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Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Disappointing First Half

With the Sox at the unofficial halfway point of the 2019 championship season I think it is safe to say they have not defended their World Series title particularly well so far.  In fairness some of that is down to the amazing first half the Miami Marlins…oh wait, New York Yankees have had (I get those teams with only one World Series title this century confused).  They have been remarkable and opened up a nine game lead on our heroes in the division.  Past defenses of World Series titles have run the gamut of possibilities;

2005: 49-38 (2 games ahead)
2008: 57-40 (0.5 games ahead)
2014: 43-52 (9.5 games behind)

Suffice it to say they will need to finish 2019 like they finished 2005 (or for that matter 2004) to make a dent.  While we wait to see if that will happen I thought a quick look back at what we have seen so far would be a nice way to kill some time;

MVP: Rafael Devers - Really the left side of the infield probably deserves this nod with Xander Bogaerts being Devers’ equal in every way.  While the bat is getting the attention Devers has also improved his work on the bases and defensively has shown improvement as the year has progressed.  After committing nine errors in the first 32 games of the season he has committed just three since.

Cy Young: David Price - Quietly Price has been a savior.  While he has not been great he has been very good and generally consistent giving Alex Cora the length and quality he has sorely needed with a struggling bullpen.

Biggest Surprise: Christian Vazquez’ power - Not only has Vazquez had a great year with the bat it has been a great year fueled not by a 2017 style BABIP boost but by a dazzling show of power seemingly out of nowhere.  While Michael Chavis has impressed mightily a lot of his performance has been about what you would expect if you anticipated him contributing, Vazquez has brought this power out of nowhere.

Biggest Disappointment: The Rotation - What can you say about this bunch?  They simply have not gotten it done and other than Price it has been a team effort.  Plenty was said early in the organizational decision to ease into the season and so far it is hard to see that decision as a successful one.

Best Under the Radar Story: Marco Hernandez - Every year I like to do a “Much Ado About Nothing” here, a discussion of a much discussed story that really never blossomed into anything meaningful.  This year doesn’t seem to have that but it does have a great story in Marco Hernandez.  After playing 21 games in 2017 and none at all in 2018 Marco has contributed with a .933 OPS including a game tying and game winning homer in the ninth innings of games.

Games of the Year (chronological)

1. March 29 - Boston 7 at Seattle 6 - Mitch Moreland’s 3 run homer in the ninth gives the Sox their first win of the year.

2. May 8 - Boston 2 at Baltimore 1 - A tremendous pitchers’ duel, Chris Sale notching an immaculate inning, Jackie Bradley’s remarkable game saving robbery of Trey Mancini and Andrew Benintendi’s game winning homer in the twelfth.

3. June 5 - Boston 8 at Kansas City 0 - Chris Sale’s complete game shutout features his second immaculate inning of the season.

4. June 21 - Toronto 5 at Boston 7 - Down 5-0 as they stretched the Sox roared back to tie it then won it on Vazquez’ walk off.

5. July 4 - Boston 8 at Toronto 7
- The Sox brought their own fireworks to Canada and picked up another dramatic come from behind triumph behind Marco Hernandez’ ninth inning dinger.

Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 11, 2019 at 11:28 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. The Yankee Clapper Posted: July 11, 2019 at 03:00 PM (#5861051)
I came here expecting a discussion of the Tyler Thornburg news, so I’m a bit disappointed. Perhaps he’s getting his own thread?
   2. Nasty Nate Posted: July 11, 2019 at 03:20 PM (#5861057)
Perhaps he’s getting his own thread?
Probably one of those situations where a half dozen threads were submitted simultaneously and Jim's deciding which one to post.
   3. Nasty Nate Posted: July 11, 2019 at 03:22 PM (#5861058)
Games of the Year (chronological)
I know this doesn't really fit the category, but I'll nominate the home opener as an honorable mention (even though they lost) because of the ring/banner/championship ceremony.
   4. TomH Posted: July 11, 2019 at 03:45 PM (#5861070)
Given that the Red Sox Lead the Major Leagues in KO/9 (who woulda thunk), maybe their 2nd-half pitching will be better. Fangraphs projections agree, pegging them for tied-for-3rd in ERA the rest of the season.
   5. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: July 11, 2019 at 08:59 PM (#5861165)
I still can't shake the feeling that this team has been a little unlucky (not run differential necessarily but in performance variation) and still has the talent to rip off a 10-2 or 14-4 or 18-5 stretch that gets them back into things in a big way.
   6. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 11, 2019 at 09:27 PM (#5861175)
has the talent to rip off a 10-2 or 14-4 or 18-5 stretch that gets them back into things in a big way.

