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Friday, April 16, 2021

Home for the Holiday

As Dave O’Brien mentioned…REPEATEDLY during the road trip the Sox kick off* their longest homestand of the season tonight against the Chicago White Sox. To say the road trip was a success would be a huge understatement and the critical thing about this homestand is that on Monday morning I will make my triumphant return to Fenway.  I can’t freakin’ wait let me tell you.

* given the weather perhaps “drop the puck on their longest homestand of the season” is more appropriate.

Of course like the always balanced and even-keeled fans that Red Sox fans are known to be the reaction to the road trip has been pretty chill.  I can’t remember where I saw it but the stat I’ve seen bandied about is that the Sox’ team ERA of 3.75 has been this good only four times in the last quarter century over their first 13 games; 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018.  So yeah there’s that.  For me this is still a .500 team.  As good as they’ve looked they have basically been playing as a fully healthy entity.  The starting pitching has predominately been healthy (EdRod missed his first start) and save for a JD Martinez absence due to COVID protocols the lineup has been what was expected.  The big question is how good this team can be over 162 games and I’m still of the opinion that while a fully functional death star Red Sox team is very good the history, particularly on the mound, suggests that won’t be the case.

With all that said what is very encouraging is the performances.  Nathan Eovaldi has looked fantastic and after a first start disaster Garrett Richards has pitched well in his last couple of outings.  After those guys the Sox have gotten about what was expected.  If those guys can continue to pitch well and with some of the depth (particularly Tanner Houck) behind it there is plenty of reason to feel good about this team.

The other area I want to touch on is the manager’s office.  I was fairly critical of Alex Cora in 2019 and skeptical that he was the right choice this year.  When the Sox lost the first three games I almost noted my concerns on issues like using Matt Andriese in a close game on Opening Day after he hadn’t pitched the last week of spring training or the way he seemed to be going overboard availing himself of his roster flexibility.  Ten games later those concerns look a bit silly.  He has been pulling the right levers at the right times and is making that versatility work for him. All of us noted the move of Verdugo to left just in time to make his game saving catch on Tuesday and the way it evoked memories of Andrew Benintendi’s catch in 2018.  Incredibly it was Dan Shaughnessy who had the right comparison though noting that Verdugo’s catch was effectively the play Carl Crawford didn’t make on the final fateful day of the 2011 season.

Cora has also been getting it right with the bullpen.  When a team is as good as the 2018 team was it can be easy to overlook the job of the manager but that was something he did very well that year.  When Joe Kelly was hot, he rode Kelly, then when that turned he went to Matt Barnes, and so on.  He has quickly established a Sawamura-Ottavino-Barnes finishing kick with Darwinzon Hernandez and Matt Andriese as the primary options given the circumstances.  I think that bodes very well moving forward.

So far so good (so good! so good!).

Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: April 16, 2021 at 01:34 PM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. villageidiom Posted: April 19, 2021 at 11:08 AM (#6014244)
If they are a roughly .500 team (74-75) going forward from when you wrote this, or even going forward from today (73-73), they would end with a 83-79 record.

We don't get to cherry pick good stuff and true-talent the rest, but when the games already banked are the good stuff it makes sense. I mean, if they've been lucky so far it doesn't make them more likely to be unlucky later. The only caveat there is their schedule, which stands to be more challenging in June - assuming the preseason favorites start playing like it by then.

Wait, they're already playing... Why am I typing right now? There's BASEBALL at 11 AM!
   2. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: April 19, 2021 at 06:37 PM (#6014309)
I had this argument a couple years ago after the Orioles won a bunch of games early in the season. Technically yes the games are in the bank but the reality is a .500 team doesn’t go W-L-W-L-W-L etc...for 162 games. They go through ups and downs. I suspect an 11-6 start (9-4 when I wrote this) is unusual for a team that finishes 81-81.

