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.

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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.

Series with Dodgers On Deck

Bold Series Predictions: The Sox are going to find a way to take 2 of 3 from the Dodgers in this weekend’s series, Xander Bogaerts will get his first career hit against Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Dennis Eckersley will set a new personal record by saying “cheese” 50+ times in a single broadcast.

Why: The Dodgers are unquestionably the hottest team in baseball, and even though Boston just finished up winning a three-game set against the Giants, they are still just .500 in the month of August. So why will the Sox win this series? For starters, the Sox have three of their best starters going; Lackey takes the hill Friday, Lester on Saturday and Peavy gets to face-off against his old NL West rivals on Sunday Night Baseball. Also helping Boston’s cause is the fact that they will miss two of LA’s best starters in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Xander Bogaerts played in two of the games against the Giants this week, but he only started in one of those games and he did not start against struggling left-hander Barry Zito. This hints that John Farrell is trying his best to ease the 20-year-old phenom into playing time. Since Stephen Drew hit a bomb in Boston’s series-clinching win against the Giants, it wouldn’t surprise me at all for him to start against right-hander Ricky Nolasco in the series opener on Friday. However, I do think that Bogaerts will start against the left-hander Ryu because of Drew’s struggles against south paws this year. I also think that Bogaerts is due for a hit. Besides believing that he is due, I don’t really have a good reason to think he will get his first hit in that game. I guess my Spidey Senses are just tingling.

Pictured: Dennis Eckersley thinking about a nice slice of Cheddar Cheese. Probably.

The last of my predictions is also the easiest to make. Dennis Eckersley has given it his all trying to spice things up in the absence of Jerry Remy. Most notably, he has made it abundantly clear to his audience that he will never call a fastball by its true name. In fact, he may never call any pitch by its true name. Instead, he likes to talk about “cheese,” and “gas.” You can count me as one of those in complete support of his hilarious lexicon.

The Red Sox will be glad to have a day off before heading to LA, but I cannot wait for this three game set to begin. It should be a fun weekend of baseball, folks.

The Red Sox’ Key to Victori[no] in 2013

I just watched Shane Victorino hit his 8th HR in the 3rd inning of a fixture against the Giants (shout out to all dem Barclays Premiere League fans), and it inspired me to write a quick post about him. Also, if that home run wasn’t enough reason to write about him, his walk up song is “Three Little Birds.” That’s so much fun. My god that’s a lot of fun.

Anyway, on a more serious note, Victorino has been one of the most important pieces to the Red Sox’ resurgence this season. Some found the Victorino signing as a bit of a head scratching move by the front office (along with the Napoli signing, which our newest member just did a fantastic job analyzing).

However, Victorino has been one of Boston’s most important players, and a lot of his value comes from his defense. According to fangraphs, he has already posted an 18.4 UZR, which is good for 3rd in all of baseball, and 1st among right fielders. Although the defense wasn’t the Sox’ biggest problem last season, they managed to improve from 13th to 4th in the Right Field position from 2012 to 2013 (according to UZR). That, again, is thanks to Shane’s speedy legs.

Although Victornio has been middle of the pack in terms of his offensive production, his bat has not hurt the Red Sox (102 wRC+). Just like he has provided stability in the outfield, he has been a rock while hitting 2nd in the lineup. He provides good speed and a solid .336 OBP which sets the table for the big bats that follow.

Most importantly, Victorino has been extremely important to Boston’s turn around in terms of dollar value. According to Fangraphs, Victorino would have been worth $18.3 MM on the open market thus far in 2013. Projecting that out for the rest of the season, Victorino should be worth about $21.3 MM by the end of the year. That’s already more than half of the 3-year, $39 MM contract the front office gave him in the offseason. Before this year, many felt that his contract was a dumb move by the Red Sox, but it thus far he has been a steal for Boston. It was clear after the fire sale last year that the front office needed to be better when handing out big money, and with Victorino they have definitely been much smarter.

