Hats Off to Cherington
With the Red Sox clinching the AL East, there are so many good stories – on and off the field. But want to take a minute for a shout out to GM Ben Cherington.
Talk about a man with a plan – and a plan that worked.
He built a worst to first division winner – says Cherington, “This team was a lot about the sum of the parts, the whole, instead of any individual.”
Cherington not only reshaped the team for this season – but looks like he built a foundation for the long term.
American League Wild Card
Would like to see the Indians hold on for a wild card spot.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona has done a great job turning his team around.
Plus the Indians – should they win the one game wild card crapshoot – would not only be an easier match-up for the Red Sox than the Rays or Rangers, but a much more interesting one.
And Tito’s return to Boston for the playoffs would be cool.
While we are discussing the wild card – think the Rays would be a better match-up than the Rangers for the Red Sox in the ALDS. But also feel both would be tough teams to face.
Ellsbury Likely to Return
It appears Jacoby Ellsbury is getting closer to returning to the field from his foot injury.
Ellsbury did baseball activities today and manager John Farrell said he hopes to see Ellsbury play on the coming road trip.
That should help Ellsbury get tuned up for the post-season – and give Boston a good idea on whether he will be ready to go for the playoffs.
Farm System Report
Red Sox farm teams finishing tied with the Cubs in tenth place in organizational standings among major league teams, based on their overall domestic minor league winning percentage. The Red Sox system had a .504 winning percentage – same as last year.
Boston had one farm team – Salem in the Carolina League – win a championship. The Astros finished number one overall – so maybe there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for Houston.
Henry Owens has been named the team’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year and second baseman Mookie Betts has been named Minor League Offensive Player of the Year.
As big a team effort as this season has been for the Red Sox, not sure they would be in first place without closer Koji Uehara.
Plan A (Joel Hanrahan) and Plan B (Andrew Bailey) washed out to injuries. And a quick trial of Plan C Junichi Tazawa didn’t look promising.
So Boston turned its closer role over to the 38 year old Uehara.
And Uehara has delivered – boy, has he delivered.
Start with: He hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 30. And Uehara’s post All-Star break numbers are historic: 24.1 IP, five hits, zero runs, one walk, 33 K’s, a 0.24 WHIP.
Add in: Uehara has currently retired the last 37 consecutive batters he has faced, the longest run in Red Sox history and longest for any reliever since White Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks retired 41 straight batters in 2007. According to SABR, Jenks’ streak is the longest for a reliever.
Rob Bradford writes Uehara has become the most important player in the American League.
It’s hard to argue with that perspective. And who knows, if the Red Sox have an extended post-season run maybe Uehara gets to change that to the most important player in all of baseball.
Saltalamacchia – Away from Varitek’s Shadow
Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has finally shed Jason Varitek’s shadow says manager John Farrell.
Boston coach Torey Lovullo calls Salty “a guy who’s a true backstop for a championship-caliber ball club.”
And with free agency looming this off-season, Saltalamacchia could not have picked a better year to showcase his talents.
Ken Rosenthal points out Saltalamacchia and Brian McCann of the Braves are the top catching free agents to be – with teams like the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees probably in the hunt for new backstops.
John Tomase notes Salty’s OPS ranks among the top 10 catchers in the MLB, and he’s exactly the kind of player the Red Sox would pursue on the open market if he came free from another team.
All this points to Saltalamacchia being a Boston signing priority in the off-season.
Who’s Got Most Power?
Good article by Brian McPherson, asking Red Sox players which batter has the most raw power.
Will Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli and David Ortiz were all in the conversation – with Big Papi crowned king.
Who do you think is Boston’s best power hitter?
Napoli on Return List?
Mike Napoli has voiced his desire to return to the Red Sox next year (his contract expires at the end of the season). Performance-wise Napoli has delivered for Boston this year.
At the plate, it’s not necessarily pretty (lots of strikeouts, big slumps) but the overall numbers are good (21 HRs, 87 RBIs currently).
