Category Archives: Boston Sports

B’s Beat: Four Questions Heading Into Bruins Training Camp

Bruins Training Camp

Rejoice Bruins’ fans, the hockey season is almost upon us! The B’s opened up training camp yesterday and I am faithfully here to provide you with four important questions to keep track of throughout camp.

When are the Bruins going to re-sign Torey Krug and Reilly Smith?



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Ah the big one. Before I begin I should probably get this out of the way first: The B’s are not going to trade either one of them, it isn’t going to happen. Don’t believe me? Here is a quote from General Manager Peter Chiarelli during last night’s state of the Bruins meeting with season ticket holders:

“My intention is to have these players playing for the Bruins, and they’re not going anywhere, so I can tell you that and it’s just a matter of working through these things.”

Now it is easy to say that we have heard this type of lip service, but I believe him. Krug and Smith don’t have any leverage. They can’t sign anywhere else, and holding out is honestly hurting themselves as they will lack the necessary preparation for the upcoming season. The B’s obviously want them under contract, but don’t necessarily have the cap space to do so right this second. These two are going to be in the black and gold this season and many others after that. It’s just a matter of making a trade to clear some space to sign them, which leads me to my next question…

Who are the Bruins going to trade to clear some cap space?

Before you start screaming at your computer “Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Jordan Caron, and Matt Bartkowski!”, remember that these aren’t hot trade chips that every team is clamoring for. Both Chris Kelly and Adam McQuaid are coming off of substantial injuries and are going to need to prove that they can still play to build up their trade value again. Caron is literally a throw in to any trade the B’s make, I believe he can be a serviceable bottom six forward given a fresh start somewhere, but he’s done in Boston. We know, he knows it, and potential trade partners know it.

Bartkowski is a worthy trade chip, but his value might be limited due to his pretty terrible playoff performance last season. I believe he is on the outs in Boston and the B’s are looking for the best possible options before pulling the trigger, even if it means some important young players are without new deals. The other possibility is Johnny Boychuk who could simultaneously give the team its biggest cap relief, and garner the best return. However it appears as if it is a last resort, as it seems as if the team wants to retain him for one last run. This situation will be resolved soon, so stay tuned.

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Time to Standardize the DH

The DH can completely change a lineup

The DH can completely change a lineup

Baseball has been around for a very long time. One of the great things about baseball, however, is that over time it has been receptive to change and evolution in the interest of making the game better. A good example of this change came in 1973, when the American League decided to adopt the Designated Hitter for the good of the game, something that the National League has refused to do to this day. The time has come to change that. There is a window of opportunity for that to happen, as Rob Manfred will be replacing Bud Selig as Commissioner in the offseason and can impose a new vision on the game. There needs to be one rule for both leagues, and it needs to include a DH.

Last night’s Red Sox-Pirates game in Pittsburgh clearly highlighted the need for a universal DH. Due to the host being a National League ballpark, and therefore playing without the DH, David Ortiz was left out of the starting lineup entirely. This led to Daniel Nava hitting third (Daniel Nava!!!!!!!) and the lineup predictably suffered, failing to score a run or put up really a credible threat or rally. In addition, starter Anthony Ranaudo was forced to go up and flail at three pitches every few innings as the price he had to pay to stay in the game. Unfortunately Red Sox fans should get used to such a phenomenon, because it will need to happen for the remainder of the current series in Pittsburgh.

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Xander Bogaerts Giving Red Sox Hope for 2015

Xander BogaertsComing into a season as an alleged “super prospect” does not always work well for a major league ballplayer. Xander Bogaerts would know all about it, as he has been either at or near the top of prospect lists for the past few seasons. His performance in the 2013 postseason reinforced his star prospect status, and much was expected of him in 2014. There could be a fair argument that too much was expected of a 21-year-old shortstop with only about a month and a half’s worth of major league experience, and needless to say Bogaerts has performed well below expectation in 2014. Until now. Since the beginning of September, Bogaerts has been a complete house on fire, and is (again) giving both the Red Sox and their fans reason to hope for big things in 2015.

Bogaerts has had an uneven season, to say the least. Before the completely unnecessary Stephen Drew signing in mid-May, Bogaerts was having a solid season. From the beginning of the season up until Drew’s signing on May 20, Bogaerts put together a respectable .270/.372/.378 line, with a .341 wOBA and 115 wRC+. Now this obviously does not come in a huge sample size (172 plate appearances), but a season’s worth of production at that level would at least have a player in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year Award. But as Red Sox fans are well aware, the subsequent move to third base (again unnecessary) seemed to unravel Bogaerts entirely. From that point until the end of August, he struggled to a .201/.252/.313 line, exhibiting shaky (at best) shortstop defense. But perhaps the midseason dump of Drew to the Yankees (who better) was the motivation needed for Bogaerts to find his stroke. There is something to be said for job security, and moving back to a more natural defensive position could have been the spark to Bogaerts’ recent revival.

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Can the Red Sox Fix Allen Craig?

