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— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Monday, June 11, 2018

Where Are We?

After a disappointing and somewhat punchless 3-3 homestand the Sox hit the road for a bit of a rugged road trip through Baltimore (3), Seattle (4) and Minnesota (3).  3-3 isn’t an awful homestand or anything but it’s a bit disappointing given the fairly mediocre opposition.  The bad news was the potent offense has really scuffled the last four games scoring just 8 runs while dropping 3 out of 4.  That disappointment is somewhat mitigated by the elephant in the room that is the bizarrely long absence of Mookie Betts.  Since suffering an injury initially described as day to day Mookie has missed 14 games and the Sox have gone 8-6.  They have continued to score runs at a pretty good clip plating 63 runs good for fifth in the AL during that stretch but it would be a fair question to ask how long that would continue in Mookie’s absence and this weekend provided a glimpse that missing the superstar for any length of time would be unpleasant to say the least.

To continue the theme of the disappointing offense is to note that the Sox have attempted to showcase Blake Swihart.  As auditions go this hasn’t been strong with Swihart hitting .176/.243/.206 in 37 PA over 11 games.  On top of that the Sox made an ill-advised decision to give him his first start behind the plate on the day Jalen Beeks made his MLB debut.  This seemed like a really poor decision by Alex Cora who seemed to put both players in a position not to succeed.  Beeks struggled badly though I thought he showed glimpses of what has made him successful at Pawtucket.  I hope he doesn’t find himself buried on the depth chart because I thought he showed a real good sense of what to do and a nice mix of pitches.  He just caught too much of the plate regularly and I wonder if that was a result of just being a bit nervous or perhaps too pumped up.

In general the big concern from this weekend was the general top-heaviness of the lineup.  With Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez struggling (hey Eddie, feel free to take a walk) the Sox offense is kind of grinding to a halt once it gets past JDM.  The power seems to have leaked away from Devers who hasn’t homered for 16 games and has a sub-.100 ISO in that time with just five doubles.  At the same time his slump is not a JBJ-like helplessness.  I’m hopeful/optimistic that we will see Devers pick up soon.  If nothing else I wouldn’t mind Mookie’s return giving Devers a 2-3 day vacation to work with Tim Hyers similar to what JBJ did to right the offensive ship.

With all of that doom and gloom out of the way there has been a fair amount of good news.  The return of Steven Wright to the rotation could not have gone better and hopefully it will continue Monday night.  Like the rest of the lineup it was a quiet offensive weekend for Jackie Bradley but since his 3 day vacation in mid-May he has hit .234/.347/.391.  That’s not MVP numbers or anything but with his defense that is more than palatable.  Of course no discussion about the offense is complete without reference to the red hot Andrew Benintendi and the amazingly steady J.D. Martinez.  Watching Martinez I find myself thinking of the 2011 version of Adrian Gonzalez.  He doesn’t seem to dominate, he just gets hit after hit after hit.  That’s probably not a good explanation but his performance has been exceptional.

The other thought I had is that the Sox have to feel very good about the rotation.  Beyond the return of Wright the performance of David Price and Rick Porcello in encouraging.  Add in giving Sale the extra rest and the Sox may be better off in the long run despite this slight hiccup.  Through 66 games last year Sale had made the same 14 starts but had thrown 112 more pitches.  To go full Yogi on you he’s effectively made about one fewer start this year than he had last year in the same number of starts.

The Sox started 17-2.  Since then they are 27-20 and if they simply maintain that 27-20 pace they would finish with 99 wins.  If they maintain their 44-22 pace they would finish with 108 wins.  I think somewhere between those two should be not just the goal but the expectation for this club.It is encouraging that they have played as well as they have without Mookie and the way the rotation is performing I think long hot streaks are likely to happen sooner than later.

Now get better Mookie.

Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 11, 2018 at 01:03 PM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Bad Fish Posted: June 11, 2018 at 09:38 PM (#5689991)
I've always wanted the team to pretty much go 3-2 for every 5 games, and consistently as possible, no crazy winning no crazy losing. A .600 record will get you into the playoffs almost all the time and win the division usually, and if you catch the wave right, a long way into the playoffs. Considering they are close to doing that after the hot start, I'm very happy with the performance. They withstood the MFY's hot run and have pretty much gone toe-to-toe with them. At this point is a great heavy weight fight. Someone has to give at some point.
   2. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 12, 2018 at 08:34 AM (#5690167)
Last year's team was pretty close to that. Until that crazy hot streak at the end of the year their season in 10 game increments was steadily between 4 and 6 games tilted to more of the 6-4s than the 4-6s (hence the 93 wins). I think that's what made the 2013 team so good. They never got too high or too low.
   3. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 12, 2018 at 03:42 PM (#5690600)
Darren asked about Devers going to Pawtucket to work on some of his issues. Alex Speier wrote about that today with some interesting quotes.

He’s a young player, trying to develop in the big leagues, learning about game-planning and how teams are pitching him. That’s something he never really had to learn about in the minor leagues. It’s a learning curve for him...

The minor league pitchers, said Febles, “don’t know what you’re missing. Playing Harrisburg, playing Altoona, they don’t know how you’re getting a guy out. Now, they know. If he’s getting out on fastballs up in the zone, that’s what you’re going to see.
   4. John DiFool2 Posted: June 12, 2018 at 05:04 PM (#5690692)
Paywall.

I'll be happy once Mookie & Pedroia are back and healthy and raking.
   5. TomH Posted: June 13, 2018 at 08:52 AM (#5691036)
99-108 wins as a goal is OK. But as an expectation? There are a gazillion more realistic ways to finish with less than 99 wins than there are more than 108 wins. If you think 99-108 wins is an expectation, go see if you can put $10,000 down on them to make the playoffs, to win $1000 or a bit more. That seems like an unwise bet to me.
   6. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 13, 2018 at 09:06 AM (#5691046)
FanGraphs (99.4%) and BPro (98.5%) have the Sox as near certainties to make the playoffs. I don't think that's wrong. I would definitely say getting closer to 99 is more likely than getting to 108 but I fully expect them to get between those two numbers (and that may not be enough to win the division of course).
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: June 13, 2018 at 09:20 AM (#5691055)
I know it's not predictive and I know we were freed from these kind of ghosts 14 years ago, but the Sox haven't won 100 games in my lifetime - they haven't won 100 in my father's lifetime.
   8. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 13, 2018 at 09:24 AM (#5691058)
Yeah, 100 wins is tough but this is a weird year. There are a lot of really bad teams in the AL (admittedly we just lost two out of three at home to one of them) so I think the win totals for the top teams are going to be a bit artificially inflated. I don't think the Sox, Yankees, Astros and Indians are that much better than the best of those teams of recent and semi-recent vintage but I think they are going to have bigger win totals.
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: June 13, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5691459)
Random fact: last year Devers had 14 doubles, no triples, and 10 homers. This year he has ... 14 doubles, no triples, and 10 homers.
   10. John DiFool2 Posted: June 14, 2018 at 09:12 AM (#5691909)
The Yanks have played a staggering 6 games fewer than the Sox. Normally that might be an advantage (the standings assume basically that they would split those 6). But since quite a few will presumably be played as doubleheaders...long story short I think I'd prefer to be the Sox in this situation, w/ lots of rest days.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2018 at 09:27 AM (#5691924)

The Yanks have played a staggering 6 games fewer than the Sox. Normally that might be an advantage (the standings assume basically that they would split those 6). But since quite a few will presumably be played as doubleheaders...long story short I think I'd prefer to be the Sox in this situation, w/ lots of rest days.


