Congratulations to NESN host and former Red Sox sideline reporter Jenny Dell on her engagement to current Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The pair’s relationship became public knowledge early in the year and they have been capturing Red Sox Nation’s collective attention ever since. While she no longer works on the field during live Red Sox broadcasts, Dell remains a fan favorite throughout Red Sox Nation due to her light-hearted, fun, and open personality. Middlebrooks has been through a roller coaster season, with injury after injury completely derailing his chance for a breakout year. He is currently rehabbing in Pawtucket with the hope of a quick recovery and a successful return to Fenway Park. Red Sox Nation wishes them nothing but health and happiness in the years to come.
P.S. – Apparently Dell’s engagement ring was made by a Yankee fan. Oh the humanity.
Nothing has gone right for Sizemore this season
One of the most discussed problems with the Red Sox this season has been their outfield, and we have examined that very topic here on BST&N. It has become clear that one of the key culprits for the outfield’s offensive struggles (Grady Sizemore) is on his last legs in Boston, and that his roster spot is in serious jeopardy once the team returns to full health. Shane Victorino is on the road to recovery, Daniel Nava is back with the big club, and there are reports that Will Middlebrooks might be thrown into the outfield mix upon his return from the Disabled List. All of these things come together to highlight one obvious point: Sizemore’s days with the Red Sox are numbered.
The Red Sox entered the offseason hoping to augment their championship roster with a few low-risk, high-reward type of players who could be cheaply acquired but could also provide a boost to the team if circumstances were good and everything broke right. Grady Sizemore was one of those players, as the Red Sox were confident that they could come up with a plan to keep Sizemore healthy and productive over the course of a full major league season. Unfortunately only one of those things has happened to date. The team has done a great job of keeping Sizemore healthy in 2014, as he had appeared in 51 of the team’s 68 games (75%) heading into today’s action. Also consider that some of those missed games are due to Sizemore’s overall ineffectiveness, rather than physical inability.
Red Sox fans got another aggravating season of Stephen Drew
Earlier this week the Red Sox revisited the magic of the 2013 season and brought Stephen Drew into the fold (again). Despite all of the positive reviews and public support, there is really not much sense to be had once one takes a closer look at the situation and the numbers. While its true that at this point that the Red Sox can use upgrades wherever they can find them, Drew is not the kind of player who is worth the aggravation, the salary commitment, or the collateral damage his signing will cause.
Starting with the salary commitment on the Red Sox’ part. The team is fortunate in the sense that they can prorate his salary for the season and avoid paying what amounts to the value of the qualifying offer from last season. However, the amount still comes out to a not-insignificant $10.1 million. This is not as big a deal for the Red Sox as it would be to other teams given their vast payroll capabilities, but it is still a figure that could be more efficiently used elsewhere on the roster. That ten million would have been more than enough to sign Nelson Cruz to shore up the outfield and provide the lineup with some much-needed power. Instead, the Red Sox are getting another shortstop to displace the future of the franchise, all for the sake of making a move.
2014 has not been kind to Middlebrooks at the plate
It is widely agreed upon between fans and analysts alike that for the Red Sox to start producing runs on a consistent basis, the entire lineup is going to have to gel into a complete unit. This has not come close to happening to this point in 2014, and much of the offensive struggles can be attributed to the young guns at the bottom of the lineup. In particular, Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., and even Xander Bogaerts -to some extent- are not living up to expectations, and have vastly underperformed the reasonable standards the team has for them. That trio alone went a combined 0-for-7 in last night’s loss to the Tigers, and at times has looked completely lost at the plate.
Ever since that fateful day back in 2012, Will Middlebrooks has been a complete enigma to the Red Sox. From DL trips to demotions to go-ahead hits, every day Middlebrooks seems to be a different player. Recently however, he has been almost an automatic out at the plate, despite a strong start to the season and an improved approach at the plate that had many feeling optimistic about a bounce-back year. Middlebrooks’s numbers are down across the board, whether its his .197/.305/.324 triple-slash (.248/.296/.448 career), his 28% strikeout rate (25.7% career), or his .127 Isolated Power (.200 career). The most concerning aspect of this whole mess though is the power numbers (or lack thereof).
