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But Can He Pitch?



Updated: 2016-09-29T23:00:21-04:00

 



Red Sox 1, Yankees 5: An expected loss

2016-09-29T23:00:21-04:00

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The Henry Owens start went better than could have been expected, but still wasn’t enough to earn a win.

With the division secured, the Red Sox sent their backups out Thursday night to see how they would measure up now that they’re in meaning-free territory.

The answer? Not terribly well, if it wasn’t quite the blowout one might have expected. Henry Owens managed to last nearly five innings, but the Yankees got to him and the bullpen late, and Boston’s hodgepodge batting order couldn’t make up the deficit.

For Owens, it’s another unsuccessful start, but at least one to build on compared to his other trips to the majors. He was still somewhat wild and prone to the walk, but at this point it’s not realistic to expect him to be otherwise. Tonight, though, he also brought strikeout stuff to the table, letting him keep New York in check after allowing an early run to New York in the first. Even with their diminished lineup, the Sox were at least capable of matching that with a Xander Bogaerts homer in the fourth.

Even the best stuff we’ve seen from Owens in the majors could only get him so far, however. With two down and Aaron Hicks on first via a successful bunt, Owens surrendered a line drive double into the gap in right to Jacoby Ellsbury, allowing Hicks to score and giving the Yankees a second run and the lead.

As it turns out, that would actually have been enough with the Red Sox lineup proving remarkably quiet even given the personnel. But struggles from Heath Hembree, Robby Scott, and Robbie Ross Jr. provided both three more runs for New York, and the one reall concerning part of the night for New York. After weeks of incredible shut-down performances, the bullpen has now seen a Craig Kimbrel implosion on Wednesday and a step back from the middle ranks today. Still not enough to really set anyone to panicking, but presumably not what John Farrell wanted to see.

So yes, the Red Sox have followed up their 11-game winning streak with a sweep the other way in New York. And yes, they’ve drawn even with Cleveland in losses. But these are things John Farrell and co. expected heading into this game. It was Owens vs. Sabathia—a game that really just wasn’t going to be won. They’d very much like to get some wins against Toronto in Boston and at least hold home field advantage over the Indians, but at the end of the day, the simple fact that nobody got hurt should be enough to check the boxes for today.




Game 159: Red Sox vs. Yankees

2016-09-29T18:23:51-04:00

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It was good to be a fun team early. It was good to be a contending team late. But now? Now it’s damn good to be division champions after 158 games of baseball.

Of course, Division Champion isn’t the banner we’re interested in, but it’s also not fair to trot out the old “haven’t done anything yet” line. The Red Sox very much have. They’ve not only won a division, but the hardest division in the American League. Now we—both the team and the fans—get a nice week to enjoy it.

Then it’s back to work in earnest, with the true prize on the line.

But for now, that week! This game looks like one hell of a mess between the lineup and the man on the mound. And y’know what? It’s not gonna keep the Red Sox from winning the East. So enjoy this rarest of commodities while you can: games that are (relatively) meaningless not because the Red Sox suck, but because they’re awesome.

Go Sox!




Red Sox vs. Yankees lineups: Here come the backups

2016-09-29T15:46:45-04:00

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By clinching the East a little early, the Sox have an opportunity to give their backups some playing time.

With the East clinched, the Red Sox turn to some, but not all of their backups for the final game of their series in New York.


Lineup

BOSTON RED SOX NEW YORK YANKEES
Aaron Hill, 3B Brett Gardner, LF
Andrew Benintendi, LF Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Xander Bogaerts, SS Gary Sanchez, DH
David Ortiz, DH Starlin Castro, 2B
Chris Young, RF Didi Gregorius, SS
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF Chase Headley, 3B
Ryan Hanigan, C Brian McCann, C
Travis Shaw, 1B Aaron Hicks, RF
Deven Marrero, 2B Tyler Austin, 1B
SP - Henry Owens SP - CC Sabathia

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the worst lineups of the season. Perhaps “one of” is unnecessary, even. The Sox have some mostly meaningless games ahead, and want to head into the postseason at full strength, even if that hurts their chances to take home field advantage in October.