Maybe so, but I think both NY and Houston are going to win over 100 games and I can't see Boston winning that many with so little time left. I would like to seem them host the WC game, win that, then you just never know. A team starts to really click at the right time and 11 wins later, you are the champs. The SP just needs to settle a bit and be more consistent and the pen could use a little help.

Hey Clapper, nice of you to join us. Funny though, you were a bit quiet last year, you need to be more consistent with your intrusions....
   7. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 11, 2019 at 09:48 PM (#5861178)
Nate - I actually had that included at one point but decided to keep it to games they won.

Benji - I agree with you that they have the talent to do that. My fear is tha tthe bullpen is just too unreliable to allow that to happen. I fear they will just lose a couple of games during that prolonged hot streak because Barnes isn’t throwing strikes or whatever.
   8. villageidiom Posted: July 12, 2019 at 05:44 PM (#5861497)
Not worth its own thread, but Gerry Callahan is out at WEEI after 20 years. "Sometimes the bad guys win," he said. That's exactly how I'd describe the last 20 years of WEEI. Callahan was a constant stream of disdain, making their morning show tolerable only for people who love to hate. That wasn't how I liked to direct my attention in the morning.
   9. ajnrules Posted: July 12, 2019 at 07:39 PM (#5861523)
4. June 21 - Toronto 5 at Boston 7 - Down 5-0 as they stretched the Sox roared back to tie it then won it on Vazquez’ walk off.

Second time in the span of eight days the Red Sox came back from a 5-1 deficit. They had come back from a 6-1 deficit on June 13 against the Rangers, but I guess this one ranked higher because it was a walk-off.
   10. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 14, 2019 at 06:21 PM (#5861828)
I like the Cashner pick up. He’s no star but he’s a solid pitcher in the vein of Eovaldi last year. At the very least he’s an improvement over the dross that has been rolling out as the fifth starter and makes the move of Big Nate to the bullpen a bit more palatable.
   11. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 15, 2019 at 12:48 AM (#5861878)
This team continues to do boneheaded things and give away baseball games. Lots of talent there, but sometimes not really good baseball being played.
   12. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 15, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5861917)
I just didn't get it last night. Hernandez laid down a great bunt in the 9th and in the 11th it seems like a no-brainer. Get JBJ to third with one out and let Betts-Devers-X do their thing. Instead, he lets Marco swing away (albeit he just missed winning it on a rocket to left before the grounder) but then JBJ makes a terrible base running blunder which is particularly surprising given that he seems like a generally good base runner.
   13. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: July 15, 2019 at 11:10 AM (#5861921)
I came here expecting a discussion of the Tyler Thornburg news,

Anybody else notice that is actually a picture of Brasier in the article?
   14. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 15, 2019 at 12:04 PM (#5861942)
Honestly I didn't even look at the article...but yeah it is. More fine work from ESPN's top notch crew.
   15. pikepredator Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5864246)
The inability of this team to really go on a monster run is surprising. The talent is there. The will to win is there - this is a team with plenty of fight. But they keep tripping over their shoelaces every couple of games.

How thrilling would it be if they can break out and rattle off a 10-3 or 11-2 run over the next couple of weeks?? They're on the outside looking in but a good run will put them right back in the thick of things.
   16. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 24, 2019 at 05:12 PM (#5864714)
I'm pretty well dreading this weekend but this was a nice series. Even with the loss today taking two out of three in Tampa is a great start to this stretch.

