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Thursday, June 17, 2021

And Breathe

On the morning of May 30th the Red Sox (and the rest of us) woke up in Boston, looked out the window and saw the rain pelting down.  When the game was postponed and rescheduled for the following Monday the Sox were facing a fairly daunting 17 game stretch.  At that point the Sox had faced a fairly pedestrian schedule and took advantage to muster a 32-20 record that left them a game out of first place behind the Rays.  But the next day would begin a test, 4 in Houston, 3 in the Bronx, 1 with the Marlins, host Houston for 3, Toronto for 4 and finally 2 with Atlanta before a well earned day off and presumably some top notch steaks in Kansas City.

The stretch began inauspiciously with the Sox dropping 3 in a row in Houston.  They rescued the fourth game behind Martin Perez then got rolling.  They swept the Yankees in New York for the first time since 2011 (I think that means the Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup, book it!), took 3 out of 7 from Houston and Toronto and wrapped things up with a two game sweep in Atlanta.  The 10-7 stretch wasn’t aesthetically beautiful but facing generally good teams it was pretty encouraging.  A few random thoughts for discussion over the last 17 days and generally;

- The pitching, particularly the starters, is the focus with more than a little discussion about Spider Tack and spin rates.  It’s a few days old but Alex Speier’s piece is worth a read.  Regardless of the why pretending the Sox rotation was even acceptable in this stretch is a fool’s errand.  Nate Eovaldi posted a 2.95 ERA in his 3 starts but Nick Pivetta’s 5.74 is the second best from the rotation in that stretch.  This is the starting pitching that had the Sox picked by many to be around .500.  It is difficult to succeed with that type of starting pitching.  Whether it is Spider Tack, a witch’s curse or just the random fluctuations of a Major League Baseball season the Sox need to get the starters straightened out.

- The bullpen is another matter.  Matt Barnes has had a little hiccup surrendering runs in three of his last four outings but Barnes has a track record so I don’t think that’s particularly concerning.  Beyond that Adam Ottavino, Darwinzon Hernandez and particularly Josh Taylor have been pitching very well giving skipper Alex Cora some reliable arms ahead of Barnes and Garrett Whitlock continues to be effective.  The one guy I can’t figure out is Hirokazu Sawamura.  When I watch him pitch he looks good and that splitter, I mean c’mon how can anyone hit that?  But he gives up a LOT of hard contact.  Six homers in 27 innings is just way too many for a reliever.  I remember Mike Timlin having a year like that, I want to say 2003, and he rounded into shape.

- But let’s talk about the guy with the 0.00 ERA in that stretch.  Of course I refer to Christian Arroyo. .268/.348/.610 with four homers including last night’s monster (both in game importance and distance) grand slam.  Arroyo turned 26 on that enforced off day on May 30th and turning 26 agrees with him.  It’s probably worth remembering that this is a former #1 pick and top 100 prospect who was traded for a three time All Star.  He’s not a 30 year old journeyman.  I don’t expect him to keep hitting like this but I think it is hard to argue that he should not be in the lineup on a regular basis.  Incidentally last night’s grand slam was the first pinch hit grand slam for the Sox since Mike Carp on 9/11/2013.

- The Sox are getting production from the usual suspects.  Xander Bogaerts has the best OPS in this stretch with Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers also contributing.  The one guy you’d expect to be hitting who isn’t is JD Martinez who is slumping a bit.  Quietly Hunter Renfroe is hitting very well (.291/.400/.473) and playing like the guy the Sox hoped to be getting.  The reality is the offense is carrying this team right now but if the offense can produce during a slump by the pitching that will take this team a long way.  However, that is incumbent on the rotation getting its act together.  The offense won’t keep producing at this level.  The 10-7 record is a nice bit of theft during a stretch when they have had a .401 Pythagorean Record which would be 7-10. 

- Bobby Dalbec is showing some signs of life.  He got a day off in Houston to do some extra work and has hit .296/.345/.630 since then.  Sample sizes etc…apply but I remain somewhere between optimistic and hopeful on him.

- Dumb little thing but the two games in Atlanta saw the Sox have two pitchers named Garrett get their first Major League hits.

- Depending on how things pan out this year the Sox may look back on Ryan Weber’s outing on Sunday as oddly crucial.  In his final appearance for the club Weber took it on the chin for the team.  With the rotation struggling the bullpen needed a break and going 5 innings while allowing 11 runs wasn’t pretty but it was needed.

- The Sox are now faced with 22 games in 24 games leading up to the All Star Break.  7 with KC, 3 with NYY, 3 with TB, 3 with OAK, 3 with LAA and 3 with PHI.  And I’ll save vi the trouble, .500 from here on out will give them 88 or 89 wins (46-47 or 47-46).

- Get well soon Remdawg!

Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 17, 2021 at 08:43 AM | 116 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. villageidiom Posted: June 17, 2021 at 03:00 PM (#6024793)
I don’t expect him to keep hitting like this but I think it is hard to argue that he should not be in the lineup on a regular basis.
I'd say that Christian Arroyo is playing the way we all wish Dustin Pedroia were still capable of playing. He is hitting the ball with authority, and playing good defense.

And I’ll save vi the trouble, .500 from here on out will give them 88 or 89 wins (46-47 or 47-46)
I don't go through the trouble when they've played an odd number of games! Still, to get through that stretch and still be on pace for high-80s win totals if they are mediocre the rest of the way is pretty impressive.
   2. pikepredator Posted: June 17, 2021 at 04:12 PM (#6024808)
Yep this was a very exciting way to finish it. It was a hard stretch, no doubt, but it was supposed to be a hard stretch and to play nearly .600 ball is impressive. It's been fun watching them outslug the Braves . . . it'd be better if they didn't have to, but at least they're still getting it done.
   3. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 17, 2021 at 04:56 PM (#6024831)
There are three reasons we should be playing Arroyo at 2B every day:

1) He's playing well, and if Cora insists on putting Verdugo second in the lineup, then Arroyo may be the best person to leadoff.
2) It means some of these other guys are not playing second, so there is some addition by subtraction. Gonzalez and Hernandez suck. They aren't good defensive second baseman, they can't hit, and they have nothing to do with the next really good Red Sox team. If Arroyo is playing, it means they are not playing second, and that's a plus.
3) Obviously, I want the Red Sox to continue winning, but I really want them to figure out who is staying, and who is going, over the long term of the franchise. We *know* guys like Gonzalez and Hernandez have nothing to do with the future of this franchise - they are stopgaps while the franchise is rebuilding the farm system and developing young talent. Arroyo *may* be a part of the next championship team, and is one of the best transactions (picked up off of waivers from Cleveland last August) of the brief Bloom era. I don't want the team to take its eye off of the big picture goal of building a World Series contender, and figuring out what they have in the organization, and playing Arroyo every day shows me that they are serious about building the team the right way.
   4. John DiFool2 Posted: June 17, 2021 at 09:09 PM (#6024865)
So, how long before we see Jarren Duran patrolling CF? Yes, his K rate and BA are worrisome, but he can't be any worse than who has been out there so far.
   5. villageidiom Posted: June 18, 2021 at 10:11 AM (#6024945)
So, how long before we see Jarren Duran patrolling CF?
September at the earliest. He'll be in Tokyo through early August for the Olympics, and then I'm assuming they'd have him quarantine for a couple weeks given there are probably some Sox players who remain unvaccinated and the Olympics are expected to be a covidpalooza.
   6. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 18, 2021 at 10:47 AM (#6024950)
He'll be in Tokyo through early August for the Olympics


Is this true? I haven't heard anything about this. I know he was on the qualifying roster but a lot of the chatter ahead of that tournament was that he would be called up soon after. That's not happening yet obviously but I haven't read or heard anything about Duran (or anyone else) being on the Olympic roster.
   7. The Mighty Quintana Posted: June 18, 2021 at 01:50 PM (#6024967)
Can we send Tate Matheny, instead? Would anyone notice?
   8. Darren Posted: June 18, 2021 at 02:13 PM (#6024970)
How about Marcus Wilson? .260 .393 .537. Too many strikeouts but hey, join the club!


