Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we look at the second-half improvement of the Red Sox’s starting pitching and outfield defense, evaluate Dave Dombrowski’s approach to acquiring free-agent starting pitchers, welcome back John Farrell and Torey Lovullo, think about Hanley’s offseason workout plan, and laud David Ortiz for another strong performance.
While the 2015 Red Sox season was a disappointment overall, the team was a different squad in the second half. For example, in the first half the starting pitching ranked 28th in the league by ERA (4.75), and 13th by FIP (3.90). In the second half their rankings improved to 9th (3.97) and 11th (3.95). The first half involved adjusting to a young catcher, a new pitching coach and, for Rick Porcello and Wade Miley, new surroundings. Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com has more on how the pitchers’ gradual acclimation to these things over the course of the season led to much better results for them on the mound. You should note that the improvement in pitching really only came in the runs allowed department; the fielding independent numbers remained basically the same. As Tim Britton of the Providence Journal notes, outfield defense has had a lot to do with keeping runs off the board in the second half. Moving from Hanley Ramirez and his -19 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 747.2 innings in left field to Jackie Bradley Jr. (3 DRS in 122.1 innings) and Rusney Castillo (9 DRS in 217.0 innings) was absolutely critical. A full season of the Betts, Bradley Jr. and Castillo outfield would be a lot of fun for Red Sox pitchers.
While the Red Sox starting pitching was much improved in the second half of the season, the team will likely pursue a frontline ace in the offseason. The available big names are Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price and Jordan Zimmerman. In my opinion, Greinke and Price are the most attractive of this group, but they will likely come with the highest price tags, which could make them that much more difficult to lock down and Dave Dombrowski more hesitant to commit long-term. However, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe suggests that the way Dombrowski handled contract negotiations with Max Scherzer while in Detroit offers insight into what we can expect from the new boss this winter. He is willing to act aggressively within well-defined limits and will consider giving a long-term deal to a pitcher in his 30s. Dombrowski also notes that he is willing to move to secondary plans if acquiring a top-of-the-rotation starter proves too difficult, and is well-aware of the criticism that can come with making that decision. Secondary plans could involve someone like Scott Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo, Hisashi Iwakuma, or maybe even Rich Hill (!). Starting pitching is just one of many areas about which many interesting decisions will be made by the Red Sox’s front office this offseason. For example, Scott Lauber of the BostonHerald.com reminds us that the bullpen is also an area that needs considerable attention. However, adding an arm or two to the starting rotation would allow players being considered for a rotation spot to be moved to the bullpen (e.g., Joe Kelly, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright), in a sort of killing two birds with one stone approach.
Hanley Ramirez came into the season looking bulked up and ready to perform, but things did not go according to plan; by now you have read about his well-documented struggles. Well, it turns out the Red Sox think that Ramirez’s extra bulk may have played a role in his difficulty adjusting to playing left field, and contributed to his injuries. Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.com writes that the team has asked him to lose 15-20 pounds over the offseason.
Dave Dombrowski announced that John Farrell and Torey Lovullo will be back with the team as manager and bench coach, respectively, in 2016. Scott Lauber of BostonHerald.com outlines how the decision to retain the coaching duo benefits the team, and Jason Mastrodonato has positive reactions to the move from a number of Red Sox players in his notebook.
Sunday marked Don Orsillo’s final broadcast for the Red Sox. The game featured many highlights from Don’s time in the Red Sox’s booth, as well as heartfelt comments from broadcast-partner Jerry Remy, a tip-of-the-cap from Red Sox players, and finally, a touching note from Don (text of his comments here). Jon Tomase of WEEI.com kept a running diary of the broadcast that is well-worth your time.
Thirty-nine-year-old David Ortiz finished the 2015 season with a .273/.360/.553 line (.304 TAv), hit 37 home runs and 37 doubles. Somehow, despite that line, there exists a negative perception of Ortiz’s performance among some Red Sox fans. Chad Finn of Boston.com reminds fans to appreciate Ortiz’s production and asks them to stop measuring him against mythic perceptions that exist for other players.
Last Three Good Game Stories of 2015…
The Red Sox lost all three games of their final weekend set with the Indians, the first of which was an 8-2 drubbing that, as Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com writes, ended Henry Owens season on a sour note.
Craig Breslow got his second start of the season in the middle game of the Cleveland series. He pitched well, and tells Jason Mastrodonato of the BostonHerald.com that starting has reinvigorated his confidence and could be something he considers for the future.
Rick Porcello pitched well in the final game of the season, but was ultimately undone by his throwing error in the third inning. Nevertheless, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal notes that Porcello finished the final six weeks of the season strong, and can hopefully carry that performance into next year.
Photo by Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports Images