The second half starts up today and the Red Sox aren’t in a terrible spot. They sit just two games out of the third wildcard spot, the team is due to get some important players back from the IL shortly, and Chaim Bloom can go out and get this team the reinforcements that they need. This is without a doubt the most optimistic period this fan base has enjoyed in well over a month. It feels good.
In order to help Mr. Bloom with his shopping list I am handing out grades for all of the major contributors who are still with the team. Grading will be done on an A+ through F scale. There are no curves or retakes. Your grade is your grade! If you have an issue, take it up with our principal, Dan Secatore.
The rarified air of the A+ goes to just two players, Bryan Bello and Masataka Yoshida. Please come down and receive your certificates!
What more can be said about our blossoming ace? Not only does he lead the Red Sox in both innings pitched and fWAR, but he seems to be getting stronger as the year goes on. Over a four game stretch in June he threw 27.2 innings allowing just four runs good for an ERA of 1.63. His four best game scores of the season have all come during his last five starts and now he’s even adding in a cutter. The world is his oyster.
I know Masa doesn’t want to be viewed as a rookie, and I agree with him he shouldn’t be. However, I also think that what he is doing in his first year stateside is remarkable. Despite playing thousands of miles away from his home and dealing with a travel schedule far beyond anything he has dealt with in the past, he is dominating. Masa is third in the American league in the batting race hitting .316 just one point behind perennial star Bo Bichette and seven points behind the leader Yandy Diaz. Many Japanese players struggle to adjust in their first taste of the majors, but Masa has been even better than advertised. He handles velo, his glove isn’t nearly as bad as they said it would be, and he fits into the clubhouse incredibly well. Evaluators need to start putting more respect on the NPB which is easily the second best league in the world.
James Paxton, Christopher Martin, Alex Verdugo, Justin Turner, and Jarren Duran please stand and be recognized for your exemplary first half!
Going into the year most people believed that anything this team got out of Paxton would be a bonus. Now the team has the terribly difficult decision of either maximizing his immense trade value or riding him until the wheels fall off while chasing a playoff spot. I don’t know what they should do although option two does sound more fun.
Verdugo and Duran are both breaking out in a big way. Dugie has won several games this year with either clutch hits or game changing throws. Duran has come back from the dead as a hitter to not only adjust to major league pitching but dominate defensively in center field. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I haven’t seen anything like his transformation in my time as a Red Sox fan. Now all he needs is everyday playing time.
The two former Dodgers Turner and Martin have been exactly what this team needed. Turner has been a clubhouse leader and is having his typically excellent offensive season yet again. His versatility and presence make me very happy he is here. Martin has been about as stable an 8th inning bridge as there is in the league while combining with Jansen to shut teams down at the end of games.
With a little more consistency I know that both Rafael Devers and Kenley Jansen can return to their high honors status.
The 300 million dollar man is having a slightly disappointing season by his lofty standards, but honestly I’m not worried at all. He is still hitting the ball tremendously hard and his counting stats are among the best in the game and easily All-Star worthy.
Speaking of All-Stars, our only one was Jansen, who is aging like a fine Bordeaux. His fastball velocity is the highest of his career at 35-years-old. If it wasn’t for that disastrous two game stretch vs St. Louis he would have scored top marks. Don’t forget to rotate the bottle!
B stands for doing your best and that’s exactly what Chris Sale, Josh Winckowski, Kutter Crawford, Rob Refsnyder, Brennan Bernardino and Pablo Reyes have done.
Poor Sale, his body is decidedly not a wonderland, it’s more of a rickety old carnival just waiting for its yearly lawsuit. When he was healthy, he had figured it out again after a few rough starts and then looked like an ace. From April 18th to when he got injured on June 1st, he threw 47 innings striking out 52 and walking just 8 batters. His ERA over that time was a very ace-like 2.87—the guy just desperately needs to stay healthy.
Winckowski and Crawford have been absolute gamers. Winck began the year in a bulk relief role only to pitch so well he became Cora’s go to fireman. He has mostly excelled in that role despite leading all relievers on the team in IP. Crawford started in a similar place and now is one of the team’s only healthy starters and is holding his own in the rotation every five days. These young guys rock.
Refsnyder has lived up to our pre-season hype by once again being Mike Trout against lefties. His wRC+ vs LHP is 160, Trout’s is 138 overall. Take that Mike.
Bernardino and Reyes are both just doing exceptional things with opportunities they probably didn’t expect to get. Bernardino’s journey to get here is well documented and worth a read. He has established himself as the top lefty in the bullpen. He has exceptional vibes and is easily one of my favorite dudes on the team. Reyes couldn’t even crack the freaking A’s and has hit over .300 in 27 games with the Sox. Both of these guys are playing with house money and I love it.
Connor Wong, Adam Duvall, and Chris Murphy, you three should be proud of your effort so far. Keep up the hard work!
Coming into the year we were uncertain if Wong would even make the team out of Spring Training. Now he is far and away the team leader in games caught. Wong is adept and athletic behind the dish and seems to have a great rapport with the pitching staff. He really needs to just work on receiving and being more consistent at the plate.
Duvall started out the season about as hot as a hitter can be then he got hurt. Since getting back, he has slashed .175/.253/.313 with just two home runs and a 47 wRC+. Thank you for April, but it’s probably time for you to move on to a new town.