If he were to contribute, we could realize some value from Blake Swihart. :)
   9. Darren Posted: June 18, 2021 at 02:14 PM (#6024971)
September at the earliest. He'll be in Tokyo through early August for the Olympics


Is this the plan that they've committed to? Seems like if they decided they felt he was needed for the Majors, they would scrap this idea, right?
   10. Darren Posted: June 18, 2021 at 02:16 PM (#6024972)
The Red Sox also have a guy named Cordero hitting .400 at AAA! Let's call that guy up!
   11. villageidiom Posted: June 18, 2021 at 04:29 PM (#6024989)
Is this true? I haven't heard anything about this. I know he was on the qualifying roster but a lot of the chatter ahead of that tournament was that he would be called up soon after. That's not happening yet obviously but I haven't read or heard anything about Duran (or anyone else) being on the Olympic roster.
It was projection on my part. They won't announce the final rosters until early July. I'm working with the assumption that he is selected and goes to Japan for the Olympics.
Seems like if they decided they felt he was needed for the Majors, they would scrap this idea, right?
Yes, but does anyone think Chaim Bloom feels Duran is needed for the Majors in 2021? I mean, Hernandez is basically on a typical JBJ trajectory in terms of value. If JBJ were out there right now, doing what we all remember JBJ typically doing, would you think they would bench him for Duran? I'm not seeing it. Unless Duran can throw 6 IP every five games I don't think they feel he's needed now.

(I mean, Duran is the starting CF in 2022. That's pretty clear.)
   12. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 18, 2021 at 05:11 PM (#6024998)
Yes, but does anyone think Chaim Bloom feels Duran is needed for the Majors in 2021? I mean, Hernandez is basically on a typical JBJ trajectory in terms of value. If JBJ were out there right now, doing what we all remember JBJ typically doing, would you think they would bench him for Duran? I'm not seeing it. Unless Duran can throw 6 IP every five games I don't think they feel he's needed now.


I think you're overstating Kike a bit. Offensively his OPS+ is worse than JBJ had in any season since 2014 (when he was sent to AAA) and Bradley was a 2-3 win player pretty steadily (other than 2016) and Kike is on pace to come in a bit below that. I also think JBJ's defense was underrated by WAR though I'm not willing to defend that particularly vigorously because the numbers is what the numbers is. Having said all that the Sox didn't have someone better than JBJ in the minors whereas it is somewhere between possible and likely that they DO have someone better than Kike in Duran.

"Needed" is a bit of a loaded term. Technically they are on a 90 win pace (and man that's nuts) without Duran so you're right, they don't "need" him. However if Duran is better than Kike there is no reason not to have him in there. I think there is a better chance that Duran is in Boston rather than Tokyo in August. Frankly I think if he is in Tokyo that's a good thing because either Hernandez has gotten rolling or they made a move to acquire a centerfielder and I don't expect Bloom to make a move that would hurt the farm system (i.e. trade Duran or Casas).
   13. Darren Posted: June 19, 2021 at 04:50 PM (#6025176)
The leadoff thing is just getting bizarre. Today, Santana and his .211 obp is leading off.

Yes, but does anyone think Chaim Bloom feels Duran is needed for the Majors in 2021?


Well I think it's possible he will decide that he needs (maybe more like "wants") Duran in the Majors. I'm mainly saying that the Olympics will be a secondary concern to the Major League club, if they are any concern at all.
   14. villageidiom Posted: June 19, 2021 at 09:35 PM (#6025216)
Oh, the Olympics will definitely be a secondary concern. But I expect Duran to be on the Olympic team. I don't think Bloom will see Duran as enough of a difference-maker to start the service time clock. That's not a slight against Duran, but just a recognition that Hernandez is on a pace to put up around 1 win of value between now and the end of August, and even if Duran would be more like 1.5 to 2 that's not going to be enough for Bloom to make the move.
   15. Nasty Nate Posted: June 20, 2021 at 10:04 AM (#6025328)
They could have both Duran and Hernandez in the lineup at the same time.
   16. John DiFool2 Posted: June 20, 2021 at 10:32 AM (#6025330)
7/11 over his last 3 games.
   17. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 08:29 AM (#6025510)
That's not a slight against Duran, but just a recognition that Hernandez is on a pace to put up around 1 win of value between now and the end of August, and even if Duran would be more like 1.5 to 2 that's not going to be enough for Bloom to make the move.


Why do you say that? Teams in contention make such moves all the time. There are no issues with timing as far as service time, we are well past that, unless the plan is to not call up Duran this year AND to delay his call up in 2022 which would be comically inept.
   18. villageidiom Posted: June 21, 2021 at 09:36 AM (#6025518)
There are no issues with timing as far as service time, we are well past that, unless the plan is to not call up Duran this year AND to delay his call up in 2022 which would be comically inept.
Fair point.

Why do you say that? Teams in contention make such moves all the time.
They also don't make such moves all the time.

The team would have to make a roster move to make it happen, as Duran isn't on the 40-man roster. It makes little sense for the roster move to involve a random pitcher because you'd have the problem of having too many outfielders, and at a time when pitching needs the help more. I don't think Cora would bench Hernandez or Renfroe to make room for Duran, and I don't think Bloom would order him to. And I don't think Bloom would think it's good for Duran's development to have him subbing/platooning in Boston instead of playing every day in Worcester or even Tokyo, so it's not like they'll toss Santana for him. So if they're going to make a roster move to bring up Duran, it would involve either trading/releasing Hernandez, or trading/releasing Gonzalez and having Hernandez take over the super-sub role. I don't suspect either will happen - at least not for the sake of bringing up Duran before September.

If they need another OF, they're calling up Cordero. If they need an infielder (e.g. to replace Arroyo, if his injury is serious enough) they're calling up Chavis instead of making a bunch of cascading moves to free up a full-time outfield spot - which they'd fill with Cordero.
   19. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 09:52 AM (#6025521)
They also don't make such moves all the time.


Agree to disagree on this one. I think the vast majority of deadline deals have fairly similar projected ROIs as to what you described.

Duran isn't on the 40-man roster


Fair point which I hadn't realized. I think Yacksel Rios is very much the definition of a guy you can punt comfortably and I don't see Danny Santana and his .478 OPS as someone who they'd be especially bothered about getting rid of.

And I don't think Bloom would think it's good for Duran's development to have him subbing/platooning in Boston instead of playing every day in Worcester or even Tokyo


Concur to a point. Definitely on the subbing idea but as the strong side of a centerfield platoon with Kike he'd be playing regularly enough that I don't think that would be problematic. Frankly I think it's probably a reasonable next step in his development curve. All that said I don't think they'd call Duran up to sit. If he's not going to play 4-5 times a week he's staying in Worcester.

If they need another OF, they're calling up Cordero


I don't think they will rush to get Cordero back to the big leagues. He struggled enough that I think they'd be wary. I think you're right that Chavis probably is the guy coming back sooner than later (or maybe Arauz though neither guy is playing especially well).

I think we are generally in agreement. Duran is not coming up for a week or to sit on the bench. Chavis/Arauz/Downs/maybe Cordero though I'm doubtful are the short term options. But I think the idea of Duran coming up to fill a role (like Ellsbury in 2007) is more likely than him going to Tokyo.
   20. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 10:49 AM (#6025526)
2021 was never meant to be a "go for it" season for Boston, and they continue to act like it is not. A number of the short-term veteran acquisitions meant to buy time for young talent to be ready, while keeping payroll commitments down for 2022 and beyond, have actually not worked out very well:

- Hernandez and Gonzalez have been pretty awful. Renfroe has played better in the last month, but he has been a league-average bat in the OF. Santana has been awful in limited time. Luckily, all but Hernandez are on one-year commitments, and are generally not making any money. Hernandez is signed for $8 million in 2022, and that has been a pretty poor signing.
- Among the 26/27-year-old, "are you a big leaguer or not" group, only Arroyo has been good. Cordero, Dalbec and Chavis have not been helpful, though the lack of an alternative at 1B has allows Dalbec more runway than he would otherwise earn.
- The starting pitchers they've brought in (Richards, Perez, Pivetta) have collectively been better than most fans would have expected - not so much because they've been lights out, but because they've been making all of their starts at a league-average level. They've now made it through about 45% of the season without missing a start. If these three could do this for the next 90 games (about 18 more starts each), that'd probably be good enough to get the team into the playoffs. Sale will be back in a few months, and Houck is pitching again, so depth will become less of an issue in the rotation in the next four weeks or so.
- The relievers they've brought in have generally been very good - Ottavino, Sawamura, and Whitlock were not in the organization last year, but have collectively pitched very well. (90 innings pitched between the three of them, 2.40 ERA, 107 Ks). With the holdovers also generally pitching well (Barnes, Taylor and Hernandez), the bullpen has been a strength this year. The one new guy they brought in who has not worked out was Andriese, and his role has become mopup guy in lost causes.

