The Red Sox have struggled a little bit since the the FanPost Friday prompt. Whether it’s comeuppance, a return back to Earth, or a few really unlucky losses in a row, let’s get one thing straight. The team is 17-5 and leads the AL East by 3 games in late April. That’s worth celebrating, and if not for the sequencing, we’d be universally saying this first month has been a success. What lessons can you learn from success?
I asked, and six(?) of you answered. There are a few where I’m not sure if they were just writing on their own or responding to FPF, but I felt as if their posts qualified for spotlight in this recap regardless. We had a wide range of opinions on this topic.
What did they think? - Amazing start to the season. Check. J.D. Martinez is an excellent signing? check. Xander Bogaerts is a legend? Check. Chris Sale has been good? Check. Alex Cora has been good? Check. Mixed feelings on Joe Kelly who blew Opening Day but also knocked out Tyler Austin? Check. No one scares gosawks. We are the elite.
The one thing I’m going to pick out of what he had to say is the Chris Sale comment, because Chris Sale’s beginning of 2018 is something of an odd spot for me, and I’m sure some other observant eyes have noted it as well. It’s been something of a topic in game threads during his starts this season.
The velocity is down. The stuff doesn’t seem as sharp. And yet, his peripherals this season look to be mimicking the ones from last year where he arguably deserved the Cy Young award (still think he was robbed). So what’s the deal?
First off, it is true that his velocity has not been in the same form as last year. And it would also appear as if his stuff is not as drop off the table crisp as well. But he’s still fooling hitters, even with both of these things seemingly lacking. He’s faced three division rivals, the Rays, Orioles, and Yankees, as well as two outside opponents, the Marlins and Athletics. Only against Oakland did he allow more than one run, and yet that night he might have seen his best stuff yet. Of course, that’s also the game that shall not be named, because Sean Manaea pitched a no hitter against us, so let’s forget that. (Editor’s Note: You named it after saying it shouldn’t be named!)
I am afraid it’s too early to know for certain what’s going on with Chris Sale, but do think we should enjoy the ride. He’s still the ace of the staff, on a team-friendly contract, and there is the possibility that this is all by design.
If Sale’s stuff is truly in decline (which I’m not sure it is), he’s giving us an early snapshot at the type of player the Red Sox might end up extending once his contract runs out. Even with diminished velocity and stuff, Sale still has the mental acumen, and the faith in his catcher required to get the job done for years to come. It’s encouraging to see that his profile may actually age better than first thought.
What did they think? - He loves this team. As much as the 2013 squad at that, and we all know how fun that team was. Keep Mookie and Sale, and Xander too. Look for the Pedey replacement. Hope for some diamonds in the rough of our system. Basically, optimism, but be realistic about certain aspects of this team.
I’m going to choose to focus on Pedey, and only briefly (because surprise, he’s an upcoming FPF prompt as well), because this writer hits on a point that I think all of us are aware of, but nobody really wants to acknowledge.
Dustin Pedroia has been with this team since he was drafted in June of 2004. He has overcome ridiculous obstacles, and has both an MVP and Rookie of the Year award to show for it. He has made four all-star teams, only missing more because of his chronic injury concerns, and if not for the same injury concerns, might be in the Hall of Fame discussion, alongside Ian Kinsler, a player of a similar profile, who has stayed healthier.
When healthy, Pedroia is a top of the line hitter, hitting .297/.363/.415 over the past five years. That’s over five years. Last year, nobody really came close to matching that production. Andrew Benintendi at .271/.352/.424 might have been the closest comparison (which says about as much about Benintendi’s future as it does for our lack of a true star offensively, until the addition of J.D. Martinez and the effect he has on the lineup). His skillset brings a unique force to the table, one that this team will appreciate in 2018. But how long will he last? He won’t play forever.
To say that we need to search for his replacement is a topic I’m sure will cause no end of debate. In a week or two, you’ll get your chance to make your pitch.
