Series Thread – at Twins

My apologies for this being even more sparse than usual, Verizon is being uncooperative with their internet service at casa de Jose.

Monday 2:10 Joe Kelly vs. Ricky Nolasco
Tuesday 8:10 Clay Buchholz vs. Mike Pelfrey
Wednesday 1:10 Rick Porcello vs. Phil Hughes

Signs of Life in a Loss

On a night when the Sox dropped a 2-1 decision to the Texas Rangers there was an awful lot of good happening.

Mookie Betts found that hitting the ball hard was no guarantee (RLRS Photo).

Mookie Betts found that hitting the ball hard was no guarantee (RLRS Photo).

The obvious concern in a game like this would be the offense.  But as was discussed in the series thread the Sox were hitting some bullets that were not falling in.  Mookie Betts opened the game with a bomb to left-center that Leonys Martin and that set the stage for a frustrating night.

First were the outs.  Besides Betts there was Hanley Ramirez belting one into the wind in the second that Delino DeShields made me feel old while catching.  After a fluky foul ball on a pitch that almost hit him Xander Bogaerts smoked one to center but Martin was there ending the bases loaded threat in the sixth.  Ramirez then sizzled one right at second sacker Tommy Field to end the seventh inning threat.

The ninth was particularly annoying.  Dustin Pedroia ripped a ball that looked ticketed for green paint and a tie game but DeShields was able to reel it in and Hanley’s game ending sharp grounder could easily have been a game tying hit. Continue reading

More Randomness

Just some more random thoughts floating through my noodle;

Anyone in the Greenville area got a camera? (ESPN.com photo).

Anyone in the Greenville area got a camera? (ESPN.com photo).

Yoan Moncada made his U.S. professional debut last night going 0 for 3 with a walk, an error and two runs scored.  Chris Hatfield of SoxProspects had him clocked going down the first base line at about 4.1 seconds from the right side which he rates as a “60-65″ on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Alex Speier is not prone to overstatement.  By his standards he was gushing about Moncada’s athleticism which included a leaping catch at second base.

– Chad Finn noted that Xander Bogaerts was hitting .238 over the last calendar year.  If you want a more hopeful viewpoint since returning from his enforced break due to concussion last September he is hitting .283/.316/.416.  Not the jaw-dropping numbers that were forecasted for him but still very good for a 22 year old shortstop who looks cromulent defensively.

I do not think range is the problem for the Sox (RLRS Photo).

I do not think range is the problem for the Sox (RLRS Photo).

– Per Baseball-Reference the Sox rank 10th in Defensive Efficiency but 3rd in Fielding Percentage.  That seems like it would be a function of one of two issues; poor defensive range or a lot of hard hit balls allowed.

The Sox are 6th in line drive % allowed but watching the games I do not feel like a lack of rangy fielders is the problem.  Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts have both shown good range up the middle and I think Bogaerts has been improved.

Rusney Castillo had the night off in Pawtucket last night leading to belief/hope that he was being called up this week.  Rob Bradford tweeted that this was nothing more than Castillo being on paternity leave so felicidades to the Castillo family!

It would not be a shock to see him called up still.  The Sox are honoring their greatest Cuban player ever, Luis Tiant, on Thursday and there would be a nice symmetry to that move which frankly is one that needs to happen to help the sputtering offense.

– Lastly in honor of the end of an American television institution here is David Letterman’s Top Ten List (link fixed) after the Sox won the 2013 World Series.

The Positive Post

On Friday he owned his mistake (RLRS Photo).

On Friday he owned his mistake (RLRS Photo).

Admittedly things here have not been especially positive of late.  That’s not the blog I want to have but at the same time I am not one to pretend to be positive when I do not feel that way.

With that said the Sox picked up a nice win on Saturday night against Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners to make it 5 of their last 7.  I want to lay out a few thoughts about what we have been seeing.

Accountability – This dates back to last Saturday when Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz called a players only meeting.  It continued on Friday when manager John Farrell admitted that his decision to have Junichi Tazawa pitch to Nelson Cruz with first base open was a mistake.

Maybe it is meaningless but I am pleased that the team seems to be holding themselves accountable for their failings.  In 2011 the club generally did not seem to be accountable, in 2012 it was all too easy to blame Bobby Valentine for all that ailed them and in 2014 there was an element of “one of those things” at work.

This year’s team seems to understand that there is no room for excuses.  They will succeed or fail based on their own merits.

He is doing good things lately (RLRS Photo).

He is doing good things lately (RLRS Photo).

Xander Bogaerts – Xander has started to show very positive signs in Seattle.  If you have not been staying up late to watch he has been hitting the ball harder than we have seen all year.  Additionally he is back to being a lot more still at the plate and to my unpracticed eye looks like a guy who is comfortable.