Given the two teams' established level of play, they're essentially tied (you'd peg the Yanks to win 4 of 6). But you're right, I'd much rather not have to play that many extra games between now and the end of the season. Even if they did go 4-2 in the makeup contests, the extra demands on the pitching staff could result in a loss here or there in one of the other games.

   12. Darren Posted: June 15, 2018 at 03:24 PM (#5692985)
Darren asked about Devers going to Pawtucket to work on some of his issues. Alex Speier wrote about that today with some interesting quotes.


I didn't see a strong argument in that article. You have the quote from Febles, but that's about it. And presumably, now, those minor leaguers will have a very good idea what gets Devers out.

At some point, though, you have to look at Devers and decide if he can or cannot contribute as a starting Major Leaguer right now. If he can't, you don't really want him on the bench, you want him playing regularly in AAA. I would guess that decision arrives by the All-Star break or so.

Of course, the idea of trading him for Machado is crazy. There are other options, such as Lowrie and Beltre, that can be had without giving up Devers.
   13. Darren Posted: June 15, 2018 at 03:26 PM (#5692986)
Related note: Miguel Sano get sent to A ball.
   14. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 15, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5692995)
Yeah I didn't see it as a strong argument one way or the other, just thought it gave some insight to what the Sox are making the decisions they are making.
   15. Darren Posted: June 15, 2018 at 05:02 PM (#5693037)
Didn't mean to imply you did. I just thought Speier was sort of making that case but I didn't agree.
   16. villageidiom Posted: June 28, 2018 at 04:52 PM (#5701792)
Halfway point as of the end of last night's game. They're at a tidy 54-27, two wins for every loss, a 108-win pace - the same 108-win pace they had when this thread was posted.

Fun with BB-Ref: here's Boston's rank in WAA by position, among AL teams:

RF: 1 (NYY 2)
RP: 1 (NYY 2)

Mookie and the bullpen. They've been great. NY has been great, too.

SP: 2 (CLE 1, HOU 3)

They're in good company.

1B: 2 (OAK 1, HOU 3)

I have to be honest. I did not see this one coming, especially given that something like 30% of 1B was Hanley. Moreland has been great, again.

LF: 3 (NYY 2, HOU 4)

Again in good company.

PH: 4 (TBR 3, OAK 5)

Pinch-hitting? Uh, OK. I'm guessing without looking that most of the PH duties went to the regulars late in a game they'd otherwise been sitting. And the regulars are pretty good hitters.

DH: 5 (SEA 4, HOU 6)

I'm also surprised at this... being this low. JDM has been crushing the competition. But he's only been a DH in a little under 60% of his PA. Among full seasons of players who have played at least 50% at DH this year, he's topping the WAA charts. But if you take just the portion from when he's been DH, and then you combine it with all that time Hanley was at DH, the team WAA at DH looks worse.

CF: 7 (TOR 6, TBR 8)

An average MLB CF is not a bad thing. An average MLB CF is not a bad thing. An average MLB CF is not a bad thing...

SS: 10 (DET 9, TBR 11)

Bogaerts has been good, but missed significant time. Tzu-Wei Lin has been poor in XB's absence.

C: 15 (BAL 14)
2B: 15 (DET 14)
3B: 15 (BAL 14)

Is it amazing that Boston has the best record in the league despite league-bottom performance at 3 positions? I mean, I didn't suddenly forget all the other positional rankings I just went through, but that seems like a lot of bad performances. Here are the 3 worst rankings for NYY, HOU, CLE, and SEA:

HOU: DH (6), LF (4), RF (4)
NYY: 1B (14), 3B (12), SS (5)
CLE: CF (14), RF (13), 2B (12)
SEA: 1B (13), LF (11), PH (11)

