Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Red Sox Stuff 5/19

The Red Sox return home from the west coast and start a three game series tonight versus the Texas Rangers.  The Red Sox seem to be on the verge of righting the ship, but there are still a number of issues that are preventing this team from getting hot and going on a run.  We'll go through a number of these issues and then bat them around in the comments section.

Now let's head to the back of the channels and have some highly secret (only not secret at all) meetings about all things Red Sox.

1. New pitching coach Carl Willis has seemingly fixed the starting rotation over night. Is he a magic man? Is it a coincidence? There were some signs of improvement prior to his arrival, but you can't deny that since he got here the starting pitching has been excellent.  Maybe the firing of Juan Nieves was the wake up call that some of these guys needed, sprinkle that in with a new voice and a little fine tuning and we could see a major turn around with this group.  Or...the coincidence may have come with the fact that the Red Sox faced some bad offenses on the west coast.

2. The offense has stolen the mantle as the weakest link from the starting rotation.  I hope they find their bats in the Fenway clubhouse and some hits.  Is it time to move Mike Napoli down in the order? Is it time to move Hanley to 1B and call up Rusney Castillo? I still believe that a Mike Napoli hot streak is right around the corner, but how long can they afford to wait?

3. Just based off of the eye test alone, and some comments recently from John Farrell it is clear that Xander Bogaerts has made great strides defensively.  But has it come at the expense of his offense? Or at least his power? Like a catcher who has to make his defense a priority only to have his offense suffer because of it.  Has the same thing happened to Xander? If it has is that OK? Should shortstop be a defense first position like it was in the 1970's and 80's? His power seems to be all but gone and not just home run power but that gap to gap power that he displayed in his short time in 2013 and early 2014. Will Xander find his power stroke?

4. Big Papi seems to have figured some things out and he's hitting the ball hard again.  Now if Dustin Pedroia can do the same we might start scoring some runs.  Are we witnessing the end of Big Papi? And the downside of Dustin Pedrioa's career? (Note: At this rate Dustin WILL NOT be in the MLB top 10 best players of 2015, he may not even be in the top 100 next year).

5. The bullpen seems to have settled down some and the roles seem to be a little more clear.  Matt Barnes has pitched well, not great, but good enough since his move to the bullpen.  The clearly defined roles at this point are Koji as the closer and Taz as the 8th inning guy. Barnes and Ogando seem to be handling the 6th and 7th innings, but the left handers haven't been very good especially Craig Breslow. The 2013 stretch run may have been his last hurrah.  My prediction is that he'll be the next one to be DFA'd. Should the Sox dump Breslow?

6.  Allen Craig passed through waivers and is no longer on the Red Sox 40 man roster. But, he still is with Pawtucket.  Put baseball aside for a moment and his fall from grace has been very sad.  By all accounts he is a very quiet guy, but a good guy.  I really thought he was going to have a great bounce back season this year, but he couldn't take advantage of the opportunities he was given early in the season and now he'll have to find himself in AAA and if he's going to get another chance at the big league level it will likely be with another organization.  At this point Bryce Brentz would get a shot in Boston before Craig.

7. The Red Sox seem to have weathered the storm, but they also left some opportunities on the table to have a better road trip.  5-5 is better than 2-8, but they easily could have gone 7-3.  Is this team close to returning to the form that put them at the top of the AL east in early April or are they destined to spend the season in the middle of the pack in the AL east? Is tonight the night they start to turn things around at home vs. the Rangers?

My answer? It's more probable than not...


  1. 1. It seems certain that Juan Nieves was doing nothing much at all with these starters. When Farrell said Nieves hadn't really established a rapport with this group, it must have been an understatement. While the group may have turned around anyways, it looks like Carl Willis has so far done a hell of a job. If nothing else, he seems like a jovial guy to have around the clubhouse.

    2. Sigh. I've been on the "Napoli is going to turn it around and rip off about 10 bombs over the next 30 games" bandwagon for weeks now, but I think I'm going to have to start driving this wagon by myself in about 2-3 more games. That said, I think the Sox stand pat for now. Maybe move him down to 7th in the order. The idea of moving Hanley to 1B and calling up Rusney is intriguing, if nothing else because of Hanley's atrocious defensive play in the outfield. But I still stand firm that it’s not a good idea to break yet another young, inexperienced player into this lineup while we are trying to make up games in the AL East. It’s a long shot that Rusney would hit at the major league level right away, no matter how well he’s doing at AAA. I say we stand pat with the Hanley, Mookie, Victorino outfield until Victorino gets hurt again.

    3. Xander is at the bottom of the 2015 concerns list to me. I love the way he’s playing defensively at short. A solid defender who’s hitting .260/.316/.358 is a perfectly acceptable major league shortstop, and he still has the ability to grow into a better hitter and improve his slugging percentage. The swing is there.

    4. Yes, we’re witnessing the end of Big Papi. The question is, how long will the end last? It could last all the way through 2016. It may be completely anecdotal, but it seems to me like Ortiz has been even more snake-bitten than usual by shifts this season. Every ball he hits seems to be going right to a shifted defender. Ortiz has even tried to bunt a couple times recently to beat the shift. Papi will be fine. Pedroia will not end up anywhere near the top 10 players, but he’s still a very valuable player based on his defense alone. Dustin is another candidate to drop to the 7th hole in the order, but his ego would probably never allow that to happen.

