Category Archives: Boston Sports

Red Sox Offseason Outlook: Catching

red sox catching

Vazquez is a rock behind the plate

The Red Sox find themselves in an enviable position this offseason; for the first time in several years they can honestly say that their catching situation is already taken care of. Christian Vazquez is the clear starter and workhorse behind the plate, and he also leads very respectable organizational depth at the position. Aside from the decision of whether or not to bring back David Ross to backup Vazquez, there is very little consideration the Red Sox need to give their catching corp this offseason.



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There is really no argument to be made against Vazquez getting the vast majority of the playing time behind the dish in 2015. Even though he only managed a .277 wOBA and a 71 wRC+ in 55 major league games in 2014, Vazquez showed why he was considered an elite prospect for so many years: he can seriously flash the leather. In that relatively limited sample size, he allowed only 8 passed balls and caught 52% of runners attempting to steal off of him. Add in his penchant for throwing to bases in an attempt to pick off runners, and he was worth 7.8 wins above the average major league catcher from his defense alone. Vazquez reminds the Red Sox and their fans of the days when Jason Varitek controlled the game from behind the plate, which is a welcome comparison for all.

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Red Sox Offseason Outlook: Bullpen

Will Badenhop return to lockdown the middle innings?

Will Badenhop return to lockdown the middle innings?

The Red Sox bullpen was somewhat mysterious in 2014, not a major strength but not a catastrophic weakness. There were pitchers that excelled (Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop), and pitchers who could have been better (Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, and to some extent Koji Uehara). The sum of these conflicting performances led to a roughly average bullpen for the Red Sox (12th in baseball with a 3.33 ERA), and leaves room for improvement heading into the offseason. GM Ben Cherington has several decisions to make on in-house free agents like Badenhop and Uehara, and could potentially look to bring Miller back into the fold after his brief stint in Baltimore. As with the starting rotation, options abound for the Red Sox to address their bullpen over the coming offseason.

The first item on Cherington’s list should be to decide who will be closing games come Opening Day. Uehara will be a free agent, and there is legitimate reason to wonder if he should be brought back in 2015. Koji showed that he cannot physically handle a heavy workload at this stage of his career, so it would probably be unwise to place high expectations on Uehara going forward. That being said, he could potentially be a valuable setup piece if handled correctly, and could provide quality innings in the middle of games. Badenhop excelled in this role in 2014, becoming a dependable weapon for John Farrell to use in a crucial point of the game. As stated above, Badenhop will be a free agent, and the Red Sox might end up being more comfortable letting some other team overpay for him, rather than lock themselves into a long-term commitment for a middle reliever. Each free agent could be an excellent middle relief candidate for the Red Sox in 2015.

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Red Sox Offseason Outlook: Rotation

red sox rotation

Kelly could be a sleeper breakout candidate in 2015

The starting rotation was a source of major turnover for the Red Sox in 2014. By the first day of August the team had already lost 80% of its opening day rotation, and the future was well on the way. In fact, the team turned to a six-man rotation in September, in order to get a more accurate looks at the abundance of pitching prospects from Pawtucket. Those same prospects should be in the mix for rotation jobs in spring training, but the starting rotation is an area that the Red Sox plan to aggressively upgrade over the course of the offseason through both the free agent and trade markets.



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Internally, the Red Sox have several candidates who seem to be locked into rotation spots for 2015. Clay Buchholz is under contract and the Red Sox have shown absolutely no willingness to move him to the bullpen, plus Buchholz flashed plus stuff as recently as 2013. These factors, along with the fact that his recent performance makes him very difficult to trade, make it a near certainty that Buchholz will open the 2015 season in the rotation. Joe Kelly also represents a likely incumbent rotation candidate. While his numbers in Boston were not spectacular (6.02 K/9, 4.70 BB/9, 4.11 ERA, 4.41 xFIP in 10 starts), they were still solid for a mid-rotation pitcher. Kelly displayed plus stuff at times, and after adjusting to the American League over the final two months of the season, his rotation spot should be virtually guaranteed as well.

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Perfect Patriots Pounce On Bengals!

 

The Cincinnati Bengals walked in to Gillette Stadium licking their chops at the possibility of defeating the New England Patriots in their own back yard but walked out on Foxborough with the same deflated feeling that the Pats had experienced themselves last week. Defeat to the Chiefs 41-14 had raised many questions over the brightness of the future for the legendary duo of Brady and Belichick but the two executed the game plan brilliantly as they rallied to an early 14-0 first quarter lead against the Bengals.

