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Monday, August 24, 2020

First To Worst: How the Red Sox Went From 2018 Champions to 2020 Disaster

On the other hand, the Red Sox have come by their awful start honestly, thanks in large part to one of the worst pitching staffs the game has ever seen. Boston hurlers have given up the most runs in the majors (160), resulting in a run differential of -43 that’s third worst in baseball, and have a ghastly ERA of 6.01, putting them in a virtual tie with Detroit (6.03) for last place, and in the running for the worst team ERA of the modern era. Only the 1996 Tigers, who put up a 6.38 mark en route to 109 losses, and ‘99 Rockies, who posted a 6.03 figure, have done worse in the last 85 years. The Red Sox are tied for San Francisco for lowest WAR among pitching staffs (-0.6), have given up the second-most homers in the league (43, alongside the Giants), are third in walks allowed (107, tied with — you guessed it — the Giants), and rank 24th in Win Probability Added (-2.69).

It gets uglier. Owing to injuries, trades and an offseason they more or less skipped, the Red Sox have already used 11 different starters in just 26 games, and those guys have been lit up for a 6.50 ERA in 101 innings (their staff FIP is an only modestly better 6.16).

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2020 at 01:08 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: red sox

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   1. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 24, 2020 at 09:55 AM (#5971801)
At least all-time Red Sox great and future HOF RF Mookie Betts hit another two home runs last night. So they've got that going for them. What's that? The Dodgers? #### ME!
   2. DCA Posted: August 24, 2020 at 10:06 AM (#5971802)
Alex Verdugo, who headlined the Betts return, is hitting 298/371/543 and has been the team's best player. So you can't even really blame the Betts deal for the team's struggles.
   3. villageidiom Posted: August 24, 2020 at 10:21 AM (#5971809)
They hit on a few items, but the big one going forward is that the farm is not producing talent. I'd said in the Dombrowski firing thread:
While Dombrowski did a great job of identifying which prospects to keep and which to trade... He wouldn't have had so many of either without Ben Cherington's work. And while I'm thrilled with the championships we've had, it's very easy to laud Dombrowski for short-term success when we haven't felt his long-term impacts quite yet.
Those impacts are being felt this year.

Of course, part of the reason those impacts are being felt this year are that Sale and Rodriguez are out and McHugh (let's call him Porcello's replacement) opted out of this season. But they don't have any depth to cover for any one of those guys, let alone all 3. (We'll say Perez is Price's replacement.)
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2020 at 10:40 AM (#5971816)
McHugh likely was going to miss a significant part of this season anyway, FWIW.
   5. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 24, 2020 at 10:52 AM (#5971820)
I think a non-covid Red Sox season that presumably includes Rodriguez and McHugh making regular starts and has Taylor and Darwinzon in the bullpen looks a lot different. They aren't contenders or anything but I think a .500 team is feasible.

They aren't good, obviously, but I don't feel a particular sense of gloom and doom long term. I have liked what Bloom has done so far. Assuming he was told to deal Mookie I think he got a good return for him, the decision to sign McHugh was a good one, Perez isn't a star but he's a perfectly reasonable back of the rotation addition. None of which to say that the article is particularly wrong. I don't think it's likely to see a Sox contender in 2021 either but I think there is a reasonable path for a team that has a track record of spending money and building winners for a 2022 contention.

That’s no fault of the current regime, now led by former Rays boss Chaim Bloom, though his new front office pulled off a draft head-scratcher of its own this summer by taking high school second baseman Nick Yorke with the No. 17 pick despite him getting a fourth- or fifth-round grade from most talent evaluators. That move was more about saving money than taking the best possible player


This is the one thing in the piece I disagree with. I know this was the conventional wisdom at the time but this portion of the piece completely ignores the Sox using that savings to buy Blaze Jordan out of his college commitment. It seems pretty clear to me that the Sox drafted Yorke, who was described in the pieces I read as the best high school hitter in the draft, early knowing they could get him cheaper and then use that money to get a player they otherwise would not. Effectively making the decision that Yorke+Jordan was better than say a 4 year college kid and relatively inexpensive HS kid like the DBacks (who drafted right after them) did. I know #### all about this year's draft so I have no idea if that's the right call.

What I liked about it most though is that it was bold. As I said to a friend, this is what Belichick would do if he were a baseball GM. Obviously you can't trade draft picks so if you have a guy (e.g. Yorke) rated higher than most you can't slide down and get him with the 35th pick and move up elsewhere. Bloom obviously hasn't earned the trust that Belichick has earned in football or that a guy like Theo had but I like the approach. I feel like the Sox are in good hands.

