A Major League Baseball season is like a huge steak. It looks great, but you might end up suffering through it. It’s juicy, occasionally not cooked to your liking, and sometimes just needs to be sliced up into smaller portions.
Enter Dirty Water Sports Red Sox Quarter-Poll Review.
With a 27-17 record, the Sox are barely past the quarter-mark of the season, with much of the 162-game behemoth remaining. As such, it seems like a perfect time to employ hindsight — and foresight — in examining the first cut of the 2016 Red Sox.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
David Ortiz — The Red Sox have six regulars batting over .300. Picking an MVP at this point is hard, but it has to go to Ortiz. The 40-year-old DH has never looked younger. He’s batting .329 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs. His .684 slugging-percentage and 1.092 OPS are both tops in all of baseball.
The bad bounce that cost David Ortiz from being the oldest person to get the cycle; Jerry Remy called the 420 sign pic.twitter.com/upX2Ph54Rr
— Roofoh (@jroofoh) May 22, 2016
As always, Ortiz’s value extends beyond his raw numbers. He’s the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse, and he still may be the most feared clutch-hitter in the league.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
David Price — After consecutive good starts against the Astros and Royals, a lot of media and fans have suggested that Price has finally turned the corner after a horrific start to his Red Sox’ career. I’m not buying it. I think he’ll be good, and will eventually be the best pitcher on the starting staff (until the trade deadline), but I’ve seen enough to believe that we won’t be seeing the Price that most people expected. He’s 6-1 on the season, but most of his numbers still suck. He’s got a 5.53 ERA, and his 1.26 WHIP is still way above his career average. The strikeout numbers are great (tops in the league), but he’ somehow managed a -0.3 WAR, which is remarkable considering he has six wins on his record.
David Price's 5-1 record is a great example of why individual wins & losses are so dumb. He has a 6.00 ERA & has had 7.43 run support.
— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) May 16, 2016
Still, it’s the way he’s looked on the mound that’s been most disappointing. He seems like a nice guy, but being nice and soft aren’t mutually exclusive. Price just doesn’t look like someone that can stomach big innings in Boston. And there’s a big difference between living at 95-96 MPH, and reaching back for 95-96. Price’s velocity has been way down this year, which is concerning for a 30-year-old in the first season of a seven-year megadeal.
Steven Wright — Kind of a tossup here between Wright — the 31-year-old torch-carrying knuckleballer — and JBJ. But the choice here is Wright, primarily because the fact that he’s still on the team is a surprise in and of itself. Most fans expected Bradley to still be the centerfielder by now, regardless of how he was hitting. But many people — myself included — expected Wright to be either sent to the bullpen or demoted to Pawtucket after a couple weeks. Obviously, neither of those things have happened, and it doesn’t look like they will anytime soon.
Wright’s been the best pitcher on the team. His 2.52 ERA is fifth-best in the AL, as is his .202 batting-average-against. his 1.08 WHIP is still in the top 10, and is even more impressive given his style of pitching. He’s also got two complete-games to boot. I still have serious doubts that the Red Sox would feel comfortable throwing a knuckleballer on the mound in the playoffs, but they may have no better choice.
Jackie Bradley Jr. — JBJ’s ascent is equally surprising as Wright’s, but the difference is that Bradley has been playing like a legitimate superstar since last August. His defensive ability has always been glaringly obvious, and while many suspected he’d eventually hit, few could’ve expected this type of nonsense.
Currently on a 27-game hitting streak, Bradley’s .342 BA is second in the AL only to teammate Xander Bogaerts, and his 33 RBIs are tied with Mookie Betts for fourth-highest in the league.
Jackie Bradley Jr. extends his hitting streak to 27 games.https://t.co/o0aARxKxsW
— Stadium (@Stadium) May 22, 2016
His .413 OBP, thanks to teams finally pitching around him, is tops in the league. He’s also second in the AL in both slugging-percentage and OPS (a ridiculous 1.031), with David Ortiz topping both categories.
And while it’s unfair to assume he’s going to play like this — and by this we mean superior to ever hitter in the game — the rest of the way, it really does look like he’s turned a corner for good. He’s spraying the ball all over the field, and has been terrific at deciding when to be aggressive, and when to be patient.
Pablo Sandoval — His arm was actually hurt. Fine. But even if Pablo’s arm hadn’t gone limp from constantly going back to the well — and by well, we mean that party-sized bag of Doritos Salsa Verde — Sandoval would still be the biggest tool on the team. He showed up fat, and stayed fat. When he played, he sucked. He routinely acted like it wasn’t a big deal. He’s popped more belts than he has hits on the season. All made worse by the fact that he sucked equally as bad last year. Maybe the Sox could’ve put his $95 million into making concessions a bit cheaper, so we could all look like Mr. Sandoval by the end of the season.
45 years ago today, Bartolo Colon & Pablo Sandoval gave birth to a bouncing baby boy & named him Rich Garces. pic.twitter.com/vdwQdxFGNh
— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) May 18, 2016
The craziest part to me, is that this may not be over. Sandoval had surgery and is done for the year, but he’ll be ready to go next spring. And no one is going to trade for him. So, if David Ortiz actually retires, the plan would seem to be Shaw moving to first, and have Hanley slide into the full-time DH. Some have suggested that he’s enjoyed playing first base so much that he could be there next season as well, but I’m not counting on it.
That leaves third base open. Now, I suspect the Red Sox will look to fill that void with someone other than Sandoval, but the fact is he may be the only choice. You could also see a constant rotation between first base and DH from both Ramirez and Sandoval, given that the Sox have loved how Shaw has looked at third.
