Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fourteen Games Down, One Hundred Forty Eight to Go

The sample size is growing for the 2016 Red Sox. It's still incredibly early, but some things are becoming more clear two and a half weeks into the season.  So here are some more reactions and likely still over-reactions.

1. The catching situation has had a seasons worth of ups and downs already.  Let's start with the positives. All three catchers are healthy, unlike last season.  Christian Vazquez and all his defensive intangibles are as advertised and he seems to have kickstarted the starting rotation, especially Rick Porcello.  That can't be denied.  Blake Swihart's ability to block balls in the dirt is improved from last season and he is going to be a very good offensive player at the MLB level.

I do have a problem with the way that the Red Sox handled the catching situation though.  The Red Sox have a very talented young player in Blake Swihart, who John Farrell himself said in spring training is the starting catcher.  Then 7 games into the season he's sent back down to Pawtucket after missing a crucial foul pop-up in a loss to the Orioles.  Swihart's defensive deficiencies were a problem, but when you send him down after having a bad game without giving him a chance to get back on the horse and bounce back from that adversity it makes it seem like you're putting all the onus for a bad start on that young kid.  The Red Sox win now approach is very real, but at what cost? I hope the Red Sox didn't set this talented youngster back a couple seasons with how they handled him.

Having a veteran back up catcher can be an important asset for a good team, so I understand the Red Sox wanting to keep Ryan Hanigan.  But, in the long run a tandem of Vazquez and Swihart behind the dish will make the catching position very strong for years to come.  If Swihart can catch 30% of the time and play some 1B/LF/DH while Vazquez handles the majority of the catching duties that is the ideal outcome to this situation.  For those in Red Sox Nation who now want to trade Swihart I have a message for you: SHUT UP!

2. Rick Porcello seems to be pitching with a lot of confidence right now.  If he continues to pitch this way it will give the Red Sox a solid number two starter behind David Price.

3. John Farrell is going to blow out the Red Sox bullpen by Memorial Day at the rate things are going. His overuse of Junichi Tarawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel is concerning. The good news is that the Red Sox are playing a lot of close games so they need to use their best pitchers to try and win.  These things do have a way of evening out if they play a stretch of games that are not close they may get the extended rest that they need.  The return of Carson Smith would go a long way, but with the way that Farrell is using the bullpen he will be on the surgery table by the Fourth of July.

4. Joe Kelly's injury is a shame and it appears that he'll be out a couple of months, but after watching his first two starts and they way the team is shaping up wouldn't it be smart to bring Kelly back as a reliever? He could be that 5th guy out of the bullpen that could pitch middle relief and set up.  His stuff would certainly play well out of the bullpen.  With Steven Wright pitching well and Eduardo Rodriquez on the road to recovery Joe Kelly should be moved to the bullpen.  He has the potential to be the next Wade Davis.

5. Xander Bogaerts left last night's game with tightness in his quad, but after the game John Farrell said that he may not miss any games. Let's hope that is the case. However, it may be start with a day game after night game to sit Xander out on Thursday to make sure he doesn't miss an extended period of time down the road.

6. Jackie Bradley Jr. seems poised to have a really solid season.  He just looks so much more comfortable at the plate and of course he could play CF in his sleep.  If he can get on base consistently out of the ninth hole in the lineup that would be such a weapon for this team.

7.  It's been mentioned on here before that Jerry Remy is doing some of his best work this season, but it bears saying again.  Jerry has been phenomenal this year.  Perhaps with some of his families off the field issues behind him and having things in the booth shaken up with Dave O'Brien replacing Don Orsillo he really seems to have refocused on analyzing the game which is what he's best at.  Keep up the good work Jerry! On that note, David Eckersley is so fun to listen to.  I'm not going to say that he should replace Jerry full time, but when we do get some Eck it is so entertaining.

Also, Dave O'Brien seems to be settling in and doing a good job.  Red Sox fans have a soft spot for Don Orsillo, rightfully so, but you can't deny that Dave O'Brien is good at his job. Understandably, he seems to forget that he's not on radio any more while announcing Red Sox games.  There was one home run that the Blue Jays hit in Toronto that he was still calling as being high and deep when we could already see that it landed in the upper deck and about three seconds after it landed in the seats he said that it was gone.  It was kind of funny, but overall Dave is very good.

