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Los Angeles Dodgers v Boston Red Sox

Monday Morning Brushback: Damn, Here We Go Again

The Red Sox week in review dives into Adam Duvall, Tanner Houck, and the return of Mookie Betts.

Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Folks, we’ve got good news and we’ve got bad news. What do you want first? Y’know what, don’t answer that. I’ll start with the latter.

The bad news: I am once again starting an article at Over The Monster dot com by astutely pointing out the fact that following the ups and downs of another week of Red Sox baseball, the club sits a few games out of the playoff picture. Same as it ever was.

The good news: I don’t have to be starting too many more articles like that this season! That’s a great development, since I’m running out of ways to describe this team as “mid.” Maybe the team is committing themselves to a long-term bit to see how creative I can get—or maybe that’s too tinfoil hat of me, I dunno.

A 3-4 slate over the past seven days leaves Boston still back by a handful of games, still with a viable (if not plausible) path to postseason play alive, still with a tough schedule ahead. The days are getting shorter, as is the 2023 schedule. I’m not sure how much longer we can keep on doing this song and dance of treading water, but I suppose we’re all gonna see it come to an end, one way or the other, in due time.

Dave O’Brien pointed out on Sunday that the FanGraphs projection to qualify for October in the American League is ninety (90) wins. Boston’s at sixty-nine (69) wins at the time of publication. Two things on that front:

  1. Nice
  2. That means the Red Sox have to go 21-10 from hereon out.

Long story short: I think we’re at the stage where just about every series has to be won by the Red Sox. They don’t necessarily need to sweep—it’s foolish to assume a sweep in just about any circumstances, given how stupid this sport is—but they need to string together two-out-of-three or three-out-of-four series wins if they’re gonna escape this gauntlet with a playoff birth. That’s a tall ask, but it seems to be the reality of the situation.

It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.

Duvy’s Been Groovy

Los Angeles Dodgers v Boston Red Sox Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Not a bad week from Adam Duvall, huh? I’ll always take an on-base percentage north of .500 with 12 rib eyes alongside five homers and as many doubles, that’ll do just nicely.

The dude did exactly what he was supposed to do on a middle-middle fastball clocking in at 94 MPH from Christian Javier the other night in Houston. He hit that fuckin’ ball laughably hard. Go ahead and see for yourself!

Funny, isn’t it? I laughed! It was shades of the nuke that Albert Pujols hit off of Brad Lidge back in the 2005 NLCS or that one that Jorge Soler sent into orbit during the 2021 World Series!

The injury Duvall suffered earlier in the season kinda threw things out of whack for the outfielder, but he’s certainly had his bright moments in a Red Sox uniform in 2023. His entire career has been defined by ebbs and flows—he’s a notoriously streaky hitter—but to his credit, his rolling xwOBA statline on Baseball Savant ain’t too shabby. He’s been getting some quality contact on the ball, especially as of late.

That’s especially refreshing considering the fact that Boston doesn’t have too much pop from the right-handed side of the plate, which is especially notable for a team playing half of its games at a venue that’s 310 feet to left. I wrote about Justin Turner last week, and he’s been consistently useful all year, but outside of Duvall there aren’t a ton of righties to write (no pun intended, I promise) home about. It looks like Trevor Story’s still getting his sea legs back. Boston Rob ain’t a full-time guy. Connor Wong’s game is not modeled around offense.

Even if it might end up being short-lived, it’s cool to see Duvall pitch in at the dish.

Full Houck

Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Welcome back into the fold, Mr. Tanner Houck! Nice to see him out on the mound again after that scary comebacker a little while back.

With that said, with all due respect........he’s been getting hit hard since his return.

Houck’s certainly demonstrated that he’s very handy when he’s locked in. Problem is: he’s a bit helter skelter, word to Sir Paul.

Remember a few hundred characters ago when I brought up the rolling xwOBA on Savant? Welp, Tanner’s over his past 50 plate appearances has been going the wrong way—for reference, he’s faced 41 batters across two appearances since making his return from the IL. That’s emblematic of his season to date: he’s only in the 28th percentile when it comes to hard hit rate across the majors.

The proof was in the pudding on Sunday against the Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahdjurz. After working his way out of trouble in the first frame and some other instances of loud contact, James Outman took him towards the triangle at the Fens to put LA on the board.

That pitch, my friends, is what you call a cookie. Outman did exactly what he was supposed to do with that pitch.

Thankfully, that was the only damage Tanner coughed up over the weekend. It would certainly be a delight if he developed a consistent third pitch. The slider’s done miracles on me in the past—there’s no question about that—while the sinker’s fine. Maybe his newfound cutter could develop into a legit part of his arsenal?

I dunno. All I know is that any reliever can survive as a two-pitch specialist, while starters usually can’t say the same unless their name is Spencer Strider. If Houck wants to survive long-term as a stater, it would behoove him to offer three pitches more often; for now, he only throws two pitches on a consistent basis. About 62% of his pitches are either the slider or the sinker, while he doesn’t bring any other pitch more than about 16% of the time.

If that doesn’t come to pass, Houck runs the risk of getting too predictable.

I think Tanner may need a bit more time to shake the rust off. The problem with that is that the Red Sox are not in a spot where they can afford that type of stuff from a guy in their pitching staff who proves to be valuable when he’s clickin’.

Does Time Heal All Wounds?

Los Angeles Dodgers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

I truly, genuinely, honestly, and strongly do not want to re-litigate the past however-many months of Mookie Betts discourse right now. You fine folks in the comments section can do that for me, and your contributions do not go unnoticed.

This past weekend for some likely felt like a turning of the page when it comes to Mook. For others, it was probably the prime time to bring up their frustrations again. I think both sentiments are fair.

None of us can do anything about the fact that a homegrown superstar will now likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame with a hat that doesn’t feature a familiar B on the front. We were powerless in the winter of 2020, and we’re powerless now. It is what it is.

I, of course, don’t love that Betts’ big weekend came at the expense of our favorite club. It must be nice to watch a guy on your team chip in a 7/15 performance with a homer, five runs scored, and four RBI just to say “....yeah, makes sense.” The spectacular is to be expected when you watch number 50.

A small part of me does have to admit, though: seeing Mookie doing Mookie things at Fenway again was special. Even if it was just for a weekend series, and even if it hurt the Red Sox, it gave me the slightest glimpse into what could’ve been. I know you can drive yourself crazy thinking about the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” aspects of life, but I couldn’t help myself watching Betts the past few days. Sue me.

At the very least, I’ll be able to tell my kids one day that I got to see that guy play for our favorite team. Was it very long? Well, not long enough if you ask me, but I did see it. It did happen. They did win that ring. He did win that MVP award.

You can’t change the past, for better and for worse.

Song of the Week: “Come Sail Away” by Styx

No real reason for picking this banger this week. It’s currently playing on the Bluetoof speaker as I type this, so why not? Great song, ‘tis! My cousin and I love to belt this out together after a couple of suds—I’ll spare you all from the footage, as to not make you go deaf.

Until next week, my friends! Go Sox.

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