Middlebrooks was supposed to be one of the few bats in the Red Sox’ lineup with legitimate power, who could produce runs even if the hits were not coming in bunches. The hits have not come for Middlebrooks so far, but unfortunately neither has the power, which at this point the Red Sox lineup is sorely lacking. There is hope for Will in the sense that his Batting Average on Balls In Play currently resides at just .261, so progression to the mean and some better luck should bring about overall improvement. Despite the spike in his On-Base Percentage, Middlebrooks has been a far worse hitter than even his career averages, and it is seriously eating at the Red Sox’ lineup depth.
The Red Sox had Thursday night off and let the Bruins and Patriots take the headlines. The Bruins had a thrilling overtime 1-0 victory over the Canadiens and knotted up the series at 2 games apiece with Game 5 in Boston Saturday night. The Patriots actually kept their draft pick and spent it on Dominique Easley a defensive end out of Florida. The Sox start a six game road trip in Texas tonight with Clay Buchholz on the mound opposite Yu Darvish.
Will Middlebrooks got a bases loaded single to give the Sox the lead on Wednesday.
With the Red Sox finally reaching .500 on Wednesday after a two game sweep of the Reds, the focus over this six game road trip in Texas and Minnesota should be to stay over .500. The Sox were 0-8 in games attempting to reach .500 until Wednesday night where Will Middlebrooks got a big bases loaded hit in the bottom of the eighth to give the Sox the lead. Koji Uehara slammed the door in the ninth for the save.
Jon Lester will take the mound on Saturday after his best outing of the year last Saturday against the A’s. He struck out a career high 15 while giving up only 1 hit, in his third win of the season. Now fans have to wonder if this will be Lester’s last in a Sox uniform as there have been no rumblings of even talks between the two sides, this being his last year under contract. Last month we heard a laughable offer for Lester which some media members called an insult. There is no question Lester is the ace of this staff and has been for quite some time. 2012 is behind him and Josh Beckett is not on this team to influence him.
Jon Lester would command a large sum on the open market.
On the open market Lester could command a ton of money. The Yankees brought in Tanaka who never threw a pitch in the big leagues for seven years $155 million. Tanaka however is only 25 while Lester will be 31 at the start of next season. A seven year contract for Lester would be something not many would support. But what about a 4 year deal with options? The Rays seem to have put options at the end of every contract extension they sign with their players. David Ortiz just signed an extension with the Sox that could keep him in a Sox uniform through 2017 if he performs well enough. Cole Hamels of the Phillies, also a lefty and a year young than Lester, signed a six year $144 million deal with the Phillies two years ago, and likely Lester will use that as a benchmark.
The Sox have pitching coming up that is something to brag about, but they are still just prospects, not everyone will turn into a top of the rotation starter. The easiest way to have a top of the rotation starter for years to come is to lock of Lester long term. This guy wins in October, and if it wasn’t for David Ortiz would have been the World Series MVP. He has pitched over 200 innings in five out of the last six years and was at 191 the only year he did not reach 200 innings. The Sox need Jon Lester on this team for years to come.
Middlebrooks has been a force at the bottom of the lineup
One of the most significant contributors to Will Middlebrooks’ lost 2013 season was his plate approach. The Red Sox pride themselves on being disciplined hitters who take pitches and put up a professional at bat, even when they are not getting results at the plate. Part of the reason Will was sent to AAA Pawtucket was his reluctance to take a few pitches and see the ball well. His minor league stint seemed to help for the rest of the season, and the improved approach has carried over with very promising results so far in the 2014 season. If Middlebrooks can continue his solid approach at the plate through the majority of the regular season, he significantly lengthen the Red Sox’ lineup and make them a terror to face for opposing pitchers.
Power hitters like Middlebrooks tend to swing a lot (and miss a lot), which tends to lead to high strikeout rates. This was a problem last season because Middlebrooks kept hacking and hacking and hacking while barely slowing down to take a few pitches. His strikeout rate in 2013 (26.2%) was just about in line with his career rate (25.4%), and even this season his strikeout rate (25%) is just about unchanged. Middlebrooks is the type of hitter who will swing and miss a good deal, but the Red Sox will usually be happy taking the whiffs as long as the power production remains (.210 career ISO, .250 so far this season). The Red Sox lineup is deep and disciplined, but it is a bit short on legitimate power, which is a strength of Middlebrooks’s game and a valuable asset to the Red Sox lineup.