What did they think? - This team will not win 16 out of 18 games all season long. The starters have been ridiculous, but it’s unrealistic to expect that to continue going forward. Mookie Betts is incredible, but this team has yet to truly be tested offensively in pressure situations, since they were (at the time) winning huge every time. The bullpen is a giant question mark. Mainly, we know that we know very little, because this team has yet to be truly tested (which may be a new story now that we’ve lost 3 of 4). Optimism, but caution.
I can’t disagree with the general statement. It is unrealistic to expect that the Red Sox pitching will continue to be world beating all season long. We may have two Cy Young winners, somebody who should be a Cy Young winner, and two extremely good back end pitchers who could arguably be a number two or three on some other major-league rotations, but to have a sub 2.00 ERA all season long is ridiculous.
Last season, the ERA leader in baseball was Corey Kluber, who didn’t crack sub 2.00 by himself. The top team by starting pitcher ERA was the Dodgers, who had a team wide 3.39 ERA. And they had the benefit of a theoretically free out every 9 batters. To maintain a sub 2.00 ERA is impossible. Only 14 teams ever have had an ERA of 2.00 or lower from their entire starting pitching staff. The last team to do so was the 1910 Athletics. Almost all the teams on the list played in the dead ball era. The ones that didn’t played in the 19th century, and should obviously be removed from consideration themselves.
What they think - They essentially compare games to innings and the season to a full game. We’ve played 1/9th of a season, thus, one full inning of baseball. By extrapolating (something nobody should ever do if they are being serious), the Red Sox are 144-18, and demolished the single season record for wins. But tomisphere admits these are obviously not standard and not going to happen. Optimism for Xander and Pedroia. Mookie is for real. This team is really fun. The one thing that might be problematic is Alex Cora as first year manager of the Sox. It’s hard to gain trust but everything is all smiles at 16-2.
We’ve already begun to see some fans turn a bit against Cora even though the team is 17-5. If the team ever falls to something like 25-18, the once eager smiles of fans may turn into the same scowls that haunted John Farrell towards the end of his days in Boston. And a large part of this is that Cora is a player’s manager, a manager who is going to make sure the players are protected, even if that means shutting the fans out here and there, and not letting us know every little detail (something Red Sox fans can be a tad obsessed with).
Personally, I love the Cora hire, and think it was the right move, but there have been times, even in wins, where his decision making seemed slightly flawed. This is most apparent in some of the losses that have happened this season. I advise caution for anyone already getting a pitchfork and torch out, it’s too early one way or another to celebrate or bemoan Cora, and we won’t know much about whether he’s the right fit, truly, until closer to the end of the season. It’s fine to complain of course, and sometimes a complaint rings truer than anyone would like to admit. But let’s not forget he’s a rookie manager who is still learning the ropes as he goes. This is one of the fallbacks of taking an unproven skipper on.
I’ve chosen to lump these two together (word count) because of their similar nature.
What they think - Somewhat worried about Pomeranz. One writer used Buchholzing as a comparison point, which earns bonus points from me, and one brings up declining velocity (with less success than Sale’s own declining velocity). One brings up his difficulty in trusting Pomeranz, and the other shows some statistical analysis regarding contact rates. Both are good reads, and I can’t do either justice with 50 words.
I’m going to cap this FPF by expressing some optimism on Pomeranz, even though among the five pitchers in our rotation, he’s the one I trust the least. As both have noted, Pomeranz is recovering from his injury. This is a fact. It’s possible that he was rushed back a week or two too early. This is not a fact, but seems like a fair reach.
I also want to point out that Pomeranz recovered nicely after his first inning of work, and surprised several of us with his heart and determination after his first inning disaster. You can’t take the first inning out of his effort, but if you were to pretend that was his warm up, Pomeranz did pitch 2.2 innings, allowing two hits (one for extra bases) and a walk, but striking out 4. While not his best line of work, even if you exclude the first inning, it’s a better sign of what he can do for the team going forward than his first pitches of the season.
Like with Cora, and so many players on this team who aren’t performing perfectly, I advise cautious optimism for these players and our manager. After all, we probably shouldn’t complain much at 17-5. Things are pretty good for the most part.
That’s it! See you all on Friday!