Tag Archives: JOHN FARRELL

FROM WORST TO FIRST, PART II

A. Bartlett Giamatti, the seventh Commissioner of Baseball, once said ‘ Baseball is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the Spring, when everything is new again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.’

With a young, talented group of players, most of who should be with them for several years, the Red Sox have the potential to go all the way in 2016. Boston baseball fans are a strange lot. The team has finished last in three of the past four years but the typical Boston fan expects nothing less than a World Series win in 2016 from this group.

If they go all the way, Boston fans will be ecstatic but, should they fail because they are not as good as we think they are, the fans will be left to face the fall and winter alone, as they did this year.

The acquisition of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval over the 2014-2015 off season, which was expected to give the Sox a lot more power, obviously did not work. In addition to failing to fulfill their promise at the plate, both made the worst fielding team, the Brick Glove Award, as selected by Nick Selbe in the on line Journal ‘Point After’ based upon their fielding statistics. If you watched them both play all year, you didn’t need a complicated formula to tell that they had to be among the worst at their positions.

Selbe pointed out that ‘ Some of the players on this list are good enough offensively to compensate for their defensive shortcomings, while others would be wise to spend the off season learning a new position.’ The Sox are planning to make Ramirez into a first baseman. If he doesn’t work any harder at becoming a first baseman than he did a left fielder, he will probably get a second Brick Glove Award. The Sox would do well to find a way to unload both these veterans even if they have to absorb some of their salaries to do so.

So, what will 2016’s version of the Red Sox look like and why am I so high on their chances to get to their fourth World Series in 13 years? Although pitching is the name of the game, the Red Sox position players, who, barring trades, are all coming back in 2016, made a statement during the last 48 games of the season, finishing 28-20.

Blake Swihart, 24, behind the plate, had an excellent rookie season, catching 84 games after the loss of Christian Vazquez to elbow surgery. He hit .274, with five homers and 31 RBI’s for the season but .330 with 34 hits in 103 at bats in the last 48 games under Lovullo. He has the added advantage of being a switch hitter.

Ryan Hanigan, 35, the other catcher, hit .247 in 54 games. If Vazquez returns ready to play in the Spring, watch for the Sox to trade Hanigan and keep Swihart to share the duties with Vazquez. Vazquez, 25, hit .240 in 55 games in 2014, his rookie season.
Travis Shaw, 25, who hit .270, with 13 homers and 36 RBI’s in just 65 games after being installed at first base during the season will give Ramirez some competition at first if he is back. Ramirez, of course, hit only .249, with 19 homers and 53 RBI’s in 105 games in left field. Shaw also has the advantage of being a more than adequate third baseman. Shaw hit .266 in the last 48 games with 50 hits.

Thirty-two year old Dustin Pedroia will be the second baseman, barring injury. He only played in 93 games this year while dealing with a hamstring injury but is still, arguably, the best all around second baseman in the league, if not all of baseball. He hit .291 with 12 homers and 42 RBI’s including hitting .308 in the last 48 games.

Xander Bogaerts, 23, had a breakout year at short in 2015. He proved that he can play the position defensively and he hit .320, the second highest average in the league. He had 196 hits, also the second highest in the league, seven homers and 81 RBI’s while playing 156 games. During the last 48 games, he hit .333 with 64 hits in 192 at bats.

Brock Holt, 27, could play third if Sandoval were traded but probably has more value as a utility player. He has proven he can play any position in the field defensively and continues to hit consistently no matter how much he is moved around. He hit .280 for the season in 129 games and .288 in the last 48 games.

The left fielder, Rusney Castillo, 28, played in 80 games after being brought up in late May and hit .253 with 29 RBI’s. In his first year in organized baseball in this country, after coming over from Cuba, he has shown the potential expected of him.

Jackie Bradley, 25, the center fielder, hit .249 for the season with 10 homers and 53 RBI’s in 74 games. During the last 48 games, he hit .283. In a streak from August 9 through September 9, he hit .442, had 13 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs and 32 RBI’s. In the last 48 games of the season, he hit .283.

