Friday, June 19, 2015

Red Sox Review: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

After 68 games, it's time to assess the 2015 Red Sox.  For a team with a $200-million payroll and just 29 wins to show for that to this point, it's safe to say they've been a major disappointment and that this review will not have too many highlights.

For those of you who do not haunt, there is a primer for some of the statistics at the bottom of this post.

The Good

1. Dustin Pedroia (.307/.369/.451, 81 hits, 11 doubles, 9 home runs, 27 RBI)

Pedroia has been excellent at the plate and in the field and I'm already frustrated that it looks like one of his better offensive seasons seems likely to be wasted.  A recent knee injury has sidelined Pedroia and at 31-years-old, it might be time to wonder if he will ever get through a season healthy again considering how hard he plays and the strain that puts on his body.

2. Xander Bogaerts (.287/.327/.391, 66 hits, 9 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs, 27 RBI)

Bogaerts entered last season as the golden child of the Red Sox organization following his contributions to the 2013 World Series team but struggled greatly at the plate after a solid first two months and was moved off of shortstop to third base in place of the immortal Stephen Drew.  He has bounced back with a very good first half of the 2015 season, playing very good defense and being one of the lone bright spots for the offense.  Remember that he's just 22-years-old and picture a player in the immediate future who will be a consistent All-Star and be the cornerstone of this franchise.

3. Junichi Tazawa (32 games, 0-3, 29.1 innings pitched, 3.07 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 4.67 K/BB)

You know things are bad for the pitching staff when their only representative on "The Good" list is from a middle reliever having a slightly above average season.  Tazawa could either represent a building block in the bullpen for the future or could be used as trade bait for prospects like Andrew Miller was last year.

Honorable Mention - Brock Holt (.319/.408/.469, 51 hits, 12 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 15 RBI)

Holt is a great story.  He is a utility player who offers his manager tremendous versatility and despite theories that he can't sustain consistent success at the plate, Holt looks like he's finally earned the right to play every day.

Honorable Mention - Koji Uehara (25 games, 2-3, 14 saves, 22.1 innings pitched, 2.86 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 4.17 K/BB)

It's tough for any closer to get in a groove for a team sagging ten games under .500 but I assume it's especially tough for a 40-year-old closer in that situation to get it going.  One of the stars of the 2013 World Series team, Uehara could be trade bait if the team fails to get back in the playoff picture by the end of July.

The Bad

1. Pablo Sandoval (.270/.323/.409, 58 hits, 10 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs, 23 RBI)

Sandoval actually has not been too bad at the plate - he's not too far off of his career "triple slash" of .293/.345/.461 - but he has been terrible at third base defensively with 9 errors in 56 games.  Yesterday's benching for checking his Instagram account on Wednesday night isn't helping his cause either as management and fans expected a lot more after he was signed to a 5-year/$95-million contract this winter.

2. David Ortiz (.231/.316/.407, 51 hits, 12 doubles, 9 home runs, 29 RBI)

It does not say much for the rest of the team when one of Ortiz' worst seasons to date only ranks him on "The Bad" list and not "The Ugly" list.  Ortiz is 39-years-old and it was unfair for the Red Sox to believe he could still anchor a championship offense.  The future Hall of Fame designated hitter has been a little better recently (.286/.395/.571 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI over his last 10 starts) and if he can sustain that, there's actually some hope for this team.

3. Clay Buchholz (14 games, 4-6, 86 innings pitched, 3.87 ERA, 1.291 WHIP, 3.82 K/BB)

Buchholz might be the most maddening pitcher the Red Sox have had in my lifetime.  There are days that he takes the ball and looks like a Cy Young candidate and then there are days that he is on the bump and looks like a candidate to be sold to the Can-Am League for a bag of balls.  Shame on the Red Sox for expecting him to be the ace of the staff.  Like Ortiz, if he can continue the success he's had in June (4 games, 2-0, 2.81 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, 3.67 K/BB) the Red Sox might have a shot to get back into the race in the A.L. East.

Honorable Mention - Hanley Ramirez (.265/.314/.453, 62 hits, 5 doubles, 13 home runs, 33 RBI)

Along with Sandoval, Ramirez was the team's big free agent signing this winter for 4-years and $88-million with a likely fifth year for an additional $22-million in 2019.  While he has produced some solid power numbers, he has just 3 home runs and 11 RBI since the start of May and has looked more lost in left field than Will Ferell in a Lifetime Channel movie (seriously, watch this trailer).  My April musings of Ramirez feel like they were written years ago.  The team's best bet for his future in Boston is a move to DH when Ortiz leaves town.