So the pitching acquisitions have gone almost best-case scenario, while this year'd offensive acquisitions have been among the worst-case scenarios. Taken with the holdovers who have generally played well (including the core of the lineup), and it is probably good enought to be competing for a playoff spot in September.

So, assuming you think the team should generally not stray from the path of using this year as part of building for the next legit World Series contender:
1) Is there a point where you would be willing to "go for it" in 2021, after all, if the team is at .600 in late July, and go for a big acquisition because...hey, flags fly forever?
2) If so, what would be the #1 thing you'd give up assets to address? A legit outfielder? A real bat at 1B? A starting pitcher who is a step above what the team has right now?
3) What is the best asset in the organization you're willing to give up in 2021 to get better for this year?
4) If you're not willing to "go for it" this year (I don't think I am, FWIW), then what would you do to help the team in a less dramatic way? More catching help? A small upgrade at 1B? Somebody who can take Marwin Gonzalez's ABs? Bullpen depth?
   21. villageidiom Posted: June 21, 2021 at 10:59 AM (#6025529)
Agree to disagree on this one. I think the vast majority of deadline deals have fairly similar projected ROIs as to what you described.
Fair. I was thinking specifically to calling up a prospect to perform slightly better for a couple months than someone in the starting lineup. Deals before the deadline are usually give-player-get-player, or give-prospect-get-player. Moves where the prospects are promoted to fill a need are something I associate with the post-deadline period. Ellsbury came up to play for a week in 2007 while Coco Crisp nursed a jammed thumb, then wasn't seen much until September. Bogaerts in 2013 came up in mid-August. Stuff like that.
   22. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 11:12 AM (#6025530)
1) Is there a point where you would be willing to "go for it" in 2021, after all, if the team is at .600 in late July, and go for a big acquisition because...hey, flags fly forever?


In theory we are there now. The problem with this question, and it's a fair one, is what does "go for it" mean? Duran and Casas are on my untouchable list (within reason, I mean there is a price but realistically I'm not moving either guy). I wouldn't like to return the system to it's 2019 state of barrenness (####, that's spelled right. Didn't expect that.). I probably should do some research on what the big tickets out there might be. Story is out there but obviously the Sox are comfortable at shortstop.

2) If so, what would be the #1 thing you'd give up assets to address? A legit outfielder? A real bat at 1B? A starting pitcher who is a step above what the team has right now?


If the Sox are going for it starting pitcher is where I would make my move. Dalbec has been hot lately and I'm still mildly hopeful on him. I think you can find a first base option relatively low cost and the outfield I'm OK with. Renfroe is fine, Verdugo is very good and like first base I think there are probably options to be had.

3) What is the best asset in the organization you're willing to give up in 2021 to get better for this year?


This gets back to my comment in #1. In theory everyone is tradeable. I mean, obviously I'd deal Duran and Casas and every other player in the minor league system to get Trout but realistically that's not happening. Looking at the Sox Prospects top 20 list I think those two guys are my only absolute untouchables. Downs (#2) and Jimenez (#4, sorry Darren) I think are tradeable. Aldo Ramirez is probably the guy that I look at as being the one I'd be wary of dealing because I can see him stepping up so from the Sox perspective he is overvalued. In other words I don't think I'd want the Sox to make a reasonable trade for him.

4) If you're not willing to "go for it" this year (I don't think I am, FWIW), then what would you do to help the team in a less dramatic way? More catching help? A small upgrade at 1B? Somebody who can take Marwin Gonzalez's ABs? Bullpen depth?


I'd like someone in the outfield that allows me to have something stable. He's having a bad year but a guy like Max Kepler as a left fielder would be nice. First base similarly and relievers are to MLB what stay at home defensemen are to the NHL. You can never have too many. I'm cool behind the plate with Vazquez/Plawecki. Christian Arroyo just needs to play every day (assuming he's healthy) and a bit stronger regular outfielder makes Kike your backup infielder which I think is a better fit for him.
   23. Darren Posted: June 21, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6025600)
Nice post SBPT, though I'd disagree with this:

- Hernandez and Gonzalez have been pretty awful. Renfroe has played better in the last month, but he has been a league-average bat in the OF. Santana has been awful in limited time. Luckily, all but Hernandez are on one-year commitments, and are generally not making any money. Hernandez is signed for $8 million in 2022, and that has been a pretty poor signing.


Hernandez is making 2/$14 mil and has been worth 1.2 WAR. Watching his sub-.300 OBP isn't much fun, but his defense apparently makes up for it.
Renfroe is making 1/$3.1 mil and has been worth 0.8 WAR. He's pretty much an average player for the cost of a 4th OF.
Marwin's an okay bench guy, but he's playing way too much.
Santana - bad.

Your assessment of the 26-27 year-olds is pretty spot on, though the book is not entirely closed.

I agree with Jose that we've reached the point where 2021 is a go-for-it year. I'd try to stay away from dealing the top 5-8 guys in the system, being willing to take on money to get a SP, OF, or 1B. A decent reliever can probably be added very cheaply too.





   24. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 04:49 PM (#6025604)
#23 - Darren, I am probably too harsh on Hernandez, and it is a good point on Marwin - he is probably playing more than he should. Renfroe is exactly what Bloom was hoping for: A cheap, short-term veteran guy who can stabilize a position that would otherwise be a weakness, or where we'd be forced to play a young guy before he was ready. Since May 1st (42 starts), Renfroe is hitting .292/.347/.500 - can't ask for a lot more than that for $3.1m on a one-year deal.
   25. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 07:07 PM (#6025635)
Also, wanted to put this somewhere:

Entering tonight, all five primary starting pitchers have made at least 13 starts - no other team in the AL can say that. IN fact, after tomorrow (Tuesday's) night, when ERod pitches, all five starters will have made at least 14 starts - by far the only team in the AL that can say that.

This means that there have been only two starts out of 72 thus far started by somebody other than the five projected starting pitchers (Houck started twice early in the season). The AL leaders in fewest games started by pitchers other than their primary five starters:

Boston 2
White Sox 4
Yankees 7
Oakland 8
Texas 9
Detroit 11

This, more than anything else, probably explains how the Red Sox have been able to play near-.600 ball all season when even Chaim Bloom would have said in Spring Training that this was built to be a .500 team if things went reasonably well - a step forward in the rebuilding process.

The five starters have pitched 365 innings - all as starters - over 70 games, with an ERA of 4.59 - an ERA+ of about 98. The average start has been 5.2 innings, with 5.49 hits, 5.19 Ks, and 1.89 walks. In that average start, he'll throw 88 pitches - an average of about 15.5 pitches an inning.

Here's the thing: What I just described is the average of those 70 starts (and the two by Houck are very similar)...but it is also lacking in variation. This is what every night looks like. They are second in the league in starts where between 80-99 pitches are thrown, and near the bottom in starts with fewer than 80 pitches. Every night is a guy throwing between 5 and 6 innings (usually not six), throwing around 95 pitches, giving up 5-6 hits, striking out 5-6 guys, walking 1-2 guys, and the team's offense and bullpen is good enough to win that start 60% of the time.

I do not recall seeing a Red Sox team that was so healthy in its rotation, and that had five guys who were so similar in their outcomes. The funny thing is, the guy who is having by far the worst results this year, ERod, is almost certainly their second-best pitches by the peripheral stats this year - he strikes out more guys per 9, isn't walking a lot of batters, and his FIP is the 2nd best after Eovaldi - but he is getting hit, and gives up HRs. I could easily see a scenario where Rodriguez improves dramatically in the second half, making up for a probably decline by some of the Perez/Richards/Pivetta trio. In fact, if the REd Sox make the playoffs, it is easy to see a playoff rotation that is quite formidable: Sale, ERod, Eovaldi, and Houck. That would allow the team to move a couple of guys to the bullpen (Pivetta to get a big strikeout; Perez against a lefty; etc.) But it all starts with a near-historic run of availability of consistently average starting pitching.

