Daily Dose of Red Sox

Day 33: August 18, 2018

Blake Swihart returned to the Red Sox lineup last night after spending roughly two weeks on the mend. He did not pick up a hit but he did make an impressively quick throw to second to catch Kevin Kiermaier stealing. It was a reminder that, despite the team’s perceived hesitation to have him catch early on, he’s still got sneaky good tools behind the dish.

The throw was an absolute dart, leading Kinsler in the exact right place to apply the tag to Kiermaier. The Rays outfielder got a good jump; it literally took a perfect throw to get him and that’s what we witnessed.

Anyway, Swihart has the fourth-best pop time among all catcher this season. His 1.89 average time to second base (in seconds) is tied with the heralded J.T. Realmuto. That’s an elite score. For reference, Sandy Leon ranks 20th (1.98 seconds) and Christian Vazquez  89th (2.10 seconds).

Aren’t you glad they didn’t trade him?

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 Day 32: August 17, 2018

There have naturally been premature discussions as to whom the 2018 American League MVP will be. Jose Ramirez has been excellent and so has his teammate Francisco Lindor. Meanwhile, Mike Trout is having a Mike Trout year so, in spite of his current DL stint, he is in the race. Lastly, a pair of Boston Red Sox, the subject this site offers commentary on, are arguably at the forefront of the conversation. Their names are Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and they’re both excellent.

Betts, as most of you know, is the five-tool superstar while Martinez is one of the game’s best, if not the best, hitters. As such, the conversation has also been which of these men has been the Red Sox’ MVP. To be frank, it’s Mookie Betts and it’s not really close.

We all know Betts has been the superior defensive player and baserunner and obviously there’s value to that. Without even quantifying that, though, the part-time bowler has been more valuable on offense. Sure, Martinez has the 37 homeruns, trumping his teammate’s 27, but every important offensive statistic is led by Betts.

Betts’ on-base percentage is .440, which is second in baseball, and that’s considerably higher than Martinez’s .402. His slugging percentage of .668, which leads all of baseball, is even higher than the notorious power-hitting Martinez, whose .663 slug is nothing to scoff at. Meanwhile, Betts wRC+, which calculates how a hitter is producing runs below or above the average (100), is 193 and that is the top number in baseball. Martinez’s 181 wRC+ is still very much impressive, placing third among qualifying players.

Yes, Martinez has participated in more games, giving him a 44 plate appearance advantage over Betts this year. This does not even begin to close the gap, though. If you wanted to attempt to add “peripheral” tools to the discussion, well, then, Betts has a 7.9 fWAR compared to Martinez’s 5.2 fWAR.

J.D. Martinez is an absolute gift to the Boston Red Sox but he’s not quite the team MVP. On most teams, he probably would be but Betts is simply having too good of a season. This is not a knock against the winter’s best free agent signing, rather, it is simply a product of playing alongside Markus Lynn Betts.

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 Day 31: August 16, 2018

Day 31 of the Daily Dose of Sox came a little later than usual. I attended my second Red Sox game of the 2018 season in Philadelphia and spent all of the day driving home. Therefore, DD of Sox was delayed.

It was a wonderful game, even though the Red Sox lost. Well, actually, let me rephrase that: it was a wonderful game outside of Drew Pomeranz.

In the bottom 7th, Drew Pomeranz entered the game and allowed three earned runs in his inning of work. He was shelled for four hits, including a Wilson Ramos double, which was his third extra-base hit of the game.

This was his first blemish out of the bullpen for Big Smooth, who has experienced innumerable blemishes out of the rotation this year. While it was just one appearance, there’s not a whole lot of encouraging stuff going on with Pom right now.

His fastball velocity remains down nearly 2.5 mph from last year (91.3 mph to 88.8 mph). The southpaw’s curveball usage is aligned with his usual self but the pitch has a -11.9 pitch value this season; it was at 7.0 the year before.

In 2018, he is getting less strikeouts, walking more batters and allowing more hard contact. Yeah, I’d say that’s a recipe for a down season.

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Day 30: August 15, 2018

The Red Sox beat the Phillies in a close 2-1 game that was made possible by unlikely solo homeruns from Brock Holt and Sandy Leon. While those two provided the offense and Rick Porcello the seven exquisite innings, Heath Hembree and Craig Kimbrel came through in their respective big situation. Both of the relievers had been struggling mightily, so this was a welcomed sight.

Hembree, who entered in the bottom 8th, had allowed three earned runs in his previous two outings against… the Baltimore Orioles. He managed to strikeout two Phillies hitters in his scoreless inning of work. In fact, he got Odubel Herrera out with a swinging strike three on a nasty slider that broke so far in it hit his back foot.

Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel had allowed an earned run in four of his past six outings. With a one-run lead, this would not have been ideal. It started off rough with a full-count walk to pinch-hitter Justin Bour. From there, he retired the next three, ending with a strikeout on a knuckle-curve down and in on Asdrubal Cabrera.

Two key cogs in the Red Sox bullpen pitched well after dealing with respective struggles. This was a great sign.

