The infield should be a major strength for the 2015 Boston Red Sox, if for no reason other than there are options aplenty. There will be the usual locks, like Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli, but there should be competition in spots for playing time that will benefit the entire lineup. There are rumblings that the Red Sox could be looking to upgrade their infield in free agency, and if that happens it will likely be a singular, high-impact event. There is lots of returning stability in the infield, but there is also room for improvement.
Pedroia is the gold standard at the keystone
The Red Sox are fortunate enough to have their middle infield locked in for 2015. Pedroia is automatic to start virtually every game, and he is the best second baseman in the game when healthy (and sometimes when he isn’t). We are also operating under the assumption that Xander Bogaerts will not be impeded from starting at shortstop (we learned our lesson last season), because he flashed his considerable potential in September (.313/.317/.490). Brock Holt will likely be the Red Sox super utility guy in 2015, but he now has experience at every single infield position, which will be immensely valuable to the Red Sox. The best move here is to allow Bogaerts the time to continue his development at short, while Pedroia sets the tone for the entire infield. There is room for improvement for Bogaerts, but playing next to the Red Sox’ best defender will help make up for the learning curve.
Predicting The 2014 Red Sox All-Stars
Unfortunately this season’s All-Star game will not be an enjoyable experience for Red Sox fans, as the team’s performance (or lack thereof) has left very few players deserving a spot on the American League squad. However, Major League rules dictate that every single team must be represented by at least one player at the Midsummer Classic, so there will at least be a lone representative for the Red Sox in Minnesota. In addition, Red Sox manager John Farrell is also the skipper of this years AL team and therefore has the final say on who makes the roster and who does not, which could lead to a few extra Red Sox being added at the last minute. The following three players are the most deserving to represent Boston at the All-Star Game.
Lester has has proven himself as one of the best starters in the AL
Lester has been a model of consistency at the top of the Red Sox rotation in 2014. He is also putting up the best numbers of his career in his walk year, setting himself up for a huge score on the free agent market in the fall. His 9-7 record is a poor reflection of Lester’s dominance this season. Lester has posted 9 K/9 and a .239 average against to go along with career-bests in BB/9 (2.14), HR/Fly Ball (6.5%), ERA (2.73), and FIP (2.75). Lester has taken his role as the staff ace and run with it, proving himself to once again be one of the premier left-handers in the game. Lester has also been very close with Farrell for quite some time, so it would be surprising to not see Lester pitching for the American League in Minnesota.
It’s Been A Long Season For The Red Sox
The time has finally come. After months of keeping up hope, defending the reigning world champs despite public ridicule, the time has finally come to blow up the whole thing and scrap the roster. While this may seem like jumping to conclusions, it is now July and the Red Sox currently sit 8.5 games back in the AL East, and a full 9 games out in the Wild Card race. Getting swept at home by the Chicago Cubs (the CUBS!!!!!) is all we need to see to know that this team needs to be broken up. This roster has not come together in the same way as it did last season, and there has been nothing to suggest that things are about to change anytime soon. Ben Cherington recently revealed that the team is currently “trying to figure out the next right move;” that right move is to start working the phones and hit the trade market with full force.
The good news, if it really is good, is that the Red Sox are in a good position to hit the trade market as one of the very few teams fully willing to sell. The extra Wild Card and the parity around baseball leaves many teams looking for upgrades, with few teams willing to provide those potential additions. This greatly favors the Red Sox, because if they act quickly they will be able to command a slightly better return than they could right before the non-waiver deadline. Fringe players who will likely provide marginal value (which the Red Sox seem to have plenty of) might be able to bring back a decent prospect in the right deal. There is a chance here to make the best of an undesirable situation by turning underperformance into potential future production.
Red Sox Should Part Ways With Jake Peavy….
Since his arrival at last season’s trade deadline, Jake Peavy has been a fan favorite for his passion, competitiveness, and for “giving the Red Sox a chance to win.” This is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve, much like Dustin Pedroia, and seriously cares about winning. However, there has been a serious problem with Peavy this season: his pitching. Peavy has become no more than a fifth starter for the Red Sox, and an argument could be made that he should not be in the starting rotation at all in Boston. The Red Sox are in a good position with Peavy because they can move him and not suffer any kind of drop-off in performance as a result of his departure.
