Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 Red Sox 78-84, and My Playoff Picks

A few thoughts about your last-place 2015 Boston Red Sox

--Had the season started after the All-Star break, the Sox would be in the playoffs.  But it doesn't work that way.

--Letting Don Orsillo go is a travesty.  I'm actually angry about it and I'm going to miss him.  Finishing last place 3 out of the last 4 years is bad enough; without the pleasant silliness from Orsillo and Remy, it would have been unbearable and unwatchable.  Despite the last place finishes, they've been a mainstay for me at 7pm most nights.  It was nice just to hear their silliness.  And it wasn't all inane banter, like Sean McDonough used to do.  (And he was miserable, too.)  Orsillo and Remy, and not the team, were the most consistently good 3 of the last 4 years.  (And let's face it: 2013 was an awesome overachievement, as was the 2013 ALCS, especially.)

--And firing Arnie Beyeler is a mystery.  The first base coach is essentially an irrelevant position.  His primary responsibility is waving runners on to second base.  Since I don't recall a tremendous number of Sox players thrown out at second this year, he seems to have done a decent job.  I saw him time the pitcher like he's supposed to.  Not a lot of runners got picked off.  He carried the players' elbow pads.  And the third base coach, bench coach and manager are all coming back--all of whom have much more to do with the Sox record than Beyeler does.  Plus, Beyeler was the PawSox manager for a few years, so he knows many of the Sox players pretty well.  Unless the players asked for him to be let go because of some kind of lousy clubhouse presence, or unless he said the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person, this firing is a mystery.  I won't care as much as Orsillo going, but I have 2 Beyeler autographed balls because he was at the Pawtucket HotStove a few years.

--Speaking of Orsillo, he got a six-year contract and a huge raise each year from the San Diego Padres, so he has the last laugh.  But I'll still miss him.

--David Ortiz led the majors in RBIs after the All-Star break.  He had such a terrible first half, I thought he had no chance for 30 homers and 100 RBIs.  I was wrong.  But the sudden and inexplicable upsurge is curious, if you know what I mean.

--Tory Lovullo deserved the 2-year extension he just got.  He'll be the manager should Farrell be physically incapable of managing--or if Farrell is told to take more time off and get well, if you catch my drift.  I wouldn't be surprised if that happened.  In fact, I hate to say it, but I'd be in favor of it.

--Hopefully, Betts, Bradley and Castillo are the outfielders next year.  But if the Sox want a #1 starter, one or two of those are going to go.  The best overall player is Betts, so I hope he stays.  (I need a Betts autographed ball with a COA, if any of you care.)

--Bogaerts and Bradley were completely different players this year.  Bogaerts had almost 200 hits (the vast majority of them singles) and became almost a Gold Glove-caliber fielder.  Bradley always was Gold Glove, but improved his average by about 50 points (!!!) and finished with a slightly-above .500 slugging percentage (!!!!!).

--Having said that, Betts was still overall a more valuable player than either Bogaerts or Bradley.

--Pedroia looks healthy again, and he fielded and hit like he never missed about two-thirds of the season.  But he needs to stay healthy, which he hasn't done since he signed that mega-contract.  They're honest injuries, but he has to stay healthy for the whole year.  When he does, the Sox finish with a great record.  When he doesn't, they don't.

--Buchholz also has to stay healthy all year and win the 17+ games he's capable of, every year.  When he stays healthy, the Sox finish with a very good record.

--I'm hearing that Hanley Ramirez has played his last game for Boston.  He had a tremendous first half--but he was a disaster in left.  He'll be terrible at first, and I've heard he's terrible in the clubhouse.  I've heard that the Sox players have complained about his attitude all year.  I can't wait to see him go.  The word is that the Sox will deal him for almost nothing and eat most of his contract.

--And Sandoval needs to go, too.  I wrote at the beginning of the year that I was concerned that nobody on the Giants was sad to see him go.  And I wrote that I didn't like the idea of someone winning 3 World Series in 5 years with one team, and then leaving that team.  Sandoval gained weight all year and purportedly weighs more than Ortiz (!) and is also a disaster in the clubhouse.  I wasn't wrong about him since the beginning of this year.  He needs to go.

