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— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Friday, April 14, 2017

Feeling Groovy

After a pretty nice win on Thursday the Sox sit at a neat and tidy 5-4 after a week and a half.  Small sample sizes and all but wins is wins and that’s a start.  Thinking of it this way, a 5-4 start in 2011 and the Sox would have clinched a playoff spot before going to Baltimore.

This is encouraging because after a season when the Sox were absurdly healthy they have played only two games with a full team.  According to NESN in 2016 none of the quartet of Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley and Mookie Betts missed three consecutive games.  In 2017 it took a week for all four of them to do exactly that yet thanks to other players picking up the slack the Sox are rolling around.  Just a few random thoughts on what has happened so far and what has me already falling in love with this team.

- I am loving the cardiac kid thing.  Alex Speier noted that the Sox have already forced four blown saves from their opponents.  Given the fact that this seems to be a strike fast, big inning offense they are never out of a game.  Even on Wednesday falling behind 8-0 in the second didn’t head them off and they had the tie run at the plate at one point.

- So what idiot said Blake Swihart would be starting by June 1st?  Oh yeah, that was me.  Ignore that.  Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez seem to be emulating Alex Cora in 2007.  One of the things that helped the Sox blow apart the division in 2007 was Cora having the best month of his career in April while Dustin Pedroia and Julio Lugo got off to horrible starts.  Leon and Vazquez have been outstanding on both sides of the baseball so far and that is picking up the slack for the absences elsewhere in the lineup.

- The new guys have settled in rather well.  Unlike David Price and Rick Porcello Chris Sale has arrived and lived up to the billing.  Of course he has yet to earn a win so he sucks but if he keeps pitching like this I daresay the Sox will be satisfied with that particular transaction.  Likewise after a rough start (0 for 12, infecting everyone with the black plague) Mitch Moreland has decided to turn into Wade Boggs.  Playing for a team that’s offensive identity is historically centered around doubles (4 of the top 23 players in career doubles are Sox) Moreland has set a club record with doubles in seven consecutive games and leads the team in average, OBP, slugging, OPS, hits, doubles and even walks because why the hell not.  I imagine this will not continue a brave prediction I know but again, the Sox have needed someone to pick up the slack and Mitch Moreland has done just that.

- Few things are as fun to watch as a good defensive team and the Sox have that. Hitting a ball in the air against this team is an exercise in futility with Baseball Reference showing the Sox as being second only to Detroit in Defensive Runs Saved by their outfield and Vazquez and Leon have been insanely good behind the plate.

- While I still have concerns in general there are some things crystallizing in the bullpen.  Matt Barnes has pretty firmly entrenched himself as the eighth inning guy and Heath Hembree and Robby Scott have seized their opportunities to be the primary options in front of him.  Rookie Ben Taylor made his mark and should be expected to return at some point, ideally when Fernando Abad is put out to pasture.

Not everything is perfect of course, there are a few concerns;

- OK, while I love the fight back approach can the Sox stop having guys break.  It would be nice to see a full team out there.  Just sayin’.

- I always loved Daisuke Matsuzaka but I understood why he grated on some people.  Well lemme tell you I’m getting my comeuppance with Craig Kimbrel.  Good lord does he make my teeth itch.  He is exasperating to watch pitch.  Yeah he’s gotten the saves but he is Slocumb-esque in the confidence inspiring depratment.  Likewise Joe Kelly - Reliever, is selling about as well as Spaceballs - The Flame Thrower.  Kelly simply is not missing enough bats nor throwing enough strikes to be counted on.

- I am not sure where I stand on Pablo Sandoval.  He looks pretty helpless on a regular basis out there but if you are going to suck, at least make the rare good moments count.  He has four hits so far this year;
*Opening Day go ahead single
*Leadoff 5th inning double with Sox down 1-0 on Friday
*Go ahead homer in Detroit on Friday
*Home run to pull the Sox back into the game on Wednesday
So at least his rare successful forays into the batter’s box have been timely but this is not enough and the complete inability to hit from the right side is more than a bit problematic.

- There has been a pretty big power outage so far.  Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are all without an extra base hit of any sort and Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley and Chris Young have all failed to homer yet.  The Sox will need some power at some point with only Seattle and Toronto having a lower ISO.

But all in all I feel good about this team.  I noted before Opening Day that the Sox might struggle early saying “I would not be surprised if the first six weeks feature an awful lot of frustrating moments as things sort themselves out.”  It’s axiomatic to say you can’t win anything in April but you can lose it.  Given the way this team is constructed and the injuries/illnesses/etc…they have dealt with so far the Sox are doing well to avoid giving up too many games early.

Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 14, 2017 at 02:39 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Darren Posted: April 14, 2017 at 03:52 PM (#5435481)
Not around much, but just wanted to stop in to throw some salt in our collective wound:

Kimbrell since joining Sox: 1.0 WAR
Margot since joining Pads: 1.4 WAR (in 80 PA)

This is going to be a bad one.
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: April 14, 2017 at 04:17 PM (#5435503)
Moreland has set a club record with doubles in seven consecutive games and leads the team in average, OBP, slugging, OPS, hits, doubles and even walks because why the hell not.

NOTE TO RANGERS: Build 37' high wall in short LF this winter.
   3. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 17, 2017 at 10:29 AM (#5436463)
Eduardo Rodriguez going on paternity leave so Brian Johnson is being called up to make his start tomorrow. Ben Taylor actually coming up today and will be in the bullpen for today's game then will be sent back down to make room for BJ to pitch in Toronto on Tuesday.
   4. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: April 17, 2017 at 03:22 PM (#5436689)
This is going to be a bad one.


Sure, on WAR, but where does 2017 Boston Red Sox Manny Margot play? You taking PT away from Benintendi, Bradley or Betts? Or you don't sign Moreland, keep Hanley at 1B and take Benintendi's or Margot's defense out of the equation? I can assure you that he wasn't going to be playing CF or RF on this team.

Nah. Dombrowski was looking at that rare thing, a true surplus at a position, and cashed in a high-value chip to address an area of major need. This was a bullpen that was, let's say 'uneven' in 2014 and a total shitfire in 2015, and you're not getting a late-game difference maker by trading Allen Craig.
   5. Darren Posted: April 17, 2017 at 10:28 PM (#5436919)
Sure, on WAR, but where does 2017 Boston Red Sox Manny Margot play?


AAA. Then the majors when JBJ went down. Or traded.

I can assure you that he wasn't going to be playing CF or RF on this team.


No you can't.

Nah. Dombrowski was looking at that rare thing, a true surplus at a position, and cashed in a high-value chip to address an area of major need.


Nah.





   6. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: April 17, 2017 at 11:32 PM (#5436947)
Kimbrell since joining Sox: 1.0 WAR
Margot since joining Pads: 1.4 WAR (in 80 PA)


I agree in the long run this will be a loss of the Red Sox in the WAR stakes, but last 3 games, Kimbrel: 9 up, 9 down, 8K's. If he continues like that then I think we'll all be happy. Team psychology is a funny thing and having that "guy" for the ninth seems to be a thing that players like.

Personally I would never trade anything but magic beans for any reliever ever but then again I'm not making $5 mil per running a team so maybe I'm not so smart after all.

And Chris Sale is just genuinely awesome. I know the price was steep, but man oh man can this guy pitch. Should I dare say it's almost Pedroesque watching him go about his craft.
   7. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: April 18, 2017 at 12:55 AM (#5436958)
You sure got me there, Darren. If we assume counterfactuals, you're totally right.
   8. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 18, 2017 at 07:38 AM (#5436980)
I didn't love the trade largely because I love Margot but the Sox were dealing from a strength. One of my concerns on the deal is I felt that the Sox were really thinning themselves out in outfield depth. However, what I didn't realize is that Benintendi would be ready last August. I'd love to have Margot but one of the ways a prospect helps you is by allowing you to deal him for an MLB player.

The Sox outfield is clearly their strength right now. Add in Young as a 4th outfielder and that's a really terrific group. It's hard for me to see this as a deal to be worried about. I think it's a pretty fair deal at the time and the Sox are going to get three years of a very good (if rather frustrating at times) closer.
   9. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 18, 2017 at 07:42 AM (#5436981)
On the subject of Kimbrel I was looking at this the other day;

Leon - 27 Games, 2.92 ERA, 2.93 K/BB
Vazquez - 20 Games, 1.83 ERA, 4.50 K/BB
Swihart - 2 Games, 13.50 ERA, 1.33 K/BB (just including him for completeness)

Just watching the game Sunday with Vazquez behind the plate he seemed to stay with the fastball more. The numbers aren't hugely different and sample sizes are obviously small but I wonder if there is something to the way Leon calls a game for Kimbrel. I don't remember seeing Kimbrel shake off much. He doesn't work quickly but he also doesn't seem to overthink and I wonder if Vazquez has a better handle on what Kimbrel is throwing.

Nothing conclusive here obviously but something I'm curious to watch as the year goes on.
   10. Textbook Editor Posted: April 18, 2017 at 09:47 AM (#5437034)
#9--Jose, those are some interesting stats. What would be interesting to see is if they did a battery swapout late in games--lifting Leon for Vazquez when Kimbrel comes in. You can argue (a) it's not like Leon would hit again in such situations, (b) it's not entirely clear Leon's "advantage" over Vazquez with the bat is real anyway, and (c) if it helps maximize a scarce resource (i.e., Kimbrel's IP), it seems worth doing.