And defensively, Napoli has been a pleasant surprise – especially given he has never been a full-time first baseman before this season.
Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information called out Napoli as the American League Gold Glover at first base based on a pure statistical evaluation. (subscription required)
Two big factors in a Napoli return:
- The hip. Napoli’s hip issues dragged out contract negotiations on his current deal. The Sox may think going beyond this season will push things outside their comfort zone injury-wise.
- Boston is among the teams scouting Cuban defector first baseman Jose Abreu. Competition for Abreu looks heavy but never count out the Red Sox in a bidding battle if they want him.
Minor League All Stars
No surprise, Xander Bogaerts was named the first team shortstop on Baseball America’s Minor League All Star Team. Other Sox prospects 2B Mookie Betts and P Henry Owens landed on the second team.
The Twins are having a dismal major league season – but have four players on the first team including player of the year Byron Buxton, so maybe things are headed upward in the near future.
Wild Card Fever
Looks like adding the extra wild card team is paying off – in creating excitement. The American League has six teams vying for the two spots right now, including three AL East teams.
And in the National League, the Nationals are inching their way into wild card contention, after disappointing all season.
That said, admit it feels good not having the Red Sox in the wild card battle. Would like to see the Sox have the best season record to get home-field advantage for the playoffs. Although don’t think it matters much to Boston, who are tied with Texas for the most road wins in baseball.
Shout Out to Vlad
Hats off to Vladimir Guerrero who officially announced his retirement.
In his prime, Guerrero was a five tool player. But my favorite thing about Vlad was the cannon-like arm he had in right-field. Should make it to the Hall of Fame.
Will be interesting see – will he land in Cooperstown wearing an Expos (or Angels) hat?
Which teams do you think will get the wild card spots in the American League?
Clay Buchholz returns to the Red Sox starting rotation on Tuesday – good news for the team as it looks to clinch the AL East and get things in order for the playoffs.
Felix Doubront will get skipped in the rotation – his last start against the Yankees sealed his fate.
What can we expect from Buchholz?
Who knows? But for the Red Sox to go deep in the playoffs, the team needs a healthy, productive Buchholz. Whether he sticks in the rotation or moves to the bullpen.
Better News on Ellsbury
The word is Jacoby Ellsbury has a foot fracture but will return sometime this season.
Believe or not, that’s good news – because Ellsbury is expected back this year.
Even with the news – the Sox should start hitting fly balls to Xander Bogaerts in the outfield – just in case Ellsbury doesn’t make it back and the team could use outfield depth (not to mention Bogaerts’ bat) for the playoffs.
Right On for Victorino
Good article by Matthew Kory on Shane Victorino’s success since making the move to hit right-handed (from switch-hitting) – although he has moved recently back to also hitting lefty.
The Red Sox would not be where they are in the standings without Victorino – great signing by GM Ben Cherington.
You gotta love the way the Red Sox have handled the White Sox, Tigers and Yankees (with one game to go in that series) over the last week.
Add in a Rays tailspin and Boston has built an eight game lead in the AL East (and 9.5 in the wild card – let’s hope the Sox don’t need to monitor that).
Not to get too far ahead with 18 games to play in the season but things were shaping up for the Red Sox to start lining the team up for the playoffs when – boom! – Jacoby Ellsbury gets a foot injury.
Ellsbury is still in the process of getting the injury checked out – but flashes of Dustin Pedroia in 2010 are on the radar.
Remember when Pedroia banged a batted ball off his foot in June 2010 and basically missed the rest of the season?
The extent of Ellsbury injury is not known – no word yet after an examination by Red Sox doctors. But Ellsbury is already making plans to go out to Colorado for a second opinion.
Jackie Bradley Jr. played center field today for Boston.
Right now – the Ellsbury injury is watch this space for a definitive word.
The Red Sox have proven to be very resilient this season – but an Ellsbury injury for the playoffs would be a big test at a tough time.
Napoli on Fire
In his last ten games, Mike Napoli is hitting .361 (13 for 36) with 5 HRs – including a grand slam today.
