B

Doubront had a solid outing in the last game of the series. He ran into a bit of trouble in the 4th inning, but managed to stop the bleeding after only giving up 2 runs. If the Sox starters can manage to hold the opposition to 2 runs per game every time out this year, it’s going to be a very fun 2014. That wont happen, but it was still very fun to watch the first three starters go this week.

Bullpen: A

The boys in the ‘pen only gave up 1 run in three games. ‘Nuff said.

 

Howdy Ho Everybody! Baseball is Back!

We’re back!

Well, technically we made our return two days ago when Mr. Childs kindly posted the Red Sox opening day roster, and I guess we never really left. But, it’s been far too long since we we’ve consistently posted content, and we’ll try to change that.

Anyway, after yesterday the Sox only have 161 games left on the schedule and the playoff race is already heating up. The boys from Beantown fell 2-1 to the Orioles on Opening Day, but it was still a pleasure to watch baseball once again. Below are some brief thoughts after watching the first game back in action:

Hitting

Boston had a rough go of things yesterday in terms of producing runs. In fact, the only time they were able to score was off a Grady Sizemore round-tripper. However, the absence of runs was not due to a lack of hitting; the Red Sox managed 9 hits, including 2 doubles and Sizemore’s HR, and 3 BBs. Because they had men on base all day Boston came close to scoring on many ocassions, and they also nearly added runs off long flyouts from David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts. Both flyouts might very well have been dingers on a day when the wind wasn’t blowing in from Left Field. Nevertheless, the Red Sox obviously need to do a better job pushing runs across the plate if they are going to compete for the AL East Division crown once again. In the end, there were too many missed opportunities to feel good about the day at the dish.

Looking back on the game, the most enjoyable part was seeing Grady Sizemore go 2-4 including his home run. Sizemore made his first appearance since September 23, 2011, and he showed that he could provide a spark to the already dangerous lineup if he remains healthy for the year. That is a big if, but it would be a welcome surprise if he could replace a healthy chunk of Jacoby Ellsbury’s production. The health issues will be a concern for John Farrell and the Boston front office, so it would be very surprising if Grady is their every-day center fielder for the entire season. It is likely that he will share time with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Shane Victorino as the season wears on. But here’s hoping that he can play in enough games to have a significant impact on the Sox’ season.

Pitching (Jon Lester)

Jon Lester pitched about as well as anybody could have hoped for yesterday, and it’s simply a matter of bad luck that he had to walk away from the game with a loss. Lester left the game after 7 innings pitched and 104 pitches (73 strikes), wracking up 8 Ks along the way and only giving up 6 hits and 1 walk. This is the type of day that Lester needed to have coming out of the gate, and if he continues to pitch this well for the entire season (something he is capable of doing, as evidenced by the majority of his career) it will prove to be a great help to the Red Sox as they look to compete with Tampa Bay and New York.

Moving Forward

The Red Sox next play tomorrow at 7:05 PM ET, and they will have John Lackey going against recently-acquired Baltimore right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Lackey will be looking to start right where he left off in 2013, and he is one of many players on the Sox roster that will need to reproduce what he did in 2013 if Boston is going to contend again. Although last year might have been a surprising year for Lackey considering how poorly he pitched in 2010 and 2011, he proved that he could pitch well above replacement level for an entire season in 2013. Lackey also played an important role as a member of the postseason rotation, posting a 2.77 ERA in 5 games (4 starts). Hopefully he can start just like Lester did yesterday, and maybe tomorrow the Sox bats will also come alive like they did for all of 2013.

 

Red Sox Opening Day Roster Set; Breslow begins season on DL

The Red Sox announced their final roster today, with the only unexpected member on the roster being Brandon Workman, who was originally slated to be in the AAA rotation. Due to an injury to Craig Breslow that will start him on the 15 Day DL, Workman will be throwing out of the bullpen.

Catchers
A.J. Pierzynski
David Ross

Infielders
Will Middlebrooks
Xander Bogaerts
Dustin Pedroia
Mike Napoli
Jonathan Herrera

Outfielders
Daniel Nava
Grady Sizemore
Shane Victorino
Jonny Gomes
Mike Carp
Designated Hitter
David Ortiz

Rotation
Jon Lester
Clay Buchholz
John Lackey
Jake Peavy
Felix Doubront

Bullpen
Brandon Workman
Chris Capuano
Burke Badenbop
Andrew Miller
Junichi Tazawa
Edward Mujica
Koji Uehara

Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Jackie Bradley Jr. were all optioned to AAA Pawtucket. With the possibility of Shane Victorino hitting the DL, more changes could be coming. If Victorino is shelved for the first two weeks of the season, expect Bradley Jr. to be called up.