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Day 29: August 14, 2018

The Boston Red Sox are the only team in baseball with four players in the top 25 in positional player fWAR. They have Mookie Betts (2nd, 7.8 fWAR), J.D. Martinez (6th, 5.1 fWAR), Andrew Benintendi (13th, 4.4 fWAR) and Xander Bogaerts (21st, 3.8 fWAR) within this valuable, yet arbitrary, class of players.

There is only one team with three players in the top 25 and that is the New York Yankees with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks.

This is obviously an impressive stat for the Red Sox and, above all, shows they are booming with stars on the position player side of the ledger. When your team is on the verge of winning close to 110 games, this is hardly surprising.

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Day 28: August 13, 2018

Since the end of June, Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has raised his OPS from .619 to .694. July has been, by far, his best full month with a 107 wRC+.

It has been well chronicled on Red Sox Unfiltered how criminally unlucky JBJ has been in 2018. Even though he has been hitting lately, it has not been enough to cancel out the copious amount of bad luck he has endured this season.

Among qualified players, he has the sixth highest differential between his wOBA and xwOBA in the bigs.  He has a -.061 difference, which highlights how he should be performing much better based on his quality of contact and strikeout and walk numbers. In fact, his xSLG is .495, suggesting he should be hitting for a lot more power.

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Day 27: August 12, 2018

Drew Pomeranz has now made two appearances out of the bullpen, accumulating three shut down innings. Additionally, he has only compiled one strikeout to two walks. Not much can be extrapolated from this paltry of a sample, so good on the southpaw for not allowing a run in his new role yet, I guess. More time will have to pass in order for these numbers to start to become meaningful.

Anyway, what is interesting is the fact his fastball has not gained any life in his new role. Now, I know it’s early but these things usually can be done pretty quickly. In his most recent outing, he averaged 89.0 mph and during his other bullpen appearance he averaged 89.6 mph. For the season, the free agent to be has averaged 89.4 mph on his heater.

One of the larger narrative pertaining to his struggles this season has been the loss of velocity. In 2017, he averaged 91.7 mph, so he has lost two miles per hour off his fastball. That’s considerable.

Then again, if he’s not allowing runners to score, who can really complain?

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Day 26: August 11, 2018

There’s a sensational player in Double-A Portland and his name is Bobby Dalbec. He did not enter the year with much fanfare, appearing distant from the conversation of many major top-prospect lists. He had a nice campaign with Greenville towards the end of 2017 but still finished with a mere .437 slugging percentage and 13 homeruns.

It made sense why he was an unranked in SoxProspects top 20 Red Sox prospects coming into the season. Since that point, however, he has done nothing but ascend up that list. Between Salem and Portland, he has clobbered 30 homeruns in 444 plate appearances this year. His ISO (isolated power) in Salem, which is where he’s spend most of his playing time this season, is a staggering .317.

The 2016 4th-round draft pick has completely reinvented his swing, adopting a significant flyball approach. In 2017, he ran a 0.98 GB/FB ratio, hitting almost as many balls on the ground as he did in the air. Meanwhile, this season he has dropped his GB/FB to 0.61 in Salem. In 25 plate appearances in Double-A Portland, he’s hitting over 60 percent of his batted balls in the air with an incomprehensible 0.38 GB/FB. Oh, and did I mention Dalbec has a .545 ISO and .909 SLG in a small sample with Portland?

The power is real and delightful for a Red Sox farm system that has by and large been somewhat of a disappointment this year. At 23, he’s an interesting candidate to be ready for the bigs soon if he can keep performing like he’s performing. In the meantime, keep checking for updates on Dalbec dingers. He hits a lot of them.

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Day 25: August 10, 2018

Between 1903-2018, the Boston Red Sox have had 22 players hit for the cycle. Mookie Betts, of course, became the latest Red Sox to do so after he went yard in the 9th inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He also was the first player to do this year, which is special and pretty baffling considering it’s almost mid August.

The last Red Sox to do so was Brock Holt in 2015. Boston has had no other players in the current century accomplish this feat.

Even when the Sox lose, they find a way to win. 2018 sure is magical.

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Day 24: August 9, 2018

Does Rafael Devers need to hit the ball the other way frequently to be successful? Last night, Devers went 2-4 with a homerun and a double, both of which were pulled to left field. The youngster has been heralded for his opposite-field power since the beginning of time and he’s showed glimpses of it this year. In fact, the third baseman has an impressive .907 OPS and 140 wRC+ on balls hit the other way.

With that said, his Oppo% (percent of batted balls hit to the opposite field) has fallen from 31.5 percent in ’17 to 25.1 percent so far this year. Even still, his Hard% (percent of balls classified as hard hit) is the same in both seasons at 34.5 percent.

This will assuredly be interesting to monitor as the season progresses.

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Day 23: August 8, 2018

J.D. Martinez’s three-run homer down the left field line put the Boston Red Sox ahead 5-3 last night and, man, was it a thing of beauty.  It was also his league-leading 34th homer of the 2018 season. This should not be surprising but Martinez is a remarkable hitter. Obviously, his results are outstanding but his approach at the plate, devoid of an outcome, is so cerebral and impressive.