And really, if you’re going to completely punt a game in favor of rest, this is probably the one to go with given that Henry Owens is on the mound. The wild young lefty looked better later in the year down in Pawtucket, but it didn’t translate to the majors in that one late-August start he had. With him getting the start, the Sox are probably the biggest underdogs they’ve been at any point in September.

First pitch, for those interested in this...unique entry into the 2016 catalog is at 7:05 p.m. ET with broadcasts on NESN and WEEI.




Home field advantage is no big deal

2016-09-29T10:07:07-04:00

The Red Sox have one thing left to play for in the regular season, and frankly, it’s not all that important. Yesterday the Red Sox finished one race in first, but fell a step behind in another. With just four games to go, the Sox are now a full game-and-a-half behind the Texas Rangers for the top seed in the American League—a gap they seem unlikely to close as they get their starters rested up and set for the postseason. In an ideal world, the Sox would get the number one seed, have home field advantage, and be afforded the right to choose their ALDS opponents by virtue of that top seed. Of course, that’s not how it works. Top seed faces the wild card winner, second seed faces third seed, no matter how good the competition might be. We’ve been over the effect this has on Boston’s incentive to actually win in these last few days. The Indians are a team that’s been knocked down hard by injuries to their rotation. They are still a playoff team, but at least for now look like a tragic case. Saying that the Red Sox would rather face them than, say, the Jays is nothing against the Indians and what they’ve done this season. They’ve just been on the wrong side of luck at the most important time of the year, making them any playoff team’s ideal opponent. Still, some seem to think that facing a better opponent is a reasonable trade-off if it means taking home field advantage. But how much of an advantage does that actually confer? Very little, it turns out. A survey of postseason results will show that the home team does win more often, but this is to be expected. Yes, partially because teams are better at home than on the road, but also because there’s a selection bias going here. The home team is more often going to be the better team simply because of how home field advantage is decided in the first place. Team quality does not perfectly correlate to season record, but over samples of many years we’ll find that teams that win more games are better. Instead, let’s look at what the home - road difference has actually meant to the teams in question. As a warning, the math here is fairly dirty. It’s not meant to produce actual odds for a series between the Red Sox and team X, Y, or Z—only to demonstrate that shifting the venue for one game in a series promises no seismic change. For the Indians, it’s actually been pretty big. They’re a game under .500 on the road after last night’s loss, and 53-28 at home. For the Rangers, it’s still a large gap, if slightly less so—52-26 at home, 42-39 on the road. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are fairly flat: 46-32 to 46-34. So let’s take the extreme example in Cleveland, and say the Sox actually fall behind them for the #2 seed and have to play the ALDS on the road. Going by Cleveland’s numbers, we’re looking at three games with a 67% chance to win and two with a 49% chance to win. Average it out, and the Indians come away with a 58.6% chance to win (not the series, but a game). That sounds bad for Boston, but it’s because we’re looking at the Indians’ overall chances of winning against a random team. What we should really be comparing that number to is their chances if we were to switch home field advantage. Now it’s three at 49% and two at 65%. That leaves them with an average 55.4% chance to win. A 3.2% chance swing per game isn’t nothing, but it’s also not huge. And this is the biggest possible way to interpret the gap, because this is not the Indians vs. any average team, but the Indians vs. the Red Sox. Looking at Boston’s numbers, the Sox would expect a loss of home field advantage to hurt them very little. With home field, the Sox average out to 58.4%. Without? 58.1%. The reality lies somewhere in the middle, very likely. The loss of home field advantage shifts Boston’s average chance of victory a percentage point or two. This change is effectively stacked together in the one game that is held in Cleveland rather than Boston, grant[...]



Daily Red Sox Links: Rick Porcello, David Price, David Ortiz

2016-09-29T07:00:09-04:00

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Today’s links look at what’s launched this team, their odd run since 2011, and David Ortiz’s connection with Al Hordford.

