Should Red Sox’ fans be worried?
The Boston Red Sox are just 15-13 since the All-Star break and a vanilla 8-8 in August. They haven’t really been playing clean baseball of late and I’ve definitely taken notice, but it’s not enough to have me worried. The Tampa Bay Rays aren’t going anywhere, and Baltimore isn’t too far behind either, so the Sox don’t have anything locked up by any stretch of the imagination. But if you take into account that this team has yet to lose four consecutive games at any point this season, everything seems just fine in Boston. I can’t lie, I am a man who has seen the collapse of all collapses, it’s not something I like to talk about, but we all know what can happen in 30 days in September, so I’m not sitting comfortably, but I’m not panicking either.
This team is different though, you can feel it. It doesn’t even seem plausible that a free-fall is anywhere in sight. Boston is so versatile with the way they win games this year that they’re never down for long. As a team, they get on base at such an efficient rate that there’s bound to be lulls of leaving runners on. We saw it for a stretch in April, and we’ve seen it again over these past few weeks, but there’s a reason the Red Sox have scored the most runs in the majors. In a piece by Jeremy Mills of ESPN Stats & Info, he mentions this crazy stat, “The Red Sox have seen more pitches than any other team this season, nearly 1,000 more than the second-most.” Time to increase that AL East lead.
Who will get bumped out of the rotation when Clay Buchholz returns?
I’ve already covered this topic in a previous article, but it’s worth discussing again. Buchholz has been rehabbing more seriously of late, and is scheduled to pitch a simulated game soon. Everything points to him returning in September, which means one of the current five starters will lose their spot.
Out of the group of Lester, Lackey, Doubront, Dempster, and Peavy, only one seems like a viable option. Ryan Dempster just hasn’t performed at the same level as the other four and there’s no getting around that. Lester hasn’t been great, but you know he’s untouchable in the Red Sox’ eyes, and with Lackey and Doubront producing at the bottom of the rotation, and Peavy being acquired at the deadline, Dempster’s name makes the most sense. Whatever happens, you can never have enough starting pitching.
Who should hit behind Ortiz?
There’s a job opening up in the Red Sox lineup. Seriously, peep the Classifieds, it says “Looking for an athlete with power, who can drive in RBI’s, and likes to hit fifth.”
Mike Napoli has been STRUGGLING for awhile now. His slash in the month of August looks like this, .156/.309/.267. John Farrell realistically couldn’t leave him in the fifth spot any longer, so who can hit there while making sure Ortiz still sees quality pitches? Recently, we’ve seen a carousel of guys in that spot, including Mike Carp (.300 avg. batting fifth), Jonny Gomes (.222 avg. batting fifth), and Daniel Nava (.275 batting fifth).
Those guys have done an admirable job, but I think the best option for the opening would be Will Middlebrooks. I know it adds a bit of pressure onto his shoulders compared to batting ninth, but the bottom of the order will be fine without Middlebrooks there. Obviously, if you want to play match-ups and put a lefty there certain games, go for it, but I’d give Will a shot in more RBI situations.
When will we see Xander Bogaerts?
There’s so much hype around the 20-year-old SS that it will be just a formality when he gets the promotion. I’m sure you already know, so I don’t have to elaborate on his expected greatness, but he’s freaky good, and one of the very best prospects in all of the minor leagues.
In Triple-A Pawtucket, he is hitting at a .284 clip in 225 at-bats, with 9 homers, and 32 RBI’s. Boston’s front office has said they want to get him some more “seasoning” down in the minors, specifically defensively at 3B. If he keeps slamming home runs into 14 MPH winds, I don’t know how much longer you can ignore that.
Can the young arms in the bullpen keep it going?
Drake Britton, Brandon Workman, and Rubby De La Rosa are all pitching meaningful innings for Boston coming down the stretch and so far, so good.
As I’m writing this, Britton just gave up a bases-clearing double, but he’s been solid for a young lefty. In 14 innings, he’s got a 3.86 ERA, a K/9 of 9.00. The problem is he isn’t as effective against lefties as he should be (.280). Makes you miss Andrew Miller a lot more. Rubby adds, possibly, the most electric arm to the pen. He hasn’t pitched enough innings to really talk about any of his numbers yet, but he can sure light up that there radar gun.
Brandon Workman has been the brightest of all three. What makes him so special is his ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes consistently. I mean, when he’s working that yacker into his outings, he becomes a tough guy to hit and his 31 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings pitched displays that. Farrell has used all three of these pitchers in pressure spots to see what their made of which should pay off in September.