Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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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.

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.

2013 – A Year in Review

ALCS win
After winning the 2013 ALCS.

The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. That was awesome. As fans, we were graced with the good fortune of a third title in a decade, and some simply magical heroics to get there. The regular season, however, also had some of the most epic moments I can remember as a Red Sox fan. Below, in no particular order, are some of the best moments of the regular season, with accompanying Baseball-Reference links. Hopefully 2014 will provide as many excellent moments, and be just as fun for us, the fans.

David Ortiz is a bad, bad man

With the summer beginning in earnest in early June, the Red Sox were a cool 13 games over .500 and already off to a season that would greatly exceed expectations. On June 6th, the Red Sox squared off with the Rangers in a rubber match to decide the series just two days after the Sox beat the Rangers 17-5. In the bottom of the 9th, with the score tied 3-3 after pretty good outings from Jon Lester and Derek Holland, Jonny Gomes led off with a rocket off the monster for a double. I was at this game, and I remember remarking to the guy I was with that “Jonny Gomes had the ugliest swing in baseball” but somehow, if anyone was going to break this game open, it would be him. After this, Ron Washington made the decision to walk Pedroia to get to David Ortiz. Insulted at the very thought of having the batter ahead of him get intentionally walked, Ortiz launched the first pitch he saw into the Red Sox bullpen.

Ortiz-walkoffrangers

The look of disgust as he drops the bat is really what gets me. David Ortiz is indeed a bad, bad man. Here’s a look from another angle.

Ortiz-walk-offrangers2

Xander Bogaerts hits his first Major League homer.. against the Yankees

The Yankees bit was simply icing on the cake for what was a truly special moment. Working the count to 3-1, Xander took the next pitch deep to left, driving in Jackie Bradley Jr. to give the Red Sox a 12-3 lead, with the Red Sox taking the best of four series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. As a fun bonus, Xander had another RBI in the game on a groundout, which also scored Jackie Bradley Jr.

Lester Outduels Scherzer

In a series that many thought, as this point in the season, would serve as a preview of the ALCS (in retrospect, pretty damn close) the Red Sox squeaked out a close one with Lester pitching 7 innings of one run ball.  Scherzer did not pitch quite as well, tossing 7 innings of two run ball, as he chased win number 20 on the season (which would not come against the Red Sox). A resurgent Will Middlebrooks, returning from a stint in AAA, would seal Scherzer’s fate in the 5th inning with a 2 RBI single, and a trio of Red Sox relievers followed by Koji Uehara shut the door in the 8th and 9th innings. In one of the most pivotal points in the game, the bottom of the 8th, with no outs and the 2012 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera at the plate, the rookie Brandon Workman would force a fly ball to right. This would prove a preview of the ALCS, where three games were decided by a single run.

Koji Uehara Retires 37 Straight

Not all that much to say here, the 2013 ALCS MVP was excellent during the season and postseason, and was yet another successful free agent addition for the 2013 team. It was only fitting that the season would end with this:

An Improbable Walk-Off Against Seattle

On a night when the Red Sox had no answer for Felix Hernandez, who gave up 1 run in 7 innings pitched, the Red Sox scored six runs in the bottom of the 9th inning  to beat the Mariners 8-7. A very weird night, where Henry Blanco hit a grand slam off of a woeful Ryan Dempster, got even stranger when the umpires forced Mariners manager, Robby Thompson, to bring in the lefty Oliver Perez after he first tapped his left arm. Thompson had actually intended to go to a righty, Yoervis Medina, to face Shane Victorino, but was instead stuck with Perez. The bases were loaded at this point, and Victorino singled to right field to make it a 5-7 game. The game would end after more Boston hits, culminating in a Daniel Nava singled to win the game, 8-7.

Jonny Gomes Unassisted Double Play

The night before the 6 run 9th inning, the Red Sox were in the middle of a closer game against the Mariners. After Seattle tied up the game at 4 in the top of the 8th, neither team could score again until the game went into the 15th inning. After two singles to put runners on first and second with only one out, Jonny Gomes made a spectacular double play to send the game into the bottom of the 15th, where the Sox won on a Stephen Drew single to score Pedroia.