I seem to recall other teams have done this in the past (though off the top of my head I can't think of an example now), so it's not like it's unheard of. Unless you think lots of 1 inning stints is going to wear down Vazquez, it seems worth doing if a larger sample size reveals the same patterns/breakdowns.
   11. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 18, 2017 at 09:54 AM (#5437036)
Yeah I wouldn't want to do it yet given the sample sizes but I'm curious to watch how it evolves. Leon seems pretty good with the pitchers in general so I suspect the easiest solution is to have Leon and Vazquez work together with Kimbrel to identify what (if anything) Vazquez might be doing differently. I'd bet Leon could adapt his game calling.
   12. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: April 18, 2017 at 07:27 PM (#5437671)
I just love getting MILB updates on my phone and seeing that Moncada hit a home run... only to realize that he's no longer in our farm system.

Though I guess that Sale guy is pretty good.
   13. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: April 18, 2017 at 07:29 PM (#5437673)
As for Margot, I'm sure we'd be hearing the same thing with Benintendi had they shipped him to San Diego instead. I love tracking prospects as much as any bother fan, but there's only 25 spots on an MLB roster.
   14. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: April 18, 2017 at 07:31 PM (#5437677)
Edit: I suck at posting on my phone.
   15. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 19, 2017 at 05:21 PM (#5438442)
EdRod back with the team, Brian Johnson to Pawtucket. Apparently Rodriguez is available out of the bullpen tonight which is probably good since Hembree and Barnes probably aren't.
   16. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 20, 2017 at 08:57 AM (#5438738)
In the absence of a minor league thread I'll note that Michael Chavis hit three homers last night. He missed a little time with an injury but he's 7 for 15 with 4 homers so far.
   17. Darren Posted: April 22, 2017 at 09:03 AM (#5440268)
You sure got me there, Darren. If we assume counterfactuals, you're totally right.

This baffles me. Where have I done this? I answered your questions.
I agree in the long run this will be a loss of the Red Sox in the WAR stakes, but last 3 games, Kimbrel: 9 up, 9 down, 8K's. If he continues like that then I think we'll all be happy. Team psychology is a funny thing and having that "guy" for the ninth seems to be a thing that players like.

The point was that it wasn't just in the long run--that's sort of the chance you take on a prospects for star trade. It's that it already isn't good, 1 year in.
   18. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 24, 2017 at 06:25 PM (#5441720)
I don't really have enough for a post right now but I just want to say that this weekend is the kind of weekend that reminds me why I'm optimistic about this team. Yeah they lost 2 out of 3 but even rolling their 3, 4, 5 starters they got two good starts in three games. I'll matchup Rodriguez, Wright and Pomeranz in whatever order with anyone else's 3-4-5 and feel like I have a shot. I think this team should expect at a bare minimum 2 quality starts every 5 days and probably 3 or 4 more likely. That's going to ward off a lot of losing streaks and slumps.
   19. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 28, 2017 at 03:55 PM (#5444487)
Ben Taylor called up and Chase D'arnaud activated. Robbie Ross and Steve Selsky to Pawtucket (both had options). I understand wanting to keep some depth but jesus, just jettison Abad and keep Ross (who actually has use) on the roster.

Just building off my last comment in this thread. Quality starts in five game increments;

YYNNY 3 for 5 (3-2)
YYNNN 2 for 5 (2-3)
YNYNY 3 for 5 (4-1)
YYNYY 4 for 5 (2-3)
YY
   20. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: April 28, 2017 at 11:37 PM (#5444718)
That was a pleasant win. I'll tell you, I hated Farrell going to Abad but credit where it's due, he did his job.
   21. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: May 08, 2017 at 10:28 AM (#5450644)
Just updating my Quality Start list;

YYNNY 3 for 5 (3-2)
YYNNN 2 for 5 (2-3)
YNYNY 3 for 5 (4-1)
YYNYY 4 for 5 (2-3)
YYNYY 4 for 5 (2-3)
YNNYY 3 for 5 (3-2)
NNNY

.588 QS%, .529 Win%
   22. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: May 12, 2017 at 08:38 AM (#5454041)
Latest Kimbrel/catcher update;

w/Leon - 2.96 ERA/3.27 K:BB
w/Vazquez - 1.40 ERA/6.83 K:BB (includes immaculate inning)

He has faced 56 batters and struck out 31 including 26 of his last 38.

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