To circle back obviously they are terrible this year. But I think they have the pieces to put it back together fairly quickly.
   6. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 24, 2020 at 10:54 AM (#5971822)
There are a lot of reasons the Red Sox are awful this year, but the Betts trade is not really one of them.

If Boston doesn't make the trade, Price still isn't pitching for the Red Sox this year, because he opted out. And the team would still be paying for all of Betts and Price.

Is Betts having a better 2020 than Verdugo? Yes, Betts is amazing. But the team is 9-20, and has the 3rd worst ERA in baseball history at the moment. And Verdugo has been excellent, is under team control for five more years, and is making $26.5m less than Betts this year, and the team got two more legitimate prospects as part of the deal. If the team doesn't trade Betts, what is the team's record? 12-17? Maybe? They've lost 7 games by 5 or more runs already. Babe Ruth isn't getting this team to .500 right now.

   7. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 24, 2020 at 10:57 AM (#5971823)
Yeah, the Betts trade was a bad one but his absence isn't making much of a difference in results. It clearly makes a massive difference in fan interest. I can't pretend that trading Mookie didn't affect a lot of people's opinion of the direction of the team (including mine).
   8. villageidiom Posted: August 24, 2020 at 10:59 AM (#5971824)
Difference between projected fWAR (preseason ZiPS, prorated) and actual fWAR. Anyone not listed is at his projection.

-1.0 Devers
-0.7 Martinez
-0.7 Benintendi
-0.7 Weber
-0.6 Peraza
-0.5 Bradley
-0.5 Barnes
-0.5 Godley
-0.4 Walden
-0.4 Osich
-0.3 Vazquez
-0.3 Verdugo
-0.2 Lin
-0.2 Springs
-0.2 Brice
-0.1 Hall
-0.1 Eovaldi
-0.1 Taylor
-0.1 Hart
-0.1 Chavis
-0.1 Hembree
+0.1 Stock
+0.1 Arauz
+0.2 Covey
+0.2 Valdez
+0.3 Pillar
+0.9 Moreland

I'll admit that the only one I fudged here is Verdugo. What's displayed above is the difference between Verdugo's actual and Betts' prorated projection. Verdugo is actually +0.4 relative to his own prorated projection.
   9. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: August 24, 2020 at 12:14 PM (#5971842)
Yeah, the Betts trade was a bad one but his absence isn't making much of a difference in results. It clearly makes a massive difference in fan interest. I can't pretend that trading Mookie didn't affect a lot of people's opinion of the direction of the team (including mine).
The Sox being terrible in this abbreviated cluster #### of a season will not satisfy my bloodlust. I now want them to be categorically awful next year in a full season as well. Because #### John Henry.
   10. The Mighty Quintana Posted: August 24, 2020 at 12:32 PM (#5971847)
Yeah, I think if Martinez is coming back to earth then that is a fairly typical decline for a slugger his age. I always feel Devers is in the verge of a tear, and Bradley always starts slow (but, it's August! haha)

But Benintendi cratering seems the most depressing sign. I had him as a Kevin McReynolds/Randy Winn type who would give you 290/20/20 with some good D. But that looks like a distant memory now.
   11. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 24, 2020 at 01:11 PM (#5971860)
Mighty Q - Benintendi is the one guy for whom I think this season being disappointing is concerning. There are a bunch of guys (see #8) underachieving and I think you can accept that as a combination of the weird year and small sample size but Benny is troubling. I never bought into him as a star but I have always felt he was a Markakis type, just a solid guy who can help the team but won't be a star. Coming on the heels of last year I think there are fair questions to be asked about what we can expect from him.

With that said I wouldn't change any of what I assume is the long term plan (keep Benny, let JBJ walk, promote Duran). At this point I don't think trading Benintendi is likely to be beneficial. There isn't anything behind him where I feel like getting rid of him is addition by subtraction and if there is a rebound in there (and I think that's a reasonable expectation) the Sox could be giving up a very useful player.
   12. Rally Posted: August 24, 2020 at 01:40 PM (#5971869)
But I think they have the pieces to put it back together fairly quickly.


The most important pieces they have are the stacks of ten or 100 million dollars sitting around. Some in savings from the players traded or expiring contracts, but mostly just the regular revenue they can expect. The only way they'll be down long is if they try to follow the example set by the Angels.