Check out the slugger’s spray chart:

His hits, especially the ones of the extra-base variety, look nearly symmetrical across the field. He’s essentially foolproof, staying with the baseball and taking it the direction it was pitched. As such, he has the following batted ball percentages: 39.0 Pull%, 29.5 Cent% and 31.5 Oppo%. It’s not perfectly distributed but it is about as close as one can get.

Even more impressive is the amount of damage he has done to each side of the field:

 AVGOPSwRC+
Pull.4371.294252
Center.4831.264245
Oppo.4301.449283

Conclusion: he’s a damn good hitter.

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 Day 22: August 7, 2018

Eduardo Nunez has been a bit confounding this season. A year removed from a 2017 campaign where he hit the snot out of everything, the utility infielder has been pretty bad in 2018.

To be fair, he has appeared to be in pain throughout the season. Every time he runs the bases it seems like he is in excruciating agony, yet he never comes out of the game. This may surprise you, given how effortful his baserunning looks, but Nunez actually leads the team in infield hits by a significant margin.

On the year, he has accumulated 17 infield hits with an accompanying 11.0 IFH% (infield hit percent). In other words, over a tenth of the ground balls that the 31 year old has hit this year have ended in an infield hit.

Further, he is actually quicker than people give him credit for with a 27.4 ft/s sprint speed which is above average for an MLB player. With that said, he has grounded into the most double plays on the Red Sox (14), despite his foot speed. This can be accredited to the fact he hits over 50 percent of his batted balls into the ground.

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Day 21: August 6, 2018

On today’s edition of the Daily Dose, this graph courtesy of Fangraphs should say it all.

When Brock Holt struck out against Chapman to begin the 9th, Boston’s win expectancy was 2.1 percent. The chance of mounting a comeback against one of the best closers in baseball felt insurmountable but that is exactly what they did. It probably was the best game of the season, as my heart is still racing seven hours later.

What a night. What a game. What a team. What a season.

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Day 20: August 5, 2018

Nathan Eovaldi has been everything the Red Sox could have hoped for in his first two starts with the team. He has combined for 15 scoreless innings, striking out nine and walking just one.

The latter is what has impressed me more than anything about Eovaldi thus far. In other words, the right-handed pitcher does not walk people. In his 12 starts this year, he has issued just nine walks. Nine!

Among pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched, Eovaldi features the lowest BB/9 in baseball at 1.13. This is out of 137 qualified pitchers, in case you were wondering.

He’s been a command guy for a while but never to this degree. The reason for this is probably the implementation of the cutter. After throwing it nearly seven percent in an abbreviated 2016 campaign, he has upped his usage to close to 30 percent this year. Relying on the cutter more frequently has cut into his breaking ball usage (curveball and slider). The slider has still been effective this season but its percentage has dipped. Meanwhile, the curveball is almost non-existent at this point.

The cutter is easier to control than the breaking pitches, so it is pretty safe to assume a relationship exists between this and his improved command.

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Day 19: August 4, 2018

The Boston Red Sox announced they have placed Blake Swihart and Ian Kinsler on the 10-Day disabled list within the last 24 hours. They will join Chris Sale, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright, Christian Vazquez and Dustin Pedroia on the 10-Day shelf. If you had been counting, you would know the Red Sox currently have eight players on the 10-Day DL.

As of this writing, Boston leads the league in players on the 10-Day DL with the L.A. Dodgers narrowly trailing by one. They have three additional players on the 60-Day DL in Austin Maddox, Marco Hernandez and Carson Smith. In total, the Red Sox have 11 players on the disabled which is tied for the most in the American League. The Dodgers lead baseball with 12 players on the shelf.

Luckily, about half of the players on the 10-Day DL for the Sox should come back within the next two weeks. The timetable is nebulous for E-Rod and Wright while it is becoming very increasingly unlikely we will see Pedroia back. Vazquez should be able to return in September.

In spite of these slew of injuries, the Boston Red Sox are 77-34 and have a 7.5 game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East.

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Day 18: August 3, 2018

Steve Pearce was brought into platoon at first base with Mitch Moreland earlier in the year. The thinking was the former Toronto Blue Jay would be utilized against left-handed pitchers almost exclusively. He had never been bad against right-handers but his forte had been mashing southpaws.

Well, this season Pearce is destroying left-handers, all right. In 67 plate appearances against them, he has posted an insane 191 wRC+ with a complementary .358 AVG and 1.076 OPS. That is otherworldly and, unsurprisingly, he took left-handed pitcher C.C. Sabathia deep for his first of three long balls against the Yankees last night.

What may be a tad bit shocking is the other two homers came against right-handers, Jonathan Holder and Luis Cessa. On the season, he has a 131 wRC+ and .866 OPS against righties in 65 opportunities.

Small sample size caveat but….

Pearce has a 131 wRC+ and .866 OPS against RHP this year (65 PA).

Moreland has a 123 wRC+ and .839 OPS against RHP this year (209 PA).

With the way Pearce is swinging the bat, perhaps he deserves to be a bit more than the platoon guy. Over the corner infielders’ respective careers, Pearce (113 career wRC+) has been the better offensive commodity than Moreland (100 career wRC+). The latter, however, is the better defender.

You gotta love the depth.

