Red Sox Spring Break

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The Red Sox have gotten off to a slow start to the 2019 season.  Are they just taking an extended Spring Break before they get down to business?  In my latest Red Sox Column to be Named Later, I run down their Grapefruit League performance so far, catch up with the catcher situation, and go green with the Sox' St. Patrick’s Day uniforms.

Photo courtesy of nesn.com


Hope Springs Eternal

In 2018 the Red Sox set the tone under new Manager Alex Cora right from the start of spring Training, posting a league best 22-9 record in Grapefruit League play, which set the tone for their 18-2 start to the regular season.  From there they coasted to a record 108 wins and a World Series Championship.  A winning attitude was fostered early on and it remained with them throughout the season.

By contrast, the Red Sox 2019 spring performance has been lackluster to say the least.  After splitting a pair of split squad games on St. Patrick’s Day (3-2 win over the Rays and an 8-1 loss to the Pirates), the Red Sox are currently at the bottom of the GL standings with an 8-14-1 record.  Incidentally, the Yankees lead all of baseball with a 13-6 mark.

Spring Training records can often be deceiving, especially early on when regulars play only a few innings and games are decided by players with uniform numbers normally associated with offensive linemen than infielders or outfielders.  The Red Sox have also been easing their regulars into the season in an effort to keep them fresh after an extra month of postseason baseball last season.  The top four starting pitchers have each made only one start in a regular game this spring.


What is more troubling is the performance of the regular players when they have gotten playing time.  As you can see from the stats below, going into play Sunday only Rafael Devers has gotten off to a hot start in 2019.  The remaining projected starters are all below .300, with five at or below .200.  J.D. Martinez, a traditionally slow spring starter, is batting a lowly .100.


PLAYER
GP
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
K
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
R. Devers
12
32
5
14
2
1
1
4
0
6
0.438
0.438
0.656
1.094
A. Nunez
10
21
2
7
3
0
0
1
3
2
0.333
0.417
0.476
0.893
B. Swihart
10
23
3
7
3
0
0
5
1
6
0.304
0.333
0.435
0.768
M. Betts
11
27
3
8
2
0
1
1
2
4
0.296
0.345
0.481
0.826
D. Pedroia
4
7
1
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0.286
0.286
0.286
0.571
J. Bradley Jr.
11
25
5
7
2
0
2
4
1
10
0.280
0.333
0.600
0.933
X. Bogaerts
12
25
3
7
3
0
1
3
2
5
0.280
0.333
0.520
0.853
B. Holt
10
20
3
5
1
0
1
5
3
5
0.250
0.348
0.450
0.798
A. Benintendi
10
29
2
6
1
0
0
1
0
8
0.207
0.207
0.241
0.448
M. Moreland
7
15
1
3
2
0
0
1
0
4
0.200
0.250
0.333
0.583
S. Pearce
6
16
2
3
1
0
2
4
0
3
0.188
0.188
0.625
0.813
S. Leon
12
23
4
4
0
0
1
3
5
5
0.174
0.321
0.304
0.626
C. Vazquez
10
26
1
4
1
0
0
0
0
6
0.154
0.154
0.192
0.346
J.D. Martinez
9
20
1
2
0
0
0
1
2
4
0.100
0.174
0.100
0.274


Again, numbers don’t always tell the full story, but in watching these games it is clear that many of the hitters are simply putting in their time.  Many seem content to get their hacks early in the count and head back to the dugout.  They’re playing with no real sense of urgency, which is a different attitude from 2018.

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Like the everyday players, the pitching staff has also been less than impressive so far this spring.  Eduardo Rodriguez has the most appearances of the projected starting rotation, and he has shown some flashes of being a dominant pitcher.  But has also had his usual lapses which has led to him being called out by Cora.  It’s interesting that Cora is calling one player on the carpet while he is coddling the remainder of his starting pitchers.  That has to be a sign of overall frustration that has carried over from last season when Rodriguez was used sparingly in the playoffs while the rest of the starters where pulling double duty out of the bullpen.