For example, if they were the Angels they would have not only kept Adrian Gonzales in 2012, they would have extended his contract and would be playing him every day currently, with no plan on stopping. Gonzales came to Boston just one year before Pujols to LA, and despite being 2 years younger than Albert has been retired since 2018.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: August 24, 2020 at 06:45 PM (#5971940)
Do keep in mind that all craters and peaks are still actually just a bad/good month in this wacko season. Panic over Benintendi is understandable even for a half-month but JDM is, at this point, just a bad month -- nearly identical to his Sept last year it turns out ... which is a bit troubling but Aug 31 is a strange time to permanently go off a cliff.

Those impacts are being felt this year

I assume this means he didn't draft or international well. (Yes, I just made "international" a verb) Let's see

2016: #12 Jay Groome, HS pitcher -- made prospect lists in 2017 and 2018 then got hurt. Happens all the time. A few later round picks have made the majors but none have done anything yet.

2017: #24 tanner Houck, college pitcher ... stayed healthy, made it to AAA last year, mediocre results. Nobody else has made the majors yet.

2018: #26 Triston Casas, HS 3B ... top 100 for 2020. He debuted straight in A-ball in 2019 which is a bit unusual for a HS pick, not awesome but good power at 2.5 years younger than league.

2019: #43 ... how do you lose a 1st round pick these days? Anyway a college IF who was terrible.

I have no idea how he did internationally. Those draft results aren't awesome although it is still early. Still, two top 100 prospects within 1-2 years of being drafted doesn't seem terrible either. Houck might be a back-end starter. For late picks, that seems pretty reasonable.

But without question the team he took over had a lot more young talent in the majors and on the way that what he's left behind. That's often both the key to and the price of success. DD clearly didn't work miracles (he'd still be there) but that looks like at least a decent job as GM and flags fly forever. Put Moncada and Betts on the team and you're still scraping 500.
   14. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 24, 2020 at 08:19 PM (#5971957)
2019: #43 ... how do you lose a 1st round pick these days? Anyway a college IF who was terrible.


Luxury tax penalties.
   15. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: August 24, 2020 at 08:43 PM (#5971960)
Yes, I just made "international" a verb

The act of turning a noun into a verb by adding "-ing" is called "verbing"...which, of course, is a perfect example of itself.
   16. villageidiom Posted: August 25, 2020 at 08:22 AM (#5972013)
Panic over Benintendi is understandable even for a half-month but JDM is, at this point, just a bad month -- nearly identical to his Sept last year it turns out ... which is a bit troubling but Aug 31 is a strange time to permanently go off a cliff.
J.D. Martinez was a huge proponent of using video between PAs to look at past performance by the pitcher to develop a plan for his next PA, and to analyze his own PAs to refine his approach. Due to the tech for that also having been used for sign-stealing - but using the potential for COVID-19 transmission as the rationale - MLB shut down player access to in-game video for 2020. I think there's enough reason to believe JDM is doing worse because one of the tools that made him great is no longer available to him.
   17. bunyon Posted: August 25, 2020 at 12:16 PM (#5972058)
Benintendi is the one guy for whom I think this season being disappointing is concerning.

I have not seen the Red Sox play even once this year so can't say if he looks as bad as his numbers. But I can say from working with students for the last six months that reaction to our times has been highly variable. Some really good students have cratered. Some have improved.

I would not draw any conclusions, at all, from these 60 games.
   18. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 25, 2020 at 01:12 PM (#5972068)
I would not draw any conclusions, at all, from these 60 games.


I agree with this. However, in the case of Benintendi it is not the poor 15 games he's played but the continuation of a disappointing 2019. I don't think he's suddenly a bum but it kind of moves my baseline expectation from what he did in 2018 (.290/.366/.465) to something more similar to 2019 (.266/.343/.431). Neither is awful, neither is stardom, but it's a bit disappointing.

I will say that having watched many games Benny has looked lost. He just seems unwilling to swing the bat. It's a bit like Middlebrooks where he almost sseems to just decide to swing or not swing in advance. That all seems fixable and I suspect the weird year isn't helping but again, it's the continuation of his down year last year that I find troubling about it.
   19. villageidiom Posted: August 25, 2020 at 04:51 PM (#5972126)
He just seems unwilling to swing the bat. It's a bit like Middlebrooks where he almost sseems to just decide to swing or not swing in advance.
Maybe Benintendi always decided to swing or not in advance, but is working with less advance information than he did in 2018.

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