Brady was back to his magical best completing 23 of 35 passing attempts for 2 touchdowns to Tim Wright who had a breakout night and Rob Gronkowski who looks to be back to his best which is fantastic news for the Patriots. I called for Timothy Wright’s breakout game to be last week but it came last night and whilst many have questioned the Logan Mankins trade which exposed New England’s offensive line problems after his performance last night everyone will be praising the genius of Belichick as Wright, the man who moved the other way as part of that trade with Tampa Bay, had an Aaron Hernandez type performance and had 5 receptions for 85 yards and one score.

This helped Rob Gronkowski get free and avoid double coverage throughout the game with the big man catching 6 passes from Brady including the catch which saw Brady eclipse 50,000 passing yards during his NFL career becoming only the 6th quarterback to do so; Gronk finished the night with 100 yards, one score and averaged 16.7 yards per catch. The fantastic performances by the two tight ends along with an inspired performance by the offensive line which helped Brady get his flow back in the passing game as well as also helping the team establish the running game, something New England fans have been crying out for.

The 6th QB to reach the landmark for passing yards

 

Josh McDaniels made the right play calls and used the one-two punch of Ridley and Vereen to devastating effect with the two combining on the ground for 203 rushing yards; Ridley had over 100 and got one touchdown. The effectiveness in the run game really did give the Patriots the balance they needed to win the game and is something they have been renowned for having over the years. The passing game had 8 different receivers haul in a catch from Brady with the efficient display on offense seeing them post 36 points with Stephen Gotskowski kicking all 5 of his field goals successfully.

The other touchdown was a fumble return by Kyle Arrington who had a brilliant night on the defense. The defense did what I and many people expected after last weeks humiliation if not better by bouncing back in style with Darrelle Revis having his best game in a Patriot uniform to date limiting AJ Green in the passing game. Coach Belichick gave him the freedom to match up with the receiver one on one with Revis winning the battle throughout the game; Revis also had a forced fumble on a night which saw the Patriots force 3 turnovers with Jamie Collins causing the other. The Patriots also managed to get a pass rush going which unsettled Andy Dalton at times who despite actually having a good night personally, 15/24 for two touchdowns, suffered as the rest of the team around him depleted.

The 43-17 victory is just the bounce back performance that the New England Patriots needed to silence the doubters and get their season back up and running. They now sit joint first in the AFC East with a 3-2 record ahead of two divisional games coming up against the Bills next Sunday and the New York Jets the following week on Thursday Night Football. Before the Chiefs game I sang the Patriots praises regarding their ability of performing under the lights of prime time television and while last week didn’t go too well for them they sure as hell did last night! Brady now owns a 13-8 record on Sunday Night Fooball and the Patriots are an NFL best 38-9 in the month of October since 2003 including a home record of 23-1 in that time which is very impressive.

Brady was all fired up after guiding New England to victory

Brady himself knows there’s a long way to go on the season but to beat a team that many had down as the most complete in the conference has to boost morale; this victory was New England’s 32nd straight regular season victory at home against AFC opposition. That record will definitely be put to the test in week 9 when they host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos which comes after the two divisional matchups mentioned earlier on and just after a home encounter against the Chicago Bears. That means that 3 of the Patriots next 4 games are at Gillette Stadium which could give this team even more confidence before they head in to their bye week come week 10.

So Brady and co are back with a vengeance with the quarterback’s career record after a loss now standing at 35 wins with just 8 losses (won last 9). As well as this since 2009 in 33 games Brady is 29-4 throwing 65 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions with a QB rating of 112. Anyone who questioned the Patriots will now surely feel foolish and the team will now have their road trip to Buffalo in sight as they look to take control of the division which this win many analysts and experts will expect them to do. This may have been just one game but it showed the heart as well as the spirit that this New England team has and that is something you cannot teach and will definitely come in hand throughout the long regular season and more importantly come playoff time.

The End Of An Era? Bengals vs Patriots

Following last Monday’s humiliation at Arrowhead Stadium the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in particular have come under a lot of criticism. Last week was one of Tom Brady’s worst ever performance in the NFL with the future hall of fame quarterback finishing the game sitting on the sidelines looking deflated and just pure angry.

