It’s somewhat comforting to know that the Black Plague can run wild through the Red Sox clubhouse and the team can still put a winning team on the field. Steve Selsky played centerfield in a game that the Sox managed to not lose. It’s far from perfect, but just look at the 1-6 Mariners – it could be worse. It’d be nice to not have Andrew Benintendi throwing up in the middle of the game, or Joe Kelly not being at 100% because he couldn’t stop throwing up, or Robbie Ross on the DL for presumably something to do with throwing up, but all-in-all the Red Sox won more games than they lost, so hats off to them. There’s not a lot to takeaway from five games, especially with the roster that this team has had to work with. With that said, let’s take some things away from these five games, despite the roster this team has had to work with.
Is this bullpen going to implode?
It was always going to be a rough draft without Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith, but early returns have actually been somewhat promising. As a group, they’re 5th in all of baseball with a 2.60 FIP. They’re one of only four bullpens to not have given up a homer yet and are third-highest in K/9 (10.8). They’ve got Ben Taylor out here striking out half the dudes he faces. All in all, if this is what treading water looks like, the Sox will be thrilled.
The problem, because of course there’s a problem, is that the Red Sox basically haven’t had to use their bullpen yet. Of all 32 teams, none of have used their bullpen less than the Red Sox, who only have 15 innings of relief pitching under their belt so far. To put that in perspective, the Brewers lead baseball in relief innings pitched at 31.1. Early numbers also point towards a lot of walks (5.40 BB/9) and quite a bit of good of luck (.206 BABIP, second-lowest in MLB). The 8th and 9th innings are primarily just hard thrown fastballs going God knows where, but it’s worked so far.
Sandy Leon is fun again, again!
People say small sample sizes are dumb, but I would argue that when they allow me to write that the Red Sox catchers lead all of baseball with a 289 wRC+, small sample sizes are great. He leads the team in RBIs and is the only player to have a VORP over 1 (1.2). The first Twitter rumblings of what to do with Blake Swihart showed up less than one week into the season. That’s how good Sandy Leon has been for the Sox so far. And a walk-off home run, to boot.
He’ll hit well for three more weeks and then be the starter for the next seven after regardless of how he plays.
Please be okay, JBJ
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s been something else this year in center:
Initial x-rays were negative, but a MRI showed some swelling and the team sent him back to Boston, so that’s not great. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to hit the DL, but this certainly feels like the type of lingering injury you point to in July when he’s hitting .190. He was one of the most valuable defensive center fielders in baseball last year, and looked to be even better with the glove (and the speed, and the ability to read balls off the bat and make cool sliding catches) this season, leading all center fielders in baseball with five Defensive Runs Saved.
What’s worse, is that he was crushing the ball this season. Of all qualified hitters, JBJ ranked fourth in line drive rate (41.7%) and first in hard-hit rate (81%!). He was also pacing five percentage points lower in strikeout rate this season (22.5%) than last (27.1%). It’s too early to make any definitive claims, but they’re still encouraging trends to continue watching. With that said, this team is probably good enough on offense to survive without him. Losing his defense, especially in Fenway’s centerfield, would be brutal.
The flu sucks
Go get your flu shot. Now.
Photo by Bob DeChiara – USA TODAY Sports