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Day 17: August 2, 2018

Christian Vazquez went down in early July with a finger injury, so Sandy Leon has become the team’s starting catcher.

Vazquez was doing pitiful while Leon was quietly doing well at the time. In fact, the latter ran a pretty solid 87 wRC+ on July 3rd. 

Since Leon has taken over starting duties, however, it has not been pretty. In 70 plate appearances during the month of July, the switch-hitter churned an abominable .159 AVG/.221 OBP/.206 SLG slash line.  He completely stopped his flyball lifestyle and belted over 50 percent of his batted balls into the ground last month.

Truthfully, the 29-year-old has never been a great hitter but he seemed to have figured something out earlier in the year. He was setting career highs in all important StatCast categories yet he has regressed noticeably in a month he was needed more than ever.

Good thing Blake Swihart is doing what he is doing. The Red Sox would like a little bit of offense out of its catcher position this year.

 

Day 16: August 1, 2018

Boston opted not to upgrade its bullpen as the 2018 Trade Deadline expired Tuesday afternoon. Some people were not particularly happy with this inaction, as it appeared this was the team’s salient need.

Then again, the Red Sox bullpen has quietly been amazing this season. In terms of ERA, the club ranks 6th in ERA (3.34) and 4th in FIP (3.40) throughout the majors. While they have not logged as many innings as some other teams, they still have managed to compiled the 4th best team bullpen fWAR (4.9) in the MLB.

If that does not put you at ease, then perhaps this will: in high-leverage situations the Red Sox bullpen ranks with the 4th best ERA (4.76) and 2nd best FIP (2.66). The main quarrel people seem to have with this rendition of the Sox pen is that it lacks another “late inning” arm besides Craig Kimbrel. Late inning connotes high leverage and Boston has been just about good as any team in that category.

Plus, Matt Barnes has decidedly stepped up into that role this season. Among qualified relievers, he ranks 9th in fWAR (1.6) and sports an incredible 2.30 ERA and 1.95 FIP in 47 innings. He’s been better than Craig Kimbrel, who is obviously still amazing, this year.

Also, the depth of this ‘pen cannot be overstated. If Boston acquired another reliever at the deadline, that probably would have meant Hector Velazquez or Ryan Brasier would have been optioned. Both of those guys have been wonderful this season. Further, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright should be back at some point.

By getting Nathan Eovadli in the rotation, the Red Sox indirectly pushed someone out of the rotation and into the bullpen.

This non-move could prove pivotal down the road but there seems to be some logic behind it. The Red Sox bullpen is rather good.

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Day 15: July 31, 2018

The Red Sox dealt for second basemen Ian Kinsler late last night. For the time being, Tzu-Wei Lin will comfortably return to Pawtucket but when Rafael Devers returns in a couple of days things will get interesting.

In yesterday’s Daily Dose, I speculated Eduardo Nunez could be the one to get the boot if they acquired a second baseman. Well, they have done that and, while my stance has not completely changed, Nunez has been on an absolute tear of late.

In the second half of the season (post All-Star break), Nunez has batted 33 times. With those opportunities, he has strung together an .880 OPS and 134 wRC+. Meanwhile, in the month of July, he is sporting a crisp 105 wRC+. It has been a great month, one which has seen him strikeout just 6.7 percent of the time. In every other month, he has been close to a 15 percent strikeout rate or above.

It has always seemed like Nunez has played hurt this year. Even coming into Spring Training, it appeared he was beaten up. Maybe he is finally healthy and ready to contribute like he did last year. The thing is, though, with Kinsler now on the Red Sox, he may not get a chance to do so.

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Day 14: July 30, 2018

Currently, all anyone is talking about is the upcoming trade deadline, myself included. The Red Sox are setup to acquire a bullpen piece and perhaps a second basemen in the next two days. While that is very exciting, when a player is acquired it means another has to be displaced active roster.

Sure, the Red Sox could include someone from its 25-man in the deal, which would make things less complicated. For the sake of this exercise, let’s pretend they do not.

If they get a reliever, it means someone from the staff will probably get the boot. The team is already carrying eight relievers and it is doubtful they would field such a short bench. If Drew Pomeranz struggles his next start, this could be an easy solution. With that said, he starts Tuesday night, which will come after the deadline has expired.

Ryan Brasier or Hector Velazquez could go down to Pawtucket briefly, as they both have minor options. They could be a placeholders in Triple-A depending on how Pom’s start against the Phillies goes. However, Pomeranz does not have a minor league option and would have to clear waivers to get to Pawtucket. The southpaw is not making that much money and has recently shown copious success at the big league level. It feels like some team would claim him.

Do the Red Sox want to risk that? Could they put him back on a phantom DL stint? What about Joe Kelly? They have options, here, but there’s a bit of a roster crunch. Moreover, Braiser and Velazquez have earned their place with the Red Sox.

If they acquire a second basemen (or another position player), things get even more complicated. As stated, the Red Sox have a three-man bench but one of those spots belongs to (sorry) the expendable Tzu-Wei Lin. Lin could easily be shipped back to Pawtucket without any risk. The problem is Rafael Devers will come back from the disabled list likely within roughly the next week. That is his spot.

