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— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Friday, July 31, 2020

What Have We Learned

Truthfully? Not much.  It’s seven games.

But despite that I think we can make some too early judgments before what I imagine will be a fairly ugly weekend in the Bronx.  There is a pretty sizable gulf between the two clubs that is exacerbated by the Yankees being the kind of big slugging team that the Sox should be expecting to struggle with.  I kind of want to see Josh Osich pitch against Aaron Judge this weekend just so we can learn how far a baseball can travel.  Anyway, the Sox are 3-4 on the young season and the path there has been pretty predictable on the pitching side.  The offense has underwhelmed so far but there have been some flashes to make us appreciate how good they can be.  Considering it’s only 7 games I think the 72-90 pace they’ve played at so far is not far off a reasonable expectation.  This looks and feels like a 75 win team to me.  With that said I think there are some opinions to have as things get going even while acknowledging the many factors that render any analysis fairly meaningless;

Hopeful - So I guess Christian Vazquez’ breakout season with the bat may not have been the fluke many of us thought.  I suspect the 85 homer pace he is on* is probably not likely to continue but whatever he did to find some power last year has carried over into 2020 quite nicely.  And my goodness is the arm still there, the throw he made to gun down a would be base stealer from his knees on Thursday was something else. 

* for simplicity I’m using terms like “pace” throughout this to reflect 162 game seasons.  It’s the baseball fan’s lingua franca and just makes sense to me to think in those terms.

Troubling – One guy who has underwhelmed in limited time is Matt Barnes.  While Barnes has (barely) steered the Sox through a couple of 8th innings in victories his control issues continue to plague him.  He walk rate has been climbing annually.  I am cautiously bullish on this bullpen but part of that bullishness needs Barnes to be a reliable power arm out there.  The good news with Barnes is that while the walks are exasperating the strikeouts are so voluminous that he can dance through the raindrops.

Still Searching – Anecdotally it feels like Rafael Devers is drawing fans’ ire for a slow start.  It’s not entirely unearned, he has scuffled at the plate and a couple of early miscues in the field have hurt.  At the same time he had two key defensively plays in the wins over the Mets.  On Wednesday his diving stop kept a ball on the infield that would have scored the tie run and on Thursday he showed his usual exceptional range to his left to retire the leadoff hitter.  When a single by McNeil followed it was a blip rather than a full on 9th inning crisis.  As for his offense Devers, a true slugger, is the kind of guy who historically is expected to start slow as he finds his timing and I expect him to get cooking sooner than later.

Troubling – Contrary to the perception of Devers is the perception of Andrew Benintendi.  Among the friends and family I talk to it seems people expect Benny to get going but are wary of Devers.  Benintendi however has looked lost at the plate.  Like Barnes he is coming off a year where he seemed to take a step back so this is a continuation of a trend unlike Devers who had a massive year in 2019.  I also think Ron Roenicke deserves a bit of criticism for his handling of Benintendi who he is bouncing all over the lineup.  The good news is that while he’s not hitting he is still being disciplined at the plate so his OBP is actually an acceptable .321.  Assuming he won’t hit .095 all year that’s a good sign.

Hopeful – Nathan Eovaldi isn’t an “Ace” but he is the Sox’ ace for better or worse.  Eovaldi is another in the line of ex-Marlins like Brad Penny, A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett who get tagged with that “future star” label then never quite live up to it.  However, if you accept him for what he is, a middle of the rotation guy asked to be more on a dreadful pitching staff, I think he is quite satisfactory.  He has been sharp in the early going and in the long term a solid Eovaldi is an important part for the 2021-2022 Red Sox.

Still Searching – Alex Verdugo has not really gotten going yet but in limited time I’ve been intrigued.  He has more than a bit of Trot Nixon in him with that red ass on display in his first start.  He has shown some good defensive chops and I love a strong armed outfielder.  I think he will benefit from Fenway and probably benefitted from the delayed start as much as any player on the club.  Getting some attention pulled away from him as he settles in is not a bad thing.

Hopeful – In what will almost certainly be his final season in a Red Sox uniform Jackie Bradley has looked great.  The highlight reel defense has been shown off a few times and offensively not only is he raking but he is doing so with regular hits to left, a sure sign that he is on his game.  I’m determined to enjoy Jackie Bradley Jr. if this is his final go-round.  I remember being down by the field during the division celebration in 2013 and JBJ and a couple of other young players sat on the edge of the stands just taking it all in.  You could almost see him feeling gratified at playing a small role but also hopeful of being more impactful in the future.  The 2018 ALCS MVP certainly achieved that.

OK, that’s what I got for now.  I have low hopes for this weekend in the Bronx but it’s nice to see some positives in the early going.  After the bad home stand the Sox needed to right the ship a bit and they did that at CitiField.

Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: July 31, 2020 at 04:57 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: July 31, 2020 at 07:15 PM (#5967223)
In what will almost certainly be his final season in a Red Sox uniform Jackie Bradley has looked great.

I am very curious on what the timeline looked like for the Sox this offseason.

They know Sale is hurt in late 2019, but hope he'll get better
They sign JBJ and Betts to arb deals
They dump Betts and Price for $$
Then Sale gets TJ surgery

IF they knew Sale was hurt, and IF they knew they were trading Betts, then WHY did they sign JBJ if it's only for 1 year? Why not just let him go to FA and save the $11M? Let's not kid ourselves and imagine the 2020 Sox were going to make the playoffs without Sale, Price, and Betts, crazy COVID issues or not, they were not going to be a good team.
   2. villageidiom Posted: July 31, 2020 at 09:03 PM (#5967245)
Are you saying they should have gotten rid of all their African American players in one offseason?

People do root for JBJ. Having someone to root for is a good thing. At $11 million he is worth his contract, and they're already under the tax threshold. Those are good things.
   3. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: July 31, 2020 at 10:12 PM (#5967250)
I have to admit I don't really care much about this 'season' - COVID, Betts, etc. I am wondering though - with the injuries and the absences, do we have the worst pitching staff in baseball?
   4. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: July 31, 2020 at 11:00 PM (#5967261)
I’m enjoying it for what it is. I have no stress, I don’t expect anything even with the expanded playoffs so fine. It’s baseball so I’ll enjoy it. I like Bloom, I feel like he’s a guy with a good plan in place. I feel confident in him building it back up sooner than later.
   5. pikepredator Posted: August 01, 2020 at 10:43 AM (#5967316)
well-written, Jose.

I was looking forward to watching Rodriguez follow up on his excellent 2019, so losing him was a downer. Of course it'll be a bigger downer if the season ends in a few weeks . . .
   6. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 01, 2020 at 04:59 PM (#5967406)
People do root for JBJ. Having someone to root for is a good thing. At $11 million he is worth his contract, and they're already under the tax threshold. Those are good things.

I've been thinking this over, my first reaction was, if you are going to tear it down, then tear it down. But you are right, and I guess the Sox should be commended a bit. I do think they should trade JBJ if they dont plan on signing him long term, but at the time, if they didn't offer him arb he was gone, and the Sox get nothing. They got under the cap, they don't need to shave every dollar off they can, and it is nice to watch him for another year.
   7. Answer Guy. Posted: August 06, 2020 at 10:00 AM (#5968131)
I've been thinking this over, my first reaction was, if you are going to tear it down, then tear it down.

JBJ is kind of in a tough spot insofar as his bat isn't good enough to be a key cog in the offense of a team with hopes of winning a pennant, but that he's too expensive for a rebuilding team to carry, and fans of any team that inked him to a significant deal would have a hard time dealing with the slumps where he looks like a pitcher at the dish in particular. He is a defensive asset in CF, and if your lineup has enough firepower elsewhere that you don't need a big bat in that position, he can fit. But that's kind of a tight niche.
   8. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 08, 2020 at 09:16 AM (#5968430)
Boy oh boy did Verdugo have a night last night. It’s nice to see him start to come around a bit, I’ve enjoyed watching him. He has a bit of a chip on his shoulder that can be a positive (see Dustin Pedroia) but potentially can be a negative as well if he doesn’t harness it correctly. Either way he won’t be dull.
   9. Jay Seaver Posted: August 08, 2020 at 02:04 PM (#5968465)
Yeah, Verdugo's going to be a fun guy to have on the team, even if it is going to take me into next year to not resent his presence. Still, by the way he was eagerly making sure he got the balls for his first hit/home run with the Red Sox, he's apparently happy to be here and clearly feels like he has something to prove.
   10. John DiFool2 Posted: August 14, 2020 at 06:46 PM (#5969690)
Not sure where to put this, but Mookie hit 3 homers last night.

I could only bear to watch one of them before I had to close the window.
   11. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 14, 2020 at 10:55 PM (#5969762)
I’m starting to think the Sox aren’t going to be very good this year guys.
   12. Jay Seaver Posted: August 15, 2020 at 09:15 AM (#5969794)
I don't think I've ever heard a broadcaster sound like calling games was putting him in physical pain before, but let me tell ya, Eck really does not seem to be enjoying this.

Even if they are pretty willing to say this is a bad team, the NESN broadcasters aren't going to be too critical of the personnel, but based on last night's game, I kind of can't imagine Ron Roenike being back next year; they didn't seem to be impressed with his leadership at all. It's a weird situation and a roster without major league pitching, so his hands are tied in a lot of ways, but he just does not seem up to this particular challenge and if the players disengage now, I'm not sure he'll automatically get them back if things are more normal next year.