   26. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 09:56 PM (#6025660)
Reading SBPT’s post above it struck me. Do you know what the 2021 Sox are? They are the early 2000s Twins. Just five good starters grinding out consistent good enough starts to avoid the long losing streaks.
   27. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 21, 2021 at 11:07 PM (#6025670)
2002 Twins won 94 games with these starting pitchers:
Rick Reed, 32 GS, ERA+ of 118
Kyle Lohse, 31, 106
Eric Milton 29, 92
Brad Radke 21, 95
Joe Mays 17, 83
Matt Kinney 12, 97
Then a young Johan Santana came into the rotation, started 14 games with an ERA+ of 150, and led the team in strikeouts with 137 in only 108.1 innings.

That Twins team didn't have any players as good as Bogaerts, JD, or Devers with the bat, but they also were getting something out of virtually every position. So, their lineup was sort of like their rotation - a bunch of guys who just give you league-average stuff all the time, with a few guys who are better than that *enough* to win more often than lose.
   28. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 21, 2021 at 11:34 PM (#6025673)
They are the early 2000s Twins.


Hopefully without the indignity of being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the dreaded enemy.
   29. Darren Posted: June 22, 2021 at 10:30 AM (#6025694)
The same sort of thing was said about the 2004 Sox rotation--that they were lucky that they basically a start. But in both cases, that's only true once the team had already had to fill in a vacancy. 2004 team lost Kim at the start, this team started with Sale on the IL.
   30. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 22, 2021 at 01:26 PM (#6025712)
In terms of the 2004 Red Sox, they definitely had good health among their top five starters:

Schilling 32 starts
Pedro 33
Lowe 33
Wakefield 30
Arroyo 29
157 of the 162 games started by these five. (Kim started three, and Astacio and Abe Alvarez each started one)

The difference with the 2021 team (if they continue their run of good health, as well), is that they are all really...average. That 2004 team has three guys with ERA+ of 120 or higher (Arroyo was the third one, surprisingly, with a 120 ERA+). And Lowe and Wakefield had enjoyed success in their careers, too. (Just two years earlier, Lowe and Wakefield had ERA+ of 162 and 177, respectively). It was a loaded rotation.

In 2021, Bronson Arroyo would be arguably their best pitcher. And, generally speaking, the five Red Sox starters in 2004 were horses - Arroyo had the least credentials at that time, but it was the first year of a ten-year run where he averaged 33 starts and 207 IP over a decade. (That Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena trade was one of the biggest clunkers of the last 20 years for the Red Sox.)

Man, that 2004 team was special. This 2021 team would be (I think) without any recent precedent if they actually get through the next few months with five pretty average guys all making all of their starts.
   31. villageidiom Posted: June 22, 2021 at 01:46 PM (#6025717)
(That Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena trade was one of the biggest clunkers of the last 20 years for the Red Sox.)
In terms of value gained for value lost, absolutely. IIRC though they basically didn't need Arroyo when they made the trade. They had Beckett, Schilling, Wakefield, Wells, and Clement, plus they were grooming Papelbon to be a starter, and had Jon Lester waiting in the wings. Not even counting Lester, with Arroyo they had 7 potential starters.

They eventually relented on Papelbon's desire to close, and they traded Arroyo to fill a potential need. That got them to 5. Of course, Clement and Wells both got hurt and their crazy depth in March became a shorthanded rotation, needing the 22-year-old Lester to make 15 starts and Kyle Snyder to make 10 more. You can never have enough pitching...
   32. Rough Carrigan Posted: June 22, 2021 at 02:10 PM (#6025722)
Gammons told a story of how, at the trading deadline in 1978, the A's, then in full fire sale mode, offered to trade Rick Langford to the Sox and Haywood Sullivan's response was "We've got enough pitching."
   33. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 22, 2021 at 02:30 PM (#6025724)
Plawecki to the DL, Connor Wong being called up.
   34. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 23, 2021 at 08:07 AM (#6025906)
So who had Wong's debut being as a pinch runner in the pool?
   35. villageidiom Posted: June 23, 2021 at 10:30 AM (#6025913)
Some day, Wander Franco will be able to tell his grandkids he had his MLB debut in the same game as Hall of Famer Connor Wong.
   36. Darren Posted: June 23, 2021 at 11:23 AM (#6025917)
In terms of value gained for value lost, absolutely. IIRC though they basically didn't need Arroyo when they made the trade. They had Beckett, Schilling, Wakefield, Wells, and Clement, plus they were grooming Papelbon to be a starter, and had Jon Lester waiting in the wings. Not even counting Lester, with Arroyo they had 7 potential starters.


Even the reasoning was kind of terrible, as you allude to later. They didn't have to trade for Beckett. They could have tried to trade a different starter. Or they could have traded Arroyo for someone, you know, good. (I know you weren't necessarily defending this move.)

It's interesting to imagine an alternate reality where the Sox hold onto Arroyo, Hanley, and Anibal, perhaps still taking on Mike Lowell. The best part might be that they don't later sign Hanley for 4/88. :)
   37. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: June 23, 2021 at 01:19 PM (#6025940)
They had Beckett, Schilling (age 39), Wakefield (age 39), Wells (age 43), and Clement, plus they were grooming Papelbon to be a starter (already had transitioned to the pen), and had Jon Lester waiting in the wings. Not even counting Lester, with Arroyo they had 7 potential starters.


Yes, what could go wrong? Certainly no need for a 29 year old pitcher on *that* staff!
   38. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 23, 2021 at 01:37 PM (#6025944)
Honestly I loved the deal at the time. I thought Arroyo was a flash in the pan. He wasn't some hotshot prospect who had pulled it together, he was about to be a 29 year old who had one really good season and one OK season under his belt. The Sox had guys in the rotation (albeit older guys), had just acquired a potential ace in Beckett and Papelbon and Lester on the way. Meanwhile Wily Mo WAS a former hotshot prospect, only 24 and had already been decent.

Did you know he's younger than Nelson Cruz? If you said to me in 2006 "in 2021 either Wily Mo or some guy who was a throw in on a trade for Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero will have over 400 homers" I'd have taken Wily Mo every day and twice on Sunday.

tl;dr Jose is dumb.
   39. villageidiom Posted: June 23, 2021 at 01:53 PM (#6025948)
Not to conflate the various Arroyos, but I think the Christian Arroyo acquisition showed how a Wily Mo Pena acquisition is supposed to be done.

The Bard-for-Mirabelli trade was one of the prime examples of the front office's impatience getting the best of them. Trading an underpaid quality starting pitcher for a former hotshot prospect might be another.
   40. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 28, 2021 at 08:13 AM (#6026620)
   41. villageidiom Posted: June 28, 2021 at 10:16 AM (#6026637)
If they play .500 ball the rest of the way Boston will finish with 89 wins.
   42. Rough Carrigan Posted: June 28, 2021 at 12:03 PM (#6026662)
I was ambivalent about the idea of hiring Cora back when they did it but man do I like having him as manager. The guy just seems to be on point on every level of the team and the game. This inning, this game, the season. I saw the postgame interview with him after the second game of the Rays series and he was talking about how they couldn't just go up there and try to hit homers against the Rays pitchers, etc. That seems so basic, but you see so many teams that don't seem to do anything but try to hit homers no matter who the pitcher is that they're facing.
   43. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 28, 2021 at 01:40 PM (#6026675)
I was ambivalent about the idea of hiring Cora back when they did it but man do I like having him as manager.


Concur. Hell I wrote an entire post on it. He's been great this year. I love that he brought the attitude of "we are a good team" in. I don't know how much that matters but as a fan it's a lot more inspirational and fun than just random platitudes about "competing."