On the plus side, this suggests Boston has the most opportunity for improvement via deadline trade. I'm always hesitant to change at catcher because of its potential effects on the pitching staff, which has been great. Maybe Brandon Phillips can provide that former-Expos spark at 2B.
   17. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 28, 2018 at 07:51 PM (#5701888)
The funny thing is that while 2nd definitely has felt like a black hole 3rd (Devers) and catcher hasn’t. The thing about Devers is comparing him this year to 3rd base in the first half last year (Pando, Rutledge, concussed Holt) is probably close to 2 wins of improvement.
   18. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 28, 2018 at 11:21 PM (#5702023)
Steve Pearce to the Sox for Santiago Espinal. Wonder if that’s the end for Swihart.
   19. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 28, 2018 at 11:58 PM (#5702032)
#18, well Pearce appears to be able to hit at least. For parts of 11 seasons, he's managed to parlay that into $23 mil!, not bad for a part-timer with 2000ABs. He had a nice 2016, a bit down in '17 but hitting well again in '18, so who knows, hopefully he'll help at 2B.
   20. Nasty Nate Posted: June 29, 2018 at 08:10 AM (#5702056)
Trivia: what was the last Sox-Blue Jays trade before this?
   21. villageidiom Posted: June 29, 2018 at 08:34 AM (#5702060)
Trivia: what was the last Sox-Blue Jays trade before this?
Was it the second Mike Stanley acquisition?
   22. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 29, 2018 at 08:36 AM (#5702061)
Was it a bag of baseballs for World Series Champion John Farrell?
   23. villageidiom Posted: June 29, 2018 at 08:37 AM (#5702062)
Was it a bag of baseballs for World Series Champion John Farrell?
Mike Aviles was worth more than a bag of baseballs.

Heh. Completely forgot about that one.

EDITed to include your edit. Now stop editing!
   24. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 29, 2018 at 08:51 AM (#5702064)
I couldn't remember what we gave up. Yeah he was. I liked Aviles. Did we get The Other Chris Carpenter in that deal? Am I remembering that right?

BTW, Pearce is giving me Bobby Kielty flashbacks. Wouldn't hate for it to end that well for Pearce.
   25. Nasty Nate Posted: June 29, 2018 at 09:04 AM (#5702069)
The Farrell trade is correct.
   26. villageidiom Posted: June 29, 2018 at 09:42 AM (#5702088)
Did we get The Other Chris Carpenter in that deal? Am I remembering that right?
If by "the other Chris" you mean "David", then sure. He was selected by the Braves off waivers a month after Boston got him. Toronto got him in the first place from Houston, as part of the K-Rod/Happ trade.

The Other Chris Carpenter was part of the compensation package from the Cubs for Theo Epstein.
   27. villageidiom Posted: June 29, 2018 at 09:43 AM (#5702089)
Also, I think the Punto trade somehow involved Karen Carpenter.
   28. Nasty Nate Posted: June 29, 2018 at 09:51 AM (#5702095)
The Other Chris Carpenter was part of the compensation package from the Cubs for Theo Epstein.
The Other Bogaerts was also in that trade.
   29. Textbook Editor Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:24 PM (#5702286)
BTW, Pearce is giving me Bobby Kielty flashbacks. Wouldn't hate for it to end that well for Pearce.


I did not know until recently that the HR in Game 4 was Kielty's last ML AB, and there's only a select # of players whose last AB was a HR in a WS-clinching win (the most recent one of these also has Red Six ties; I'm sure someone will get it quickly).
   30. Nasty Nate Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:29 PM (#5702291)
AB in the technical sense...
   31. villageidiom Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:47 PM (#5702298)
AB in any sense. His last PA was a walk, but his last AB was a HR.

Assuming of course that we're talking about David Ross.
   32. Nasty Nate Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:58 PM (#5702300)
AB in any sense.
People casually refer to plate appearances (even those that end in BB, HBP etc) as at-bats.
there's only a select # of players whose last AB was a HR in a WS-clinching win
Out of curiosity, is that select # ... two?
   33. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: June 29, 2018 at 03:01 PM (#5702303)
Between the Kielty homer and the strike out of Smith I must have walked 5 miles pacing in my living room.

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