Mike Napoli

Read Sox: Napoli’s Nadir, Swihart’s Start and the Bullpen Blues

Welcome to another edition of Read Sox. This week we highlight Mike Napoli’s issues at the plate, Blake Swihart’s Major League debut and look at what could have been had Alex Rodriguez been traded to the Red Sox in 2003.

Going Deep

As the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson points out, few players have looked worse than Mike Napoli so far. The first baseman had a promising spring training and appeared to be in line for a strong year following offseason surgery to cure his sleep apnea. That has yet to translate to the regular season. Napoli has a .213 TAv and .253 ISO through 23 games, which puts him on pace to finish well below his career averages. Those struggles were particularly evident on Saturday, when Napoli came up with two runners on base twice and recorded inning-ending outs on both occasions. The Red Sox have no intentions of giving up on Napoli, but the issues are glaring. Napoli has a -0.3 WARP and is projected to hit .246/.350/.454 the rest of the season, which, believe it or not, is a significant improvement from where he is right now.

The Yankees swept the Red Sox at Fenway Park, which means it was a bad weekend in Boston. The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier writes that perhaps there’s only one major difference between the two teams despite the lopsided outcome: the Yankees’ bullpen is far superior. With Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller as the go-tos in the final two innings of every game, New York has been nearly unstoppable with late leads. The Red Sox have been quite the opposite out of the pen, as the numbers suggest. The Sox’s 3.99 bullpen ERA is good for 20th in baseball, while its 4.80 FIP among relievers is tied for worst in the majors as of Tuesday. Their three most used relievers as of Tuesday have also been among their worst. Craig Breslow leads the team with 15 innings pitched out of the pen, but his 4.91 FIP is his second-worst in the last six years. Junichi Tazawa is tied for second with 12.1 innings pitched, but also has the third-worst FIP (5.28) on the team. Finally, Edward Mujica. Dare I say more? In 12.1 innings pitched, Mujica is worst among Red Sox relievers in ERA (5.11), ERA+ (82) and FIP (6.17). Clearly the starters aren’t the only problem.

Quick Hits

Blake Swihart made his sooner-than-expected Red Sox debut Saturday after Ryan Hanigan was placed on the disabled list with a fractured hand. Although Swihart had just one hit in eight at-bats over his first two Major League starts, The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo writes that the 23-year-old catcher’s talent is evident at the plate, behind the plate and on the base paths. Swihart legged out an infield single for his first big-league hit and called a strong, seven-inning outing for Wade Miley in his debut against the Yankees.

It was a milestone weekend at Fenway Park for Alex Rodriguez, who, amidst a shower of boos, tied Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list with a solo homer in the eighth inning to lead the Yankees to a 3-2 win over the Sox Friday night. It’s easy to forget how close Rodriguez was to joining the Sox in the winter of 2003. The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber examines what might have been had the deal to send Manny Ramirez and Jon Lester — then a Single-A pitching prospect — to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Rodriguez gone through. It appears all would’ve been OK on Yawkey Way.

Losing their fourth straight game Monday night was bad enough, but things got even worse for the Red Sox when Hanley Ramirez suffered a shoulder injury in first inning of the Sox’s 5-1 loss to the Rays. Ramirez, who has been the Red Sox’s best hitter so far this season with a .400 wOBA, .326 ISO and a team-leading 10 home runs through 25 games, was listed as “day-to-day” by manager John Farrell after the game. His absence leaves a significant hole in the lineup.

This is a late 90s, early 2000s Red Sox fan’s dream come true. Pedro Martinez and the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman teamed up for a book, titled PEDRO, that released Tuesday, highlighting the former Sox ace’s decorated, and often dramatic, career. Silverman writes about his experience working with Martinez, explaining how it was a project over a decade in the making. Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe has nothing but great things to say about the book in his latest column, and certainly makes it sound worth buying.

Three Good Game Stories

WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable highlights Wade Miley’s outing Saturday afternoon as a positive for the Red Sox despite a 4-2 loss to the Yankees.

Joe Kelly once again kept his velocity up, but, as the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato writes, the right-hander couldn’t translate it to success on the mound. He was knocked around for five runs on a season-high nine hits in the Red Sox’ 8-5 loss to the Yankees Sunday night.

Bad pitching isn’t the only reason the Red Sox have slipped to last in the American League East. CSNNE.com’s Jimmy Toscano explains how a lack of timely hitting proved costly in the Sox’ 5-1 loss to the Rays Monday night.

Photo by Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images

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