He sure feels like the interim manager for when the real guy has some sort of health issue or gets fired with two weeks left in the year, even if he's technically not.
   13. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 15, 2020 at 09:40 AM (#5969797)
Yeah, Roenicke has not impressed me. I get that he’s been dealt a #### hand but man I don’t know what the #### he’s doing sometimes. If you’re going to go with the “Openers” strategy it seems to me that if the first guy doesn’t have it you move on. Instead he seems to stay with the pitcher until the game is out of reach. I mean look at Thursday, Hart gives up 2 in the first, then in the third goes walk-homer-homer, fine it’s 5-3. Move on. Nope, he sticks with him through a double and two more singles before finally getting him out of there.

He’s been dealt a bad hand. Some of this was predictable and then add in JD, Devers and Benny massively underperforming and that’s the shitshow. This is a ###### year on so many levels so I’m not overly bothered but I’m with you, from what I’ve seen Roenicke is a place holder and nothing more.
   14. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: August 15, 2020 at 11:45 AM (#5969802)
Sure, he's a placeholder but that doesn't mean that any of this is his fault. Losing Sale and ERod sunk them from the start, and they are punting the season. I don't blame anyone. Not the manager, not the GM, not the players. This roster can't compete. They are a sub-.500 team, by a lot. They are Baltimore Orioles 2019 bad. 2019 Miami Marlins bad.
Mookie Betts wouldn't save this team. Porcello would help some, but he isn't worth a big contract. So what are they supposed to do? Bring some younger guys along, shore up the pitching a bit if Sale and ERod can come back healthy next year (and if the COVID situation is under control by next spring...which is a big "if"), and move on. Their core is Bogaerts and Devers and Vazquez and Benintendi and JD for a few more years. They have to build around them, and it probably won't happen overnight.

I'm at the point where I don't care whether they win or lose this year. I have no expectations of them succeeding or even playing well.

edit...oh yeah, Verdugo. He might be a very good hitter, or, at worst, an average hitter.
   15. pikepredator Posted: August 15, 2020 at 02:14 PM (#5969814)
Bright spots are hard to find. Sometimes the offense is OK . . . Benintendi has a weird batting line, whee! I long for the Halcyon days of July when Vasquez was the second coming of Bench.

   16. Jay Seaver Posted: August 15, 2020 at 03:08 PM (#5969826)
If you’re going to go with the “Openers” strategy it seems to me that if the first guy doesn’t have it you move on.

It's not like what the Red Sox are doing is really an "openers" strategy, where you choose a guy who matches up well with the start of the lineup and switch him out in the second inning to let some long-reliever type (hopefully) preserve a lead. This is just bullpen game after bullpen game, and unsustainable.

Obviously, not Roenicke's fault, because the best the starting rotation was going to look was Rodriguez/Eovaldi/McHugh/two people who had a good spring training/start in Pawtucket, and circumstances just wiped that out. I don't know if anybody really predicted the level at which this jerry-rigged season would punish not having depth or make finding it harder.
   17. karlmagnus Posted: August 15, 2020 at 10:08 PM (#5969912)
When do we start calling this lot the 'Boston Spiders?'

Seriously, this year is clearly shot, but there's no reason to despair. The Eovaldi contract was a mistake, as was letting Porcello go, when we could probably have re-signed him for around 3/24 (Eating innings is good when you have no other pitchers). But next year, Sale and E-Rod should be back, and we may get something from the farm system, especially if this year gives us a REALLY high draft pick (#1, e.g. not just #7.)
   18. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 15, 2020 at 10:27 PM (#5969914)
I’m not particularly concerned long term. There’s a good base here and the SOx spend money and are generally well run over the years. The early work by Bloom makes me think he’s pretty sharp. They’re terrible now and I don’t have much optimism for next year simply because building something takes time but they’ll be fine. Just gotta ride it out a bit right now.
   19. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 17, 2020 at 11:19 AM (#5970028)
The Sox do have a good base in terms of position players, but their pitching is just so bad. Let's assume they suck next year as well, who on the team can really generate any return value? JBJ could be traded this year, but the return is not going to be high. Martinez is signed through '22, he'd certainly be a candidate to trade off. Anyone else? Trade Eovaldi next year to some team in play off contention? ####, sending him back to TB for Beeks would be great.
   20. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: August 20, 2020 at 04:22 PM (#5970936)
Couple of small moves of interest today. Darwinzon Hernandez has been activated, I look forward to seeing him. The other one is they've added Triston Casas to the 60 player pool. He probably won't get to Boston this year but it's interesting that he's been added.
   21. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: September 02, 2020 at 08:02 PM (#5973976)
I like Verdugo. Good player.

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