It's 8:50 on Saturday morning, and my wife is at work, my 3 year old is glued to Princess Sofia and my soon to be 6 month old is taking a nap. All this means that I have about 30 minutes to put my random Red Sox thoughts in this space (so just accept the fact that there's bound to be multiple spelling and grammar errors). Here are the thoughts banging around in my head in no particular order:
1. Thank goodness Shane Victorino got hurt to start the year. Ok, so in reality his being out may have contributed to the slow start, but it also led to Jackie Bradley Jr. becoming the every day CF a little earlier than if he hadn't gotten hurt. The Victorino injury was masked a little bit in Red Sox nation by the excitement of opening day, but it had a major effect on the lineup. Replacing Ellsbury at the top of the order got all of the attention, but for the first two weeks or so of the season, they had to replace their leadoff man and their #2 hitter. It made the Ellsbury loss seem even worse. Ever since Victorino has been back the offense has shown naked-eye improvement as well as some statistical improvement.
(That lasted a long time, my 30 minutes turned in to three minutes, my 3 year old decided that she wants to sit on my lap while I type this, I'm soldiering on but prepare for more errors!)
Back to Jackie Bradley Jr. He reminds me so much of Dustin Pedroia. Obviously they play different positions, but they are both short, by professional athlete standards, and they both seem to have off the charts baseball IQ and intangibles. Not to mention that JBJr also seems to be mirroring Pedroia's rookie season. First off let me just say that Red Sox fans need to put April of '13 behind them as far as JBJr is concerned, he only made the team because Big Papi was hurt to start last year and JBJr was the 26th best player so he got bumped up a little early. Now back to the Pedey comparison. They both got off to slow starts with the bats in April in their first full seasons of major league duty. But, you could see steady improvement throughout and then Pedey took off in May and never looked back on his way to winning rookie of the year. In 2014 many people predicted that the Red Sox would have the rookie of the year (myself included) but they had the wrong player.
2. Clay Buchholz is the most frustrating, tantalizing, enigmatic player on the Red Sox. Is it possible that he's used April as an extended spring training to get his arm healthy enough to last a whole season? Is there a chance that the fans will be happy that he coasted through April because he'll be our best pitcher in August/September? Let's hope so. He had his best start of the season last night with his velocity getting as high as 93-94. That is a great sign. Now if Juan Nieves can get Felix Doubront straightened out then we might be able to put together a win streak.
3. The offense. Wow, where to start. Their BAPIP with runners on base is really low compared to last year, which is to be expected. We can also expect that it will come up very soon. It likely won't reach last years number, but it should come up to an acceptable number that will allow the Red Sox to start scoring more runs. Which is what this team needs.
John Farrell was quoted recently as saying that he was looking for consistency in the 2-6 spots in the batting order. He's getting close. While also establishing a consistent lead off hitter.
There's your top 6. The bottom 1/3 depends on who catches. it's either Pierzynski, Middlebrooks, JBJr or Middlebrooks, JBJr, Ross
Not sure I agree with his choice of lineups but the consistency has been paying dividends. They're getting guys on base consistently now they just need that BAPIP with runners on base to improve and we're off to the races.
Just because I love lineups I can't resist taking a crack at what I would do if I were John Farrell.
The bottom 1/3 would be the same as above. Also don't be surprised if JBJr works his way towards the top of the line up before the year is over.
4. The defense. The outfield defense was automatically improved when Victorino came back and JBJr settled into CF. Now the infield defense is going to continue to be an issue. If Bogaerts stays at SS which I believe he will. This team will need to use a late inning defensive replacement at the end of the year when the spotlight brightens. You can't afford to be giving away outs on routine plays or not turning routine double plays because your SS can't make accurate throws. Now I'm sure that Xander is going to continue to improve defensively and I think he can play SS long term, but if this team is in a position to make the playoffs then they'll need to do what's best for the team and use a defensive replacement.
The right side of the infield is fine. In fact both could win gold gloves this year. Lost in the attention that Bogaerts gets is the fact that Middlebrooks' defense is not good either. (Update: I now have a 3 year old on my lap and a six month old baby crying in his sleeper because I'm typing this instead of picking him up. Dad of the year? Unlikely, but get ready for even more mistakes!!!) Perhaps the defensive replacement for the end of the year will be Herrera to SS and Bogaerts to 3B.
5. Catching. The AJ/Ross combo is going to be fine offensively and defensively while also bringing good leadership, but I can't wait for one of them to get hurt so we can see Christian Vasquez. Even if it's just for two weeks. Neither AJ nor Ross are exciting to watch in any way and being able to watch Vasquez would give this team and it's fans some excitement at the catcher position. Now don't get me wrong I've seen enough rookie mistakes in the first month+ of the season to not want another rookie starting full time, but for a short time I look forward to watching Vasquez and then he can come back up in September and then be ready for a full time gig in 2015.
6. I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the SP from Pawtucket is going to get an opportunity to take a spot in the rotation and go on an Aaron Sele like 7-0 run to help turn this season around. I don't know if it will be injury that opens the door or ineffectiveness (Doubront), but I've just got a hunch that it's going to happen and it's going to be a big part of getting this team to the playoffs.
7. Lastly, what to make of this year's team? There have been some really frustrating moments that have made me want to say "we're going to suck this year" but I've been able to stay level headed so far. This team has the talent and leadership to steer the ship in the right direction and they're one 8-2 stretch away from taking control of the division. While I'm afraid that we may have awoken a sleeping giant in Tampa Bay with our "let's make em play a double header because they suck right now" routine, but I think that the Sox are about to get hot for the month of May.
(Last update, that took more than 30 minutes and there's absolute pandemonium in my house right now. I think my 3 year old is down at the hardware store somewhere and my 6 month old is sitting in a poop diaper smoking cigarettes, but I finished a post!!) (P.S. enjoy the mistakes)