Mariano Rivera Blows His Last Save Opportunity Against the Red Sox

Coming into a 7-8 slugfest, Mariano Rivera intended to seal a Yankee win in a best of four series at Yankee Stadium. 2013 would serve to be the Mariano Rivera farewell tour as teams paid tribute to the baseball legend’s final year. The Red Sox would be no different, although in his final game at Fenway in late September he received a bit of a roast rather than the praise given by other teams. He would not pitch in that game, as the Red Sox won 9-2, but he did pitch earlier in September in a one run game at Yankee Stadium. Given the one run lead to work with,  Rivera got two quick outs from Ortiz and Nava before allowing a single to Mike Napoli. In his most significant moment of 2013, Quentin Berry came in as a pinch runner for Napoli and stole second base, advancing to third on a bouncing throw. Berry would then score on a single from Stephen Drew to complete the blown save. The Red Sox would win, 9-8 in 10 innings and eventually take 3 of 4 games in the series, a rare occurrence in the Bronx.

Mariano Rivera Receives a Standing Ovation from the Fenway Faithful

This isn’t exactly a Red Sox moment, but in what would prove to be Rivera’s final appearance at Fenway, he received a standing ovation from the crowd, and that — to me at least — is special.

USP MLB: NEW YORK YANKEES AT BOSTON RED SOX S BBA USA MA

Daniel Nava Gives Boston Something to Cheer About

Nava was a standout all season long, providing 1.8 fWAR in a platoon with Jonny Gomes. He got a criminally small amount of World Series playing time (despite Gomes hitting rather infrequently, although his 3 run homerun in game 5 was nothing short of clutch), but he was an integral member of the 2013 team. On April 20th, at the Sox’ first game back at Fenway after the Boston Marathon bombings, a game which David Ortiz started with a rousing “This is Our Fucking City,” Daniel Nava would come up big with a 3 run homerun to give the Sox a 4-2 lead over the Royals.

navahomer

Mike Carp Solidifies the AL East Lead

After going into a late-season slump, the Rays found themselves 9.5 games back of first place, with hopes of winning the East all but lost. They did, however, bring a 3-3 tie into extra innings against the Red Sox on September 11th after a fairly solid Alex Cobb start. In the top of the 10th inning Joel Peralta and Roberto Hernandez would allow the Red Sox to load the bases, until Mike Carp managed to put one over the center field fence at the Trop, leaving the only work left for Junichi Tazawa to finish the job in the bottom of the 10th.

Jonny Gomes is Good at Pinch Hitting

Gomes’ heroics can be chalked up to intangibles, but to give the guy credit, he was an excellent platoon man for the Red Sox in 2013, providing 1.0 fWAR while standing in for Daniel Nava against lefties. He had multiple excellent pinch hit moments, such as a walk off against the Padres on July 3rd, and somehow provided the spark the Sox needed to win Game 5 of the World Series. He also introduced us to the helmet punt…

… and also provided us with fun moments with Jamie Erdahl …

…and Jenny Dell.

I probably left some things out, as there were so many great moments in 2013, but the above stood out to me as some of the best the year had to offer. Did I leave something pivotal out? Let me know, @ntenczar on Twitter.

I grabbed the GIFs from a combination of Over the Monster, NESN, and Fangraphs, so thanks to those guys for the good work they do.

Red Sox’s Offensive Fireworks Continue As Sox Go Up 2-0

The Red Sox offense continues to roll, as they’ve now scored 19 runs in the first two games of this division series.

The Sox instantly put the pressure on David Price, scoring 2 runs in the first inning. Jacoby Ellsbury blooped a single into right field. Ellsbury would follow-up with a stolen base. The release by Jose Molina was quick, but the throw sailed into the outfield allowing Ellsbury to advance to third. Two batters later, Dustin Pedroia would drive home Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly to center, putting the Sox up 1-0. The next batter would be David Ortiz, who would take a hanging cutter into the bullpen to extend the lead to 2-0.