Boston’s bench then reads as follows: Blake Swihart, Brock Holt/Eduardo Nunez and Steve Pearce. If this was a month ago, the solution would have been easy. With the way Swihart’s playing, though, he should remain with the big league club. Steve Pearce is awesome, too, and completely non-negotiable for this discussion and ditto Brock Holt.

The team could part ways with Eduardo Nunez, who has been worth -0.4 fWAR in 354 plate appearances this season. He is easily the team’s least-productive player on the position player side. Even though he still finds himself in the lineup semi-consistently, the Red Sox had no problem dropping someone from their team who batted third on a nightly basis this season. They probably won’t pick up his $4 mil team option, anyway, so this makes sense.

What they could also do is field a regular four-man bench and displace another reliever. Getting rid of one reliever is hard, so this seems way too unlikely to waste any further keyboard energy.

If you’re worried about what happens when Christian Vazquez returns from the DL, Dave Latham made a wonderful point on the RSU Podcast last night. The team will probably wait until September when all teams have a 40-man roster to make activate him. This will be a non-issue for the Red Sox until playoff time.

A middle infield upgrade over Nunez seems important, especially considering how much playing time he is getting. It would be fairly easy to do so and you rid yourself of an unproductive player in the process.

At the end of the day, this exercise has really no bearing on reality. It does, however, makes one think about the fact that the value of an upgrade is relative to whom they are upgrading over.

Tweet of the Day (no way it’s really a 42% catch probability):

 

 

Day 13: July 29, 2018

On Saturday night, most everything went right for the Red Sox. They won the game 10-4, compiled eight extra-base hits and witness very encouraging bullpen performances. Late in the game, however, Rafael Devers came up limp after trudging to third base on an Eduardo Nunez double. He was removed from the game and manager Alex Cora said afterwards he will probably head to the disabled list.

It was a hamstring that will sideline Devers but we do not know the degree of the tear (at this point). As such, the timetable is nebulous. With that said, this injury amplifies the Red Sox pursuit of an additional infielder. There were rumors earlier in the week that Boston was interested in a second basemen, which has been occupied by Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez for most of the year.

Brandon Phillips was brought in on a minor league deal with opt outs for infield depth insurance, but his 59 wRC+ in 34 plate appearances in Patwucket does not inspire much confidence. Meanwhile, no one is outwardly expressing hope that Dustin Pedroia will return anytime soon.

Could they look at Brian Dozier? A looming free agent on the uncompetitive Twins, makes it almost a foregone conclusion that he will be dealt. He seems to be the most realistic fit, as his price tag is down due to a relatively unproductive year (93 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR).

Between second base and the bullpen, Dave Dombrowski will have his hands full in the next two days. Devers’ injury may have pushed the Red Sox from passively browsing to actively searching for another infielder.

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Day 12: July 28, 2018

At 72-33, the Boston Red Sox have a considerable lead for the best record in baseball. 105 games are in the books, meaning 57 contests remain to be played. With the trade deadline looming, this seems like a less arbitrary time to show you some graphs regarding the Red Sox Fangraphs division and World Series odds.

Division Odds:

The separation is good. Look where the Red Sox were towards the end of June. They have climbed considerably, distancing themselves from the Yankees. A four-game series versus New York will start on Thursday, so get your popcorn ready.

World Series Odds:

The Indians made this line graph a lot harder to decipher than it had to be. If these graphs were not interactive over at Fangraphs, I would have no idea which red line was the Red Sox and which was the Indians, especially because they’re so damn close.

Anyway, the Astros have the best shot of winning the whole thing, which no one should quarrel with too much. The Indians have a better chance (13.4%) than the Red Sox (12.2%), though, which is a bit quarrelsome. It is my understanding that this is the case due to the fact the Indians have zero shot at playing a one-game elimination contest. One of Boston or New York will have to play in the Wild Card Game, reducing their respective odds of winning the whole thing. No one should believe the Indians are better than the Yankees or Red Sox, even if they are pretty dang good.

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Day 11: July 27, 2018

Last night, the Red Sox lost a heartbreaker to the Twins by a score of 2-1. They had an opportunity to win (or tie) the game in the 9th with the bases loaded and two outs. Fernando Rodney, charmingly erratic, threw three straight balls to Jackie Bradley Jr and, with the roar of the Fenway crowd, it seemed like he was destined to throw a fourth.

Instead, he threw three well-located fastballs to strikeout JBJ. Not only were people heartbroken by the result, but they were incredulous that Mitch Moreland was not summoned to pinch hit in that situation.

He also could have came into hit for Blake Swihart or Brock Holt who both came up with the tying run on second before Bradley Jr. Moreland owns solid career numbers versus Rodney (albeit, in a small sample), so people were even more aggrieved. With that said, I’m not sure I really blame Alex Cora for not using Moreland in this situation.

JBJ and Swihart were on fire and, while there is some non-sensible logic to “riding them while they’re hot,” they seemingly deserved to get the opportunity there. On the other side of the coin, Mitch Moreland has been in the midst of a particularly cold month (.217 AVG in July).

