The Red Sox will be playing real live baseball in just over a week. What better time to revive the blog? Thoughts on the 2014 Red Sox below. Enjoy!
A.J. Pierzynski: I don’t really like Pierzynski, but I also didn’t really mind the signing. There is no such thing as a bad 1 year deal and I’m fine with a veteran stopgap to buy time until Christian Vazquez and/or Blake Swihart are ready. But yeah, AJ has some decent pop left in his bat, but had the lowest walk rate in the league last year which is a huge red flag for me. Guessing this will be AJ’s only year here.
Davis Ross: My guess is that A.J. and Ross split catching duties 60/40 this year (if both stay healthy). I see Ross playing vs lefties and when Lester starts (given Lester’s success with Ross catching last year). Ross struggled with concussion last year but still plays solid D and puts up respectable #s vs lefties.
P.S. Ross’s double off Adam Wainwright in game 5 of the World Series to give the Sox the lead and eventually win the game one of the biggest hits from the playoff run last year that gets overlooked. Long live David Ross.
Mike Napoli: Napoli went through an absolutely horrific slump last summer, but woke up towards the end of the year and came through with some huge hits in the ALCS. Yes, he strikes out a ton, but if he pairs those Ks with a .360 OBP and .482 SLG and another 23 HRs, I don’t really care. He was also wayyy better than advertised defensively.
Mike Carp: I’m putting Carp here because if he doesn’t get traded, I’m assuming he’ll get most of this time at 1st given the Sox crowded outfield this year. Carp was phenomenal in limited time last year (.296/.362/.523) and I would think a team in need of a 1B would roll the dice on a trade for him given his solid minor league track record, success last year and only being 28. If not, he’s decent insurance in case Napoli’s hip acts up.
Dustin Pedroia: The Laser Show is all that is good and right in this crazy world of ours. He tore ligaments in his thumb early on in 2013, but instead of surgery he played through it and put up AVG and OBPs in line with this stellar career totals. The power was down, but he had torn ligaments in his thumb for fuck’s sake. Oh and he’s still just 30, is elite defensively and is locked up to a team friendly deal for the foreseeable future.
Xander Bogaerts: As anyone who knows me knows, I have such strong feelings about Xander that its borderline impossible for me to speak rationally about him. But I’ll try. Despite being extremely young for every level he’s played at, Xander has put up elite stats at each stop. At age 20 last year he shredded AA pitching (.311/.401/.502) and then didn’t struggle much at AAA either (.284/.369/.453). Again he was TWENTY. And also a SHORTSTOP. Good hitting shortstops don’t grow on trees, especially 20 year old ones. He didn’t put up great numbers in a 50 at bat cameo at the end of the regular season but more than held his own after taking over for Will Middlebrooks halfway through the ALCS. For a guy to show the poise that he showed on the biggest possible stage and such a young age is incredible. Now, Stephen Drew was better last year than anyone likes to give him credit for, so I’m not even sure that Bogaerts will put up much better numbers that Drew did last year in 2014 (not everyone can be Mike Trout and destroy everyone in their rookie year), but the shortstop position is in good hands for the Sox going forward and he’ll hold his own this year.
Will Middlebrooks: Middlebrooks is one of the biggest question marks for the Sox heading into the season. Even when he set the world on fire in his rookie year, his high K rate and low walk rate were red flags and that continued to be the case last year. His huge power still showed up last year too though and if he can at least get his OBP up to a somewhat respectable level, he’ll have value. But if it’s .271 like it was last year, he better have 40 HRs if he wants to keep his job.
Grady Sizemore/Jackie Bradley Jr: As crazy as this would have sounded prior to spring training starting, it certainly appears as though Grady will be your opening day centerfielder for the Red Sox. Personally, I’m ok with this (although I’m mildly in biased in that A. I’ve loved Sizemore for years and B. love a good comeback story). It’s dangerous to get excited about stats in spring training, but it’s more about how good he’s looked and how well he’s moving. He won’t be what he was prior to the injuries, but even 70% of that is still a good player. I still LOVE Jackie Bradley long term, but I feel like he’s still at an age where you can send him to AAA to play everyday and then call him up if/when Sizemore struggles or gets hurt.
