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— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Halfway* Home

* OK, 54.938% of the way home.

The Sox reached the unofficial midway point of the season with a disappointing loss to Tampa.  The Sox seemed to take off for the Break a bit early dropping 3 out of 4 in fairly sluggish fashion and leaving Tampa tied for second just 3 1/2 games off the pace.  Despite that the Sox sit with the second best record in the AL and on pace for 91 wins.

To give that some perspective last year at the Break they were in second place, 2 games behind Baltimore, tied with Toronto for the top Wild Card spot and 2 games ahead of Houston.  So all in all,yeah I’ll take it.  Given some of the issues at the start of the season I think there is every reason to feel good.  For now, here is a short look back at the first half* (* - see above).

MVP - Mookie Betts - Mookie is just doing his thing.  On a team that has had some injury issues his reliability has been a real boon and of course he has played at a high level on pace for about 8 WAR again.

Cy Young - Chris Sale - I mean duh.  Sale has been exceptional right out of the chute in a way few major acquisitions have been for the Sox in the last couple of decades.  Just to give some context Pedro Martinez was 11-3, 2.90 in his first half with the Sox in 1998, Sale is 11-4, 2.75 (albeit in a different run environment).  But still…

Mariano Rivera - Craig Kimbrel - Double duh.  Honestly I was tempted to call him MVP.  His work in some slightly unconventional early season closer situations (tie games on the road, 8th innings) has been dazzling.  The Sox have won both games he blew saves in so right now they are perfect in games he comes into a save situation.  That’ll do pig, that’ll do.

Unsung Hero - Brian Johnson - The Sox went 4-0 in Johnson’s including his dazzling Kason Gabbard-esque complete game shutout over Seattle.  Those four starts came at a time of the season when the Sox were desperate for some wins and quality starts.  He only had one QS but gave the Sox some innings when they were needed.

Biggest Surprise - Tzu-Wei Lin - Where did THIS come from? He entered the year with a .630 OPS in the minor leagues and hadn’t cracked .600 in two tries in AA.  Then he plays well at AA, gets a call up because…well it was him or Rico Petrocelli, and has hit .286/.405/.400 so far.

Biggest Disappointment - Rick Porcello - I never thought Porcello could replicate his brilliance of 2016 but I was similarly certain he would not relapse to 2015 numbers either.  With that said his last few starts have been pretty solid and I expect a better second half from the righty.

Best Moment -  That Shutout from Johnson - I guess a full game isn’t a “moment” but the heck with it, my post, my rules.  Family in the stands, everyone going nuts, Sox needing the win and he just spends a beautiful Saturday afternoon absolutely dealing.

Much Ado About Nothing - Clay Buchholz Trade - After an awful lot of talk about this move…he made two starts for the Phillies.  He never would’ve been part of depth for this team (though that was an issue early).

Best Reason for Optimism - David Price and Rick Porcello are both pitching a lot better lately.  If they are even close to what they are able to do this rotation is going to be tough for anyone in the division to overcome.

Worst Reason for Pessimism - The bullpen ahead of Kimbrel still scares despite what they have done so far.  I think they need help there.

Three Bits o’ Randomness;

1. Andrew Benintendi’s numbers are better than I realized.

2. The catching combo of Leon and Vazquez have done a very credible job and they deserve recognition.

3. He hasn’t gotten much opportunity yet but it was good to see Brandon Workman back in the bigs.

Get Well Soon - Jerry Remy and Terry Francona - Just seriously, all the best guys.

5 Most Memorable Wins (chronological order)

April 20 - Boston 4 at Toronto 1(10) - The Sox’ score in the ninth to take a lead but Morales homers off Kimbrel to tie it.  The Sox don’t crumble but instead Mookie’s three run double secures the victory.

April 28 - at Boston 5, Cubs 4 - The Sox jumped to a 5-1 lead after one then spent the night squandering chances everywhere.  The game mirrors the respective teams’ seasons as the Cubs battled but couldn’t push across the tying run while the Sox found a way to eke it out with Fernando Abad of all people playing a key role.

May 17 - Boston 5 at St. Louis 4 (13) - Down 4-0 after two the Sox lingered and scored twice in the 7th and 8th to tie it then finally took the lead in the 13th.  13th inning specialist Ben Taylor then polished off one of the earliest victories that felt like “yeah, it’s coming together.”