The problem with the Yankees is a bit of a "style makes the fight" situation. The Yankees have a potent offense that can come back from any deficit. The Sox have a terrible bullpen that can blow any lead. It's just a bad matchup for the Sox. But hey, the season could have gone in the tank long ago and they keep lingering. As pike says the talent is there and there is a Michael Myers "holy crap they aren't dead yet" element to this team.
   17. Darren Posted: July 26, 2019 at 11:29 AM (#5865216)
If nothing else good comes of this season, we have last night.
   18. pikepredator Posted: July 26, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5865220)
3-1 and playing well is a great start to this stretch. Cashner today scares me but then we're back to E-Rod - who's been quite reliable the last couple of months - and then Sale and Price. those two have been bouncing between shutting teams down for 5-6 innings, and blowing up for 5-6 runs. I wish those two guys could get their pitch counts down to go a bit deeper, I wonder if they're scared by all the home runs this year or something . . . anyway, I can squint and see another 3-1 stretch without minimal wishcasting.
   19. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 26, 2019 at 01:27 PM (#5865256)
Realistically the Sox needed to go 7-7 in his stretch so starting 3-1 is a nice get. After next week the schedule gets a lot easier. Now the catch there is he Sox haven’t really taken care of business against the dregs but it’s not unrealistic to think they will eventually get that right.
   20. John DiFool2 Posted: July 27, 2019 at 08:38 PM (#5865592)
Back into the 2nd WC slot.
   21. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: July 27, 2019 at 11:46 PM (#5865658)
As great as the offense battering the Yankee pitching staff has been I think the performance of the pitchers is really encouraging. Against a great lineup that came in smoking hot they’ve done really well. Two quality starts and a solid start from EdRod today is really nice to see. If (or when) this team really gets on a prolonged hot streak it’s the pitching performing to its ability that is going to trigger that.
   22. pikepredator Posted: July 28, 2019 at 10:46 AM (#5865695)
If (or when) this team really gets on a prolonged hot streak it’s the pitching performing to its ability that is going to trigger that.

agreed. Reducing wear-and-tear on the bullpen will make those arms more effective and let them save some bullets for the postseason. And they've been a strong offensive team all along. They have quality starting pitchers. If they pitch to their potential going 40-20 (58 games left so 39-19 but whatever) the rest of the way isn't out of the question, which would put them up close to 100 wins.
   23. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: July 28, 2019 at 06:42 PM (#5865803)
I'm all aboard the hype train at this point. They're gonna go on an ungodly hot tear for a bit where their bullpen isn't blowing games and their starters are keeping them in it and end up with 95 wins and in the playoffs. Their pythag is 2 back of the Yankees going into tonight, and they don't have nearly the injury issues the Yankees do.
   24. Nasty Nate Posted: August 01, 2019 at 09:19 AM (#5867250)
Remember in spring training Rick Porcello was all: I'm willing to sign an extension ... hello? hello? ...anybody?
   25. Answer Guy. Posted: August 01, 2019 at 10:25 AM (#5867281)
Two home losses to Tampa in which the pitching really failed takes a lot of wind out of the sails.

They made no moves of consequence at the deadline, which makes sense given that their farm system is honestly pretty barren at this point.
   26. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: August 01, 2019 at 01:32 PM (#5867404)
I think the system actually is trending in the right direction. No stars there at the moment but some interesting guys throughout. I noted it in the other thread but I think a couple of things are at work here;

1. The system is good enough that they could have made a move but it would have wiped out the system and they probably are doing the right thing in trying to recharge it.

2. By staying under the luxury tax limit this year I believe that resets them penalty-wise. This makes re-signing Mookie a bit easier since they don't have that 75% penalty (or whatever it is).

Recognizing that the most likely thing here is that the season continues like this I can't help but shake a 2004 feeling here. This is a team with oodles of talent not playing to its ability but a hot streak still exists. At this stage in 2004 they were 60-49 (they are 59-50) and coming off that memorable Yankee series (which was a bit earlier that season) they actually didn't get going for a couple of weeks. They played about .500 ball for another two weeks and were 64-52 on August 15 before closing out the season 34-12 (then 11-3 in the post-season of course). I suspect this season is probably more of a 2005 than 2004 though where they will just keep going in fits and starts, squeak into the playoffs and get eliminated at the first time of asking.

For all the talk about the bullpen it's the starters that really deserve the blame here. They were 4th in AL starter ERA last year with a 3.77 ERA, this year they are 8th at 4.82. The Yankees are only marginally better (4.77) but have a great bullpen. The Sox were built to have great offense and great starting pitching that carried a mediocre bullpen. Instead the bullpen has been mediocre at best and the starting pitching almost the very definition of mediocre.
   27. Answer Guy. Posted: August 01, 2019 at 09:11 PM (#5867582)
B-R has them with a 26% chance at the postseason at the moment, which actually feels a little low to me (I was thinking something in the mid-upper 30s) but not by much.
   28. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 01, 2019 at 10:18 PM (#5867599)
starting pitching almost the very definition of mediocre.

This issue is that it hasn't been consistent. On this recent stretch they are coughing up runs at a ridiculous rate. Then they'll go a couple of games where they only give up 2 runs and the team wins most of those games of course. However the games where they give up 7 or more seem quite common and result in slugfest losses, which is annoying to watch.

That Xander contract though is looking like a bargain so far!

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