--As of a few games ago, Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez were tied as the worst WAR players in the American League.  Dealing them and eating their contracts would be addition by subtraction.

--I'm more than happy with Travis Shaw--and his almost-.500 slugging percentage and his slightly above average defense--at first base and Brock Holt at third, even if Holt has to platoon with Merrero and / or Rutledge.

--Merrerro and Rutledge are basically paler versions of Brock Holt, and I mean that as a compliment.  You probably can't keep both of them, but they are great back-ups.  They field very well, hit decently to well, and do the little things well, like hit-and-run and bunt.  I hope they can stay.  If just one stays, I prefer Rutledge, but I don't know if he can play short and / or third.  Holt can be my third baseman, or back-up infielder and outfielder, until he retires.  Love his hustle, his defense, and his ability to do all those little things that win games: move the runner over; drive him in from third with less than 2 outs; bunt; hit-and-run.  His defense is almost Gold Glove, and he can even steal a few bases.

--My guess is that Tazawa and Uehara are both done.  Tazawa's not automatic in the 8th for me if he comes back, and Uehara is the closer only because nobody else on the current roster can do it.

--Rich Hill should start the year on the team.  He or Steven Wright is my #5 starter.  Either one would eat lots of innings and overall be a very good #5.  But I don't know if the Sox can keep both in the rotation.  Probably neither is good enough to be #4.  Hill, maybe, but I'm concerned about how well he'll hold up all year.

--The highlight of 2015 was the outfield.  Defensively, especially, but at the plate, too.  They made me want to watch.  Speaking of that, Bradley might have been one of the best #9 hitters in the majors.  How many #9 guys had over a .500 slugging percentage?

--And Mookie Betts has one of the best baseball names in the majors.

--For umpires, it's Fieldin Culbreth, of course.

--You know you've seen a lot of ballgames if you know most of the umpires' names.

--Besides being traded during the 2014 or 2015 season, what do Jon Lester, John Lackey, Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller, Andrew Bailey and Jonny Gomes all have in common?  They're all in the 2015 playoffs.  And Shane Victorino missed by a game or two with the Angels.

--But Miller's trade to the Orioles for the rookie Rodriguez this year might end up being a steal for the Sox.  Last-place teams don't need good closers, and a good starter is more important than a good reliever, even a closer.  Starters pitch 200+ innings if they're #1s or #2s.  Closers pitch maybe 70 innings.  A closer would have to be Mariano Rivera not to make that trade a win for the Sox.  Miller isn't quite there yet.  But he'll have a very long career after his closing days are over if he doesn't mind going back to the lefty specialist he used to be.

--Speaking of relievers, Ross may have a good career if he can tone down his act.  Ogando finished well this year, but I'd show him the door if I ran the team.  Overall, the entire relief corps needs to be revamped.

--That, and somehow, at any cost, getting rid of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and getting a #1 starter, are this team's most important needs.

--If there are any Sox developments, come back here and you'll hear about it.  I'll post a lot about baseball in general, the Patriots, and baseball cards.

--Although the Wild Card Game in the A.L. will be in Yankee Stadium, look for the Astros to win.

--Toronto and Kansas City will play in the ALCS.  Winner: ...Kansas City, despite Toronto's home field advantage.  I say this only because of the theory that good pitching and defense will beat good hitting in one series.  But if it goes 7, it's a flip.

--The N.L. is a tougher call.  The Cubs won 8 straight to end the season, and Pittsburgh and Chicago are awesome teams and are not limping into the Wild Card Game like the Yankees are.  It's unfair that the Yanks may go on, but either the Cubs or Pirates must go home, despite each winning at least 10 more games than the Yanks.

--It's hard to count the Dodgers out, and the Mets could surprise, but I pick the Cardinals to play the ...Cubs in the NLCS.  Winner: St. Louis.

--World Series winner: St. Louis.  I'd never bet on the playoffs, because I know better ways to waste and lose my money, but this year's playoffs, especially in the N.L., are especially tough to pick.

--Feel free to comment on how wrong you think I am about my picks.  You'll probably be right.

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