More tangibly something he's done that he did well in 2018 also is manage the bullpen. He's not afraid to ride a hot hand then move on. I think he's able to make the Sox bullpen stronger than the sum of its parts.
   44. The Mighty Quintana Posted: June 28, 2021 at 03:36 PM (#6026703)
I was thrilled when he came back for this exact reason. Crafting a bullpen is one of the most important jobs of a 21st century manager, and he has the knack.
   45. Rough Carrigan Posted: June 28, 2021 at 10:22 PM (#6026791)
But, managing the bullpen is a skill that doesn't necessarily occur as a corollary of other managerial skills. Hell, Jimy Williams had it. He'd pick up on hot streaks by mediocre guys like Hippolito Pichardo and ride him, like Butch and Sundance fleeing the Super Posse, for a few weeks. But Jimy combined that knack for the bullpen with all the interpersonal skills of Captain Queeg from the Caine Mutiny and the sort of conception of an offense that made sure Darren Lewis was always in the lineup. Alex Cora has the knack for handling the pen and, seemingly, all the other attributes you want in a manager. They were sooooo right to bring him back.
   46. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 29, 2021 at 01:47 PM (#6026852)
Two quick points, one about Arroyo, one about Cora (that are sort of related):

1) Arroyo was traded after the 2005 season - a 27-year-old pitcher who had just thrown 205 innings with an ERA+ of 101, after a successful 2004 season where he made 29 starts. He was making $1.85m. Perhaps it is different today, but I think many teams, and many fans, dramatically underestimate the value of a league-average pitcher who takes the ball every 5th day and throws a lot of...league-average innings. The REd Sox clearly vastly underestimated his value at that time.

2) And that takes us to Chaim Bloom and Alex Cora. The Red Sox will hit the halfway point of the season Wednesday night. They are tied for the best record in the AL in a season where the team was built to avoid any long-term commitments, rebuild the farm system, and put some short-term veterans around a handful of young players who are entering their prime.

Others on this thread have rightfully praised the bullpen as a strength, and watching Cora figure out who to put in different roles as the season has developed has been a fascinating part of being a Red Sox fan this year. The bullpen, at this point, is remarkably healthy and well-defined:
Barnes closes.
Ottavino is the chief setup guy.
Sawamura is the first option for the 7th, unless there are a lot of lefties, in which case Josh Taylor faces 1-to-4 batters per appearance.
Darwinzon Hernandez gets them outs in the 6th and 7th.
Whitlock typically gives the bullpen a rest by pitching 2-3 innings when the team is in a competitive game, or when the team has a lead but the starter can't get through the 5th inning.
There are a couple of slots for guys who eat innings: Workman, Andriese, and Rios are those guys right now, and Cora is trying to figure out if any of them can be trusted with a bigger role (answer: not right now).
When Ryan Brasier comes back from injury, he will get a chance to show he gets important innings, too - sort of Hernandez's righty equivalent.

It is a very ordered bullpen, and the distribution of their work has been remarkably even:
Barnes - 33 games, 33 innings
Ottavino - 35 games, 32 innings
Sawamura - 30 games, 31.2 innings
Taylor - 32 games, 26.2 innings
Hernandez - 30 games, 24.1 innings
Whitlock - 22 games, 38 innings
Andriese - 23 games, 34 innings


So here's the thing: We're going to hit the halfway point of the season with all but two starts going to the same five pitchers: All have started 15 or 16 games, all have thrown between about 75 and 90 innings, with a collective ERA+ of 101. It is five guys who don't get hurt, average about 5.2 IP per start, with an ERA around 4.50.

That doesn't sound amazing, but the fact the team hasn't had to dip into its shallow pitching depth is a big deal, and although nobody is giving them 7 innings more than about once a month, they are also consistently giving them 5 innings - which keeps the bullpen roles in order (this is where Whitlock has been one of the MVPs of the team - he keeps the bullpen in order when the starter only goes 4 innings, but the team is still in it).

Is this a Cora thing, just as the bullpen seems to be a Cora thing? I mean, no other team in the league has anything close to five guys who are making all their starts. Is it just luck that Boston has this level of health across their entire pitching staff, or is the unusual amount of order in the roles that Cora creates to explain for this?
   47. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 29, 2021 at 02:02 PM (#6026856)
Is this a Cora thing, just as the bullpen seems to be a Cora thing? I mean, no other team in the league has anything close to five guys who are making all their starts. Is it just luck that Boston has this level of health across their entire pitching staff, or is the unusual amount of order in the roles that Cora creates to explain for this?


I think the manager deserves some credit when things go well and blame when things go wrong. How much of each is up in the magic question. In 2019 I thought Cora (and by extension Dombrowski) were a bit laissez faire heading into spring training and the pitcher injuries were down to that in part. Along those same lines he is clearly doing something right this year. The team was ready to start the season and he's not asking his starters to do more than they should. So for that reason I think he deserves credit.
   48. Rough Carrigan Posted: June 29, 2021 at 03:18 PM (#6026874)
46. I wonder if it wasn't so much that the Red Sox undervalued Arroyo as that they overvalued Wily Mo Pena for a specific reason. They knew that MLB was cracking down on PED use. So, maybe they thought that power was going to become a noticeably more scarce commodity. And there was Wily Mo, a guy who was tremendously strong naturally, or at least it seemed that it was natural. So, if a lot of other 30+ HR hitters shrink back down into 16 HR hitters and you've got one of the legit guys whose power isn't diminished by new MLB policy, you've got a valuable commodity. It didn't work but wasn't that part of the rationale?
   49. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 29, 2021 at 03:22 PM (#6026877)
I don't recall that reasoning being mentioned (obviously the Sox wouldn't have said that but I don't remember it in the blogosphere either) but it's possible. I think the bigger issue is the Sox misevaluated Arroyo. Epstein was always a "trade a guy a year early rather than a year late" guy. For the reasons SBPT laid out in 46 I think they thought they had gotten what Arroyo had to give and saw Pena as a guy on the way up.
   50. villageidiom Posted: June 29, 2021 at 04:10 PM (#6026892)
46. I wonder if it wasn't so much that the Red Sox undervalued Arroyo as that they overvalued Wily Mo Pena for a specific reason.
I don't know that it was a specific reason, but they definitely overvalued Pena.

This will both argue for and against what Balboni said above. Yes Arroyo made $1.85 million in 2005, then was signed by Boston to a 3-year $11.25 million contract before the 2006 season, which was generally recognized as a team-friendly deal. Hell, even Arroyo recognized it. At the time he was traded he acknowledged that the deal ended up making him more lucrative to other teams Boston wanted to trade with.

I think what they didn't fully appreciate with Arroyo wasn't his value. I think they knew his value. I think they didn't fully appreciate how difficult it would be to have a pitcher of his caliber, health, and age on a team-friendly contract. Getting some of that is common; getting all of that is rare.

The league caught up to them in player evaluation eventually, and started valuing draft pick compensation; whatever edge they had on prospect intake eroded. Their pitchers wised up as well, holding out for more and refusing (rightly) to sign team-friendly deals. And of course their track record with pitcher health has demonstrated their #### does indeed stink on that front. I think they thought that they could do it again... with Lester, or Papelbon, or maybe Buchholz or Bard, or whoever would be in the next generation of pitching prospects.
   51. Mike Webber Posted: June 29, 2021 at 10:54 PM (#6026976)
When the White Sox won the WS in 2005, they had 4 guys make 32 or 33 starts, Orlando Hernandez made 22, and Brandon McCarthy made 10. Don Cooper was the pitching coach and Ozzie Guillen was managing. For several seasons right around that title their staring staff was very stable, they clearly were doing something right and were lucky. So it's possible that the Red Sox could keep this up, but sure it's unlikely.
   52. John DiFool2 Posted: June 29, 2021 at 11:25 PM (#6026986)
In other news, Duran w/ 2 more dingers.
   53. villageidiom Posted: June 30, 2021 at 08:42 AM (#6027006)
If they play .500 ball the rest of the way Boston will finish with 90 wins.

That, my friends, is a playoff contender.
   54. pikepredator Posted: June 30, 2021 at 11:05 AM (#6027015)
That, my friends, is a playoff contender


Sure is. And Chris Sale is waiting in the wings. It's been wonderful to feel zero pressure to rush him back . . . and know that he's going to have a great lineup behind him once he does return.
   55. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: June 30, 2021 at 12:10 PM (#6027021)
And Chris Sale is waiting in the wings. It's been wonderful to feel zero pressure to rush him back


If the team stumbles at all or if a pitcher or two gets hurt I feel the team record will actually put more pressure on him. If the Sox were at .500 it would be 100% about Sale's safest course, toss in the prospect of the playoffs and medical plans go out the window. That is, unless the Sox freakish good luck with zero pitching injuries or godawful performances continues.
   56. villageidiom Posted: June 30, 2021 at 02:39 PM (#6027036)
Sale will put pressure on himself to get back on the field no matter what because he's Chris Sale. It's all about whether the team resists the urge to listen to him, which might be dependent on their record. But I think Bloom won't react in that way. I think he'll keep Sale's recovery on its proper path, and the people handling his recovery on an even keel.