In conclusion, this is my message to you-oo oo: lets appreciate the work that the Flyin’ Hawaiian has done this season, and recognize that he’s been one of the most important reasons that Boston is still leading in the AL East.

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.

Would the Real John Lackey Please Stand Up?

John Lackey’s success this year has been one of many feel-good stories for the 2013 Boston Red Sox. Lackey has been one of the best Red Sox starters this year by almost any measure, making him a surprising anchor for a rotation that includes Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster.

But is the 2013 version of Lackey just a mirage, or is he going to continue to pitch like the player the Red Sox wanted when they signed him to a 5 year, $82.5 million contract (per baseball-reference.com)? Let’s take a closer look at his numbers to this point and see if we can figure out what we can expect from him moving forward.

To begin, Lackey has been the best Sox starter by a handful of different measures. Lackey has had the best command of any starter for the Red Sox this year. In fact, he is 6th in the American League in K/BB ratio, ahead of such players as Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander. He is T-2nd on the team in terms of fWAR, and perhaps most importantly, he leads the team in xFIP. This is the first indicator that his 2.95 ERA is a fairly good estimate of his overall performance, and it also predicts more success for him through the rest of the season.

Now, one might assume that half a season is not a big enough sample size to understand Lackey’s future, and one might also make the argument that his numbers this year have been due to luck rather than skill. However, there are a couple reasons to believe that Lackey’s success is sustainable, and he might have turned a corner after two awful seasons, and another in which he didn’t pitch an inning, in Boston.

The first noticeable change in Lackey’s pitching is his pitch usage. According to PITCHf/x data, Lackey’s four seam fastball use has increased astronomically this year compared to his previous two full seasons. This year Lackey is using his four seamer 51.3% of the time, compared to 15.2% and 15.1% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. This surprising jump in fastball usage has come largely at the expense of his cutter. In 2010 Lackey used his cutter 41.9% of the time, and that number is down to 27% in 2013. Perhaps he is more confident in his fastball this season after having Tommy John surgery in 2011.

Lackey is also using his off-speed stuff with much less regularity this season as compared to his first two in Boston. He threw his 24.1% curveballs in 2010, but this year that number is down to 13.1%. Another change, one that might not be as easy to notice, was Lackey’s use of his change-up. In his last three years in LA, his average change-up use was 3%, but in his first two years in Boston that number jumped to 6.2% (including 7.8% in 2011). In 2013 he is only throwing the change 3.1% of the time.

So what are the results of Lackey’s change in pitch repertoire, and why have his changes led to his return to dominance? For starters, he has induced batters to swing-and-miss at a much higher rate. This year against Lackey, batter’s swinging strike percentage has increased by 2.5% from Lackey’s last two full seasons (up to 9.5% from 7.0% in 2010 & 2011). Lackey is also throwing more first-pitch strikes this year.

After such a dramatic about-face from what Red Sox fans had seen from Lackey in his first two years, it is only natural to be hesitant in believing that he will continue to play well. But given all the reasons stated above, it seems like this new John Lackey might really be here to stay. On top of all the reasons previously stated, his HR/FB rate (14.7%) this year suggests that he is not being helped by luck when it comes to fly balls making it out of the park. Lackey is also inducing more ground balls than ever before (50.8%), and his GB/FB rate is top 10 in the AL.

All told, it seems that the 2013 version of John Lackey (22.7 K% and a sub-3 ERA through 106.2 innings) might just be with us for the long haul. It would be easy to declare this drastic change — from a pitcher who’s career many had written off to a staff-ace for the AL East leading Red Sox — a shocking and unexpected turn of events, but it’s difficult to call anything about this team shocking, based on the surprises that have already happened this year.

The continued success of the Red Sox depends heavily on players like Lackey continuing to have surprisingly good years. The Sox’s rotation is in an especially delicate position with the nagging injury issues of Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester’s continued struggles, so they need Lackey to continue to provide stability to their pitching staff. Luckily for the front office and fans, it doesn’t appear that the 2013 version of John Lackey is leaving anytime soon.