The Ugly

1. Mike Napoli (.204/.299/.393, 43 hits, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 10 home runs, 27 RBI)

Napoli's free agency year has been a nightmare for both him and the team.  He has struggled from the beginning, with his only saving grace being when he actually makes contact that it's for power with 19 of his 43 hits being for extra bases.  I get the feeling Napoli will be a trade chip at the deadline for a contender in a need of a bat that hopes he can turn it around quickly.

2. Rick Porcello (13 games, 4-7, 81.2 innings pitched, 5.29 ERA, 1.298 WHIP, 3.42 K/BB)

The Red Sox traded Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit for Porcello and then they gave the 26-year-old right hander the money they refused to spend on Jon Lester.  So far, the results have been terrible.

3. Joe Kelly (13 games, 2-4, 71.1 innings pitched, 5.32 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 2.00 K/BB)

Man, did the Red Sox get fleeced in the John Lackey trade last summer.  Not only is Kelly a strictly fastball pitcher who cannot get a fastball by a big league hitter, the team also got stuck with Allen Craig who is still trying to find his way in Pawtucket.  Meanwhile, Lackey is 5-4 with a 3.59 ERA for the Cardinals.

Dishonorable Mention - Wade Miley (13 games, 6-6, 72.1 innings pitched, 4.88 ERA, 1.389 WHIP, 2.17 K/BB)

On this atrocious pitching staff, Miley could have actually snuck on to "The Bad" list but his argument with manager John Farrell last week earned him a home on "The Ugly" list.

Hall Pass

1. Mookie Betts (.257/.310/.407, 65 hits, 14 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs, 29 RBI)

The 22-year-old Betts has been decent at the plate but his recent surge (.306/.352/.447 over his last 24 games) is cause for hope.  Betts is a big piece of the future and he's showing why everyday at the plate and in the field.

2. Rusney Castillo (.225/.257/.282, 23 games, 16 hits, 1 double, 1 home run, 6 RBI)

At age 27, Castillo shouldn't be considered young but this is his first full season in the U.S. and he seems to still be figuring things out.  The Red Sox gave him plenty of money to produce but a grace period is necessary for the Cuban defector.  He should be a big part of the future.

3. Blake Swihart (.216/.263/.288, 34 games, 24 hits, 5 doubles, 1 home run, 8 RBI)

Swihart was scheduled to spend this season in Pawtucket as a final prep year before taking over in Boston behind the plate in 2016.  Injuries ruined that plan so instead of developing at Triple-A this summer, Swihart is learning on the fly in the major leagues.  I hope the Red Sox get Jason Varitek to spend as much time as possible mentoring Swihart and keeping his confidence up because he has shown flashes of the athleticism and skill that made him such a highly touted prospect.

4. Eduardo Rodriguez (4 games, 2-1, 25.1 innings pitched, 3.55 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, 2.20 K/BB)

Rodriguez, acquired last July from Baltimore for Andrew Miller, was outstanding in his first three starts before being knocked around this past Sunday by the Blue Jays.  He starts tonight in Kansas City which provides an opportunity to see if he has a chance to really contribute in 2015 or if will probably need more time to develop in Pawtucket.

What's Next?

I thought one path for the team would be to deal Ortiz to a contender and slide Ramirez full-time into the DH role but Big Papi said he would never agree to waive his "10-5" rights and accept a trade. That means the Red Sox will have to either let him walk at the end of this season, accept another year of suspect left field defense from Ramirez, or find a trade partner to take on Ramirez.

Napoli and Uehara are likely to be traded with Tazawa also a potential trade chip.

The Red Sox desperately need to find starting pitching.  Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Kelly, and Rodriguez will not carry this team into the playoff chase and the return of Justin Masterson from the disabled list is not cause for hope.  Masterson, as well as Kelly, should be turned into relievers and the team needs to aggressively pursue at least one premium starting pitcher via a trade, even if they have no shot at making the playoffs in 2015.

After trading Napoli, Sandoval should be transitioned into a first baseman immediately with Brock Holt becoming the team's third baseman.  Castillo should also get the nod now as the team's everyday right fielder so he gains the experience necessary to become the player the Red Sox paid for last summer.

John Farrell is also a likely goner.  I don't know who will take the reigns but when these moves happen, here is the lineup for the new skipper:

1. Pedroia, 2B
2. Holt, 3B
3. Bogaerts, SS
4. Ramirez, LF
5. Ortiz, DH
6. Betts, CF
7. Sandoval, 1B
8. Castillo, RF
9. Swihart, C


Statistics Explanation

.333/.333/.333 is a hitter's "triple slash" or "slash line."  The first number is for batting average, the second number is for on-base percentage, and the third number is for slugging percentage.

RBI stands for runs batted in by a hitter.

ERA stands for a pitcher's earned run average.

WHIP stands for a pitcher's walks and hits allowed per inning pitched.

K/BB stands for a pitcher's ratio of strikeouts compared to walks.

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