I also think Cora isn't going to put pressure on Sale to come back; he knows it's the 26 people on the roster right now who need to get the job done and he'll tell them so.
   57. Darren Posted: June 30, 2021 at 02:54 PM (#6027039)
I think what they didn't fully appreciate with Arroyo wasn't his value. I think they knew his value. I think they didn't fully appreciate how difficult it would be to have a pitcher of his caliber, health, and age on a team-friendly contract. Getting some of that is common; getting all of that is rare.


Not to disagree with this or other ideas above, but just to add to them: As I recall there was a consensus in the Red Sox blogosphere at the time that Arroyo was a junkballer who, sure had had some success so far, but was not going to remain effective long term, especially in the AL East.
   58. Darren Posted: June 30, 2021 at 02:58 PM (#6027042)
In other news, Duran w/ 2 more dingers.


Here's another guy that it's nice to not have to rush. Yes, it's frustrating to watch Danny Santana play in meaningful games, but it's nice knowing that the team isn't desperately looking to AAA to save their season.

It's all about whether the team resists the urge to listen to him, which might be dependent on their record. But I think Bloom won't react in that way. I think he'll keep Sale's recovery on its proper path, and the people handling his recovery on an even keel.


I started getting a bit nervous when Sale was talking about coming out of the pen, and maybe hinting at a mid-June return. But it does seem that Bloom and Cora are being very careful not to let him talk his way back too early. Which, if is the case, will be a huge improvement on previous Boston front offices.
   59. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 30, 2021 at 03:32 PM (#6027050)
I'll be a turd in the punchbowl on a couple of items here.

1. I expect a big fat nothing from Chris Sale. Don't get me wrong, he will pitch major league games this year but I am skeptical of any meaningfully positive contribution. Guys coming off Tommy John anecdotally at least seem to have control and command issues the first 50 or so innings back. Also it feels like the rehab has gone too smoothly and that there are usually setbacks of some note somewhere along the line.

2. Jarren Duran is having a great year at Worcester. I think we need to know that the early returns on Polar Park are that it is playing as a launching pad (.820 OPS at home for the WooSox, .753 on the road, the biggest AAA-E variance). Duran's road numbers are good (.234/.333/.442) but his home numbers are as Crazy Eddie would say IN-SANE! (.329/.411/.785). I think some healthy skepticism is warranted on Duran's big breakout year. Don't misunderstand me, I still want him in Boston sooner than later but I think the Jarren Duran playing on the road is probably a lot more indicative of the player he is than the home or even total player this year.
   60. Darren Posted: June 30, 2021 at 03:45 PM (#6027053)
Booo Jose. Boooooo. :)
   61. villageidiom Posted: June 30, 2021 at 03:45 PM (#6027055)
Mmmm, that punch is delicious. What's your secret?
   62. villageidiom Posted: June 30, 2021 at 03:55 PM (#6027057)
Put another way, I agree with both points. At least with Sale, I'm with you that I expect no meaningfully positive contribution from him this season. But here's the thing... I don't expect a meaningfully negative contribution from him. Like, if he sucks they will shut him down in an abundance of caution. The downside is if they get roughly nothing from him. But they're on a roughly 100-win pace getting nothing from him now. If that's the downside I'm good with that. The upside... ooooooh yyyyyeeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Likewise, Duran being only as good as his road numbers is still a good thing. That's slightly better than Kike Hernandez's 2021 numbers.
   63. Nasty Nate Posted: June 30, 2021 at 04:03 PM (#6027059)
Also it feels like the rehab has gone too smoothly
I have to chuckle at this.
   64. pikepredator Posted: June 30, 2021 at 05:19 PM (#6027075)
I had the opposite thought about Sale. I am prepared for him to come back and be lights-out . . . until he gets hurt again.
   65. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 30, 2021 at 05:40 PM (#6027082)
The Red Sox have been outscored in June 136-135, but are 17-10 (and are favored to win tonight) to close out June.

Their starters have an ERA for the month of 5.40; are 5-9; and have given them exactly 5 innings per start for the month (135 IP in 27 games). Starters' WHIP this month has been 1.585 - I mean, they've been awful.

During the month, they are 6-7 in games decided by 4 or more runs, and 11-3 in games decided by 3 or fewer runs. That is a combination of luck and a great bullpen.

Obviously, if they continue to get an average outcome from their starting pitchers of exactly 5 innings (and trending downward) per start, with a WHIP of 1.585 and an ERA of 5.40,then they are not likely to continue on a 100-win (!) pace. For one thing, the bullpen will either get fried, or Cora will have to give the "white flag" relievers too many innings (Andriese, Workman, Rios).

But as was mentioned above, they are getting deep enough into the season that even if they go, say, 35-47 the rest of the way, that would still be an 84-win season...which is better than I ever thought they'd be this season. In Bloom and Cora We Trust!
   66. Darren Posted: July 01, 2021 at 02:35 PM (#6027245)
Over/Under is not available for commenting anymore.

Here's where we stand at midseason:

140 Team Games Played: on pace for over
81.5 Team Wins: OVER -- way over!!!! 100 wins!!! Yay!!!
24.5 Bobby Dalbec Homers: UNDER -- not looking good. He seems likely to get replaced or at least platooned.
14.5 Eduardo Rodriguez Wins: UNDER I guess? He could go either way.
6.0 Alex Verdugo WAR: UNDER -- He's on pace for 3.2 WAR. Good season, good player, but not a superstar.
9.5 Chris Sale Starts: OVER? I guess? Looks like he'll be back in July maybe?
75.5 Jarren Duran MLB Games: UNDER -- not up yet and even if he comes up soon, not likely to top 76 games.
15.5 Matt Barnes Saves: OVER -- Already over.
   67. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: July 01, 2021 at 03:34 PM (#6027258)
2021 MLB Team Position Performance by Wins Above Average

The only position the Sox are in the bottom third in WAA is 1st base (last at -2.0). All positions combined, they're 8th overall.
   68. villageidiom Posted: July 01, 2021 at 04:47 PM (#6027271)
If they play .500 ball the rest of the way Boston will finish with 91 wins.
   69. Darren Posted: July 01, 2021 at 07:12 PM (#6027291)
^^my favorite running update of the 2021 season!
   70. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 02, 2021 at 12:17 PM (#6027396)
Updated WAA position rankings for Red Sox:

C - 19th (-0.3)
1B - 30th (-1.9)
2B - 15th (0.3)
3B - 1st (2.2)
SS - 9th (1.3 - they must really discount Xander's defense!)
LF - 10th (0.0)
CF - 11th (0.6)
RF - 8th (0.8)
OF (overall) - 6th (1.4)
DH - 2nd (1.4)
PH - 13th (-0.3)
SP - 19th (-0.6)
RP - 2nd (2.3)
All pitching - 13th (1.7)
All non-pitching - 8th (4.1)
Overall - 7th (5.8)

What do take from this set of data points?
1) There is a lot of value in being average. One thing Bloom has clearly done very, very well (acknowledging there is always some luck in this stuff) is finding cheap ways to take huge holes in the 2020 team, and fill them in with average players:
- 2B has Arroyo playing most days when healthy, and he has been a solid, young, cheap contributor that they got for nothing. When he doesn't play, Merwin gives them good defense on a short-term deal.
- In the outfield, the only thing that was certain at the end of last year was that Verdugo was playing (though where was uncertain). Renfroe is going to make about $3.6m this year, with incentives included, and has been quite good. And if they want to keep him for another year or two, they can at an affordable price. Gonzalez hasn't been quite as good, and he was the only multi-year free agent deal (2/$14m), but his defense has been good, and he hits for enough power to keep his OPS+ above 100. Verdugo has been solid, but has regressed a bit from last year - but he is also cost-controlled for several years while they figure it out. That doesn't sound like a killer outfield...but Boston is 6th in WAA in baseball, because all three have been net positive contributors.

