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Friday, July 30, 2021

Dance With Who Brung Ya’

Barring something late and unexpected the Sox seem to have kept things pretty stable during the trade deadline.  They added Kyle Schwarber (and let me be the 500th person to say, man I can’t wait to hear Remy pronounce that) in exchange for Aldo Ramirez but no other moves were made.  Of course the Sox have made some internal moves lately with the promotions of Jarren Duran and Franchy Cordero and of course the one we are all keen on, the impending return of Chris Sale.  I’m not quite sure where I come down on this.  Just to give everyone a chance to weigh in I have a few thoughts;

1. 2021 is house money yo. This team was less fancied than even the 2013 edition and after 104 games are two games better in terms of wins and losses (63-41 vs. 61-43) and in a nice bit of symmetry two games better in the standings (1.5 up instead 0.5 back).  As vi is sure to note if they go .500 the rest of the way they will win 91 games.  Staying the course is a reasonable option.

2. Flags fly forever etc…this year may be house money but at the same time if you have a chance to compete you should go for it.  Having said that I’m not sure what they could/should have done.  I would have liked to have gotten Rizzo but Schwahbah is a perfectly reasonable option in his place and I can’t pretend to have an opinion on the Yankee prospects going back to Chicago relative to Aldo Ramirez (going to Washington for Schwahbah).  They certainly weren’t beating the Dodgers or Padres in terms of prospects on the Scherzer/Turner deal and I’m not sure what deal for Berrios they could have done that I’d have wanted to do.  The Blue Jays gave up a couple of good prospects there.  As good as Gallo is I think Schwahbah is as good a fit for a cheaper price.

3. Versatility matters for Chaim Bloom.  The Sox will have to wait out Schwahbah (he’s on the IL) but when he comes back if everyone is healthy it’s a little mix and match time for Alex Cora.  Having said that with Verdugo able to play every outfield position and Kiké able to play, well everywhere there are options.  Among those two plus Renfroe, Duran and Schwarber (OK enough) The Sox can cover 3 OF positions, 2B and probably from time to time first base.  I suspect the big impact of adding Schwarber is that Kiké is your full time second sacker.  It is hard to see how he gets any outfield time of note moving forward.  Schwarber has one (1) batter of MLB experience at first base so we’ll see if he plays there but I suspect we are going to see some mixing and matching.  This will keep people fresh and gives the Sox some matchups.  With September 1 looming it won’t shock me if Schwarber’s return sends Duran back to Worcester for a couple of weeks.

4. The biggest concern I had back in April, and the reason I really felt this was a .500 team, was the lack of pitching depth.  The Sox have been fortunate so far with their five primary starters combining for exactly 100 starts in their 104 games.  If you had given me 100 starts from those five guys for 162 games at the start of the year I’d have grabbed it.  That they have reached that already is a big reason this team is 63-41.  With Tanner Houck healthy and looking good, Chris Sale in the offing and Connor Seabold back on the mound they look ready to handle some hiccups (and Eduardo Rodriguez is looking hiccuppy).

5. Huh, they’ve apparently acquired reliever Hansel Robles.  Shrug.

6. Off the cuff I feel OK about all of this.  A big part of that is an almost irrational trust in Chaim Bloom but he really hasn’t had many missteps so far.  This is a good team in a good situation.  If Chris Sale comes back and is CHRIS SALE this is a legitimate World Series threat.  Without that I think they are still well suited to be a playoff team given their current position but without a true Ace it’s hard to win a World Series.  Nathan Eovaldi is the guy who would most likely start a post-season game one if Sale isn’t the guy and as much as I love Eovaldi I think he’s more suited to being that game two caliber guy.

7. Just a general hunch it seems there has been a bit of a lapse in the cult of prospects.  It seems like teams got really good returns on their rentals.  Bloom definitely seems like a “zig when everyone else zags” kinda guy.  Hopefully that works out.

Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 30, 2021 at 04:06 PM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 30, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6031692)
8. They've added lefty Austin Davis who is a pitcher I have now heard of. This statement was not true 3 minutes ago.
   2. The Mighty Quintana Posted: July 30, 2021 at 04:50 PM (#6031700)
Is he better than Austin Brice? He has to be, right? I feel like Austin Brice should be the default pitcher for all future HR derbies for maximum entertainment.
   3. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 30, 2021 at 04:59 PM (#6031706)
Is he better than Austin Brice? He has to be, right? I feel like Austin Brice should be the default pitcher for all future HR derbies for maximum entertainment.