And obviously I don’t think 83-79 is something particularly different from “a .500 team.”
   3. UnclePab Posted: April 19, 2021 at 06:44 PM (#6014311)
It all depends (in the short term, and to my personal mindset about the team) on how they do in their next few games. Right now they've lost 3 of their last 5. Is this a trend that will "balance them out" back toward being a .500 team, as many of us expected they'd be? Or do they resume winning more often than not? This early in the season, it could really go either way.
   4. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: April 19, 2021 at 06:45 PM (#6014312)
I was going to do this as its own post but I’ll throw it here;

I went to the game today. 568 days since I saw Mookie Betts score the winning run for the reigning World Champions on the final day of the 2019 season. A bit has changed since then. All in all it was great to be back. Honestly it was a great way to attend a game. I can’t remember the last time I had that kind of space at Fenway. Maybe in the 9th inning of a 21-2 loss to the Angels a couple years ago.

Good:

- It felt like a ballgame. I can’t explain it but there were cheers, boos, drunk idiots, people dancing on the video board, that annoying strikeout sound like the smoke monster from Lost. Take Me Out to the Ballgame and Sweet Caroline got people singing along.

- The seats are zip tied so you can only sit in assigned seats which keeps people separated. I felt very secure.

- There are no hawkers but there are concessions (NO ICE CREAM WTF?). The concession stands have plexiglass shields and allow contactless payment including Apple Pay which was great.

- Holy #### what a commute. I could get used to that.

Bad:

- You have to complete a quick questionnaire to get in of the “are you sick or have you been around sick people lately” variety. That’s fine but you access it through a QR code that was posted on a board at the gate. There was only one sign for it though so everyone had to crowd around it which is kind of dumb. There should be a way to complete it before you get to the ballpark.

- Mask wearing was not remotely enforced an I’d say between a third and a half of people at their seats weren’t wearing masks for large portions of the game.

In any case, what a great day at the ballpark.
   5. UnclePab Posted: April 19, 2021 at 07:36 PM (#6014318)
That's awesome, Jose. Also, please go to more games if that's what results in 6 run first innings!

That QR code situation definitely sounds like it needs work, yikes.
   6. villageidiom Posted: April 19, 2021 at 11:24 PM (#6014365)
Mask wearing was not remotely enforced an I’d say between a third and a half of people at their seats weren’t wearing masks for large portions of the game.
Were they wearing masks otherwise? e.g. at concessions, walking around
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: April 20, 2021 at 08:18 AM (#6014384)
- You have to complete a quick questionnaire to get in of the “are you sick or have you been around sick people lately” variety. That’s fine but you access it through a QR code that was posted on a board at the gate. There was only one sign for it though so everyone had to crowd around it which is kind of dumb. There should be a way to complete it before you get to the ballpark.
You didn't need to use the QR code if you have the MLB Ballpark app. And I think you can do it in advance.

I'm not sure how the digital tickets are safer. There is still an employee there watching you hold your phone up to the scanner just as if you were holding your paper ticket up to the scanner.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: April 20, 2021 at 08:21 AM (#6014385)
Mask wearing was not remotely enforced an I’d say between a third and a half of people at their seats weren’t wearing masks for large portions of the game.

Were they wearing masks otherwise? e.g. at concessions, walking around
In the bleachers by me, people were pretty good about wearing them in their seats when not eating/drinking. For concessions/walking around it was better, maybe 95% compliance.
   9. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: April 20, 2021 at 08:22 AM (#6014386)
Were they wearing masks otherwise? e.g. at concessions, walking around


Yes. I will say that other than people at their seats everyone was wearing their masks and wearing them properly, not just as a chinstrap.

You didn't need to use the QR code if you have the MLB Ballpark app. And I think you can do it in advance.


I had a hunch there might be an operator error situation there. I've got the app so I should have been able to do it.

I'm not sure how the digital tickets are safer. There is still an employee there watching you hold your phone up to the scanner just as if you were holding your paper ticket up to the scanner.