As a closing thought that doesn’t really have too much to do with this article except for the title, I leave you with this video. Please enjoy.

Analysis: Red Sox trade Brandon Jacobs to White Sox for Matt Thornton

During the game last Friday night, in which the Sox came away with an exciting 4-2 win against Oakland, Rick Hahn and Ben Cherrington worked out a deal that sends veteran left handed reliever Matt Thornton to Boston for power prospect Brandon Jacobs.

Thornton isn’t the All-Star caliber relief ace he was in the late 2000’s, but he’s a more than serviceable relief arm that the Red Sox need after the season ending injury to Andrew Miller. The instability of this bullpen is shown by the vast changes since opening day. Injuries to Miller and Joel Hanrahan and the reassignments of Clayton Mortensen and Alfredo Aceves have led to pitchers such as Junichi Tazawa being overworked. The Sox needed a reliable arm that could allow John Farrell to spread the workload around.

According to FanGraphs’ wonderful Pitchf/x data, Thornton’s fastball velocity is declining for the third straight season. This is typical of pitchers, especially ones in their mid 30’s, but Thornton is still able to reach back as he is averaging 94.2 MPH on his fastball this season.

Over his career, Thornton has shown that he’s capable of being more than a LOOGY, retiring right handers at about the same rate as left handers, but this season right handers are hitting .320/.414/.420 off of Thornton. Lefties haven’t been much trouble, hitting only .173/.232/.385. This kind of thinking can be dangerous though, as I am splitting small sample sizes into even smaller sample sizes.

The one thing that I notice when looking at Thornton’s platoon splits since 2010 is how mediocre his K/BB is against righties.

2010: 2.64
2011: 1.93
2012: 1.80
2013: 1.14

Those numbers are certainly not indicative of good performance, but it hasn’t been a problem until this season.

Andrew Miller’s role in the bullpen was that of a LOOGY, andThornton’s stats seem to signify that he’s been demoted to that roll now. I hope that Farrell will give Thornton some more work against right handers so he has a chance to normalize his large platoon split and maximize his value. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Thornton is owed approximately $3.5 million the rest of the season. Alex Spier of WEEI reported Chicago footing $750k of it, meaning the Sox are on the hook for approximately $2.75 million, which is great value.

Brandon Jacobs is a high school power prospect taken in the 10th round of the 2009 draft. While Jacobs possess good raw power, he has a lot of miss in his swing, leaving him stranded in the minors until he can figure things out. Keep in mind that this is a White Sox farm system that rated 28th on Baseball Prospectus’ organizational rankings. While Jacobs isn’t much, he is talent and will probably be in consideration for the White Sox Top 10 Prospects list.

Red Sox Lose Last Two Before Break

The Red Sox wrapped up the first half of their season losing the last 2 games of a 3 game set with Oakland. Nevertheless, the series had some encouraging moments, and nobody East of New York will be complaining about Boston’s 58-39 record heading into the Break.

Things I liked: Even though Oakland took the last 2 games, there was a lot to like about the way the Sox played. For starters, John Lackey pitched 7 innings and racked up 5 Ks  while leading Boston to a 4-2 win in game 1.

I have been told to alert Mr. Lackey that the 2005-07 Angels called and they want their pitcher back. Seriously. What has gotten into this guy? The dude has a 2.78 ERA and a 3.27 xFIP through 100.1 innings pitched and he leads Red Sox starters with a 4.04 K/BB ratio. We shall discuss whether or not Mr. Lackey’s success to this point is sustainable in another post, but at the moment he is leading the Boston pitching staff in the absence of Clay Buchholz.