2) The team has obvious ways to get a lot better in the second half. The one position where Bloom has been unable to avoid a sinkhole is 1B. Five players have appeared in a game at 1B for Boston:
- Dalbec 63
- Gonzalez 12
- Santana 9
- Chavis 6
- Vazquez 1
For the year, their 1B's have hit a combined .216/.266/.405, with 16/111 BB/K ratio. How a team can be 51-31, with a starting rotation ranked 19th in WAA, and that line for their 1B, is amazing. There has to be a team going nowhere with a 1B they're willing to move. Literally any 1B would be an improvement. (Detroit's Jonathan Schoop is playing 1B for them this year, is making $4.5m in the final year of his deal, and is hitting well. The Tigers are out of it - if the Red Sox trade a couple of guys who are going to be Rule V'ed at the end of the season, anyway, that could be a vast improvement.)

3) The starting pitching is pretty "eh" behind Eovaldi, but the bullpen is so good it works out. This is a remarkable year for the rotation, in the sense that they have now gone more than half a season with all but two starts coming from the same five guys. As a group, the starters have been below-average, but this is where the other big opportunity for improvement is coming. If Sale rejoins the team in a month, I think the Red Sox could go into August with this pitching staff:

- Six-man rotation with Sale added to the current five
- Back end of the bullpen of Barnes (closer), Ottavino (8th inning), Sawamura, Taylor, and Hernandez (7th, some 6th inning outs), Houck and Whitlock (Houck joins team later in July, and becomes a copy of Whitlock's role, pitching 2-3 innings twice a week each to bridge short starts in competitive games until you can get to the back end of the bullpen), then Rios and/or Adriese to eat innings in blowout wins and losses.
- It is easy to see a scenario where Sale eases back in with a six-man rotation, pitches 5 innings a start for a while, then they plan to bring in Houck or Whitlock to get through the 7th, then drop into the traditional roles in the back end of the bullpen.

Honestly, I have been skeptical all season about Boston's ability to keep up a 90-win pace, but they are now 51-31. To win 90 games, they only have to go 39-41 the rest of the way, so it is likely they are going to be in the playoff hunt the rest of the way. I still don't want to compromise the minor-league system to improve the 2021 team, but incorporating Sale and Houck into the pitching staff, and upgrading 1B to just average, is together probably worth a couple of WAA for the rest of the season themselves. This seems pretty doable, right?
   71. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: July 02, 2021 at 03:00 PM (#6027457)
I also have a lot of optimism that Rodriguez will see a lot of positive regression. His ERA is 5.83, but his FIP (3.58) and xFIP (3.38) are more than 2 full runs below his ERA. Opposing batters have a .374 BABIP against him, which is the second highest among starters with 70+ IP. His 10.64 K/9 and 2.17 BB/9 are currently the best of his career.

It's just amazing how much of a difference there is between having one of the worst staffs in the league (5.58 ERA in 2020, 14th in AL), versus being average (4.05 ERA in 2021, 7th in AL). As you noted, there's so much more stability in the rotation than there was last year when they were experimenting with openers and the likes of Chris Mazza/Zack Godley/Mike Kickham/Kyle Hart.
   72. villageidiom Posted: July 03, 2021 at 11:31 AM (#6027525)
^^my favorite running update of the 2021 season!
That's only because they're winning. Like, if the Diamondbacks play .500 ball the rest of the way they will finish with 100 losses.
   73. Darren Posted: July 03, 2021 at 12:15 PM (#6027529)
If they play .500 ball the rest of the way Boston will finish with 91.5 wins. :)
   74. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: July 03, 2021 at 01:04 PM (#6027531)
A four man playoff rotation of Sale, ERod, Eovaldi and Pivetta looks pretty good.
   75. John DiFool2 Posted: July 03, 2021 at 01:35 PM (#6027536)
#71: And he goes out and throws an excellent start last night. [good call]

   76. Darren Posted: July 03, 2021 at 06:10 PM (#6027560)
Maybe we should be calculating their record if they never lose again.
   77. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 03, 2021 at 06:59 PM (#6027566)
Maybe we should be calculating their record if they never lose again.


Oh they'll lose again as Sale will eventually be back, he'll go 8 innings, K 12, give up a BB and a HR and the Sox will lose 2-1 because that's how it seems most of the time when Sale pitches well.
   78. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 03, 2021 at 07:35 PM (#6027569)
Guys, the Boston Red Sox have a five game lead in the division. I still keep waiting for the other shoe but hot damn this is fun.
   79. villageidiom Posted: July 03, 2021 at 07:57 PM (#6027571)
Y'know what's fun? Orsillo is calling the Red Sox game on FOX right now.
   80. Jay Seaver Posted: July 03, 2021 at 08:25 PM (#6027576)
Even referred to a player's "moss". Considering how national games are usually against the Yankees and the ESPN crows certainly seems to tilt toward them, Don being enthusiastic and down the middle is really pleasant.
   81. Bad Fish Posted: July 03, 2021 at 09:41 PM (#6027585)
They are continuing their consistency of winning or tying most series, their longest losing streak is still only 3 games and playing fairly consistent .600 ball, those are the signs of a resilient team. The most interesting thing abut this season, thus far, is how valuable the "sum of the parts" of a perfectly average starting rotation can be.
   82. Mike Webber Posted: July 05, 2021 at 11:54 AM (#6027689)
@70
Updated WAA position rankings for Red Sox:

C - 19th (-0.3)


I was kind of surprised to see they ranked so low at catcher, but after I looked at Vazquez and his 76 OPS+ see why. I have Vazquez on my fantasy team and I've been pleased with him, CBS says he's the 11th best catcher. However Vazquez's 8 steals is a needle mover among catchers in fantasy baseball which probably why I thought his year was going better than it is.
   83. John DiFool2 Posted: July 05, 2021 at 06:28 PM (#6027728)
I hate to say this given how furious I was when the Sox painted themselves into the Gotta Trade Our Best Player corner 2 years ago (and I became as apathetic as a Sox fan could), but Mookie Betts may be the next Fred Lynn. I could grind through all of the numbers, but they have both had up-and-down careers, up thru Mookie's current age, tho I won't deny that Mookie has been the better player (tho I'd like to see Lynn's D re-evaluated by another system). Just a quick note: while they aren't on each other's similar lists thru Mookie's current age, Reggie Smith, another Sox outfielder, is. And Smith is Lynn's top career comp.

Now watch him have a super-hot 2nd half...
   84. Jay Seaver Posted: July 05, 2021 at 11:25 PM (#6027764)
There's been a lot of shots of Rafael Devers talking to himself and sort of managing his emotions this year, just like there were a lot of comments about him maybe not thriving as much without Alex Cora last year, and I wonder how important Cora (or someone like him) has been to his success. It's not something I necessarily think of with other players, but it kind of makes me wonder if he wouldn't be so great under other circumstances and just how many other players didn't break out because they never had that sort of environment.
   85. villageidiom Posted: July 05, 2021 at 11:30 PM (#6027765)
I mean, yeah, it could work that way. Lynn was still a great or at least very good player with the Angels. (Is he still the last player to be named MVP in a playoff series despite playing for the team that lost the series?) He just wasn't able to stay healthy. Betts isn't at the point of physically breaking down yet but it might happen given how hard he plays.
   86. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 06, 2021 at 07:46 AM (#6027783)
Neither Houck nor Sale are ready yet, obviously, but if a starting pitcher were to need time off due to injury, who would be the starter? This has been a question with no good answer for much of the season (really, since Houck got hurt), and the team's lack of starting pitching depth has been a potential sore spot the whole year - but their remarkable health (the only team in the league with five starters who've made at least 16 starts) has made it a non-issue through more than half the season. Boston's now something like three weeks away from the worst-case scenario being resolved, as Houck is almost ready, if needed, and Sale appears on track to come back in early August.

To me, one of the next bits of intrigue on this team is what happens if Garrett Richards doesn't start pitching better. Right now, they've got nothing better as an option for his slot in the rotation, so it is not a question...but when Sale comes back, do they go 6-man rotation, or replace Richards with Sale? And is there a reasonable scenario where Houck would pitch every 5th day as a replacement for Richards?

I still really like the idea of bringing Houck back as a "second Whitlock" to fortify the bullpen, and take the pressure off of the rotation having to get that 6th inning if they aren't pitching well.