Scott Lauber looks at the biggest factors that allowed the Red Sox to once again go worst-to-first. (Scott Lauber; ESPN)

Now that they are officially going to be playing in an ALDS, it’s official that Rick Porcello will be starting a Game 1. (Michael Silverman; Boston Herald)

It’s been five years since the heartbreaking 2011 season. Brett Cowett looks back at how far this team has come since then. (Brett Cowett; BP Boston)

David Price’s fatal flaw this year has been the long ball. Unfortunately, that’s also been his biggest issue in October. (Alex Speier; Boston Globe)

Drew Pomeranz isn’t too concerned about his forearm soreness, and he believes he can play a bullpen role in the playoffs. (Rob Bradford; WEEI)

David Ortiz has received a bunch of gifts this year. How much are they worth? (Tim Britton; Providence Journal)

Even the newest Celtic, Al Horford, has a connection with Ortiz. (Sam Galanis; NESN)

Theo Epstein has had tons of success since leaving Boston, and he’s earned himself a massive extension in Chicago. (Christopher Smith; Masslive)




Red Sox 3, Yankees 5: One way or another, Sox win the East

2016-09-28T22:49:39-04:00

The Yankees got to celebrate a walkoff. The Red Sox got to celebrate a division championship. The Red Sox are AL East champions...even if they didn’t end up celebrating on the field. It was a nasty night in New York, with a constant spray of rain and plenty of wind suppressing fly balls and perhaps leading to some difficult defense for both teams. But Clay Buchholz produced an outing that should have Sox fans feeling better about his inclusion in the playoff rotation, and the Sox got all the offense they seemed to need with one big rally in the eighth...right up until things went horribly awry in the ninth. Clay Buchholz has been in a weird place of late. First, of course, he was awful. Then he was in the bullpen and...eh. The media seemed to deem him a savior before he’d done nearly enough to earn that trust, and he didn’t full follow through. Then, suddenly, he was back in the rotation, and actually looking like his old excellent self. Over his last few starts, though, while the results have been there, little else has. Buchholz had lost the strikeouts, been dodging bullets on long fly balls, and just generally surviving rather than excelling. It was enough to solidify his place in the rotation, particularly with Pomeranz’ injury, but also enough to leave plenty of doubts as to his ability to actually do the job come October. One start isn’t going to completely fix that, but it certainly helps. Tonight, Buchholz completely earned his six scoreless. The Yankees managed almost nothing against him. The only hit he surrendered was an infield single from Gardner in the fourth. A leadoff walk in the first—again, Gardner—was their greatest threat against him, and that was erased immediately when Hanley Ramirez made a nice play to produce the 3-6 double play. The Red Sox...well, they were getting a lot of the same against Bryan Mitchell. They played their way out of an inning which saw Mitchell walk Hanley Ramriez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt in order, with Hanley getting himself caught stealing, Andrew Benintendi popping up, and Sandy Leon grounding out to end the threat. And they nearly got a two-run shot from Bradley in the seventh before the wind clearly pushed the ball back over the field. But one way or another, Mitchell got through seven without surrendering a run. Then Mitchell exited in the eighth, and the Sox got to work. And got lucky. A little of both. Sandy Leon reached base to start the frame when Starlin Castro forgot how defense works on a ground ball into the shift. With Marco Hernandez running at first, Dustin Pedroia tried to make it 1-0 right there with a double into the gap, but the ball skipped up and over the wall to hold the runners at second and third. That looked like it might be a big bounce for the Yankees when Xander Bogaerts proceeded to hit a rocket right to third for an unfortunate out, allowing them to walk David Ortiz to load the bases and get them a double play away from escaping the inning. But where the last big bounce helped New York, the big hop Mookie Betts’ ground ball took over third and into the outfield cost them two runs, and then a third on a wild pitch as noted speed demon David Ortiz made his way home. And so the Sox were set to take the East with a 3-0 win over the Yankees. All they needed was a good outing from the bullpen. Koji looked a bit sketchy, but got through the eighth without damage. And then Craig Kimbrel looked very sketchy, and didn’t escape even a little bit. Struggling hugely with control, Kimbrel loaded the bases without recording an out, and then walked Brian McCann to bring in a run, and send John Farrell looking for Joe Kelly. Kelly, to his credit, looked very good striking out Starlin Castro, and then got a pop-up back of third in foul territory for the second out with the Sox still ahead 3-1. But that last batter proved a doozy. Mark Teixeira got ahold of an 0-1 fastball, and finally one [...]



