Take 5: Red Sox Slow Start

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The Red Sox will get their first taste of some home cooking this week.  After starting on an 11 game in 11 day West Coast road trip, Boston will finally get to play in front of their home fans when Fenway’s opening day kicks off.  I’m sure that everyone in the organization is more than happy to be home again.  At best, their road trip could be considered bad.  Going 3-8 in any stretch during the season isn’t good, but starting off with that record can get fans worried.  I’m not going to tell you whether to worry or not.  Although it is too early to panic, I want to talk about some of narratives I have taken away from the season’s first three series.

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This is not a takeaway from the 2019 season, but something I have experienced firsthand.  The Red Sox never play well in Oakland.  I attended college in northern California, so I would go to every Oakland A’s game when Boston was visiting.  Not only is the Oakland Coliseum a dump of an arena, but it is also a house of horrors for the Sox.  I probably saw around ten Red Sox versus Athletics games in my time out west, and maybe saw a couple victories for my favorite team.  I wasn’t shocked things didn’t go well for the Sox out in Oakland.

Consider that a bonus take away from my own personal experience.  Here are the five storylines that has caught my attention so far in this early baseball season.

1. Back end of Boston’s bullpen has been solid

Baseball fans have all witnessed the Red Sox slow start.  But the area where fans were most concerned has been very good to begin the year.  Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have really locked down the back end of the bullpen so far.  To be honest, the duo has looked dominate this season.  I know it is early, but Barnes and Brasier are showing why the Red Sox weren’t willing to pay Craig Kimbrel the big bucks.

Neither reliever has surrendered an earned run.  And together they have converted all three save opportunities, which have been there only wins.  It is tough to close out games when your team is in such a rut.

Barnes has been the better of the two pitchers even though he only recorded one of the saves.  He has only given up one hit and hasn’t walked a single batter.  The UConn product has also struck out six batters in his four plus innings of work.  Barnes has been a weapon for Cora to use when the Red Sox have a lead.

Ryan Brasier has been more of the traditional closer so far this season.  He is 2 for 2 when given the chance to end the game.  He hasn’t been as dominant as Barnes, but Brasier has given up just three hits and one walk in his five innings of work with four strikeouts.  They seem to be the only shining light in the pit that is the Boston Red Sox pitching staff. 

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2. Key batters are getting off to a slow start

It is clear to see that the pitching has been the main culprit of this slow start.  That doesn’t take the team’s offense off of the hook.  Boston’s lineup is lacking production from some of their most talented hitters.

Red Sox Nation was hoping that Devers was going to breakout this year.  Don’t get me wrong, he still can absolutely still have a career year, but out of the gate he hasn’t shown off at the plate.  Devers is batting .225 with no home runs and no runs batted in.  Hopefully Fenway can get Devers cooking.

After signing an extension, Xander Bogaerts hasn’t been hot to start the season.  Like his teammate on the left side of the infield, Bogaerts is hitting a meh .250, but he at least has one home run and has driven in two runs.  To a lesser extent Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi haven’t produced out of the gate as they were expected to.  I have all the faith in the world that this team will hit.  We’re not even two weeks into the season so I’m not worried, but it is different from last year’s blazing start.  Oh, and Jackie Bradley Jr. has a batting average below the Mendoza line, but let’s move on shall we?

3. Spring training pitching preparation doesn’t seem to be working

Reports began to surface early on in spring training that Boston’s game plan was to bring their key starters along slowly.  Four of the five starters combined to throw less than 35 combined innings over the course of the spring.  For a frame of reference, Indian’s starter Trevor Bauer led the MLB with 28 spring innings.  They are not apples to apples because Boston played so late in the calendar year, but Bauer is pitching great and the Red Sox starters have a combined ERA of like a million. 

David Price currently has the best ERA for a Boston starter.  His earned run average is 6.00!  Not good.  No one has been good for Boston.  Chris Sale had a pretty solid showing his last time out, but there are still reasons to be concerned. 

Chris Sale’s velocity is a very popular topic in the early stages of the baseball season.  In his first two outings his velocity has sat far below his usual mark.  His velo has even dropped below 90.  Is Chris Sale hurt?  I don’t think so.  I mean Boston did just sign Sale to a massive contract extension.  I have to believe that the front office did their due diligence before handing out that type of deal. 

My hope is that the Red Sox are monitoring his effort.  Over the last couple of seasons I’ve read that organizations are realizing that max effort correlates to increased risk of arm injuries.  Boston always seems to use new information to try and better their team, so I am holding out hope that this is what they are doing with Sale.  It is so early in the season, the Red Sox haven’t even played a home game yet, and I want to be optimistic, so I can just have faith that the Sox know what they are doing.  Having said all that, I really want to see all the starting pitchers get things going.

4.  J.D. Martinez is a hitting machine

The Red Sox pitching has been garbage for the most part.  The lineup is underwhelming at this point of the season, but J.D. Martinez continues show why he is one of the best hitters in all the land.  Martinez has hit three home runs and has eight RBI.  J.D. has a hit in 10 out of 11 games of the season and already has four multi-hit games.  I feel like I’m always mentioning Martinez in my write ups so I won’t go on and on.  J.D. can flat out rake, and I am a fan. 

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5. Blake Swihart is making his case for more playing time

Boston carried three catchers basically for the entire duration of spring training.  All three players seemed to bring something to the table which made for a tough decision for Alex Cora.  The Red Sox brass decided to go with the younger, and in my opinion, more talented Blake Swihart over Sandy Leon.  After Swihart’s good showing this spring I think it just became obvious that Boston would benefit from having him on the roster.

The former top prospect may finally be tapping into the potential scouts around the game knew he possessed.  Swihart has only been given 16 at-bats, but with his limited playing time he has batted a very good .375 and already popped a home run.  I haven’t really studied his defensive skills, and it is possible some of the pitching woes could be put on the young back stop.  If that isn’t the case and the team is happy with him being behind the plate, then I think Swihart should start getting the majority of games as the team’s starting catcher. 

Okay, so it’s super early in the MLB season and I know things will change.  I think the Red Sox are very talented and will not only compete for another division title, but a World Series championship as well.  As a fan I have to admit the first 11 games has completely sucked.  Fingers crossed a little Fenway love will get the Sox going and baseball can be fun again.  It is always better to watch your team win, so I think now would be a great time for Boston to start rattling off some victories. 


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Take 5: Red Sox Slow Start
Take 5: Red Sox Slow Start
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