When I went in they kept relatively separated and obviously no one else had to touch my phone so I thought it was better if not perfect.
   10. Jay Seaver Posted: April 20, 2021 at 09:07 AM (#6014392)
I'm not sure how the digital tickets are safer.


I'm not sure "safer" is necessarily the point so much as they're theoretically easier for the team to rearrange at the last minute, should there be a need. If the city tells the team that they can go up to 20% (or down to 10%) starting tomorrow, they might want to rearrange seating, which is a lot easier with tickets that only exist on the Ballpark app's server.
   11. dave h Posted: April 20, 2021 at 01:29 PM (#6014430)
I watched the highlights yesterday for the first time in over a year, and it felt like spring. I don't think I'm going to be watching many if any games on TV in the near future, but I am looking forward to getting back to the ballpark - whether it's Fenway or somewhere else.
   12. Chip Posted: April 21, 2021 at 02:10 AM (#6014591)
An enjoyable thing about this April Surprise is how many games started by elite opposition pitchers they’ve won already. Ryu Tuesday joined a list that already included Glasnow, Maeda, and Giolito. They even beat J.A. Happ, who is historically elite against them!
   13. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: April 21, 2021 at 08:03 AM (#6014595)
Yeah it's a lot of fun right now. I'm resolved to enjoy it while I can. Marwin is growing on me. He's not great but he's picked up for Brock Holt quite nicely. And Dalbec is REALLY good at first base. There's a Youkilisness to the way he's so quickly adapted to become not just acceptable but very very good.
   14. villageidiom Posted: April 21, 2021 at 09:08 AM (#6014599)
If they are a .500 team from now on, they will end with an 84-78 record.
   15. pikepredator Posted: April 21, 2021 at 09:46 AM (#6014604)
Yeah it's a lot of fun right now. I'm resolved to enjoy it while I can


as long as it lasts. and if it lasts all season, so be it!!
   16. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: April 21, 2021 at 02:41 PM (#6014761)
I'm enjoying this strong start on two levels:

1) Face value - it is a lot more fun to watch when your team is winning more than it is losing, and it is a likable bunch thus far (though people are in a better mood when the score is in their favor...). Also, the fact they are basically healthy adds to the enjoyment, because it helps us, as fans, build a narrative to the season. Watching the same core of players every day builds a rhythm to see players progressing or regressing, learning to play together, etc.

2) The big picture - I want the Red Sox to win as much as possible this year. It's not like the Patriots, where once it became pretty clear they were not going to be a 10-win team again (that terrible loss to the 49ers at home to drop them to 2-4, with Cam Newton being as bad as a QB can be, pretty much did it for me), I was like, "either make the playoffs or get a high draft pick", and then they really didn't do either. With baseball, I don't care if we end up with the 12th pick or the 21st pick - just win games. All that said, I really like that the team is playing well despite committing zero long-term dollars to new players last off-season.

Correct me if I am wrong, but is there any player new to the team in 2021 who signed more than a 2-year contract?
Enrique Hernandez is 2/$14m
Ottavino is 1/$11 (I believe it is $8m salary, plus a $3m bonus of some kind)
Martin Perez is 1/$5m
Renfroe is 1/$3.1m
Marwin Gonzalez is 1/$3m
Andriese is 1/$2.1m
Sawamura is 2/$3m
Cordero is $800K, still under team control for a while
Pivetta is $613K, team control for a while
Arroyo is $581K, team control for a while
Whitlock is $570K, team control for a long time

JD Martinez can opt out after the season, or they will have him for one more year.

Bogaerts can opt out after 2022, and Eovaldi is a FA after 2022.

Sale is here through at least 2024, but his salary actually drops annually over time.

Pedroia is off the books after this year.

The fact the team is performing well with zero added long-term investment is pretty awesome. That makes watching this 2021 team even better - I just want to see young guys slowly replace some of the short-term veterans as the season goes on...even if it means more losses than the stretch.
   17. villageidiom Posted: April 21, 2021 at 04:28 PM (#6014781)
I'm not rooting for payroll flexibility, as I'm sure you're not, either. But it is a nice position for them to be in, while also winning. The winning, the fun, the return of Rodriguez, the domination of pitchers by JDM, the laundry cart... that's the stuff.