Peavy has been saying mostly the right things this season to add to his “gamer” perception. He battled through a start in Oakland even though he didn’t feel well, and managed to be average, which is becoming the nicest thing to say about Peavy’s performance these days. While it is true that only one pitcher in the American League gets less run support than Peavy, he has set himself up for failure by being terrible this season. His strikeouts are down (6.82 K/9 this season, 8.56 career), his walks are up (3.46 BB/9 this season, 2.74 career), and he is allowing more homeruns (1.35 HR/9 this season, 0.97 career). This mostly explains why Peavy’s 2014 ERA (4.52) sits almost a full run above his career mark (3.56). In addition, FIP (4.73) and xFip (4.36) do not expect Peavy to be any better over the remainder of the season, suggesting that Peavy has been as bad as his numbers make him seem. Couple that lackluster performance with a general lack of run support, and looks like Peavy is not doing such a great job of giving the Red Sox a chance to win after all.
Holt has been the Red Sox’ unsung hero in 2014
Until recently, one of the major issues facing the Red Sox’ lineup was getting production out of the leadoff spot following Jacoby Ellsbury’s defection to the Bronx. Several players have been thrown into the mix throughout the course of the 2104 season, including Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore, and Dustin Pedroia. None of those players provided much of a spark at the top of the order, and it was becoming clear that an upgrade was necessary if the offense hoped to gain any kind of potency for the rest of the season. Enter injury replacement call-up Brock Holt. Holt has been one of the hottest hitters in the game since he was called back to Boston on April 18th, and he deserves a permanent spot on the Red Sox roster.
Holt has so far provided a spark that the top of the Red Sox lineup had been lacking before his placement there. He has only been hitting out of the leadoff spot for about a week, but Holt has put up a very respectable .305/.352/.427 triple-slash, with a couple stolen bases mixed in. The Red Sox feature several hitters that have good on-base ability and can set the table for the rest of the lineup, but so far none of them have been able to consistently do it from atop the lineup as Holt has done this season. Holt has been the prototypical leadoff type of hitter this season: one that hits for a high average, can get on base, and is athletic enough to at least put pressure on the defense from the basepaths. The Red Sox need to make every effort to keep Holt atop the lineup as much as possible.
After the Red Sox lost ten games in a row, a winning streak was in order right? Well tonight the Sox have a chance to sweep a home and home interleague series with the Atlanta Braves. Losing ten games in a row has to deflate a team and the Sunday afternoon happenings in Tampa Bay seemed to be an example. The benches cleared after Yunel Escobar stole third base up 5 runs in the 7th inning. Escobar began yelling into the Red Sox dugout, even taking off his helmet and walking towards the dugout. Jonny Gomes came in from left field and shoved Escobar, both were ejected. The Red Sox needed something to take their losing streak out on; maybe Escobar stealing third sparked the team.
Clay Buchholz might be missing an extended period of time.
Monday’s afternoon game in Atlanta, Clay Buchholz had no command of the strike zone. He walked 8 in just 3 innings of work and rumors began to swirl that he was injured during the game. Manager John Farrell even went as far to say that Buchholz lost seven pounds during the start. Yesterday afternoon Buchholz was played on the disabled list with a hyperextended knee. If Red Sox fans know Buchholz expect him to miss more than 15 days, as every June Buchholz seems to spend an extended time on the disabled list. The team might do better without him as he has a 7.02 ERA. The offense came back from a five run deficit, behind David Ortiz’s 4 RBI and went onto win the game 8-6.
Tuesday’s game was something Jon Lester did not enjoy on the mound, but ended up coming out on top. Lester was seen barking at the home plate umpire on multiple occasions yet not getting tossed or even reprimanded. Lester, who has had many problems with home plate umpires strike zones, fought through a strike zone to which he thought he was getting squeezed and the Sox prevailed yet again 6-3. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a huge two run single in the top of the 7th that put the Sox up by 3. Bradley had been really struggling at the plate as of late, so him contributing in a big spot will do wonders for his confidence.
Manny Ramirez emerged again from the Green Monster prior to last night’s game.
Before last night’s game the Sox welcomed back the 2004 World Series team for a 10 year reunion and all the familiar faces were there. Pedro, Varitek, Wakefield, Damon, even Manny Ramirez made the return to Fenway. The current day team won yet again behind great pitching from John Lackey who went 6 and 1/3 shutout innings striking out 9. Young players Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley lead the offense with 3 and 2 hits respectively. Bogaerts has really come on offensively of late and is now batting in the two hole ahead of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The Sox need those three to carry the lineup Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli are out.
Last night was the first time the Sox won three in a row all year. They were the last team to accomplish that feat. They jumped over the Rays into fourth place in the division but they still have a lot of work to do. Losing ten games in a row puts you in a real rut. They are still 6 games under .500 which seems like they just do not want to go over this year. The Blue Jays lead the division and are ten games over .500, 8 games up on the Sox. If the Sox want to really catch up quickly they will need to avenge last weekend’s sweep in Tampa and return the favor at Fenway starting tomorrow night. Three in a row is nice, but this team still has a long way to go.