Sunday, May 22, 2016

Thoughts on the Red Sox with 26.54% of the Season in the Books

There have been many columns and blogs this week commemorating the "quarter pole" of the 2016 Red Sox season.  Since the actual quarter of 162 games is 40 1/2 games, it is very difficult to get thoughts published between the top and the bottom of the fifth inning of game 41.  But here are some observations on the suddenly red hot Red Sox team after 43 games.

* Jackie Bradley, Jr.: Maybe JBJ is all that needs to be said and move on.  Jackie, who I said in my pre season picks I still believed could hit .280-.290,  is well on his way.  As JBJ sits on a ongoing 26 game hitting streak he is slashing .342/.411/1.035 with eight home runs, ten doubles, and four triples. JBJ cannot stay this hot (can he?), but that .280-.290 is starting to look too low.  And be honest, if you were told with a week to go to Memorial Day weekend, JBJ would have one fewer RBI than David Ortiz your immediate response would have been " oh, Big Papi has collapsed as a hitter in his age 40 season".

* Big Papi has most assuredly not fallen he is on a historic pace for a 40 year old batter. He has a line of 10-34-.311/.391.  Of course, with each heroic game Papi is asked why are you retiring?  But here is the dilemma: Do you keep begging Ortiz to come back until finally his offensive production does fail, as it surely would eventually. What is wrong with going out on top?

* There is nothing wrong with David Price. Price began his Red Sox career in  a most "non-aceian" way.  But whether it was Dustin Pedroia mechanical tips or just another of a string of poor Aprils in Price's career, the turnaround has seemingly begun.  The big win in KC after dropping the first two of the three game series was an example of an ace stepping forward.

* There is paucity of free agent pitchers this coming winter, who usually constitute the trade deadline rentals.  Even though the conventional wisdom is Dave Dombrowski will trade for another starter, preferably a # 2, the Sox rotation improvement may have to come from within.  I know this is easy to say after he pitched a no-hitter into the seventh yesterday, but I still think Joe Kelly turned a corner in his eight game winning streak last August-September.  Kelly and hopefully a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez may be the additions needed to this rotation.

* Hanley Ramirez can play first base, ladies and gentlemen.  And Hanley is playing with such joy and hustle, he has been a true pleasure to watch day in and day out.

* Xander Bogaerts is very likely one of the five best players in the American League right now.  When you factor in his defense along with 4/24/.339/.392 while leading the league in hits, he had better be the starting shortstop for the AL in the All Star game.  Go vote now.

* Mookie Betts while hitting home runs along the way, the two he hit yesterday make nine for the campaign, has not reached the offensive level expected ....yet.  In a lineup with six regulars hitting .300 of above, Betts is at .276.  When some one tells you players like JBJ and Ortiz cannot keep up their torrid paces, point out to them that players like Betts, Ramirez, and whomever is playing left field can certainly pick up whatever slack may come.

* Left field may be the one "open" spot going forward.  Brock Holt had started 2016 capably, but as his record shows when he plays every day, his numbers tail off.  Blake Swihart, after losing his catching job to Christian Vazquez, returned to AAA where the Sox groomed him to play left field along with catching.  With Brock Holt now on the concussion DL, Swihart was recalled this weekend to play left field in a platoon with Chris Young. If Swihart does not grab the job and Holt returns to his utility role, do not be surprised if by sometime in late July or August that the left fielder for your Boston Red Sox is Andrew Benintendi.

* Travis Shaw has been everything the Red Sox could have asked for when they pushed Pablo Sandoval aside and made Travis the starting third baseman.  He is hitting 6-29-.313-.364 and has fielded third base surprisingly well.

* Craig Kimbrel has come as advertised (after a couple of early season bumps), but if Carson Smith is looking at a Tommy John or some other extended injury the bullpen becomes a possible concern.  Especially if Koji should realize at some point is he is 41.

* As a card carrying member of the John Farrell needs to go club (I had May 1 in the firing date pool), it is evident if this young team continues to pile up wins and plays with the exuberance they have exhibited so far, the manager is not going anywhere.

* In my pre season picks, I somewhat reluctantly picked the Red Sox to win the AL East, and I have no reason to change my mind (except for being much more confident in the pick).  As a matter of fact, I still feel Baltimore's pitching will cause them to slide back and the Yankees are even older than I thought, Toronto is playing so poorly they have slipped behind New York and the Rays are well playing like the Rays. For several years in a row the AL East has been considered to be a complete toss up and all the teams expected to be bunched together.  But each season one of the teams pulls comfortably in front.  The team with the best chance to that in 2016 is Boston.

Let's enjoy every minute of the remaining 73.46% of the 2016 regular season.

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