Hard working yet not physically gifted is a great way to describe Murphy who is exceeding expectations as a multi-inning reliever. Murphy still walks too many batters because of the effort he puts into his delivery, but overall it’s more good than it is bad. I’m happy he made it to the bigs.
Keep working at it and you will get there Triston Casas, Nick Pivetta and Jon Schrieber.
I surmised earlier this year on a podcast that Casas would be a “slow burn”. When I said that I meant that I thought it would take a while for him to really find his groove from an offensive standpoint. What I did not expect is that his defense would also need so much work! So far he has graded out at -7 OAA at first base which is second worst in the game among qualified first basemen. Moreover, my prediction was true, he has indeed been a slow burn offensively going from a 61 wRC+ in Mar/April to a 108 in May and finally a 133 in June. Consistency on both sides will be his friend as he matures.
Pivetta was positively dreadful as a starter, something he has been for a while, but he is thriving in his new relief role. He may not be happy about it, but I think he will be eventually. Schrieber has been limited by injury, but when he has been on the field he has been excellent. These two could easily be two of the team’s biggest reasons for success in the second half.
Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock, I know you are both capable of so much more. I just need to see you do it.
Who is Houck? Is he a starter or a reliever? Is he the pitcher that dominated the Angels on May 22nd while throwing his splitter 19.3% of the time or is he the guy who in his previous start against Seattle threw the splitter only 6.7% of the time while getting hit hard by a mediocre lineup?
Similar questions remain about Whitlock who has enjoyed far more success as a reliever than he has as a starter. Moreover, Whitlock can’t seem to stay on the field long enough to determine who he is. At times he looks like a top three starter on a good team. At other times he looks out of his depth and like he needs to return to the bullpen.
Joe Jacques and Brandon Walter, I think more time with the material will lead to better results.
Both Jacques and Walter are relative newcomers with just over 10 innings pitched with the big club. Walter’s numbers look good on the surface, but when you dig deeper they reveal some real issues. Jacques is the opposite, he is getting BABIP’d to death. Too new and too small of a sample size here to make any real determinations. I should think both players are just happy to be included.
Yu Chang, Christian Arroyo, and Enmanuel Valdez please see me after class. You three are all capable of more, I expect better.
Chang has only played 20 games this year due to injury, but generally speaking the average viewer has a much more positive impression of his play than he deserves. The guy is slashing .137/.185.314 with a 26 wRC+. That line is frankly miserable and even for Chang’s low standards, he is a career 72 wRC+, this is bad. The defense has carried the day for him.
Arroyo has played in 53 games while struggling to stay on the field proving that his lack of durability remains a major issue. Couple that with his lowest wRC+ since his rookie year and I think it’s fair to call his season disappointing.
Valdez was up for 33 games and he needed to prove that he could impact the baseball. He did this to some degree, slugging .404 with four home runs. Unfortunately for both him and the team, he also made six errors while playing abysmal defense. The bat will need to be much better to justify the glove.
Justin Garza and Reese McGuire, I’m honestly a little disappointed.
When the Red Sox called up Garza I thought, “Well at least this guy throws strikes.” In Triple-A, Garza had a 2.8 K/BB rate, not elite, but pretty good. Upon arriving in the big leagues that rate dropped to just 1.42. Garza cannot survive with that much self-inflicted damage.
24 steals allowed vs just two caught. This isn’t going to cut it in the new and improved MLB. McGuire simply cannot control the run game and his offense has never been close to good enough to justify him starting games full time. I think he may be on his way out of a job.
Corey Kluber, Kiké Hernandez, Kaleb Ort, Richard Bleier, Joely Rodriguez, and David Hamilton. I simply don’t think you are ready to move on to the next grade.
Let’s start with the pitchers. Kluber is a sad story, the once great ace is now completely washed. I wish it weren’t the case because, man, he was something in his prime. Alas, there is nothing he can do to help this team now. As for Ort, I never understood what made the Red Sox select you in the minor league rule 5 draft and each time you appeared in a game I continued to search my brain for possible answers. You sir are not a major league pitcher. Bleier and Rodriguez are two guys I frankly expected more of. Rodriguez has some real funk to his delivery and even with his bouts of being unable to find the zone consistently, I thought he could help. He simply hasn’t stayed healthy long enough to show any consistency. Bleier looks like he might be as washed as Kluber. His home run to fly ball rate is 21.1% and the soft throwing lefty has lost even more velo.
As for Kiké and Hamilton, I honestly feel bad for the position that both of these guys were put in. Kiké was essentially asked to play shortstop fulltime for the first time at the age of 31. As a result he has made 14 errors and is rated as the second worst shortstop in baseball by OAA among the 36 qualified options. The stress of this task is clearly impacting him offensively as he is currently on pace for a career low in wRC+ at just 61 and a career low in OPS at .602. He needs a change of scenery.
Poor Hamilton was called up to play shortstop because of how bad Kiké has been, but nearly universally scouts have said he can’t play shortstop. Guess what? He came up and proved that he really can’t effectively play shortstop. He can run fast but for most of us he just serves as a constant reminder of the failed Hunter Renfroe trade.