So tomorrow is my birthday.
Every winter, I wait with bated breath to see if the Red Sox will happen to play a game on my birthday that particular year. Not that I’ve ever been to a game on my birthday, but it’s just that little tingling anticipation: can the Red Sox win a game on my day?
I didn’t get so lucky this season. Well, at least not in the game scheduling sense.
I’ve only been with the Over the Monster squad since Spring Training, and I can’t even begin to gush about how lucky and thankful I am to write with such a greatly passionate, talented, and funny group of people as our staff here.
What this lucky opportunity has given me is a chance to put out my birthday wishes and thoughts on this Red Sox squad to the masses (aka you all dedicated readers), and not just my family who don’t know what I blab on about with this team, for the most part (Mom, if you do read this, thank you for making me the Sox fan I am today, even if Grandpa Sol is looking down on us as a fan of our pinstriped rivals).
And yes, I know some people may think it’s bad luck to tell people your birthday wishes, but I think the Red Sox have endured enough bad luck in their franchise history for all of our lifetimes. I would hope the baseball gods understand karma and give both them and me some leniency.
Wish 1: Chaim, Help The ‘Pen
Chaim. This bullpen is weird.
Admittedly, you’ve made some great moves. Kenley Jansen looked like vintage Kenley Jansen for the first six weeks of the season. Week 7 has not been so kind. Josh Winckowski is doing really well in a long-reliever role, showing signs of growth. Chris Martin—albeit in limited innings—has shown flashes of exactly why he was a coveted signing. Your best move yet may even be finally DFA’ing Ryan Brasier. Ryan, I’ll always appreciate your 2018, but it just hasn’t been up to snuff otherwise.
But therein also lies the rub. Why keep Brasier so long? Who else do you have to fill in? Kaleb Ort? Richard Bleier? Brennan Bernardino? What starter will flip to the bullpen in the near future? It’s not enough, in addition to a wish to be read below notwithstanding. When things are going well, everything works. You have the pieces to make ends meet when your rotation tosses a great game. You can’t bank on that every game, and I don’t see anyone yet who’s willing to lay it all on the line to keep your team in it when they’re down.
After a rough beginning, some starters have started to round into form, so I’ll lay off on that group—for now.
So for my first birthday wish, I wish for some form of a flashy bullpen addition, more specifically, a high-leverage non-closer to keep close games close.
Wish 2: Alex, Help These Batters
Alex. You have a good lineup to work with!
There are some pieces that have emerged as mostly consistent producers, either to our hopes or in defiance of our expectations. Alex Verdugo has had his breakout season, despite a cooling of his power in the last few weeks. Masataka Yoshida is growing more and more comfortable, turning into an OPS machine. His triple and double last night add to his team-leading .381 OBP, and he’s second on the squad with a .507 slugging percentage. Jarren Duran is proving to all of us he’s more than just a flash on the basepaths this season.
You still have some issues.
Rafael Devers is still mashing the ball with monstrous power, sitting fourth in the majors with 11 HRs on the season and leading the team with 38 RBis. His underlying metrics paint a much more complex story. He commands a hard hit rate in the 92nd percentile, a barrel rate in the 88th percentile, and an average exit velocity in the 94th percentile. That’s nothing new for Devers, when he gets a hold of one, it goes a long way. He’s that he’s not connecting on a lot and not getting on base in other ways. A walk rate in the 18th percentile, a whiff rate in the 38th percentile, and a chase rate at an abysmal 16th percentile. His current .255 batting average would be the lowest of his career since 2018. Granted, Devers’ chase rate has never been good over his career, but where it hurts is that when you’re chasing too much, you’re letting opportunities to walk go by you. In 2021, Devers had a walk percentage in the 57th percentile, and last year, it was in the 48th.
I get you’re being paid to be a power-hitting superstar, and this comes with the territory, but to see such inconsistency is a little frustrating. It’s either violent swings at pitches Aaron Judge would have to be on a ladder to swing and still miss or calm and smooth and tanking homers we all love to see.
Overall, we don’t know whether we’re going to see the bats who put up 9-10 runs a night or collapse as they did over the weekend. They need some jolt, some spark to keep them going.
Otherwise, we’re seeing some growth but nothing too consistent. Triston Casas and Enmanuel Valdez have been hot and cold but showing a lot of growth and adjustment to the big-league game. Justin Turner is being productive! Yet again, there’s still something missing that we’ll finally address below.
So for my second wish, I wish that Alex Cora could find consistent places in his lineup for his consistently playing players.
Wish 3: Guys, Get Healthy
Maybe this is where that spark comes from for both batting and pitching.
Adam Duvall, while placed on the 60-day IL, seems to be progressing for a mid-June return. Kutter Crawford is going to be activated for this weekend’s trip to San Diego, and Garrett Whitlock doesn’t seem to be too far behind. When all three were healthy, they were tremendous contributors to this squad, and why they not only got off to a great start (mainly the case of Duvall) but why they’ve stayed afloat so far.
Yet as one guy comes back, another goes down. Not that many of us expected Zack Kelly to do much for the team in general, but his injury was terrible to witness. John Schreiber just hit the 15-day IL. Christian Arroyo still needs time to heal, albeit he’s progressing. Yu Chang needs even more time on the IL, lining up for a June-ish return. Where is Adalberto Mondesi? Trevor Story is in Ft. Meyers doing all baseball activities, hoping for a return in the second half of the season. Will it be too little, too late then?
As much as I’m sure everyone who’s been called up or stepped up off the bench feels like they’re the next man up and wants to help, a rotating cast that diminishes depth doesn’t help keep you afloat.
My third wish is a magical genie who could heal up all these guys with the same physical mystical voodoo that Bryce Harper has to come back from Tommy John after six months.
Wish 4: Chris Sale, Keep It Up
I could go on stats-wise about Chris Sale and how he’s improved start over start this season, but I just want to marvel at his last outing, which I had the privilege to watch in person.
When he went to the dugout during the 7th inning stretch, I texted my baseball-loving Mom his line and remarked on what a great outing he had. Then he came back out for the 8th and went 1-2-3. I had to text her back with one word. Special.
This is exactly the Chris Sale we’ve been pining to be on the mound since his injury in 2018. Primarily utilizing his 4-seamer and slider, he’s finding control and putting away batters with absolute ease. In Philadelphia, he reached back and hit 99 on the gun with his fastball. Yet he’s averaging 94 MPH this season so far, learning to dot it with more control. It’s setting up his wipeout slider to be an elite pitch once again, eliciting a 39% whiff rate. Sale is in the 79th percentile in strikeout rate and 84th percentile in chase rate this season. That takes into account his multiple rocky starts in April.
I will always hesitate to say he’s back with such a small sample size of starts. However, keep it up, Chris. With the cast of characters behind you, it’s nice to see you be a rock once again.
My fourth wish is to give the rest of this rotation the same confidence Chris Sale has at the moment.
Wish 5: Readers, Commenters, & Fans: Keep Being You
Speaking of keeping it up, my last wish goes out to you—if you made it this far down the article.
From our regulars who leave comments on every article to those who’ve just discovered the site. For those who share our pieces, who watch every game alongside us in the game threads, and who listen to all the podcasts that we put out, we’re not a site if we don’t catch your eyes and ears. Over the Monster isn’t PBS, but OTM is certainly made possible by the contributions to our website from readers like you. Thank you. Keep on keeping on.
Now then. There are still 119 games left in the 2023 season. Let’s see which of my birthday wishes come true.