I had never heard of him nor have I seen him pitch. But yes, yes he is better than Austin Brice.
   4. villageidiom Posted: July 30, 2021 at 05:18 PM (#6031723)
As vi is sure to note if they go .500 the rest of the way they will win 91 games.
LIAR! I would not note such a thing.

If they go .500 the rest of the way they will win 92 games.
   5. villageidiom Posted: July 30, 2021 at 05:24 PM (#6031727)
I suspect the big impact of adding Schwarber is that Kiké is your full time second sacker. It is hard to see how he gets any outfield time of note moving forward.

OPS vs RHP/LHP, career:

844/674 Verdugo
681/828 Hernandez
719/895 Renfroe
873/665 Schwarber

They can make that work if they had to.
   6. villageidiom Posted: July 30, 2021 at 05:36 PM (#6031736)
So wait a minute. What's the bullpen now (once everyone is healthy)?

Barnes
Ottavino
Sawamura
Whitlock
Taylor
Andriese
Robles
Davis

I assume either Davis would be optioned to Worcester until needed, or Andriese has a DFA coming. Possibly both, if Sale returns and someone gets bumped to the bullpen.
   7. The Mighty Quintana Posted: July 30, 2021 at 06:29 PM (#6031759)
I'd rather have Valdez than Andriese. Seems like Cora has some confidence in him as his long man now that Whitlock has graduated to higher-leverage spots.
   8. villageidiom Posted: July 30, 2021 at 07:03 PM (#6031782)
Me, too, but Valdez has options and Andriese doesn't.
   9. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: July 30, 2021 at 09:12 PM (#6031826)
Of note, Chavis was the cost of Davis, so that's one 1B option off the table. I don't get relievers, I don't know why some teams think certain guys are good, Robles and Davis to me are trash heaps, but we shall see.
   10. Darren Posted: July 31, 2021 at 01:26 PM (#6031917)
Nice write up but I want to disagree with one thing:

I would have liked to have gotten Rizzo but Schwahbah is a perfectly reasonable option in his place


I really don't think so. The Red Sox have had a black hole at 1B this year. Rizzo would have turned that position from a negative to a positive instantly. The Yankees paid a steep price for him--a 50 FV and 45 FV prospect according to FG--but they also got the Cubs to cover his salary. There's a reasonable argument to be made that the Sox should not have tried to top that deal. And Schwarber may also contribute well in the OF and possibly other places. But I think Rizzo is pretty clearly a much better fit for this team's needs.

Speaking of the Cubs paying Rizzo's salary, that's allowed the Yankees to stay under the cap. According to McAdam on Twitter, the Red Sox have also stayed under, and apparently the Padres and Astros may be just under as well. The penalties for going over the first time are trifling. What do these teams know about the new CBA that they are so intent on staying under?
   11. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 31, 2021 at 06:58 PM (#6031945)
I’d argue that if Schwarber can fake it at first base he’s a better bat than Rizzo (but obviously not nearly as good with the glove). I’d have preferred Rizzo but I think Schwarber works. In any case he’s much better than Dalbec.

On the luxury tax issue, I think teams try to stay under it just to keep their powder dry. The longer they stay under the more they can wiggle down the road if they need to.
   12. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 31, 2021 at 07:05 PM (#6031946)
The CBA is a curious topic. I feel like the lack of news on it is meaningful but I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I feel Ike there is either going to be a deal or a really ugly 1994 style stoppage, no in between.
   13. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 01, 2021 at 01:29 PM (#6032006)
I think most Red Sox fans would rather have Rizzo than Schwarber, but that's only relevant in a vacuum.

What would you give up for Rizzo? What would be roughly the prospect equivalent of what the Yankees gave up? Something Bonaci and Howlett? I wouldn't do that.

It is easy to forget when the team is battling for the division 2/3rds of the way through the season, that 2021 was supposed to be the first year of the rebuilding. 2020 was the tear-down year, and 2021 (most of us thought) was a year where we approached .500 if things went reasonably well, and then we traded a few of the veteran signings for more prospect depth (Renfroe, Hernandez, Gonzalez, Perez, Richards, Ottavino, maybe Vazquez and Eovaldi). We'd find out how many of the now-or-never young guys could play (Dalbec, Arroyo, Chavis, Cordero, Pivetta, etc.), and by the end of the year, we'd be seeing an August and September full of young guys, like Downs, Houck, Duran, Seabold, Wong.