But you see this is when Tom Brady always brings out his best, right in the face of adversity. We all know this fairytale story; drafted as the 199th pick in round 6 back in the 2000 draft to then go on and move up the depth chart from 4th string quarterback all the way to beating out the well established Drew Bledsoe and then go on to new unthinkable heights as Brady made a massive contribution to the Patriots dynasty that won 3 Super Bowl titles in 4 years (2001 season, 2003 and 2004)

Since then he has only furthered his legacy making two more Super Bowl’s, winning MVP awards in 2007 and 2010, most playoff wins as a quarterback with 18 playoff wins among many other records so yes the list is endless. Now I or any other NFL fanatic could sit here all day praising Tom Brady’s abilities but after last Monday’s blowout defeat to the Chiefs the question is that is there any more magic left from Tom Terrific?

Tom Terrific has it all to prove again starting with tonight

Well I say yes there is but there are definitely more concerns around this Patriot’s offense now then there have been over the past decade. 2nd year wide-out Kenbrell Thompkins was released yesterday which leaves the receiving core with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Brandon LaFell along with special teams specialist Matthew Slater and undrafted free agent Brian Tyms who remains inactive.

Edelman is a fantastic receiver but when your best receiver is a former high school quarterback that says it all. Amendola was supposed to be the second coming of Amendola but the realistic scenario happened with him being a flop. Dobson has a lot of potential but injuries have haunted him over this first quarter of the season and I personally feel like LaFell is building up a good rapport with Brady albeit rather slow; he was one of if not the only positive from last week’s loss in Kansas.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski remains Brady best and most reliable weapon in this offense as he is a superstar when healthy but unfortunately he’ll take time to get back to his best. Brady is not surrounded with the weapons that Peyton Manning has right now in Denver but Colts fans from the past will say Brady had better weapons at his disposal when the two use to face of years ago. That debate is for another day but one things for sure Tom Brady is a man who is known for making average receivers look good.

Sadly for Brady you can’t do that when you have a depleted offensive line and the play-calling is terrible. Josh McDaniels was using Vereen as a 3 down back last week which was horrible as every Patriot knows his skills come off screen and trick plays. While I have criticised running back Stevan Ridley in the past there are no denying this young mans talents; he finished last season with 10 touchdowns in the regular season and 2 in the divisional round playoff win against the Colts.

The Patriots need to establish a running game to take the pressure off Brady as at the moment opposing defenses are not afraid of the passing game and a talented group like Cincinnati will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing New England tonight. Despite 9 out of 10 people ruling the Patriots out tonight I personally think they will bounce back and win tonight as the Pats defense has so much talent and will put in a much better performance than last week which will provide a platform for the rest of the team to believe again.

 

Brady may not have the weapons that everyone believes he deserves but that can’t be changed and the Patriots just need to get on with it. Once the team has a offensive line that is starting together regularly then they’ll hope that in time it will come good. Many people will be choosing the Bengals to walk in to Gillette stadium and win tonight but I remember last season when the 4-0 Patriots walked in to Paul Brown Stadium against the 2-2 Bengals with all the praise in the world being heaped on the Patriots only for them to lose 13-6 in a game which was contested in monsoon like weather.

A year later and now the tables have turned with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick saying in his press conference that “They [The Bengals] have a lot of good players. They’re well-coached. They’re tough, they’re physical, they’re explosive. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a team that’s as complete as they are.” so yes tonight will be a heavy challenge but the turnover in who is the top dogs in the NFL is what makes it so exciting to watch. That is why Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots deserve so much credit for the level of consistency they have shown for over the past 10 years. They thrive off adversity and will take it head on when it’s right in their face, some people say good things can’t last forever well I think tonight will prove otherwise and whether it’s ugly or pretty the Patriots will move on to 3-2 and leave the Bengals at 3-1 come the end of Sunday Night Football.

 

 Prediction: Bengals 24-27 Patriots

State Of The Bruins’ D Following Johnny Boychuk Trade

johnny boychuk trade

Adam McQuaid could see an increased role on the Bruins now that Johnny Boychuk has been dealt.

On Saturday afternoon, the Bruins pulled the trigger on what many thought would have come sooner than it did. They traded 30-year-old defenseman, Johnny Boychuk, to the Islanders in exchange for three draft picks. Although the shakeup on the blue line has come less than a week before the regular-season opener on Wednesday, the B’s are not in a terrible position when it comes to filling the hole left by one of their top players and biggest leaders.



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They have young defensemen with NHL skills, size and experience who could slide in and fill the void. The likes of Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski may all see increased responsibility with the Black and Gold.

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