STARTERS
GP
GS
W
L
IP
H
ER
ERA
HR
BB
BB/9
K
K/9
WHIP
C. Sale
1
1
1
0
4
2
0
0.00
0
0
0.00
7
15.8
0.50
N. Eovaldi
1
1
0
0
3
1
1
3.00
1
1
3.00
1
3.0
0.67
E. Rodriguez
4
4
1
1
13
12
6
4.15
1
4
2.77
16
11.1
1.23
R. Porcello
1
1
0
1
3
4
2
6.00
2
0
0.00
1
3.0
1.33
D. Price
1
1
0
1
3
2
2
6.00
1
2
6.00
4
12.0
1.33

And not to be outdone, the bullpen, which is unquestionably the biggest and maybe only concern for the 2019 Red Sox, has followed the trend of the rest of the team.  No pitcher with more than three appearances has an ERA under 6.00.  This is when facing a fair percentage of players that are headed for AA and AAA to start the season. 


RELIEVERS

GP
GS
W
L
IP
H
ER
ERA
HR
BB
BB/9
K
K/9
WHIP
H. Hembree
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0.00
0
0
0.00
3
27.00
0.00
C. Brewer
6
1
0
2
6
6
4
6.00
0
5
7.50
7
10.50
1.83
B. Workman
6
0
0
0
6
8
4
6.00
2
1
1.50
12
18.00
1.50
B. Poyner
6
0
0
1
7.2
9
7
8.22
2
3
3.75
5
5.90
1.57
M. Barnes
3
0
0
0
3
6
3
9.00
0
2
6.00
5
15.00
2.67
R. Brasier
1
0
0
0
1
2
1
9.00
0
0
0.00
1
9.00
2.00
H. Velazquez
4
3
0
1
8.1
17
9
9.72
3
1
1.11
8
8.60
2.16
T. Thornburg
5
0
0
0
5
10
7
12.60
2
3
5.40
4
7.20
2.60
B. Johnson
3
2
0
2
5
11
8
14.40
1
0
0.00
4
7.20
2.20

And of the potential closers (Matt Barnes, Ryan Brazier, and Tyler Thornburg) no one has an ERA under 9.00.  Barnes, the favorite coming into the spring to take the job, is also sporting a 6.00 BB/9, which is the last thing you want to see from a closer.


CLOSERS
GP
GS
W
L
IP
H
ER
ERA
HR
BB
BB/9
K
K/9
WHIP
M. Barnes
3
0
0
0
3
6
3
9.00
0
2
6.00
5
15.00
2.67
R. Brasier
1
0
0
0
1
2
1
9.00
0
0
0.00
1
9.00
2.00
T. Thornburg
5
0
0
0
5
10
7
12.60
2
3
5.40
4
7.20
2.60

The good news is the Red Sox have plenty of time to turn this around.  There are ten days before the start of the regular season next Thursday in Seattle.  Over the next week Spring Training Games will take on more of a flavor of regular season games with regular players going deeper into games.  Keep an eye on the performance of the regulars over the next week plus to see if they can flip the switch for when the bright lights come on.

Catching Up

Earlier this spring I took a look at the Red Sox catchers and speculated at who would be the odd man out of the three into two situation.  (If you missed it, click here and then come back).  So far this spring, neither Christian Vazquez nor Sandy Leon have shown any signs of getting things going at the plate.  If the Red Sox are going to be able to get anything of value in return for a catcher, it most likely will be Blake Swihart.  Swihart added two more hits in Sunday’s game against the Rays, with several major league scouts in attendance.  While I still think he is worth hanging on to, none of the other two have shown enough offensively to garner any interest.


PLAYER

GP
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
K
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
B. Swihart
10
23
3
7
3
0
0
5
1
6
0.304
0.333
0.435
0.768
S. Leon
12
23
4
4
0
0
1
3
5
5
0.174
0.321
0.304
0.626
C. Vazquez
10
26
1
4
1
0
0
0
0
6
0.154
0.154
0.192
0.346




Green Day

If you read my Cleaning Out the Junk Drawer of Sports Mind article, you know I’m not a fan of alternate uniforms.  But for some reason, the Red Sox wearing green jerseys and hats on St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I actually like it.  It might be because they have been doing this for decades, so it isn’t just a marketing ploy.  It also makes sense, given the strong presence of people of Irish descent in the Boston area.  It also helps that they do it in only Spring Training, though they did wear the green jerseys once in the regular season after the Celtics won the Championship in 2008.  As long as they don’t find other excuses to wear them during the season, I’m cool with it being done once per year.



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