Instead, most of the veteran signings ended up being better than expected; the bullpen has been *much, much* better than expected; the rotation has been healthier than expected (I'm not sure how good it will end up looking by the end of the season, but...), the Yankees and Blue Jays are not quite as good as most thought they'd be, and...here we are, with a surprise playoff run.

So what is Bloom supposed to do here? I think he is doing exactly what he should: He gave up a decent prospect for Schwarber, who even if he is a butcher at first base, would be a dramatic improvement on Dalbec, et al. He got a couple of bullpen arms, one of which (Davis) fills one of the holes in the system: a lack of left-handed relief specialists. Davis is under team control for up to four more years, cheap for another two years, and they gave up very, very little. He's not really a deadline acquisition - he's a 2022-2023 acquisition. And Robles is a lottery ticket for a guy (Chavis) who was taking up a 40-man spot, and cannot consistently hit the baseball. He is not part of the future of the team, and although I suppose they sold low, they gave him every chance to show he could be a consistent big leaguer, and he is not.

This team will rise or fall the rest of the year on a few things:
1) Can they get average-or-better production from 1B the rest of the year?
2) Will Chris Sale be able to do Chris Sale thing for the last eight weeks of the season?
3) Can the bullpen keep it together similar to how they have for four months?
4) The rotation has been healthy, and has been generally *just good enough* to allow the outstanding bullpen to win the game. But most of the rotation is struggling to meet even that minimum standard right now - Richards and Perez are pretty awful, and ERod and Pivetta are inconsistent (ERod perhaps more unlucky than anything, but...). Are we looking at a final 45 games or so of a rotation of Sale/Eovaldi/Houck/Pivetta/ERod? Is the poor starting pitching taking a toll on the bullpen that will take the team's greatest strength, and begin to compromise the quality of the relievers? Ottavino is starting to look gassed, for example, and he has been *critical*.

Whatever happens, this is all a wonderful surprise, and the team is in remearkably better shape for the future than I ever would have dreamed entering 2021. They have made this spring and summer more enojable for Red Sox Nation, and they are likable and good. Can you ask for a lot more than that right now?



   14. Darren Posted: August 01, 2021 at 01:57 PM (#6032010)
I think I'd be okay with giving that up for Rizzo. However, I'd prefer they go over the limit and take on his salary so they can give up less. But again I totally understand that it's debatable. Mr main point is that Schwarber is not his equal in terms of what the team needs.

   15. Darren Posted: August 01, 2021 at 02:00 PM (#6032012)
It is easy to forget when the team is battling for the division 2/3rds of the way through the season, that 2021 was supposed to be the first year of the rebuilding.


Not trying to be obtuse here but I never agreed to this as a fan. The Red Sox talked about 2020 as a one time dip to get under the luxury tax. They talked about competing in 2021. If you're this close at the deadline, I, as a fan, would like to see you try to sure up weak spots.
   16. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: August 01, 2021 at 05:18 PM (#6032053)
Not trying to be obtuse here but I never agreed to this as a fan. The Red Sox talked about 2020 as a one time dip to get under the luxury tax. They talked about competing in 2021. If you're this close at the deadline, I, as a fan, would like to see you try to sure up weak spots.


I agree with your general point here. I'd rather go for it than not. But YTD Rizzo is 1.7 WAR and Schwarber 2.2. Assuming Schwarber moves to first base how much worse is he going to be (and he's demonstrated some versatility in his career) that's going to make him expected to be meaningfully worse than Rizzo the rest of the way. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have Rizzo but I don't think it's a huge difference.

I think it's reasonable to say;

1. I'd rather have Rizzo than Schwarber
2. Schwarber is going to be close enough to equal to Rizzo not to sweat it.
   17. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 01, 2021 at 07:16 PM (#6032066)
Assuming Schwarber moves to first base how much worse is he going to be


I'm still not over the "how bad can Hanley be in LF, since he was a SS" experiment. We know the answer is atrocious, like a good LL player would've been more competent out there. It was one of those things in life you can't unsee.

I'm not convinced the plan is to play Schwarber at first, but we shall see.

