The 2023 Red Sox are about to cross the Rubicon.
I think I speak for plenty of Boston fans when I say that this season, relatively speaking, has gone pretty well. There have certainly been some low points, but all is generally well as we hit the end of July. The club is in the middle of race for a playoff spot—something I’m sure a handful of supporters were not anticipating at the start of the campaign. Hey: at the very least, it seems like we’re gonna get to watch some meaningful ball in August and September, which is more than what we could say a year ago.
Now is that the standard already established in this sports-addicted city? No. Sounds a bit cringe when I describe it like that, but it’s true. However, 2023 has undoubtedly been a step in the right direction after the disappointment that was 2022.
But therein lies the true meaning of this moment for the Sox. The team is just outside of the playoff carnival with a chance to make their push. At the same time, there are plenty of exciting young prospects that could partner nicely with the already team-controlled talents up with the big club now. They’re far from the class of their own division—never mind their own half of the league—but we baseball fans also just saw the third best team in a dynamite division come within two wins of raising a world championship banner.
The takeaway from all of that? Well, that comes later in the blog. That’s what we call a tease in the blogging biz, baby.
It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.
I, For One, Welcome My New Penvetta Overlord
Nick Pivetta deserves credit after how he’s handled his shift to the bullpen. After being convinced that the writing on the wall was merely some smudges or something-or-other back in May, he’s stepped up when the club needed him in recent weeks.
Ever since his transition out of the rotation-proper on May 17, Pivetta has thrown to the tune of a 1.98 ERA over 41 innings with 58 outs by way of the K. He’s allowed just three earned runs in July. That? To me? That’s pretty good.
Compare his two outings against the Atlanta Braves. Back in early May, he coughed up the touchdown and the extra point (can you tell that I’ve already started my fantasy football research?) across eight hits and three free passes over four innings. 77 days later, he shut that same team out over five frames while punching five out en route to one of two wins against the best team in baseball at Fenway.
Ever since getting flipped from Philly to Boston, we’ve seen flashes of the guy that Nick Pivetta can be. In recent years, rarely have we seen a guy strut off the mound with as much explosiveness and bravado following a big out than we’ve seen Pivetta walk towards the dugout.
The dude clearly cares, and that energy is what the team could certainly use in this latter half. Mix that in with the consistent quality we’ve seen of late, and I don’t see the need to mess with a good thing—keep Pivetta in the role he’s in right now.
Lou Merloni mentioned this on the WEEI broadcast during Pivetta’s masterclass in Oakland two weeks ago, and I’ll echo it now: if Pivetta is more comfortable and more effective coming out of the bullpen following an inning or two, what’s the difference if he were starting the game for five or six frames before handing the ball off to a middle reliver? Both of those combinations eat seven innings or so, right? So if one has been exponentially better for the team, then why mess with a good thing?
As far as I’m concerned, Pivetta is practically a starter when an opener precedes him—and in his current form, he might be one of the best weapons the Red Sox can deploy on the mound as they hunt for October baseball.
Johnny Boy’s Back
Welcome back to one John Schreiber!
Following a lengthy stint on the shelf next to Wheezy, the righty was welcomed back into the fold of the Boston bullpen this past week. He was given a rude reception in his first game back—he coughed up (again, like Wheezy) a run in a single inning of work as the opener in game one against Atlanta. But he rebounded by (barely) keeping the Bravos at bay in game two and working out of big trouble on Sunday against the Giants in the second inning before tossing a clean third.
At this juncture of the season, bulking up late-game pitching options is a clear focus for many teams. Schreiber’s return represents almost a quasi-trade deadline acquisition, shoring up the relief options that are already doing very well thus far. Hey, you can never have too many options, right?
We already know what Schreiber can do—we saw it in 2022, after all! A sub-one WHIP to pair with a 194 ERA+ will play no matter what. No one’s saying John has to do exactly that—because it’s absurd to expect that performance—but his (hopefully) continued ability to shorten games should be worth its weight in gold. In a time that’s known for bullpen arms being flipped, having one extra guy to hold down the relief options is vital. It’s one less thing to worry about!
Speaking of that time of year...
What’s Your Wager?
...Call’s yours, Mr. Bloom. How much are you putting into the middle of the table?
It’s year four of your project, sir, with your team on the relative upswing. The most you’ve got to tangibly show for your tenure thus far in Boston is a berth in the 2021 ALCS, but your farm system is looking pretty strong and your team is outplaying most people’s expectations. A prominent sports writer in this town who shall not be named but will be linked left your club for dead after the very first game, but that same team stands here before the trade deadline with a roughly 33% chance to make it into the dance by season’s end, according to some prominent metrics published by the likes of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
Your team has played enough games to demonstrate that they are far better than their previous iteration. But with that, sir, they’ve also played enough games to show exactly where their needs are. Your starting rotation is banged up, no question, but some of your key arms—Chris Sale, Tanner Houck, and Garrett Whitlock—should be back in due time. Still, Mr. Bloom, you’ve got both winnable series against bottom feeders as well as key series against direct wild card rivals such as Houston and Toronto coming up within the next month. Can you afford to wait it out until those guys are back in the mix? Or do you make a move for a guy who can eat some innings for you in the interim?
Speaking of guys returning from injury: your prized acquisition from last winter should be back soon! Trevor Story will be returning to your lineup, which I’m sure brings you some relief. His defensive range will be a breath of fresh air, while he surely can’t be worse offensively than what’s been plugged up the middle for the majority of this season. Even then: do you look to secure the rest of the middle infield on both offense and on defense? Perhaps a left-handed platoon bat suits your fancy?
If you do trade for that bat, who’s the odd man out? Surely not Yu Chang, right? Is it Pablo Reyes? Is it Christian Arroyo? While we’re on the topic—do you trade Adam Duvall, Mr. Bloom? Hard to imagine that after his big homer on Sunday, no? But everyone has their price, right?
What’s the most you’ve ever lost
on a coin toss on a deal involving your prospects, Mr. Bloom? How much are you willing to mortgage for this 2023 run, as opposed to runs in 2024 and beyond? Will you even be here in 2024 and beyond to see the fruits of your labor bloom? No pun intended, sir, seriously. You say you want to add controllable assets over simple rentals—what will that cost?
Long story short: what’s your call, Mr. Bloom?
Song Of The Week: “Push” by Matchbox Twenty/Ryan Gosling
I finally got around to doing Barbenheimer this past weekend, and I was a fan of both films (Robert Downey Jr. *will* win an Oscar for his performance in Oppenheimer, by the way). I think the “Push” bit in Barbie was the funniest bit of the film, so why not give that some shine. Crack open a brewski beer at your mojo dojo casa house and enjoy.
Until next week, my friends! Go Sox.