Plus, there has been plenty of research done on the pinch-hitting penalty, which has found that hitters perform noticeably worse when they are thrust into that situation. Check this out:

“In The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, we found that when a batter pinch hits against right-handed relief pitchers (so there are no familiarity or platoon issues), his wOBA is 34 points (10%) worse than when he starts and bats against relievers, after adjusting for the quality of the pitchers in each pool (PH or starter).”

Let’s use their 2018 xwOBA for both JBJ and Moreland, applying the penalty to the latter because he is coming off the bench. xwOBA is what a player should be producing based on how hard he’s hit the ball (launch angle and exit velocity) while accounting for strikeouts and walks.

Jackie Bradley Jr. 2018 xwOBA: .355

Mitch Moreland 2018 xwOBA: .397

Mitch Moreland 2018 xwOBA with penalty: .363

Even if there is some disagreement to the extent of the pinch-hit penalty, it is pronounced and is very much a real thing. They come out very close, although Moreland may be the slightly better option. With the penalty accounted for, though, it does not look like the black-and-white issue it was before.

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Day 10: July 26, 2018

During my first trip to Greenville, SC in early June, I focused on Red Sox pitcher Kutter Crawford. The 2017 16th-round pick has enjoyed a tremendous season for the Single-A Boston Red Sox affiliate, with a robust 2.88 ERA and 2.90 FIP in 103 innings. He has obviously been phenomenal and, as such, his prospect stock is on the rise. As I watched a Greenville starter throw an abbreviated (7 innings due to rain) complete game, though, and his name was not Kutter Crawford, I realized he was not the only one.

Denyi Reyes, a 21-year-old 2014 international free agent, has been tearing through the Red Sox lower levels. Since 2015, he has spent time with the DSL team, the GSL team, the Lowell Spinners and, this year, the Greenville Drive. His ascent has been fruitful, pitching extremely well at every stop. His ERA has never been above 3.00 at any level and his command is absolutely superb.

He features four pitches: a fastball (90-92 mph), slider, curveball and changeup. Per Sox Prospects, Reyes’ fastball and changeup are average offerings (or close to it) while his curveball does not offer much promise. The slider, however, is a newly implemented pitch and, though the gun could have been hot, it seemed like it maxed out at 86 mph.

He has shot his K/9 rate to 9.10 this season which is well above his previous high of 7.69 with the Spinners. Perhaps the implementation of the second breaking ball has helped in this regard. From the one outing I saw, he certainly used it on multiple occasions with two strikes.

On the year, he has thrown 117 and 2/3 innings to the tune of a 1.76 ERA. Even more impressive, he has punched out 119 batters and walked just 13. Keep an eye on Denyi Reyes, who is now the team’s 33rd ranked prospect over at SoxProspects.

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Day 9: July 25, 2018

The Red Sox did not win the Zach Britton sweepstakes and, instead, the Yankees acquired him for three prospects. The package the Yanks had to put together to get him, though, was pretty steep for a half-year rental. Dillon Tate is one of the prospects heading to the O’s and he apparently is a top-ten prospect on a team with lots of good ones.

Compared to what the Athletics got for Familia, this seems like a pretty big overpay for a team that already has a dominant bullpen. The Sox needed him more but, at the price he went for, they seemingly dodged a bullet.

In 15 and 2/3 innings, the newest addition to the Yanks pen has a 3.45 ERA and 4.43 FIP this season. He is walking batters at a career high 5.74 BB/9 and has not been able to strike hitters out at a prolific rate. Britton does, however, get lots of groundballs to neutralize his underwhelming peripherals.

His sinker, which is used over 90 percent of the time, has lost roughly 1.5 mph this season. For obvious reasons, that diminishes the quality of the pitch. It has not been as effective of a weapon, yet he really has not alternatives besides a rarely used curveball.

The Red Sox should be happy they did not have to forfeit Chavis or another interesting piece for the 30-year-old southpaw. He has been worth 0.6 fWAR over the past two seasons and, while he is coming off an injury, he is too much of gamble for the price tag. Give me Kirby Yates. Give me Keone Kela. Red Sox did well not overpaying for a 2016 version of Zach Britton that we will never see again.

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Day 8: July 24, 2018

Mookie Betts is obviously one of the best players on the planet. He does it with his bat, glove and legs. If the season were to end today, he would have a good shot at taking home the 2018 AL MVP. It has been a fantastic year for the 25 year old and there really is nothing he has not done this season. He has made considerable improvement in quality of contact, plate selection and plate discipline.

The former has stood out while the others have been less noticeable. He always has had a stellar eye, laying off bad pitches and almost always avoiding the strikeout. As such, the refinement he has made in that area has not gotten the attention its probably deserved. For the first time in his career, Betts was on pace for more walks than strikeouts this year. He has now, however, found himself in the midst of a strikeout stretch.

His strikeouts have caught up to his walks, as he has punched out five times in the four post-All-Star break games. This is a meaningless small sample and does not infringe on the amazing season we have seen from the Red Sox outfielder. It is, though, interesting to note he had not struck out in more than two consecutive games since the middle of June. He had just come off his June disabled list stint, so a little rust was expected.