POTENTIAL BREAKOUT STAR
Joe Kelly — I swear this isn’t an overreaction to his almost no-hitter against the Indians. When healthy, Kelly probably has the best raw stuff on the team. He was the best pitcher on the team for the final two months of last season, and carried that momentum all the way through spring training. After one bad outing against Toronto, and a very so-so performance against Baltimore at the beginning of the season, most fans wrote Kelly off.
Give Em The Chairhttps://t.co/9j7LgdnF1V
— Ball Player Supply (@ballplayerbrand) May 23, 2016
A right-shoulder impingement in his next start landed him on the DL for a about a month, and much like last season, the time away from the team may have done him some good. Kelly was dominant against Cleveland, showing command of all his pitches, and looking a lot like the pitcher the Red Sox saw close out the 2015 season. Obviously, trusting Kelly for a full season is a huge risk, but I’m banking on him pitching like an all-star the rest of the way.
GUY WHO MAY HAVE TO DO MORE THAN HE’S CUT OUT FOR BECAUSE OTHER SHITTY STUFF HAPPENED THAT’S OUT OF HIS CONTROL
Matt Barnes — The bullpen was supposed to be Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, Carson Smith in the eighth, and a mix of Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in the seventh inning, with the occasional lefty match-ups from Tommy Layne and Robbie Ross Jr. Guys like Matt Barnes, Noe Ramirez, and the revolving-door of Pawtucket call-ups were only supposed to get mop-up innings.
But Carson Smith’s injury has changed all that. Uehara and Tazawa have been overworked. Both have pitched well, but we’ve seen what a long season can do to them. The bullpen needs another power arm to step up and claim some of those late-inning, high-leverage situations.
Enter Matt Barnes.
Boston Red Sox Quality of Pitch Leaders for April
1. Matt Barnes 5.28 QOPA
2. David Price 4.87 QOPA
3. Rick Porcello 4.63 QOPA
— MLB Quality of Pitch (@qopbaseball) May 6, 2016
He has the stuff — high-90’s fastball, 12-6 curveball, and a decent changeup — but he lacks command. Barnes has 19 strikeouts and 12 walks. In 21.1 innings-pitches, Barnes has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. He’s also been a starter his entire career until now. At times this year, Barnes has looked overpowering, and other times he’s looked very hittable.
We’ve now heard the dreaded “seeking a second opinion on his elbow” statement in relation to Carson Smith, so Barnes may start getting the ball in the late innings far more frequently. He’s an intriguing option, and may just need more reps in those types of situations.
GUY WHO’S BEEN GOOD…BUT WILL PROBABLY NOT BE NEARLY AS GOOD THE REST OF THE SEASON, BECAUSE HISTORY MATTERS
Rick Porcello — I really hope I’m wrong. I like Porcello, and always root for guys that get absolutely murdered their first season in Boston. He’s been pretty good this season, and really good at times. He’s 7-2 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He’s got 54 strikeouts to just 13 walks. He’s just 27-years-old, so maybe this is him finally becoming everything he can be.
Baseball is beautiful – Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox (Getty)
— Sports Photos (@sportsphotos) May 18, 2016
Porcello has started to slip a little in his last few starts. He’s still been alright, but not the dominant pitcher we saw at the beginning of the season. In five of Porcello’s previous seven seasons, he’s had an ERA north of 4.00. One year he posted a 3.96, so we’ll basically count that as another year with a plus-four ERA. So while Porcello isn’t sliding into pure suck-hood, he’s likely regressing into the pitcher he’s always been – an occasionally above-average sinker-baller that the Red Sox threw $82.5 million at.
YOUNG PLAYERS THAT FANS SHOULDN’T BE GETTING TOO ATTACHED TO
Blake Swihart, Rafael Devers, Henry Owens — I think all three of these guys, or more, could be gone at the deadline. The Red Sox aren’t winning this season with the current starting pitching staff, and they know it. They will need to make a deal at the deadline, and these are the players that, especially if packaged together, could net the biggest return.
Trading Owens now is tough, because his value is down. He’s pitched miserable in the big leagues, but is still young, left-handed, and has great stuff. The Red Sox have clearly committed to Christian Vazquez, which sucks because I love Swihart. The sox have been playing Swihart in left field, but his true value lies as a catcher. There just aren’t a lot of backstops that can hit like him, and many teams would likely pay a lot to bring someone like him on.
As for Devers, he’s the top third base prospect in the game. He’s struggled this year, but he’s still just 19-years-old. He alone could fetch a pretty purse in a deadline trade. He’s also blocked at third by Travis Shaw and top-prospect Yoan Moncada, whose currently a second baseman, but could be moved all around the field.
Potential trade target: Houston Pitcher (and reigning Cy Young winner) Dallas Keuchel.
BIG PROSPECT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SEPTEMBER
Sam Travis — The first baseman is currently the Sox’ No. 7 prospect on MLB.com. A second-round pick out of Indiana in 2014, Travis is known for his bat, and motor, Two things that should help him a lot in Boston.
Travis was the talk of the spring. The 22-year-old hit .469 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 22 games. He was universally-lauded by the entire coaching staff.
He’s obviously blocked in Boston by Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw, but injuries and rest for guys like Ramirez and Ortiz could open up some at-bats for him once it’s time for September call-ups. He’s also a sneaky candidate to be the opening day first baseman at the start of next season.