The Red Sox continued to push the throttle throughout the early part game. David Ross led off the third inning with a high fly ball off the green monster, followed by a 100 foot double by Jacoby Ellsbury on a bloop that sailed just over the head of Evan Longoria, who was playing in. David Ross would hustle around to score on the play, making it 3-0. After Shane Victorino singled on a ground ball through 5.5 hole on the left side of the infield, Dustin Pedroia would drive home Ellsbury on a ground out. Pedroia was credited with the RBI only because Victorino took out Zobrist at second base. The score was now 4-0 in favor of Boston.

Mike Napoli would lead off the 4th inning with a walk after Price was unable to locate his fastball outside. The Rays’ trend of shoddy defense would continue as Ben Zobrist airmailed a throw on what should have been a routine double play hit by Jonny Gomes. Stephen Drew would make the Rays pay for the error with an RBI triple, coincidentally misplayed by David DeJesus.

Through the 4 innings, everything was going perfectly. The offense had scored 5 runs against the Rays’ ace and John Lackey was on a roll, having struck out 5. A James Loney 2 run double would dampen the mood, but only temporarily, as Dustin Pedroia would drive home Jacoby Ellsbury with an RBI double to get back a run. The score was now 6-3, and David Price was seemingly on the ropes. John Lackey would begin the 6th, but would be pulled in favor of Craig Breslow after allowing Yunel Escobar to drive home Desmond Jennings, making the score 6-4. Breslow would retire pinch hitters Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, David Price surprisingly came out for the 6th inning. The 6th inning was the worst offensive inning of the night for Boston, as they were retired 1-2-3, seeing only 8 pitches, 5 of which came during Ross’ at bat with 2 outs.

Breslow stayed in for the bottom of the 7th. After getting Wil Myers to ground out, Breslow would fall into trouble. Breslow hit James Loney with a fastball and walked Evan Longoria on 7 pitches. With the tying run on base, Farrell stayed with Breslow to face Ben Zobrist, who had struck out twice looking on inside fastballs by John Lackey. Farrell’s trust in Breslow would be rewarded, as Pedroia helped turn a great 6-4-3 double play to get out of the jam.

Price came out for the 7th inning and continued to mow down Boston hitters. After 5 innings of struggling, Price seemed to have finally found out groove. Price struck out Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in his 1-2-3 inning.

Red Sox fans were expecting Koji Uehara to come on for the 6 out save, but instead we were greeted with Junichi Tazawa. After Delmon Young singled off of Tazawa’s 2nd consecutive curveball, fans were beginning to clamor for Koji. But, Tazawa was able to induce a double play ball to get out of the jam.

David Price surprisingly came out for the 8th inning to face David Ortiz. Price’s velocity was down in the 92-93 MPH range by this point. Ortiz would make Joe Maddon regret this decision, as he launched a bomb deep into the left field seats. The barely fair home run traveled 387 home feet (per @ESPNStatsInfo). Koji Uehara came on for the bottom of the 9th and was a swing and a miss away from completing an immaculate inning. Uehara struck out Matt Joyce and Jose Lobaton on three pitches and got Wil Myers to ground out, locking up the win.

NOTES

  • Price wasn’t as bad as his line suggests. Jacoby Ellsbury’s first 2 hits were a product of BABIP luck. Stephen Drew’s triple should’ve been held to a double but was badly misplayed by David DeJesus. This wasn’t vintage David Price by any means, but he didn’t deserve the 7 earned runs he was charged with.
  • David Ortiz had the first two home run postseason game of his career. Just another great postseason milestone for a great player with a great postseason legacy.
  • John Lackey ran into a bump while he was making his way through the Rays’ lineup for the third time. This was not something Lackey was used to throughout the season, as hitters only hit .237/.288/.377 off him the third time through the lineup. This is a strange split, considering that teams hit .286/.327/.490 off him the second time through. This could be something to watch in later starts.