Shane Victorino: Upon his signing with the Sox, I hated it so much that I did everything short of breaking into Fenway and literally taking a shit on the contract. Thankfully, that turned out to be wrong. He smashed his numbers from a down 2012 and even outperformed his career numbers and was one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball (which his huge in a tricky Fenway right field). I’m sure his offensive numbers will be down a bit this year, but if he can keep them around his career totals of .277/.342/.432 and combine that with elite defense, he’ll still have a ton of value.
Oh and he also did this:
One extra note on Shane. He got hurt last year and abandoned switch hitting, so he started batting right handed against righties. Before he stopped switch hitting, he hit .174/.317/.389 vs righties. Not great. Afterwards he hit .300/.386/.510. Elite numbers that majorly inflated his numbers on the whole. Whether he A. Continues to not switch hit and B. If not, if pitchers adjust to him batting right handed and those numbers drop significantly will go along way towards his numbers this year.
Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava: Combining Gomes and Nava into one, because I’m guessing they will continue to form a (very effective) platoon this year, which they did last year until Farrell decided to stop playing Nava in the playoffs. Nava tattooed righties last year (.322/.411/.484), while struggling against lefties. Gomes, meanwhile didn’t crush lefties like he’s done throughout his career, but still had a .347 OBP and .447 SLG against them. I envision that platoon happening again this year.
I didn’t like Nava not playing in the playoffs last year at all, but I also can’t argue with this:
David Ortiz: We will now take a quick break while David Ortiz informs us as to whose city this is:
Thank you, David.
Anyway, every year I think Papi is gonna get old and his numbers will tail off and then every year they don’t. He certainly didn’t show any signs of slowing down last year, so I’ll assume he’s still going to be effective this year even if the numbers begin to drop off. Long live Big Papi.
Oh hey remember this?
Jon Lester: Lester’s K and BB numbers last year were actually right in line with the numbers from his poor 2012 (7.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9), but he allowed less HRs and stranded more baserunners, so his ERA dropped almost a half a run to 3.59. He also pitched far better in the second half (2.57 ERA) than the first half (4.58). Oh and in case you forgot, he was a STUD in the playoffs, putting up a 2.11 ERA and twice outdueling Adam Wainwright in the World Series (he legitimately could have been a co-MVP with Papi). I don’t think Lester is one of those elite ace-type guys, but if you have a deep, strong rotation, he is fine as the top guy.
Clay Buchholz: So yeah, if anyone has any idea what to expect from Clay this year, please feel free to let me know. When he pitched last year, he was great (although the 1.74 ERA is a bit flukey and is fueled by a HR and strand rate he likely can’t keep up), but he got hurt at the beginning of June and didn’t pitch again till the end of September, despite the fact that no one really seemed to know what exactly was wrong with him. It was weird. He had easily his highest K rate of his career and his lowest walk rate too, so he was clearly starting to reach the high hopes everyone had for him, but his health is a question mark.
John Lackey: I guess Lackey was the only guy I was more wrong about last year than Victorino, but I don’t feel too bad about it because I don’t think anyone saw THAT coming. His 3.52 ERA was his lowest since 2006 and it didn’t even seem like a fluke. He struck out over 7 and a half per 9 and walked almost no one. That clause where they can add an option year for next year to his contract at the league minimum is now looking like a complete and utter steal. Like Clay, I think his numbers will drop a bit this year, but I still see him as viable 3rd starter.
They don’t win the World Series without him last year. He outdueled Verlander in a 1-0 game in the ALCS that was so stressful I should have watched with a barf bag next to me and then shut down the Cards in the clinching game of the World Series. Tipping his cap when he was removed from that game was one of my favorite moments of 2013.