8. John Farrell's job is being scrutinized on a daily basis, which is nothing new in Boston, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that Dave Dombrowski is still evaluating him on a daily basis and if he continues to get out managed regularly and cost the Red Sox wins he's going to get fired.  If the Red Sox could pull out a good 8-2 stretch it might put some of that talk to rest.

9.  Big Papi is off to a great start. I still can't believe that this is his last season.  We've been spoiled to watch such a great hitter for so long.  Enjoy every game that we have this season with Papi in the line up.  Soak it up Red Sox Nation because we'll be telling our kids and grandkids about it for the next fifty years.


  1. I, too, am a Swihart guy. But whether Blake can get AB's at 1B/LF/DH ( & 3B also) depends on who else plays there later in '16 or 2017. Travis Shaw, Sam Travis, Benentedi, Moncada could be in the mix

    1. One problem is that Blake is certainly a plus offensive player as a catcher, but as a LF or corner infielder he's probably an average offensive player, but I think there is a spot on this team going forward for both guys. I just hope that the Red Sox don't screw with his head like they did with JBJ to an extent.

    2. Not to mention we already have a left fielder and his name is Brock Holt. The Slap Weasel. Holt has been exceptional at playing the ball off the Green Monster at Fenway. He's going to get outs consistently throughout the summer on players trying to stretch singles into doubles. Why would we insert a rookie into left field and force him to learn how to play balls off the monster on the fly? And if this is the new plan, why didn't we let Swihart get game action in left field in spring training - when the games don't matter and oh by the way there is a mini-version of the Green Monster that he could have practiced fielding balls off of! Hello?!?

      If we're rolling with the Pitch Framing Duo of Vaz and Handy Hanny for now while Swihart gets more seasoning at AAA then that's fine, but moving him to left field is destined for failure.

    3. From everything that I've seen Blake Swihart is not "moving to left field". He's going to play there a little bit to gain some flexibility but his main position is going to be catcher. There is no plan to make Blake Swihart the every day left fielder.

      Brandon, like almost every Red Sox fan on twitter, has fallen into the Brock Holt trap again. You know when Brandon starts firing out slap weasel comments that he's taken the bait (i.e. sneaky good pick up, Marlon Byrd). Haha!

      Brock is a very good player that every winning team needs, but he's not an every day player. That has been proven time and time again over the last 2+ seasons. He's incredibly streaky and when he's going well he makes the all-star team, but when he's bad he's really bad. As seen in his recent 1 for 13 stretch at the plate. He should play a lot, but not every day at one position.

  2. 4. I've been on the "move Joe Kelly to the bullpen" bandwagon since last April. The guy cannot consistently repeat his delivery enough to be a starter. We have a ton of evidence to support this at this point in the guy's career. He walks too many guys, he doesn't control his secondary pitches, and even if he is dealing well, he's often too inefficient with his pitch counts to pitch deep into games. But if he could just come in for an inning or two at a time and let his best stuff fly he wouldn't have to worry about developing that third or fourth pitch or facing batters for the third time through an order.

    It looks clear that Joe Kelly should be a bullpen pitcher and has been a prototypical bullpen guy staring them right in the face as their bullpen imploded over the last two years, only the Red Sox staff has been stubbornly trying to convince everyone that the guy is a starter and can be some kind of great diamond in the rough find for them like Corey Kluber or Dallas Keuchel.

    It's not happening. Let him focus on his best stuff for an inning or two at a time and you'll have another arm to support the pen along with Carson Smith, which will alleviate my shared concern that Barry wrote about in #3 above.

  3. 9. It is really hard to imagine the Red Sox lineup next year without Big Papi's bat in it. It has been so many years since the Sox have had any lineup flexibility in terms of using the DH spot to rest guys or rotate guys through for matchups. It will be weird to see the Sox do some of those things when they've had one guy in that spot in the order written in pen for so long.

    I am tired of reading a lot of fans of Twitter saying that he shouldn't retire because of how well he is playing. In order to keep playing at the level Ortiz is playing at, you can't just show up at the park and hit some dingers. Your entire life is devoted to working on your body and craft. If a guy is ready to be done with the demands of preparing to be a professional athlete, then he's not going to be his great self anymore if he forces himself to keep on playing to satisfy others.

    In the meantime, I am going to enjoy every last ripped double into the triangle, wall banger the other way, and towering blast into the bullpen.