Of course none of this will matter if they can never beat Tampa or win another game this year....
   18. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: August 01, 2021 at 10:27 PM (#6032093)
I think there’s a potential 2006 vibe here. That team went tits up in August (9-21) and like this one the pitching staff was um…dicey. For all the hubbub about the Yankee series that year (and I’m sure this series this year) the thing that killed that team was losing series to a lot of bad teams that month. Sox have games with Detroit (who has been playing better), Texas and Minnesota this month plus Cleveland at the end. They can’t afford to be swept against good teams but just gotta play better.against bad teams.

The frustrating thing in this series was the clutch “hitting.” They got chances but just couldn’t do it with RISP. One or two hits last night and tonight this series goes the other way. Always unsettling to get swept (especially when the other division contenders swept their series) but I don’t think it’s disaster time. The off day tomorrow is probably timely.
   19. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 01, 2021 at 10:28 PM (#6032095)
Not trying to be obtuse here but I never agreed to this as a fan. The Red Sox talked about 2020 as a one time dip to get under the luxury tax. They talked about competing in 2021. If you're this close at the deadline, I, as a fan, would like to see you try to sure up weak spots.


As a Red Sox fan, I wanted them to be competitive in 2021...but nobody was saying they were going to be more than an 80-win team, based on the talent on the roster. This was the first year of getting off the mat, after waving a white flag for the 2020 season, starting with the Roenicke hire and the Moomie trade. This team is wildly overperforming expectations, and I believe the extraordinary performance of the bullpen is the biggest reason this team is in a position to compete for a playoff spot this year. (I would also say getting short-term veterans, cheap, who are playing at an above-average clip is probably the 2nd-biggest reason. The greatness of Devers and Bogaerts is probably 3rd.) Consider:

Martin Perez in his last 10 starts: 40.1 IP, 60 H, 15 BB, 12 HRs, .351/.404/.626 against him, 6.69 ERA. He has not pitched more than 5.1 innings in any of those 10 starts, and has pitched 4 or less in 6 of them. Amazingly, the team is 5-5 in these 10 starts.

Garrett Richards' last nine starts: 41.1 IP, 64 H, 15 BB, 11 HRs, .346/.405/.616 against him, 7,19 ERA! He has not pitched more than 5.2 innings in any of those 10 starts.
Amazingly, the team is 6-3 in those nine starts.

Nick Pivetta in his last nine starts: 48 IP, 5.63 ERA, team is 4-5 in those starts.

ERod's last 14 starts: 66.2 IP, 6.48 ERA

This is not a small sample size or anything - this is basically 4/5ths of their rotation this year, representing 42 of their most recent starts. Their combined ERA for those 42 starts is 196.1 IP, 6.46 ERA, an average of 4.7 IP per start. Average.

Anybody who thinks that a team where 4/5ths of their rotation is basically bringing that home over the last two months, and thinks this is the year to "go for it", is just looking at this season differently from me (and, it ppears, Chaim Bloom). Bloom knows this team is not really a World Series contender yet, and that it lacks top-tier, upper minors prospects - so he is not going to trade the few he has (Casas, Duran, Houck, Seabold, Downs, Bello) for two months of a first baseman, or even two months of a top-tier starting pitcher.

The only reason this year's team has been competitive up to now is because Cora knows how poor this rotation is, and has been very, very good at getting them out of the game before the floor caves in many nights. The reason these guys' ERAs is 6+ is not because they pitch seven innings and give up 5 runs - it is because they pitch 4.1 innings and give up 3 runs, and then the bullpen is able to hold the opponent to, like, one run in the last 5.2 innings, and the team wins 6-4 a lot of nights.

The problem right now is that:
1) these starters are now a little worse than they were before - now they are giving up 4 runs in 4 innings, not getting through 5 innings, etc. This is putting extra pressure on the depth of the bullpen, which is obviously weaker than the top 3-4 relievers.
2) the offense was being held together around the Devers/Bogaerts duo with different veterans getting hot for a month or two at a time: Kike Hernandez was great in July. Renfroe was very good earlier this summer. JD Martinez was the best hitter in baseball in April. And so forth.

But right now, the offense is struggling to put up enough runs to keep up with the declining performance of the starters. Martinez was so good early that people think he is having a great year, but since mid-May, he's at .248/.309/.480, 3:1 K/BB ratio. Vazquez is slugging .330 with 1 HR since mid-May, few walks. Since early May, Verdugo is hitting .251/.324/.375. And so forth.