Having a guy like Houck the other night in Oakland probably would have won the game for Boston, as Cora felt compelled (without Barnes or Whitloc being available) to try to get outs from Rios in a high-leverage situation. I don't want to see Workman, Rios, or Andriese pitching innings that matter this season...
   87. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 06, 2021 at 08:21 AM (#6027786)
I wouldn't hate giving Whitlock a start somewhere along the line. He seems to have the kind of stuff that would translate. I suspect if the Sox absolutely positively needed a starter right now it would be Andriese, perhaps more as an opener. Yeah, not exactly exciting but probably the guy.
   88. SandyRiver Posted: July 06, 2021 at 08:33 AM (#6027789)
I hate to say this given how furious I was when the Sox painted themselves into the Gotta Trade Our Best Player corner 2 years ago (and I became as apathetic as a Sox fan could), but Mookie Betts may be the next Fred Lynn. I could grind through all of the numbers, but they have both had up-and-down careers, up thru Mookie's current age, tho I won't deny that Mookie has been the better player (tho I'd like to see Lynn's D re-evaluated by another system). Just a quick note: while they aren't on each other's similar lists thru Mookie's current age, Reggie Smith, another Sox outfielder, is. And Smith is Lynn's top career comp.

Now watch him have a super-hot 2nd half...

Next year. Check out Mookie's even-numbered/odd-numbered years.
OPS+
2014 126
2015 117
2016 133
2017 108
2018 186
2019 135
2020 149
2021 127
   89. villageidiom Posted: July 06, 2021 at 10:22 AM (#6027800)
I suppose now that they have Workman back they could stretch him out to start/"open".
   90. Darren Posted: July 06, 2021 at 10:55 AM (#6027811)
A little early for the Lynn/Betts comp. He's got a 127 OPS+ and is on pace for 5 WAR this year. That's pretty well in line with his career numbers, though of course it's on the low end. He just has some ugly looking numbers due to his home park. The health is a concern, though, for sure.

   91. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 06, 2021 at 11:51 AM (#6027819)
Full disclosure: Among Red Sox fans, I was probably less upset about the Betts trade than most fans, because once the team put itself in the roster/salary position it found itself right before the Betts trade, I got it (and being able to trade much of Price's remaining contract was a sneaky-important part of the deal).

That said, seeing Mookie do great things in another uniform is obviously disappointing. I would be very slow to compare his career track to Fred Lynn, though - I think Fred Lynn's career is one of the biggest unicorns of the last 50 years in baseball.

I know a lot of players get the reputation of "injury prone", but I wouldn't really put Mookie is that class. I would put Mike Trout in that Class, and I think it is not unreasonable to say that 1970s Fred Lynn - and certainly the 1975 and 1979 version of him, in particular - actually fit in just fine with a Mike Trout season - which is quite a compliment. Lynn brought more defense than Trout, but whatever - the best of Fred Lynn was as good as anybody we'll see in our lifetimes. But the injuries caught up, and he was a very good hitter for a lot of the 1980s - just not 1970s Fred Lynn.

As a fan, I'm actually pretty concerned that Trout's injuries are increasingly going to be one of the two dominant parts of his narrative: "Trout was one of the best players in baseball history, but his teams' inability to reach the postseason, combined with his significant injury history, marred his career. Despite four MVPs and 14 All-Star Games, a generation of fans were nonetheless left wondering what could have been for Mike Trout."

If Trout retired tomorrow, I presume he would waltz into the HOF, while Lynn was two-and-out with the HOF voters. But (at least here in New England), there is a generation of baseball fans who saw Fred Lynn at his peak, and see him as the greatest "what coulda been" player of their lifetimes. Trout, in a much more elevated way, could be that for this generation. I don't think anybody sees Betts like that, at least not yet.
   92. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 06, 2021 at 01:15 PM (#6027825)
I'm a bit confused. Where is the idea that Mookie is anything close to an injury risk at this stage? He had a brief IL stage in 2018 but that's it. In his full seasons he's played 145-158-153-136-150 and he's played 73 of 85 so far. Last year he played 55 of 60 and even in his first season he played 42 of 53 after being recalled in early August. He's a superstar in every way imaginable.
   93. John DiFool2 Posted: July 06, 2021 at 03:34 PM (#6027917)
Mookie appears to have already declined in both D & baserunning (both FG & BBRef are unequivocal on that). Now maybe his wheels have been banged up a bit as some news articles indicate. But he's at an age where declines in said areas are normal & to be expected.

But (at least here in New England), there is a generation of baseball fans who saw Fred Lynn at his peak, and see him as the greatest "what coulda been" player of their lifetimes


For this Sox fan at least that title goes to Nomar, no question or hesitation. His 2004 trade was almost as shocking as Mookie's, esp. since it was more unexpected.
   94. Darren Posted: July 06, 2021 at 06:34 PM (#6027964)
I'm a bit confused. Where is the idea that Mookie is anything close to an injury risk at this stage? He had a brief IL stage in 2018 but that's it. In his full seasons he's played 145-158-153-136-150 and he's played 73 of 85 so far. Last year he played 55 of 60 and even in his first season he played 42 of 53 after being recalled in early August. He's a superstar in every way imaginable.


Definitely a superstar. But given his games started and nagging injuries, he seems to be on the Nomar path.
   95. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 06, 2021 at 06:56 PM (#6027966)
For this Sox fan at least that title goes to Nomar, no question or hesitation. His 2004 trade was almost as shocking as Mookie's, esp. since it was more unexpected.


I agree that Nomar was a huge "what coulda been" of my lifetime, but his decline began before he was traded in 2004. The inflated stats of the era make his 2002-2003 look better than they historically were, in context. But that four-year stretch of 1997-2000 was unreal: When Pedro was pitching, you didn't want to miss a single at-bat when Boston was on defense. But when Nomar was at bat during those four years, you couldn't take your eyes off of him, either.

But Lynn's 1975 and 1979 were off the charts, and his 1976 and 1978 were excellent, too (again, in the context of late 1970s baseball). Your comment actually makes me think of them together for the first time - a generation apart. Two Red Sox who were on the fast track to the HOF, retired numbers, everything - but they couldn't stay healthy. Loved them both.
   96. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 07, 2021 at 08:19 AM (#6028036)
Jose's All What If Red Sox Team (my lifetime only)

1B Nick Esasky (stay in Boston, don't get vertigo)
2B Dustin Pedroia (should have been in the Hall)
3B Tim Naehring (just never seemed to be healthy)
SS Nomaaaaah
LF Andrew Benintendi
CF Fred Lynn
RF Ryan Westmoreland
C Carlton Fisk (should have stayed in Boston his whole career. My mother insists if he'd been behind the plate in 1986 they would have won that series but she likes Fisk for reasons I prefer not to consider)
SP Andy Yount (the first photo on a google search of him shows his surgically repaired hand, ick)
RP Calvin Schiraldi (He was SO good in '86, can't help but feel the post-season broke him)
   97. John DiFool2 Posted: July 07, 2021 at 10:11 AM (#6028043)
LF Andrew Benintendi


I'd actually put Greenwell here; it seemed like after he peaked at age 24 that he got a bit worse every year, and before you knew it his career was basically over.

C is Gedman for me-he wasn't ever on anything close to a HoF track, but poof one day in 1987 and he was toast. At least he could have had a career akin to Varitek's.
   98. villageidiom Posted: July 07, 2021 at 11:09 AM (#6028050)
she likes Fisk for reasons I prefer not to consider
Just say she's similar to my mother, who likes Fisk because he was from Charlestown, NH.

(my lifetime only)
Also known as "the Conigliaro exception".

   99. Nasty Nate Posted: July 07, 2021 at 11:29 AM (#6028054)
Honorable mention: Ryan Kalish

He was good enough to be in the majors. But the Sox sign Carl Crawford, so Kalish starts the year in AAA and in April he suffers a big injury at McCoy.
   100. Darren Posted: July 07, 2021 at 11:33 AM (#6028055)
I always thought Carlos Quintana was a bit of a what-if. A pretty good 1B, albeit with no power, at age 24 and 25. Car accident and he misses all of age 26 season, then age 27 is a disaster.

There's got to be a better what-if SP than Yount. He already had control problems before his hand issue. Here are a couple of suggestions, what do you think?

--Byung Hyun Kim: Successfully converted to the rotation in AZ, came to Boston, worked to death, then blamed for playoff loss, and he's never the same again.
--Tudor and Ojeda: Lefties the Red Sox let go too early.
--CLEMENS
--CLEMENS
--CLEMENS
--CLEMENS
--CLEMENS
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