These were two of the three times this season Betts has struck out more than two games in a row. Honestly, this is more of a testament to how good he is than anything.

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Day 7: July 23, 2018

The consensus among Red Sox faithful is that the team needs to upgrade its bullpen. While it has been good in some areas, the group has struggled to find a solid late-inning option behind Craig Kimbrel and (maybe) Matt Barnes. Some guys have stepped up and done well like first-half Joe Kelly and the resurged Heath Hembree. Now, there is a lot of noise going on about Ryan Brasier, who has not allowed a run in his first six innings with the team.

Brasier has done fine and is quickly gaining the trust of fans, coaches and teammates alike. He was nails in Pawtucket and worked his way to the big league club without even starting the year on the 40-man. It is, though, an extremely small sample size. We must leave our bias at the door. Look at this table.

Red Sox relievers

PlayerERAxFIPBABIPLOB%
Ryan Brasier0.004.18.133100.0%
Tyler Thornburg8.444.29.35345.5%

Their innings are not listed but Brasier has pitched in six while Thornburg is at five and one third. Essentially, they have the same cup of tea but one has suppressed runners from scoring and the other really has not. Included in the table, however, are statistics such as BABIP and LOB% that show how lucky or unlucky a pitcher has gotten. It should become pretty obvious that Thornburg has been decidedly unlucky, whereas Brasier has gotten a fair share of luck.

Lastly, their xFIPs are very close to one another. xFIP has more predictive value than both ERA and FIP, which makes it the most telling of a pitcher’s true talent. It works just like FIP, factoring in strikeout and walks, except it neutralizes homerun rate to a league-average level. Somewhat surprisingly, they have been almost equally good in their brief stint in the majors.

Obviously, a pitcher’s job is to not give up runs and Brasier has done phenomenal and Thornburg has been piss poor at that. Still, it literally has been less than ten innings for these guys. We must not overreact to a sample that small, which is something we are all overwhelmingly guilty of. Digging beneath the surface reveals these players have performed very similar, yet one is being lauded while the other is being chastised.

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Day 6: July 22, 2018

The Red Sox lost its second of the last 15 games to the Detroit Tigers last night with a 5-0 shutout. Mike Fiers pitched for the Tigers, throwing 6 and 2/3 scoreless innings with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. In 111 innings pitched this year, the right-hander has delivered a 3.49 ERA and 4.57 FIP. His strikeout total is down this year but he has made up for it by walking less than two batters per nine innings.

Fiers is a very interesting candidate for Boston to pursue in the coming week. They probably need a starter and he would not cost much at all with a year and half on his contract remaining. The 33-year-old has been the definition of serviceable, even if his underlying numbers suggest he is due for some regression. He has been worth 1.5+ fWAR in three of his last four seasons and is on pace to do so this year (1.2 fWAR).

The Red Sox have expressed interest in acquiring his services and he would provide them exactly what they need: depth.

I’d take a flier on Mike Fiers.

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Day 5: July 21, 2018

We ran a poll last night about whether Red Sox fans would be comfortable trading prospect Michael Chavis for Zach Britton straight up. Chavis, as you know, is coming off an 80-game PED suspension which has had him fallen out of good graces with most Sox fan. While there are legitimate concerns (before and after the suspension) about Chavis, this trade makes zero sense to me.

There is no getting around the fact the Red Sox need relief help, especially with Joe Kelly‘s struggles. Britton for this price, though, is not the answer. He only has a half year of control, meaning the Sox would only be getting him for the remainder of 2018. Even so, it is not like he is having a great year. Sure, he has experienced success in the past but he is coming off a serious injury and has not been even close to the same guy.

In close to 15 innings, the Orioles southpaw has pitched to the tune of a 3.68 ERA and 4.31 FIP. He has walked a ridiculous amount of batters (5.52 BB/9), evidently not displaying the same control he once had.

Britton is one of the most-heralded sinker ball pitchers in the game, which helps him run better ERAs than FIPs. As such, he is most likely more valuable than his FIP would indicate. Regardless, in the past two years, Britton has been worth a combined 0.6 fWAR in approximately 50 innings. You do not give up a top prospect for that, especially for a half year rental.

Even with the skepticism surrounding Chavis lingering, this is not the guy you make a trade for. This is not 2016 Zach Britton.

Day 4: July 20, 2018

With no Boston Red Sox baseball last night, I had to resort to the next best thing by going to watch the Paw Sox square up against former Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech. The Paw Sox lost in one of the most embarrassing ways you can lose a game: a walk-off walk. It was a 4-3 game but, despite the loss, certain players stood out to me.