The Red Sox will look for the sweep on Monday at Tampa where they’ll throw out Clay Buchholz against Alex Cobb. Buchholz only has 1 postseason start on his resume, game 3 of the 2009 ALDS where he faced off against Scott . Buchholz worked 5 innings against the Angels, striking out 3, walking 1, and allowing 2 runs. Bard was relieved by Daniel Bard and Billy Wagner.

Mike Napoli: A Tale of Expectations

If you watched August 5th’s Astros-Sox game, you will probably agree with the statement that Mike Napoli sucks. You watched him whiff a couple times at high fastballs instead of letting them go for a walk, effectively ending the inning for the Red Sox and allowing the Astros to head into the 9th with a 2-0 lead intact. Furthermore, you might be a bit angry
that John Lackey had left the game after 6 IP, with 10K and only those two earned runs (one of which given up on a suicide squeeze as the Astros continued to cash in on playing small ball), and the Red Sox had given him no run support at all. Emotions were running high after last night’s loss (hell, I expected yet another sweep of the Astros) because, of course, these are your 2013 Boston Red Sox, who are now expected to make a great run at the AL East title and perhaps even a pennant and the World Series.

Let’s think back to March for a minute though. Back then, the expectations for the Red Sox were bleak, but realistic. If you followed the team back then, you understood that the expectations were something like a 75-80 win year, missing the playoffs because of a good division led by the Blue Jays after all their free agent signings (hah!), and mostly banking on young prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts to get ready to dominate the major leagues by 2015. The line was essentially: 2015 or bust, that’s when the Red Sox will be contenders again.

Here we are though, and the date is August 6th. We’ve made it into the dog days of summer and the Red Sox are very much to our surprise and delight contenders in the AL East, with a half game lead over the Rays and 93.9% chance of making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus. We’ve been here before though, and we watched when Papelbon blew a save against the Orioles on September 28th, 2011. This was a season where we expected to make the playoffs, and by a fairly wide margin. The Red Sox’ playoff odds going into September 2011 were something on the order of 99+%, and they proceeded to go 7 and 20 in September and miss the playoffs. As Red Sox fans, we’re used to being wary about our expectations, as teams in the past have had a tendency to let them down. The 2004 team had really crushed our expectations after a 19-8 loss to the Yankees in game 4 of the ALCS, only to pick them right back up again after what was arguably the greatest comeback in the history of professional sports. Imagine if the Sox had lost that World Series to the Cardinals though. Our expectations, after having been crushed, then picked right back up, would have been absolutely annihilated. The team of destiny, after having defeated the Evil Empire in the greatest of comebacks, losing the World Series?

The point I’m trying to make here though, is that as Sox fans we have some work to do in managing our expectations. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect the 2011 Red Sox to make the playoffs, but it is unreasonable to expect Mike Napoli to strike out less than 30% of the time. The Mike Napoli that we signed this offseason struck out 30% of the time in 2012, and provided the Rangers with 2.0 WAR (according to Fangraphs). So far in 2013, Napoli has provided 2.1 WAR for the Sox, and his K% is hovering around 33.6%. We’re getting exactly the production we expected for the $13MM the Front Office thinks Napoli is worth. He’s having approximately the same year he had for the Rangers in 2012, with some exceptions: he isn’t walking quite as much, he’s struck out more, and his ISO is down to .195 from the .241 it was last year. Despite these exceptions, his OPS, wOBA, batting average, and wRC among other statistics are pretty much exactly where they were last year. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Mike Napoli the Red Sox paid for in the offseason. Despite a few admittedly frustrating outings of late and the fact that Napoli may be chasing the all-time record for Ks in a season, he’s producing exactly as we should have expected, and there’s still time for him to even exceed expectations. Mike Napoli’s going to be just fine this season, he’s just probably going to strike out a few more times.