The Sox hope this is just the start of an extended streak for Napoli.
Napoli and Will Middlebrooks (12 for 35, .343, 3 HRs) are delivering the right-handed hitting performance Boston looked for from this pair this season.
While it is too early to turn much attention away from this season, ESPN’s Buster Olney posted a review of which players have improved their market positions as potential free agents for the coming off-season (subscription required).
Red Sox OF Jacob Ellsbury landed in second place behind Royals P Ervin Santana on the top ten list.
While Boston C Jarrod Saltalamacchia placed number four on the list – and SS Stephen Drew came in at number nine.
Ellsbury has been healthy this season and played a lot of games (128 so far). So he’s earned a check mark in the games played column after appearing in only 74 last season.
And his batting average (.299) and stolen bases (51) are both strong.
However, his power numbers (7 HRs, 50 RBIs) play out like a top of the lineup – not middle of the lineup – guy. Looks like 2011 (32 HRs, 105 RBIs) was an outlier year.
Ellsbury will be well paid in his coming free agent deal. The question is – will a team (and it only takes one) go to Carl Crawford money (seven years, $20 million/year)?
I don’t see Boston going there.
But if Ellsbury numbers settle in around where Dustin Pedroia signed his contract extension – look for the Red Sox to be in the hunt. Even with Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings.
What About Salty?
This season, Saltalamacchia has established himself as a keeper.
Expect – like Ellsbury – that Salty will have a number of suitors out in the free agent market. Even with Braves catcher Brian McCann most likely also on the market.
But don’t forget, the Red Sox are still a baseball financial superpower who can go head-to-head with most any team – except maybe not the Yankees and Dodgers.
Also, the Red Sox don’t have a top-tier catching prospect close to the majors – so the team would need to incur a replacement cost (either in free agent money or players needed for a trade).
Salty provides the steady presence behind the plate and at bat the Red Sox need in a catcher. Look for the team to be aggressive in trying to keep him. Saltalamacchia has proven he can play in Boston – an attribute that should not be underrated.
Will Drew Stay?
It didn’t look this way early in the year but Drew has had a good season for the Red Sox.
Quality defense and a decent bat – with some timely hits.
The Red Sox way overpaid Drew ($9.5 million for this season) to get him on a one-year deal.
I can see Drew returning to Boston next season.
It would allow the team to break in Xander Bogaerts slowly – and Will Middlebrooks is no sure-thing at third. Also maybe Middlebrooks may shift over to first to replace Mike Napoli.
Again, Boston’s strength here is the team’s ability to pay more than most teams.
Look for the team to repeat last year’s free agent formula in trying to retain Drew – overpay in the dollars to get a short-term deal.
What would you do with the Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia and Drew free agencies?
Some quick thoughts on the Boston Red Sox
Buchholz Better. Read Clay Buchholz was better in his second rehab start with Pawtucket. I am treating these games like Spring Training. The numbers mean nothing. The good sign is Buchholz is reporting no pain or discomfort. Let’s see how he does against big league batters.
Sox Add McDonald. Like the trade acquisition of infielder John McDonald – a strong defender – today by the Red Sox. Boston gave up a marginal prospect, pitcher Nefi Ogando. The Sox have some unproven infielders in Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts – so McDonald provides a defensive replacement if they are lifted for a pinch-hitter. And McDonald provides a ready second base option to back-up Dustin Pedroia.
Where Owens Stands. Prospect lefty starter Henry Owens has had a terrific year. Yet the scouts are mixed on him – with the nay-sayers saying his stuff is not good enough. Put me down as bullish on Owens – with an expected arrival sometime in 2014.
September Call-ups. Starting tomorrow the Red Sox can expand their roster beyond 25 players. Expect some familiar faces to join the team right away – like C Ryan Lavarnway and INF Brock Holt. And then look to see players like OF Jackie Bradley Jr. come back to Boston once the Pawtucket season closes – after the PawSox ride through the playoffs.