In the same vein as what you're saying, they basically swapped out Mitch Moreland for Bobby Dalbec. I liked Moreland, and he's not quite done for his career, but I like seeing Dalbec's development.
   18. Nasty Nate Posted: April 21, 2021 at 04:32 PM (#6014783)
The fact the team is performing well with zero added long-term investment is pretty awesome.
Well the flip side is that if the players are good, you want them on a long-term basis.
   19. Bad Fish Posted: April 28, 2021 at 09:10 PM (#6015969)
What a weird game. A 25 year old journeyman learns a resonating grip on a change-up in spring training and becomes a man eater. There have to be thousands of guys who never found that magic sauce.
   20. pikepredator Posted: April 29, 2021 at 02:09 PM (#6016134)
the fun, the return of Rodriguez, the domination of pitchers by JDM, the laundry cart... that's the stuff.


It is indeed. Yay baseball!! This kind of stretch always makes me feel 12 again.
   21. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: April 30, 2021 at 10:37 PM (#6016437)
Darwinzon looks like he’s getting it together. He’s looked tremendous his last couple of outings. Had just one outing in two weeks but he’s been great the last two nights.
   22. villageidiom Posted: April 30, 2021 at 11:31 PM (#6016439)
He was fantastic tonight. Couldn't believe it was him.
   23. The Mighty Quintana Posted: May 01, 2021 at 01:07 PM (#6016463)
Every night Devers does something with the bat that only elite hitters do...he is just so much fun to watch.
   24. Bad Fish Posted: May 04, 2021 at 09:24 PM (#6016991)
Ok, Jose...you're our lord and master. There can't be any discussion without content. I get life, but fart something out, so we can talk.

You know, Renfroe, lets hope he stays close to his career 300 OBP.
   25. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 05, 2021 at 09:43 AM (#6017043)
I've had a couple of thoughts the last week but it's just a matter of getting something reasonably interesting. I want to put something up on the minors and hopefully something in the next day or two on the big club.

For now let's just blame, oh I don't know...JaySeaver, yeah, it's all his fault (sorry man, like I tell the kids I coach life isn't fair and sometimes you get blamed for stuff).
   26. villageidiom Posted: May 05, 2021 at 09:51 AM (#6017044)
I mean, I have keys, and I haven't been posting content much either.

I'll put a quick hit out there, to buy Jose JaySeaver more time.
   27. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: May 05, 2021 at 10:05 AM (#6017047)
How much more rope does Brice get? He was decent for Miami in 2019, but he's otherwise been shitty. Why not dump him and give Bazardo more innings?
   28. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 05, 2021 at 10:51 AM (#6017055)
Brice actually has pitched OK except when he hasn't. I know that sounds like a Yogi-ism but he hasn' been scored on in 7 of his 9 outings. There's a decent chance Bazardo is better but there is probably an argument to be made that letting Bazardo pitch at Worcester is the right thing to do. He's only got 33 innings above Hi A ball in his career. Let him get some work in there and let him develop a bit and be available when injuries hit.

Last night was annoying but "ahead 9-3 against the Tigers" is pretty much the right spot to use Brice. Personally I'd have used Andriese or Whitlock in the 6th, get through the 6th and 7th then go to Brice but that's splitting hairs.
   29. pikepredator Posted: May 05, 2021 at 02:28 PM (#6017091)
Last night's game was fun, I had the rare opportunity to watch it on TV and it did not disappoint. On the one hand it's a bummer that they almost coughed up a big lead . . . but they didn't. They had the chance to choke, and they didn't. They kept playing hard, Kike's HR led to a big sigh of relief. Not that 4 is that much different than 3 in terms of having a lead to protect, but just that they are still pushing.

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