This is a fee-good story, and they are vastly better than last year. But this Tampa series over the weekend I think revealed more of their limitations against quality opponents:

Friday, they lose 7-3. Perez gets torched (4 IP, 6 ER). Bullpen was again excellent (4 IP, 1 ER), but when Perez is giving up 6 runs instead of 3, the offense isn't good enough to come back.
Saturday, they lose 9-5. Eovaldi gets torched, and if Eovaldi is getting hit hard, then the team can get into a losing streak.
Sunday, they lose 3-2. Bullpen is strong again (3.1 scoreless innings) after Pivetta gives up 3 in 4.2 IP. Normally, the team survives this by scoring 5 runs. But tonight, against good pitching, they cannot score: JD Martinez goes 0-5, the bottom four in the order go 2-for-14, and you get the first 4-game losing streak of the year.

Now, they play seven more on the road, then get another 3-game series at home against Tampa. The next 10 games will probably determine if this is the beginning of the team quickly coming back to Earth, or if they will be in it until the end.
   20. Darren Posted: August 02, 2021 at 09:34 AM (#6032136)
That's a lot of guys going through bad stretches, and I think it's legitimately concerning with the rotation. We're relying on some questionable pitchers who seem to have hit a wall. For the hitters, I'm not that concerned. Not uncommon for decent hitters to have those kinds of stretches.

Anybody who thinks that a team where 4/5ths of their rotation is basically bringing that home over the last two months, and thinks this is the year to "go for it", is just looking at this season differently from me (and, it ppears, Chaim Bloom).


Well said. I definitely wouldn't say I wanted them to go all in, but filling an obvious hole seems fair to ask.
   21. Darren Posted: August 02, 2021 at 10:24 AM (#6032151)
And bring back Moomie!
   22. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: August 02, 2021 at 11:48 AM (#6032167)
Good ol' Moomie.
   23. John DiFool2 Posted: August 02, 2021 at 04:17 PM (#6032242)
ERod's last 14 starts: 66.2 IP, 6.48 ERA


I keep waiting for the ERA to normalize with the FIP. For some weird reason it hasn't happened yet...
   24. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: August 02, 2021 at 04:29 PM (#6032248)
I keep waiting for the ERA to normalize with the FIP. For some weird reason it hasn't happened yet...


.249/.293/.415
.333/.386/.528

That's bases empty and men on. For whatever reason he's struggling badly out of the stretch. In his career he has the exact same .722 OPS against in those situations. Not sure what is happening this year.
   25. Darren Posted: August 02, 2021 at 04:36 PM (#6032251)
Our old friend Mikael had some theory about FIP not working for injured pitchers. Maybe that's the case here?
   26. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 03, 2021 at 01:25 PM (#6032541)
I keep waiting for the ERA to normalize with the FIP. For some weird reason it hasn't happened yet...


It is possible that eventually the FIP is going to normalize with the ERA, if you know what I mean. He's been pretty awful for quite a while now. His ERA is 5.60, but that is actually *helped* by a pretty good first six starts to the season. It is since then that his ERA is 6.48, with 104 baserunners allowed in 66.2 innings, and a slash line against him of .293/.349/.465. During that stretch, his BABIP is .401, and even with these awful numbers, he doesn't walk a lot of guys, or give up too many HRs, so he's been unlucky, too.
   27. SandyRiver Posted: August 03, 2021 at 04:36 PM (#6032618)
I wonder if it's location more than losing his stuff. In that last (bad) start he went only 3.1 innings, got knocked around and walked 4, but 8 of the 10 outs were strikeouts.
   28. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 03, 2021 at 11:16 PM (#6032725)
Tonight's loss to Detroit is another microcosm of the primary strength of the team, and the potential weaknesses beginning to manifest themselves, both at play:

The strength continues to be the bullpen, which continues to be generally amazing: 4 IP, 3 H, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 1 ER. And Cora didn't even use any of his top three relievers. Sawamura, Robles, Rios, Davis all pitched an inning each, and it is something - three of those four pitchers weren't even on the team in early June.

But the two weaknesses of the team came out again tonight. The starting rotation has four guys that have a combined ERA of almost 6.50 in the last couple of months. Tonight, Garrett Richards gave them 4 innings, 3 ER, 7 baserunners...that's an ERA of 6.75.

Then, the offense. Seven singles and a HR (Renfroe), no inning with multiple hits.

The Rays lost tonight, too, so Boston remains only one game out of the division lead, and comfortably in one of the two wild card positions. Can they get through the next six games of this road trip without losing much more ground?

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