Two days off feels like an eternity.
With a month and 29 games to go, here's a quick look at 3 Red Sox players who have turned on the afterburners entering the final stretch of the season, and 3 who have been struggling severely as of late, with a closer look at each.
After a brief slump following the All-Star break, Large Father is tearing the cover off the ball with an obscene .409/.487/.818 August triple-slash, and an even more ridiculous 46.7% HR/FB rate. A .408 BABIP suggest it won’t last at quite this level, but any early-season worries about whether his renewed offense would last the entire year have seemingly been answered. He is maintaining tight plate discipline, not missing mistakes, and making extremely hard contact to all fields. Of added note in his Pitch F/X charts for August is his continued skill at laying off low and outside sliders [Green diamonds], one of the toughest pitches for lefthanded pull hitters to handle.
Despite some poor luck (.329 BABIP) and an apparent penchant for drawing umpires with miniscule strike zones, Bedard has been everything the Red Sox could have asked for. He has missed bats (9.0 K/9), limited walks (3.1 per 9), and posted a strong 3.05 FIP in five starts. As always, the question has never been Bedard’s ability to pitch, but his health. Assuming the team can hold him together with duct tape and baling wire, he should prove a valuable contributor for the remainder of the year. Interestingly, Bedard’s career stats match up quite well with another lefthanded starter.
Bedard: 8.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, 3.68 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 3.82 xFIP
Jon Lester: 8.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, 3.47 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 3.71 xFIP.
Wheeler bombed in his first few months, was relegated to mop-up duty, then landed on the DL. Since returning, however, he has been lights-out. Wheeler posted 1.84, 3.17, and 2.80 FIPs in June, July, and August, with his K% rising each month. In total across the last 3 months he has thrown 30 innings with a 25:5 K/BB, and seems poised to seize Matt Albers’s role given the latter’s recent string of implosions. With Bobby Jenks unlikely to return in time to make the playoff roster, and Albers looking extremely shaky as of late, Wheeler will have to be prepared for the possibility of stepping up as the first man out of the bullpen in a playoff game.
Any way you slice it, Albers has been plainly terrible in August, getting wrecked for a 13.09 ERA and 5.49 xFIP so far this month. While the team claims Albers is healthy, and his velocity remains the same it has been all year, fatigue has been raised as a possible cause for his struggles. Pitchers suffering from overwork first tend to lose command and control before velocity, two things which have never been Albers’s strengths to begin with. However, if he is indeed tiring, is this due to the Red Sox or something inherent to Albers himself? The evidence from his past three years with the Orioles is not comforting. From 2008-10, Albers coughed up a 13.19 August ERA and 5.04 in September. Altogether, he posted a 3.94 ERA before the All-Star Break, and 6.02 for the second half. The common link in these atrocious August performances was a massive jump in his walk rate. Thus, it seems pretty plausible that for whatever reason, Albers hits the wall at this point every year. A DL stint or simply additional rest, neither of which would inconvenience the team due to September roster expansion, may be prudent if the team intends to use Albers in the postseason. Otherwise, expecting him to handle high leverage innings in October seems like a very dangerous bet at this point.
Since his red hot start, Lowrie’s game has seemingly collapsed. Of Red Sox players receiving regular playing time, only Carl Crawford has a lower walk rate, and only Marco Scutaro has a lower ISO. Lowrie continues to struggle tremendously against righthanded pitching, striking out at twice the rate he does against lefties (21% vs 9%) and barely making hard contact, with an .080 ISO and 1.4% HR/FB. In the field he’s been a butcher with 15 errors in only 72 games and poor ratings on the major defensive metrics. Long story short, Lowrie’s only value at the moment is through hitting lefthanders, making his skillset redundant with Mike Aviles; however, Aviles’s actual competence with the glove balances out his comparative lack of power. Unless he turns it around and soon, I would not be surprised to see Lowrie left off the postseason roster.
Since setting the world on fire in June, Reddick’s walk rate and ISO have steadily declined, with a 52 wRC+ so far in August. Many had speculated that the Red Sox wanted to see how Reddick would handle a prolonged slump before anointing him the right fielder of the future. In 130 AB’s since the All-Star break he has triple-slashed .231/.284/.377. If Reddick intends to pass that test, he’s getting long overdue. In an ironic twist of the narrative surrounding his replacement of J.D. Drew, much of the 1.8 WAR Reddick has produced in 65 games has come from his defensive value. Like Lowrie, Reddick is facing a similar conclusion to his season: after a hot start in which he displaced a veteran and was assumed to be the heir apparent to the position, his production has plummeted. I am sure some were overjoyed at the hope of never seeing J.D. Drew in a Boston uniform again, but with Drew on track to return for September, things could get very interesting if J.D. plays well and Reddick continues to struggle. Emotionless playoff starter anyone?