June 18 - Boston 6 at Houston 5 - An early pitchers’ duel got opened up late.  The Sox seemed to have the game well in hand but the Astros rallied when Hannibel Lecter Benintendi gunned down the tie run at the plate and then Christian Vazquez threw out a base stealer to end it.  This gave the Sox 2 out of 3 against the top team in the AL.

July 2 - Boston 15 at Toronto 1 - Maybe not a thriller like the others on this list but this game was a blow to a divisional contender.  Mookie Betts’ MLB record 8 RBI out of the lead off spot helped the Sox cap a sweep in Canada and put Toronto 9.5 games back.

Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 09, 2017 at 10:50 PM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 10, 2017 at 07:55 AM (#5490319)
A few other notes:

- Boston has played the 2nd-fewest homes games in the AL (Only the White Sox, with 37, have played fewer than Boston's 39). The Red Sox have played 50 road games, and only 39 home games. They also have the highest winning percentage in the AL at home, at 25-14. These are all good signs for the second half.

- Isn't Hanley Ramirez worthy of note for being so...unworthy of note. He and Moreland are virtually identical stats lines thus far, and with Moreland's defense, he's been more valuable. Ramirez has floated below the surface, perhaps because his fellow FA-signee Panda has been such a wreck, but Ramirez has been very disappointing. A lot of days, he's the 7th-best hitter in the lineup. Oh, how I miss Papi...

- Two things that concern me the most: 1) The bullpen behind Kimbrel; 2) the lack of rotation depth. Pomeranz has only pitched 90 innings this year, but it is difficult to expect more than another 60 inning or so out of him this year. I have no confidence in Rodriguez's ability to stay healthy.
   2. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: July 10, 2017 at 09:38 AM (#5490350)
I knew Moreland had regressed, but I didn't realize he'd been hitting so poorly (67 wRC+ over last 30 days). Hanley's hitting .293/.356/.511 (124 wRC+) over that span.

Sox players over the last 30 days

Leon actually was a pretty serviceable catcher over the last two months (111 wRC+ in May and 102 in June), but his numbers are dragged down by his god awful April (14 wRC+). Vazquez has an 18 wRC+ over the last 30 days. Killer B's san Bogaerts have been killing it and Pedroia's been much better as of late.
   3. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: July 10, 2017 at 11:46 AM (#5490434)
Biggest Disappointment - Rick Porcello - I never thought Porcello could replicate his brilliance of 2016 but I was similarly certain he would not relapse to 2015 numbers either. With that said his last few starts have been pretty solid and I expect a better second half from the righty.


Chris Sale is amazing, though. And Mookie is Mookie.
   4. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 13, 2017 at 01:44 PM (#5492979)
So all the talk about Frazier...what are the chances the White Sox might give up Abreu?
   5. Bad Fish Posted: July 13, 2017 at 10:02 PM (#5493272)
At this point in the season, I am pretty optimistic. The team hasn't had a losing streak of any significance, which is usually a hallmark of good team and for a change they have been a little lucky. They have a significantly more favorable schedule than any of their divisional rivals (as Alex Speier notes in 108 Stitches) and for the most part they are doing this without too many peak individual seasons - Sale and Kimbrel - but nothing really outside expectations. They have a lot more opportunity in the 2nd half with an improved Price and the return of Edro. Hanley and Porcello are ripe for turnarounds, they should get Holt back soon, the production from 3rd base seems to have stabilized, they might get Smith back and I think AB has some improvement in him. Even Fister offers some opportunity with the rotational flexibility he offers and a potential veteran arm for the bullpen.

I predict they stand pat at 3rd base. With the glut of organizational utility infielders they trade one of Holt, Lin or Marrero for a RP.
   6. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 14, 2017 at 09:20 AM (#5493373)
The note from Speier about more home games post-break than they've ever had in the 162 game schedule was a surprising one to me. That is really encouraging. I still think the bullpen needs help. I don't trust Kelly worth a damn and Barnes has been inconsistent.
   7. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 14, 2017 at 10:37 AM (#5493432)
And goodbye Fat Panda.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: July 14, 2017 at 10:48 AM (#5493441)
And goodbye Fat Panda.
That news combined with the release of Peralta opens up the Pawtucket 3B spot for Devers.

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