Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we look at the futures of David Ortiz and Travis Shaw, examine another way to rebuild the bullpen and give Xander Bogaerts credit where it’s due.
The question of whether or not David Ortiz would reach the 500-home run mark no longer needs answering; he accomplished that earlier this month. The next question is how much time is left in his storied career. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford touched on Ortiz’s shelf life last week in a column that noted that although the slugger is aware the end is near, he certainly hasn’t thought or played like someone close to retirement. At 39, Ortiz boasts a .298 true average, a .370 wOBA and 35 home runs — his second-straight 35-homer season — in 2015. He will enter his age 40 season still among the most feared hitters in baseball. But will he keep playing like it? Recent history tells us that it’s possible. Chipper Jones sported a .360 wOBA at 40 years old before retiring in 2012. If you think Jones is a bad comparison, look at what Alex Rodriguez has done at 40 years old this year. His .298 TAv and 32 home runs is no drop-off from what Ortiz has done this season. And as a DH there’s far less of an injury concern. Not until Ortiz hits the end-of-the-line Derek Jeter territory will there be reason for him to consider retirement. At 40, Jeter’s final major league season was an overlooked disaster as he sported a 79 wRC+ and his everyday presence in the Yankees lineup made him a liability. But Jeter was coming off an injury the year before. Ortiz has remained healthy and therefore should be primed for another productive season.
MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith raises a question we’ve all probably asked ourselves at one time this year: Could Travis Shaw be the Red Sox’s first baseman in 2016 if Hanley Ramirez is traded? It’s certainly not ideal, but, looking strictly at the numbers, it could be worse. First off, Shaw already seems like the better of the two right now. Although he’s played in half as many games, his TAv (.293), wOBA (.371) and wRC+ (133) all far exceed Ramirez’s, and we don’t need numbers to tell you who the better defensive player is (Ramirez isn’t just bad at left field, either). But how does Shaw stack up against the rest of the majors? The 25-year-old rookie’s wOBA puts him right between Mark Teixeira (.381) and Jose Abreu (.370) for No. 8 among qualified first baseman. The flaw with that comparison, of course, is that Shaw’s 195 plate appearances far from qualify him in any statistical category. As Smith points out, it’s important to be aware of Shaw’s .304 BABIP, especially as a player who slashed .249/.318/.356 in 322 Triple-A plate appearances this season. Perhaps it’s not the best-case scenario to make Shaw Boston’s starting first baseman in 2016, but it looks likely they’ve unearthed a decent player here.
The Red Sox have suffered one of the worst bullpens in baseball this season, sporting a 4.41 ERA as a unit. It’s one of the biggest reasons Boston is a last-place team, and is an issue Dave Dombrowski will need to address in the offseason. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal offered a potential solution to these woes, using the Blue Jays’ pen as a rebuilding model. Toronto has gone from one of baseball’s worst bullpens to one of the best not by bringing in high-priced relievers last offseason, but by converting middling starters such as Liam Hendricks, Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez into hard-throwing relievers who can work with a small repertoire and find success. The Blue Jays own an AL-best 2.94 bullpen ERA since the All-Star break, a key reason for its surge to the division lead.
Xander Bogaerts’ sophomore season has been special. The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber explains how it also has a chance to be historic. Bogaerts, who has 182 hits — good for second in the AL — with 13 games left entering Tuesday night, has a realistic shot at becoming the 19th player since 1901 record 200 hits in a season at age 22 or younger. That would put him on a list that includes Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio and Cal Ripken Jr. Bogaerts also has a chance to become the first Red Sox player since Dustin Pedroia in 2008 to lead the league in hits as he trails Jose Altuve by three.
There are many reasons to be frustrated with Pablo Sandoval this season. Chief among them are his .229 TAv and his -21.5 UZR/150 — good for worst among qualified third baseman. CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam resurrected another issue that was especially relevant for the 255-pound Sandoval in spring training: his conditioning. Sandoval left Sunday’s game in the ninth due to “lightheadedness” after scoring from third on a sacrifice fly. McAdam writes that this is an example of why Boston needs to revisit this issue with the third baseman, who the Red Sox still owe roughly $76 million over the next four years, in the winter.
MacPherson wrote another worthwhile piece this weekend. This one was about how Mike Napoli has embraced the transition to left field with the Rangers since being traded to Texas in August. Although Napoli has endured his growing pains, it’s allowed the Rangers to keep him in the lineup and has helped them overtake the Astros atop the AL West. Napoli has a .308 TAv through 26 games with Texas.
Three Good Game Stories
ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes highlights the Red Sox’s 500-home run celebration for Ortiz at Fenway Park before their 8-7 win over the Rays on Monday.
The Rich Hill comeback tour continued on Saturday. The 35-year-old lefty allowed three runs and struck out 10 batters for the second straight game to lead Boston to a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe writes how these impressive outings could prove beneficial for Hill as he enters free agency this offseason.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was in an ugly, 1-for-30 slump over his last nine games entering Saturday, but, as the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato writes, he broke out in a big way with a pair of hits, including a game-tying home run in the ninth, to help the Red Sox to a 7-6 win over Toronto.
Photo by Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports Images