Felix Doubront: Doubront showed up out of shape last year and it showed with a disastrous April (6.23 ERA). He got it together as the season went on and ended up being a better pitcher in 2013 than he was in 2012 before fading at the end of the year. He’s 26 now, entering his 3rd full season and showed up in shape this year and he’s a guy that I look to take a step forward this year and get closer to the 200 inning mark than the 160 he’s thrown the past 2 years.
Jake Peavy: Health is the big issue with him as he’s only cracked the 150 inning mark once in the last 5 years. His K and BB numbers have been trending the wrong way for the last 3 years, so I can see this year being a year where the ERA jumps into the high 4s. I think Peavy can still be a serviceable 5th starter this year, but if there’s a candidate to lose his starting job via injury or ineffectiveness, its him. Oh and quick reminder: he bought a fucking duck boat.
Koji Uehara: The common thought on Koji appears to be that there is no way he can repeat what he did last year and while that is true, I still think he’s going to be really, really, really good. If you ignore his historic numbers last year and look at a 2.42 ERA, 10.4 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and .83 WHIP, those are his CAREER numbers. He’s been a phenomenal pitcher for his entire career, it had just usually been in a setup role, so it went unnoticed. Injuries are a red flag with him, so they’d be wise to keep him under the 87 innings he pitched last year, but given health, he’s going to be awesome.
Junichi Tazawa: Uehara had the best K/BB in baseball last year, but amongst relievers, Tazawa was actually tied for 6th (and baaarely behind 5th). He had his struggles (weirdly mostly against the Blue Jays…I feel like he had a 10.98 ERA vs Toronto), but all in all he had a very good year setting up Koji.
He also had one of the bigger moments of the playoffs last year that gets overlooked. Game 3 ALCS (the Lackey-Verlander game), Sox up 1-0 in the 8th with runners on the corners and one out. Miggy Cabrera up:
I know Miggy was hurting, but that at bat still look balls the size of Jupiter by Junichi.
Edward Mujica: Probably wasn’t the most exciting offseason in the world when a setup guy is the biggest signing, but here we are. Mujica was actually 2nd to Koji in K/BB ratio last year (9.20). He’s not a huge K guy though, so those numbers are mainly because he walked no one. Like almost literally no one. 2% of the guys who he faced drew walks (lowest in the league). There’s always concern when a guy jumps from the NL to AL, but Mujica certainly looks to be a valuable contributor to the pen this year.
Andrew Miller: Miller was electric at times out of the pen last year and looking to be dominant lefty before a broken foot ended his season. He still has a tendency to get wild (4.9 BB/9), but he struck out a ridiculous 14 per 9 innings. Against lefties it was 15 K/9 and 3 BB/9. That’s filthy.
Craig Breslow: Breslow ended up being the go-to lefty after Miller got hurt and despite not really posting great K or BB numbers, managed to have a 1.81 ERA and a strong ALDS and ALCS before fading in the World Series. He’s likely to start the year on the DL, and when he’s back I’d guess his numbers will regress from last year and Miller replaces him as the go to lefty.
Burke Badenhop: Along with Mujica, Badenhop was another offseason bullpen acquisition by the Sox. He doesn’t strike many guys out, but he also doesn’t really walk people and forces a ton of groundballs. He’s consistently been a solid middle reliever (albeit mostly in the NL), and likely will be again. And if not, he’s extremely replaceable.
Chris Capuano: Another offseason acquisition for the pen! It was an exciting offseason, you guys. Capuano was signed as a long reliever/emergency 6th starter, so if you see him in a game, the Sox are likely either up or down by a lot of runs or one of the starters got hurt and he’s replacing them. He’s a local guy and has bounced back from 2 Tommy John surgeries to have a decent career and is a fine option in that role.
So there you have it, my triumphant return to the blog brings you my thoughts on the guys projected to be relevant members of the Sox (to start the year anyway). I’ll be back with thoughts on the MLB as a whole and Sox minor leaguers to watch out for this year.