In game 2 of the series, Boston was brushed aside by Oakland’s AJ Griffin. Griffin pitched eight shutout innings and the he never really let Boston get into the game. However, Jon Lester produced an encouraging night in which he only allowed 3 runs (albeit on 3 walks and 6 hits, including Derek Norris’ 5th inning home run). For the Red Sox to build upon their unexpected play thus far they’re going to need Lester to figure out how to pitch like he did from 2008 to 2011.

Game 3 saw the Sox produce their third straight positive start. 24-year-old rookie Brandon Workman took a no-hitter into the 7th inning when Coco Crisp broke it up with a ground ball to Pedey. Two batters later, Josh Donaldson blasted his 16th home run which tied up the game at 2. Nonetheless, the Work-Man (wow, how bad is that nickname?!) pitched well enough for Boston to win, and if he keeps pitching like that he’s going to be a great asset for years to come.

Things I didn’t like so much: For a series against a potential playoff opponent in which Boston lost 2 of 3, the last three games didn’t give me a whole lot to complain about. The offense disappeared for all but two of the last 20 innings of the series, but we’ll just chalk that up to fatigue after a long first half and the fact that Boston faced Oakland’s two best starters (2.4 WAR for Colon and 1.5 for Griffin, per Fangraphs.com) in games 2 and 3.

Overall, I’m not going too far out on a limb by saying that Boston’s first half was a success. If you had told any member of Red Sox Nation at the start of the year that their boys would be 58-39 and 2.5 games up in the division at the All Star Break, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would have believed you. But, after 97 games that’s the case.

Moving forward, the Red Sox figure to be in the heart of the playoff race come September. Boston would love to win the East and at this point there’s no reason to believe that they can’t. But in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, in which 4/5 teams still have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, it would be A-okay if the Sox can sneak into the postseason with a Wild Card birth. But hey, let’s not let that patented Red Sox-pessimism start sinking in just yet. This season has been a blast so far, so let’s keep enjoying it.

Red Sox take 3 of 4 from Seattle

The Red Sox wrapped up their series against the Mariners this afternoon winning 8-7 in 10 innings. It was important that the Sox at least manage to split this series following two disappointing games this weekend against the Angels. With the Rays winning their last eight, the Sox can’t afford to fall into a cold spell. After this series, Tampa is only 3.5 GB.

Things I liked: There was a lot to like about this series. Aside from a disappointing result in the first game — in which they only managed to score 2 runs off King Felix and 4 runs total — the Sox offense was red-hot. Boston hit seven HRs in the last three games of the series, including five bombs in the second game.

David Ortiz continued his scorching month of July (.438/.472/.875) racking up eight hits over the series. Papi had three doubles and two home runs to go along with his third stolen base of the season (LOL). Even more encouraging, it doesn’t seem like the big man is going to see too much regression going forward. He has continued his three-year trend of having a K-rate sitting at about 13% (below his career average of 17.9%)

Felix Doubront continued to pitch well, and over his last five starts he hasn’t given up more than two earned runs. Even more encouraging, his 3.91 ERA seems believable at this point. Fangraphs pegs his FIP at 3.63 and his xFIP at 3.92, so we shouldn’t expect Doubront to fall off from his current pace.

Things I didn’t like so much: Even though the they took 3/4, the pitching left a lot to be desired. Playing in a pitching-friendly Safeco the staff still managed to give up four, eight, four, and seven runs. Aside from Doubront’s start, the staff looked awful. Lester pitched poorly, Dempster gave up seven runs in 3.1 innings (only four earned) and Allen Webster continued to remind management that he isn’t big-league ready quite yet.

The bullpen pitched fine, but against better offensive teams in the long run the front office still needs to find a way to upgrade before the trade deadline.

Looking ahead: On the whole, this series washed most of the poor taste from last weekend’s debacle out of Red Sox Nation’s mouth. Flying to The Bay, the Sox have Lackey and then Lester slated to start the first two games.  It would be great if Boston could finish off the first half by taking the series against a solid Oakland squad, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if they only manage to take one of three.