Starting Pitchers – The Sox have faced some tough tests in recent days against Sonny Gray and Felix Hernandez and watched as Wade Miley and Rick Porcello out-dueled their superior counterparts.

The Sox now have 17 quality starts in 37 starts, a 46% success rate.  That is right on league average and if the Sox can get their bats going that is going to get it done.

Slumping Well – I noted this in the comments yesterday (incorrectly as bad fish pointed out) that the path to success is not so much in the highest peaks but in making sure the valleys do not get too low.

As I pointed out at the start of this stretch of baseball the Sox had to avoid a big valley.  Last year they went through a similar stretch with a ten game losing streak and fell 8 1/2 games out of first.  This year they have scrambled but gone 8-10 and only lost 2 1/2 games on the division lead.

Other Stuff

He still has something to give this team (RLRS Photo).

He still has something to give this team (RLRS Photo).

Blake Swihart – The numbers are not especially pretty but I like a guy having a two hit night against the King and in general his at bats look pretty good to me.

Shane Victorino – His performance Friday night was the kind of game he can have when he is right.  Maybe he is just a platoon player or a guy who can only play 3-4 times a week at this stage but he is still capable of impacting a game.

Not all is well in Red Sox land and I stand by my earlier criticisms.  But one week ago the Sox’ season was on a precipice.  They have stepped back and allowed themselves time to fix some flaws.  That is a resiliency that successful teams have.

 

Series Thread – at Mariners

Thu, 5/14 10:10p Joe Kelly (1-2) vs. Roenis Elias (0-1)
Fri, 5/15 10:10p Clay Buchholz (2-4) vs. J.A. Happ (3-1)
Sat, 5/16 9:10p Rick Porcello (3-2) vs. Felix Hernandez (6-0)
Sun, 5/17 4:10p TBD vs. James Paxton (1-2)

Note: Sunday’s game would have been Justin Masterson‘s start but it sounds like he will not make that start.  My guess is Steven Wright gets the call.  With the off day Monday the Sox can be a bit aggressive with the bullpen.

Eduardo Rodriguez started on Wednesday for Pawtucket and struggled a bit.  Starting Sunday would be short rest so that would be a somewhat surprising move.  Brian Johnson is scheduled for Thursday and Henry Owens has not pitched well so far so I would not expect someone other than Wright getting the call.

Keith Couch was Pawtucket’s Tuesday starter and he pitched well though he has not pitched well this year.

Randomness

Just some random thoughts on a few players and things going on in and around the Red Sox;

We'd all rather see him on the field but it's too soon to label him "injury-prone."

We’d all rather see him on the field but it’s too soon to label him “injury-prone.”

Rusney Castillo

It’s becoming a thing that he’s “injury prone” but I think it is much too early to make these sorts of evaluations.  The guy has been a professional for about 2 1/2 months in this country.  Yeah, he missed much of April but people are acting like he’s Pete Reiser.

The guy spent 19 months not playing professionally due to the oppressive Castro regime and his time in Cuba does not suggest a guy who was out a lot.  Travel is also likely a big adjustment.  While I’m sure conditions are much better in the US the reality is that the trips are of much greater distance and that can take a toll.  Watching him play he is a max effort player (think Bryce Harper) so I wouldn’t be that shocked if the niggling injury followed him around throughout his career. But I think it’s too early to get worked up.

He is still developing and has made strides defensively (RLRS Photo).

He is still developing and has made strides defensively (RLRS Photo).

Xander Bogaerts

Keep telling yourself “he’s only 22, he’s only 22, he’s only 22.”  It has been a weird season for Bogaerts but one that offers some hope for the future even amongst the troubles;

– he looks appreciably better defensively.

– only Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts have a lower K rate than he does among regulars.

Those are the positives.  On the downside he just does not look comfortable at the plate…ever.  It is jarring to see a guy who was so composed at the plate in his 2013 call up and even for large portions of 2014 (April-June, September) look so uncomfortable.

His line drive rate is lowest on the team and I wonder if he is so fixated on avoiding strikeouts that he has pulled back on his swing a bit.

He’s only 22, he’s only 22, he’s only 22.

He has found a bit of a groove lately (RLRS Photo).

He has found a bit of a groove lately (RLRS Photo).

Wade Miley

I take a backseat to no one when it comes to criticism of Wade Miley but his last three starts have been very good.  He was a bit fortunate on Wednesday to pitch around some self-made trouble.

I still do not like the deal but if Miley can be a steady-Eddie that would be a big boost to this team.  A reduction in the disaster starts that have plagued this rotation is absolutely necessary for this club to get right.