Red Sox vs. Yankees lineups: Try again

2016-09-28T17:14:54-04:00

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The Sox will try to bounce back from their first loss in 12 games Wednesday night and clinch the East in the process.


Lineup

BOSTON RED SOX NEW YORK YANKEES
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Brett Gardner, LF
Xander Bogaerts, SS Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
David Ortiz, DH Gary Sanchez, C
Mookie Betts, RF Brian McCann, DH
Hanley Ramirez, 1B Starlin Castro, 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF Didi Gregorius, SS
Brock Holt, 3B Mark Teixeira, 1B
Andrew Benintendi, LF Chase Headley, 3B
Sandy Leon, C Mason Williams, RF
SP - Clay Buchholz SP - Bryan Mitchell

While David Price didn’t really contribute to the cause last night, he’s a more reliable arm than the man who now seems like a lock to join him in the playoff rotation. Buchholz has had some low-scoring performances of late, but the peripherals aren’t particularly encouraging in that time, even for Buchholz. That brief stint where he looked like his 2013/2015 self seems to have been left behind after the beginning of the month.

Still, he’s produced, and this is still the 92-win Red Sox against the 81-win Yankees, who aren’t exactly sending Masahiro Tanaka to the mound tonight. They got Mitchell out of the game early the last time they faced him, and will want to do the same tonight. Better not to rely on the O’s to beat the Jays, or Owens to beat Sabathia, and certainly better not to head into that series against Toronto without the Jays mathematically eliminated.

First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET with broadcasts on NESN and WEEI.




Porcello, not Price should be the Red Sox’ top October starter

2016-09-28T11:23:48-04:00

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It’s not what anyone would have expected back in March, but somehow, Porcello has emerged as the clear choice in October.

Rick Porcello will likely make his last start of the regular season on Friday or Saturday. I don’t think we really need to see it, though, to know who should be starting Game 1 of the ALDS.

David Price’s last start doesn’t help his case, but it’s really just the final nail in the coffin. And that’s not intended to be an attack against Price. His season, obviously, is not what we’d hoped it would be, but that was locked in after those first six weeks. Everyone has bad outings, but since the middle of May, Price has been rock solid. An ace? Debatable. But certainly a guy who could be turned to in Game 1 without any shame.

But where Price struggled early, Porcello excelled. He pitched even better in that stretch like Price has ever since, with a 3.11 ERA, .638 OPS against, and a 46:10 K:BB to Price’s marks of 3.43, .706, and 171:35 (alright, Price arguably has him beat in that last one). If that 3.11 ERA sounds familiar, it’s also because that’s his season total. And while his results have remained the same, Porcello has only stepped forward in other departments. He’s struck out 137 since, and amazingly walked only 20. That OPS against is down to .626.

An ace? Not debatable. Yes. Absolutely yes.

The Red Sox are headed to the postseason, and while the order of the rotation on Opening Day might be influenced by contract size and the weight of a player’s reputation, come October it has to be all about merit. Price does have a lot of that based on both the past four months and the years preceding it. Some would cite his postseason numbers as a reason to go away from him, but frankly, there’s just too much noise involved in all but the most prolific of postseason resumes to draw any significant conclusions from them.

But if Price has merit, his comes more from reputation, and more recent results deserve greater consideration. Porcello’s 2016 is better than Price’s, and that’s true pretty much no matter where in the year you draw your arbitrary end points. When you have to go back to 2015 and beyond to make an argument for starting a game in October 2016, it’s not really an argument worth making.

We still don’t have any official word from John Farrell, but if the Red Sox can’t let themselves face the possibility of losing a series without giving Porcello every possible opportunity to pitch on full rest. He’s been their ace this year, and the playoff rotation should reflect that.