Allen CraigAt the time of the deadline deal with St. Louis involving John Lackey, Allen Craig was a complete mystery. After posting a weighted runs created of at least 134 in each of the previous two seasons, Craig was slumping badly in 2014 to the point where the Cardinals deemed him expendable. The Red Sox had interest in him as a buy-low candidate that could potentially add some thump to the lineup. The only problem so far is that Craig has been much worse in Boston than he was in St. Louis. Much (.100/.250/.200), much (36.7 K%, .148 BABIP) worse (.278 wOBA, 74 wRC+). So what exactly is going on with Allen Craig, and can the Red Sox ever expect him to get back to being the middle of the lineup force he was with the Cardinals?



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One of the anomalies of Craig’s struggles is that his batted-ball profile has very little year over year variation. Craig’s linedrive (21.4%), groundball (46.4%), and flyball rates (32.1%) with the Red Sox are almost identical to his career rates (22.8%, 46.6 %, and 30.6% career, respectively), so there is really nothing there to be concerned with. As mentioned above, his BABIP and strikeout rate with the Red Sox are abysmal, and this could be playing a role in the off year. During his productive years with the Cardinals, Craig posted unusually high BABIPs (.334, .368), so some regression should have been expected. However, there has to be something else at play here than just a ridiculously low batting average on balls in play.

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The Kids Are Alright? A Closer Look at Red Sox Rookies Bogaerts & Bradley Jr.

It’s safe to say at this point that the Red Sox newfound philosophy of “bringing up the kids” did not go as planned.

Red Sox rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. looked to be promising contributors going into the season. Bradley earned his starting job in spring training, while Bogaerts proved himself more than deserving of manning shortstop with his 2013 post-season campaign. Each were expected to carry their weight in what, on paper, figured to be one of the better lineups in the American League.

Starting the kids seemed like the right gamble to take this year, after the magical 2013 season. We all expected that there would be some small bumps in the road with the continual development of the youngsters. What we did not expect was a bump that was just about as big as the 2014 season itself.



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With a good start to September, Bogaerts’ batting average is now up to .237 to go along with 37 RBIs. Perhaps the worst part has been the dismal .147 batting average with runners in scoring position, and an even uglier .115 batting average with RISP and two outs – a totally different player from last years postseason campaign to say the least. Bradley Jr., while playing an elite center field, owns a .213 batting average of his own, and at times has really struggled to produce at the dish before his demotion in August.

It’s hard to tell whether the blame is put more on the Red Sox organization or the players. Take Bradley Jr. for example. With the recent rumor that Bradley Jr. was deemed “uncoachable” by not being open to the idea of working with the hitting staff to change his swing, it’s unclear the truth behind the matter and who is at fault here. Maybe Bradley Jr. displayed some stubbornness, or maybe the hitting staff unnecessarily toyed around with his swing one too many times, which Bradley Jr. reportedly said a week before his demotion in August.

Similar situation with Bogaerts, and his early season struggles at shortstop. The Sox told the 21 year old to shift over to third base in favor of Stephen Drew. The move was not exactly a vote of confidence for the Rookie, as he hit .135 while playing third base upon Drew’s arrival at the beginning of June. Maybe the move was premature, or maybe he really didn’t have the mental toughness that was called into question.

 

red sox rookies

My opinion is that it is fair to give much of the blame to the Red Sox front office- not so much for what went on during the season, but for the situation. And by that, I mean they were hurried up to the big leagues. They just weren’t ready yet, and it showed. Their weaknesses were exposed. The pressure got to them. They were immature, unprepared and underdeveloped. So much so, that their lack of experience played into how they handled each’s respective struggles. What’s most frustrating is that these guys have the potential to be great players, and we certainly have seen flashes of this season.

We can only hope that if the Red Sox continue to go the route of integrating the kids as part of this organization’s future, they’ll know when they’ll be ready to call them up and for how long. You can’t risk this again with the likes of Marrero, Cecchini, Owens or Barnes, who was called up on Monday. A team with the fourth highest salary can certainly buy both big league caliber player and the time to develop its farm system.

 

B’s Beat: Bruins Sign Matt Fraser To 1 Year Deal, Invite Ville Leino To Camp

matt fraser

The Boston Bruins announced yesterday the signing of prospect Matt Fraser to a 1 year 2-way deal. The financials of the deal were not disclosed. Fraser was one of the many pieces the Bruins acquired in the Seguin trade, and is expected to make the team this season as a bottom six forward.

Fraser saw limited time with the team last season, but made a big impression with the team in the postseason by scoring an overtime goal in his first career playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens. He showed terrific chemistry with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson in just a short time, and one has to believe that he will find himself on that line in the upcoming season.



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Fraser was one of just a few important free agents the B’s needed to get under contract in time for the start of the team’s training camp. Not to beat a dead horse here, but we are still awaiting the contracts of Torey Krug and Reilly Smith to be announced.

With camp on the horizon, you can expect to see a fury of activity around the hub, as the team hopes to get all of it’s players under contract, so they can have a full camp.

While there is no official deadline for the Bruins to get a deal done with the two crucial restricted free agents, it would still be wise to get them done. Hopefully this small signing of Matt Fraser will get the ball rolling on the others. Keep in mind though, that the B’s have to make a few cap-cutting moves for it all to work.

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