Technically, we’ve been in the second half of the season for a couple of weeks now, if we’re talking about the exact halfway point of the season. But colloquially, the second half is just starting now as we come out on the other side of the All-Star break. The first half of the Red Sox season has gone about as well as anyone could have imagined, but locked in a tight race they’ll need some surprises in the second half as well as they look for a division title. That’s what we’re searching for in this week’s staff roundtable, as we go through some bold predictions in the second half.
My bold prediction for the second half is that Eduardo Rodriguez cuts his ERA in half. On the broadcasts Jerry Remy likes to point out how unlucky Rodriguez was over the first half, and while I generally don’t subscribe to that notion, there is a surprising amount of data back that up. First, his batting average on balls in play is 60 points higher than his career mark coming into the season, which was on full display his last outing when the first seven hits were all singles with an exit velocity under 84 mph. To go along with that, his xERA sits at 3.50 while his FIP and xFIP are 3.80 and 3.30, respectively. All of this suggests he’s pitched far better than the results. It seems unlikely that this trend would be sustainable for an entire year, and with the benefit of an All-Star break to get settled and right the ship I think Eduardo Rodriguez is in for a monster second half.
I fully expect Boston to come into the second half of the season ready to start fresh and continue winning games as they have done all year. The break could not have come at a better time for the team, as Boston most recently dropped a series to the Philadelphia Phillies and went 5-5 in their last 10 games. The road trip to the west coast was tough on the Red Sox, as they appeared exhausted at times. The team now comes off a much-needed week off to rejuvenate, clear their heads, and, more importantly, rest up for a tough schedule ahead.
Some tweaks to the roster could be in the works once the regular season gets back into action and it’s worth wondering if the team could use the next two weeks to experiment with some of its young talent at the Triple-A level before deciding which direction to take at the deadline. Time and time again, fans have pleaded with a sense of urgency for standout outfielder Jarren Duran to get his shot playing at Fenway. That pipedream might soon come to fruition, but more likely than not, that opportunity will not come until Boston gives fellow outfielder Franchy Cordero a second look in the bigs. As for the pitching core, Tanner Houck, who was one of the bright spots of 2020, will likely be back in the majors in short order. It would not come as a surprise if right-hander Connor Seabold follows shortly after. Not to mention the jack of all trades, Chris Sale. The southpaw is expected back at some point in the near future and his presence alongside the already sustainable Boston rotation will only further the team’s ability to win games in the second half of the season.
I don’t think I was bold enough the last time we did bold predictions, so I’m going big this time. My prediction is that Eduardo Rodriguez will lead the team in WAR for the second half of the season. He’s definitely struggled this year, but poor luck has been a major factor in that, and I think he’s due for some positive regression. E-Rod having to produce more than Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers is why this prediction is a long shot, but I think there’s a good chance he winds up being the team’s best pitcher in the 2nd half.
My bold prediction is that Xander Bogaerts will get more AL MVP votes than Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
I’m putting all my eggs in the Franchy Cordero basket. While he was dreadful at the start of 2021 it’s important to remember he’s still just 26 and over five seasons has played just 129 games in the majors. Last year was a lost season due to the pandemic and it’s possible that starting with another new team, uneven training for a year, and just the stress of everything since January 2020 that he never got into a groove. He’s crushing the minors right now and while that’s not the same as MLB pitching it’s a good sign. I think he returns around the trade deadline, takes over first base, and hits a dozen homers in the final two months of the 2021 season.
The Red Sox will not make a significant trade before the trade deadline. Chaim Bloom has certainly shown that he isn’t afraid to pull off deals, but even though the Red Sox are legitimate contenders this year, I don’t expect him to mortgage even a bit of the future for short-term gains. Sure, the Red Sox might make a small deal for farm depth or something, but I expect it to be pretty quiet around the deadline in Boston. I’m not sure how bold this prediction actually is, but usually when a big market team like the Red Sox is in contention, they find a way to make a splashy deal at the deadline.
I like to think of myself as a rational man. I’m not programmed for hot takes. My impulses lean directly toward getting angry about dumb stuff the team does, so coming up with bold takes goes against my very nature. I’ve had to think about this for a while and I’m pretty sure Chris Sale having over 115 strikeouts this year would be bold. Is that hot enough? If it’s not... how about 125 strikeouts? 135? Whichever one of these is sufficiently hot enough.... that’s my stone cold lead pipe take and you can take it to the bank!
My bold prediction is the the Sox win the division by five games and someone other than the Rays finishes second. I sense a Blue Jays and/or Yankees resurgence but nothing that puts a dent in the Sox’s lead, and I think Tampa Bay might be running on borrowed time. Let’s see it!
I’m going to go with two, because who’s going to stop me? You? Ha, I think not! My first one is that Jarren Duran finishes the second half with the second-most fWAR among position players. I don’t know if he will finish ahead of Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers for that second spot, and I don’t know if it will be because of injury, or Duran just being bananas, or one of those All-Stars struggling, but my prediction is my prediction. My other is that Eduardo Rodriguez will get at least one down-ballot Cy Young vote. Like others, I think he’s going to be very good in the second half, and while his ERA is probably cooked for the year in terms of Cy Young love, at least one voter will look to his peripherals and throw him a fifth place vote.