    5. Matt Barnes has not been electric or completely lights out, but he seems to have stabilized the bullpen somewhat. They’ve at least been competent recently. Tazawa still worries me a little - the fact that he grooved a splitter to Cruz with first base open in the 9th inning last Friday night makes me wonder where his head is. Our left handers are horrible. Terrible. Atrocious. Need an upgrade there, pronto.

    6. What a strange story. I know this is hardly scientific evidence, but I was playing MLB The Show 14 the other night on PS3, and I was playing the Cardinals. Allen Craig was their clean up hitter and he was absolutely impossible to get out. His ratings on that game are through the roof because of his numbers the year before. The guy has fallen off the map. Insane.

    7. If there are two teams in the majors (or at least the AL, I don’t really follow the NL) who have been more disappointing than the Red Sox, it has been the A’s and Mariners. Playing those two teams certainly helped out confidence. Facing those two lineups helped the starters too. I think we’ll do well against the Rangers. Bring on YoGa tonight! Our hitting mojo has to regress to the mean some time! No time like tonight to start!

    1. Rusney Castillo is going to turn 28 in July and he's played professional ball in Cuba for years. He's not exactly a young guy who needs to be broken in. Think of him as more of a japanese pitcher than a Mookie Betts type.

    2. I think this is an important home stand for two reasons. First, the last long home stand was a bitter disappointment at 3-6 and to win the AL East this team must play strongly at home. Secondly, Fenway Park should be able to help ignite this offense after spending a week in big parks like Oakland's and Seattle's. No changes in tonight's lineup by John Farrell so he may also be counting on home cooking to lit a fire under the bats.

    3. I disagree about Castillo. No matter how many at bats he has under his belt in the Cuban pro league, Major League Baseball is a whole other ball of wax. Rusney only has 40 plate appearances in MLB. There will be an adjustment period that the Sox do not need to wait through right now as they battle to get above .500 and back in the AL East hunt.

    4. Inexperienced? Yes. Young? No. Again he's going to be 28 years old in July. He's in his peak now and they're paying him accordingly. I agree that you can reach a point where you have too many inexperienced players in your lineup and we seem to be close to that point, but to me Castillo is in a different category than Betts, Bogaerts and Swihart.

  2. I will take a swing at Barry's topics:

    1.I am not sure Carl Willis is a better pitching coach than Juan Nieves, but he is certainly much more experienced with about ten seasons with Cleveland and Seattle. I think the change in PC may have got the attention of some guys but more likely this stff was not as bad as their beginning, and they were bound to improve.

    2. I think the offense (except for Opening Day) has been every bit as much to blame as the pitching for the poor start. As far as Mike Napoli goes, you have to ride him out, not forever, but for two reasons: Nap has been a streak hitter his whole career, and one of his hot streaks can carry a club. Secondly, who else Napoli is only one of five first basemen in Boston or at Pawtucket ( Napoli, Nava, Craig, Travis Shaw, and Garin Cecchini) and all of them are hitting under .200. If Napoli is still in this funk in another three weeks or so, I would seriously explore Hanley Ramirez at first. This would allow an outfield of some combo of Betts, Castillo, Bradley, and Victorino.

    3. No question Xander Bogaerts has not hit with the power we expected. But despite his one home run, he has three doubles and triples each. His OPS is above average for the AL shortstop crop. X is still a youngster, I have no worries or complaints with him.

    4. Both Papi and Pedey will never be the players they were in their prime. But Papi is a long ways from washed up, I still expect him to hit 20-25 homers this year and likely next year, too. Once the younger players like Betts, Rusney Castillo, Bogaerts, etc. get their feet wet, Pedroia should be put in the 7th hole, ask him to continue his great D, and get whatever offense he can give you.

    5. I think Matt Barnes will be a big part of the bullpen, and he, Koji, and Tazawa can make an outstanding end of the pen ( Ogando, too if he stays healthy). I agree the lefties are an issue and I agree Breslow looks done. I think Tommy Layne has been pretty good ( 3.27 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 11 IP). They could use another effective lefty arm.

    6. Allen craig. It is almost incomprehensible how far he has fallen. But this stint at AAA, whre he can finally get regular AB's may be his last chance to salvage his career. IF, just if, Craig finds his stroke at Pawtucket, and Napoli does find his, Craig may yet get a shot in Boston. Maybe.

    7. As i said above, important home stnd. If the bats come to life, this team could have a hot streak at home and on the road, the 17 games are versus Texas, Twins, Angels, and A's.


  3. So far the bats have pulled a disappearing act here in game 2 of the series against a guy who's been a relief pitcher virtual his whole professional career. Pathetic.

  4. Victorino battles out a gutty pinch hit single to load the bases in the 6th, and Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts promptly make outs without even getting a fly ball to score the tying run. This team cannot hit with RISP. I don't know whether to laugh or sob.

  5. HAHAHAHAHA Hanley Ramirez just set the world record for worst throw ever by an outfielder

  6. I would have to research this for days to back up this point beyond certain anecdotes, but it just seems like this Red Sox team has been murdered by defensive shifts all season. Seems like we're constantly hitting balls to defenders who are in perfect unusual spots. It's uncanny.

  7. That has to be the most frustrating loss of the season tonight. All four of the other AL East teams had lost. The pitching staff did a great job keeping the Rangers at 2. We get loads of runners in scoring position. And we just can't get the one big hit to break through. Makes me want to break something.

  8. This team must have unbelievably bad luck on balls put in play. The hit the ball hard with runners in scoring position in 3 out of the 4 final innings and had nothing to show for it.