Heading into the All-Star break, the Boston Red Sox stand atop the AL East with a record of 50 – 39. The hot Sox currently hold a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees in the division. After standing at .500 (21-21) on May 20th, the Sox went on a tear through June and have gone 21 – 15 since then.
THIRD BASE WOES
The entire Sox lineup has been constant all season except for the third base position. Pablo Sandoval, who is still on the 15 day DL, has only played in 32 games this season and is hitting a dismal .212 with 4 HR and only 12 RBI. Deven Marrero has been a nice defensive option and his hitting has improved. (.225 BA, 3 HR, 20 RBI) Recently, Farrell has been going to 23 year old Tzu-Wei Lin. In 14 games played this season, Lin is hitting a nice .286 with a .405 on-base percentage. He has been a nice lift in the 9-hole for the Sox these past few weeks.
With the trade deadline approaching, I think that it is very safe to say that Dave Dombrowski will be shopping for a third baseman. Even with a healthy Sandoval, that is not enough to make the Red Sox feel comfortable with just giving him his starting job back. I would not be surprised if he was dealt. However, I can’t imagine any MLB team wanting the Panda on their roster right now. Deven Marrero is a nice defensive option, but has not earned the everyday role. If a third baseman is dealt for, such as Todd Frazier of the Chicago White Sox, I think that Tzu-Wei Lin will stay around as a utility guy who can play three infield positions, with Brock Holt still out with concussion issues.
PITCHING PROBLEMS, SURPRISES, SALE
The biggest issue with the Red Sox pitching staff this year has been Rick Porcello. The former Cy Young winner is 4-11 heading into the break with a 4.75 ERA. Porcello has also allowed 19 home runs this season, his career high is 25 homers allowed. The one bonus for Porcello is that he has been eating up innings, going under 6 innings only ONCE this season. (4.1 IP vs. TB April 14th) In his last five starts Porcello is 1-3 but has only had TWO total runs of support in those three losses. Porcello tossed a complete game gem on Saturday (7/8) at Tampa Bay in a 1-0 defeat. Porcello is not going to win the Cy Young this year, but hopefully this is a sign of things to come in the second half.
There have been two nice surprises for the Sox this season on the mound. First being the season that Drew Pomeranz is having. In 17 starts, Pomeranz is 9-4 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. While Price was out with an elbow injury and Porcello struggling, Pomeranz has been able to help stabilize the rotation and give the Sox some quality starts. Since his first start June 6th, Pomeranz is 4-1 in 7 starts with a 2.77 ERA. He also has not allowed a Home Run since June 16th. With Sale dominating and Price starting to come into his own, a solid second half by Pomeranz will surely help Boston win the AL East.
The bullpen has been a very nice surprise this season while the Red Sox have had some starting pitching struggles. Joe Kelly has been lights out this season. He hasn’t allowed a run since May 1st (23 appearances) and has a 3-0 record with a 1.04 ERA in 34.2 innings pitched. He has established himself as a clear set up man for the bullpen. Matt Barnes has also pitched well in the first half with a 5-2 record in 40 appearances and a .197 opponents batting average. The biggest bright spot has been the closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is 23 for 25 in save opportunities this season and has a killer .110 opponent batting average. The work of these three has really stabilized the bullpen and has kept the Sox in a lot of close games this season.
What more can I say? Chris Sale is just a strikeout machine. He has already recorded an MLB-best 178 strikeouts this season. Sale has done what has been expected of him with an 11-4 record and a 2.75 ERA. He also has an eye popping WHIP of 0.90. Sale has clearly put himself in the number 1 spot of the Red Sox rotation and is a big reason why Boston is standing atop the AL East.
Sale’s love to win and desire to be perfect is the recipe for success. His best quote was after a tremendous performance in KC where he was sent out to get the CG but couldn’t get it done. He said; “I’ll never settle. When you start settling, you get complacent, when you get complacent, you suck.”This needs to be the mindset of this whole team going forward. As a billyballgame prediction earlier; Chris Sale winning cy young and MVP is still highly possible.
It took the boys awhile to realize they can not live by the long ball and quite frankly I still don’t think Farrell knows these guys need to bunt and steal more, especially considering the boys are 4th in the league in stolen bases and last in home runs. It does not take a genius to figure out what that means.
For some very strange reason Farrell seems to think platooning Benintendi against lefties is the right thing to do. If this does not change then the number 1 prospect isn’t going to live up to his hype. How is a (very newly) 23 year old kid supposed to get better and build confidence if you keep sitting him down. Another concern that we saw early on and that we saw during the final series against the Rays, manufacturing runs. As mentioned before, we are one of the fastest teams in the league yet do not take full opportunity of that. We can not afford to lose 3of 4 to the Rays and be limited by runs.
As Sox fans, we have to be very happy with the way the first half of the season looks in the standings department. But, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. This is not a team that is just going to roll over and die when the going gets tough. So, expect a lot of what occurred in June, WINNING. Mookie is starting to heat up. Guys are coming back from injuries. JBJ is proving he truly is a 5 tool player. Chris Sale is a monster, and Pretty Ricky is getting his act together. Things could certainly be a lot worse so lets hope we don’t tank!