  • Brandon Phillips: he is working his way up the minor-league ladder and has reached the final step. Last night was his fourth game with the Triple-A squad, sitting at a .231 average and 87 wRC+ in 15 plate appearances. He was able to make a vintage-Phillips play, redirecting himself on a ball that ricocheted off first baseman Sam Travis‘ glove. The 37-year-old, however, looked rusty at the plate (what do you expect?) with two attempts at a check swing that ended with strikeouts. It was obvious the bat control was not there. However, seeing Phillips smiling and talking to Travis the entire night said something about the clubhouse presence he could bring the Red Sox.
  • William Cuevas: the Paw Sox starter was phenomenal, pitching seven innings of two-earned run baseball. He fanned eight along the way and walked just one. Cuevas seemed to rely heavily on his breaking stuff, as he did in his cameo with the Red Sox earlier in the year. In a little over 100 innings, he owns a 3.32 ERA on the season with 81 strikeouts and 26 walks.
  • Ty Buttrey: the top relieving prospect for the Red Sox (outside Durbin Feltman, probably), Buttrey was tacked with the loss and two earned runs. The first run scored after Eloy Jimenez hit a shot right at the Paw Sox righty in the shin. He nearly recovered it in time but Jimenez was too fast and the player reached home. Meanwhile, the second run was surrendered due to the fact he allowed a walk and had to be subsequently removed in the top of the 9th because of the previous inning’s injury. In other words, “earned” run does not sound like much in the way of justice. Anyway, his stuff was still electric, getting close to 100 and, for the most part, staying around the strike zone.
  • Tony Renda: The Paw Sox lead-off hitter went 2-5, ballooning his season OPS to an alluring 1.153 with Pawtucket. Granted, it is a pretty small sample size, as he was recently called up from Double-A. Still, the dude raked in Portland and is now doing it in Pawtucket. He is not on the 40-man roster and he is 27 years old, yet there seems to be a real change with his swing. He is hitting fly balls more and ground balls less, which is the hallmark of a guy buying into the flyball revolution. The results are there for Renda, who debuted in the majors with the Reds in 2016, even though his BABIP is inflating his numbers.

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Day 3: July 19, 2018

Right before the All-Star Game, J.D. Martinez said something along the lines of “I would not mind restructuring my contract with the Red Sox to eliminate the opt outs.” Everyone wants Martinez in a Red Sox uniform for years to come, so this was very welcomed news.

Quietly, upcoming free agent Craig Kimbrel said something similar (and Sale), expressing a desire to stay with the team for the long term. Kimbrel is a free agent after 2018. After 2019, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale and (maybe) J.D. Martinez are set to become free agents. In 2020, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. will do the same.

Boston has seemingly been unencumbered by the luxury-tax penalty. In fact, the club has publicly said they are willing to spend more, even if it means reaching the highest-penalty bracket. Obviously, most of these guys listed are integral parts of the team. It will be interesting to see if Boston will have the financial wherewithal to keep them all, though. Will they have to prioritize one or two guys over another?

While money seems to not be an impediment for this team, we are talking about multiple potential extensions close or north of $100 million. There may have to be concessions.

Kimbrel is crucial, especially without any viable late-inning alternatives, but if the Sox have to save financial room for Bogey, Sale and Betts, then that is understandable. Closers are not nearly as valuable as starting pitchers or position players and are generally more replaceable.

Ideally, I would like nothing more than the Red Sox to keep Kimbrel in Boston for years. He is showing no signs of slowing down and would probably be worth it. If they do that, though, one has to be cognizant of how this will affect the (hopeful) extensions of their other star players. Regardless, there will be many hefty checks for the Sox brass  to write in the near future.

 

Day 2: July 18, 2018

The 89th All-Star Game was won by the American League 8-6 in an extra-inning thriller. Chris Sale pitched a solid first inning, allowing no one to score and firing at 100 mph out of the gate. Betts, meanwhile, was one of five A.L. hitters to receive three plate appearance, yet he went 0-3 in the game.

Naturally, J.D. Martinez recorded the first hit of the game with a single to left center off Max Scherzer. The big standout for the Red Sox, however, was none other than Mitchy 2 Bags Moreland. He went two for three in the game, taking over for Jose Abreu in the middle of the contest.

Craig Kimbrel was kept out of the game, even though the AL entered the bottom 9th with a tight 5-3 lead. Of course, they ended up blowing it when Scooter Gennett hit a game-tying two-run dinger to force extras. When in doubt, ALWAYS go Kimbrel, even when he was only semi-available to pitch and Edwin Diaz has been considerably better in 2018.

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Day 1: July 17, 2018

Welcome! This marks the first “Daily Dose of Red Sox” in the history of the world, probably. There was a separate post written today that outlines what it is all about, so please refer to that for any information!

Anyway, the Red Sox have five players in the All-Star Game tonight: Mookie Betts, Mitch Moreland, J.D. MartinezChris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. Sale is starting, Mookie is leading off and JDM is the cleanup man. None of that should be news but it can’t be unsaid at this point.

What you may not know, though, is that All-Star Mookie Betts has actually been more patient at the plate this season. His 13.0 BB% is the highest of his MLB career and, as of now, is walking more than he has struck out this year. His Z-Swing% (percent of pitches swung at in the strike zone) is a season-high (59.2%), as well, but his O-Swing% (percent of pitches swung at outside the zone) of 18.4 percent is actually the lowest of his MLB career.

Betts’ O-Swing% this season is the second-best (lowest) in baseball, trailing only Joey Votto. That is decidedly good company. Overall, he is swinging at LESS pitches in 2018 compared to any year in the big leagues.

Not only has he been making the best contact in the league, but he has also had incredible plate discipline. Obviously, that is a lethal combination.

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