The right fielder, Mookie Betts, 23, hit .291 with 18 homers and an impressive 77 RBI’s batting out of the lead off spot in 117 of his 145 games. Betts, who was playing second base for Portland at the start of the 2014 season, has successfully made the move to center field and then to right field. In the last 48 games of the season, he hit .342 with 68 hits in 199 at bats.

The designated hitter, David Ortiz, 39, after a slow start, hit .273 with 37 home runs and 108 RBI’s. He also played nine games at first base and handled all but one chance cleanly. During the last 48 games of the season, Ortiz hit .319.

One of the reasons people are so high on the Red Sox chances next year is because the eight position players, Swihart, Shaw, Pedroia, Bogaerts, Holt, Castillo, Bradley and Betts and the designated hitter Ortiz, hit a collective .313 over the last 48 games of the season. The average age of these nine players, even with Ortiz at 39 and Pedroia at 32, is just 27.3 years.

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WHO IS THIS TOREY LOVULLO?

WHO IS THIS TOREY LOVULLO?

After Thursdays day off, the Red Sox came home from a 3-5 road trip to host the Seattle Mariners in a three game set starting Friday night. Prior to the Friday game, Manager John Farrell held a press conference at which he announced that he had Stage one cancer of the lymphatic system which had been discovered in hernia surgery in Detroit on Monday of this week. He said the doctors had removed a lump during surgery and that the cancer was localized and ‘highly curable’. He said he will undergo chemotherapy and will be out on medical leave for the rest of the season.

Bench Coach Torey Lovullo was named to manage the team in Farrell’s absence. In his first game as Manager, the Sox scored 15 runs on 21 hits and beat Seattle 15-1. Joe Kelly started and went six innings, giving up just one run, on four hits, one a solo homer to Kyle Seager in the second, while striking out six. Saturday, the Sox scored 22 runs on 26 hits, beating Seattle 22-10 and Wade Miley gave them a second quality start in a row, pitching seven innings and giving up just two runs on four hits and striking out eight.

The Sox had scored 37 runs on 47 hits in two games under their new Manager and had gotten quality starts out of two pitchers while doing so. People were asking, ‘ Who is this Torey Lovullo? ‘

Lovullo had been Farrell’s Bench Coach since Farrell took over as Manager in Boston in 2013. Prior to that he had been First Base Coach under Farrell at Toronto in 2011 and 2012. He had previously managed in the Minor Leagues, winning the Manager of the Year Award while managing Kingston in the Carolina League in 2004 and Akron in the Eastern League in 2005.

He had had an undistinguished Major League career as a player after being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round of the 1987 draft. He is fifty years old and made his Major League debut as a player with the Tigers on September 10, 1988.

He played eight years in the Major leagues for seven different teams. He was an infielder who played in 303 games and had a career batting average of
.224 and played every infield position in his eight years.

After these two blowouts, the Sox are still 52-64, 12 ½ games back, in last place in the Eastern Division. Whatever caused the Red Sox bats to explode as they did and their starting pitching to do so well in Lovullo’s first two games is a mystery. One thing is certain, it can’t last but it was a fun ride while it happened for Red Sox fans.

THE RED SOX BLEW IT AGAIN!!!!

The Red Sox brought up Henry Owens from their minor league AAA, Pawtucket team and started him against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium last night. Owens, a 23 year old, 6’6′, 220 pound, left hander was 3-8 with Pawtucket with a 3.16 ERA. Last year, he was 17-5 between Pawtucket and AA Portland with a 2.94 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 159 innings pitched.

In the eight games this year in which Owens took the loss, the Pawsox got shut out three times, scored one run four times and two runs once for a total of six runs in eight losses for Owens. In 45 innings in those eight games, he gave up a total of 20 runs for an ERA of 4.0 and the most runs he gave up in any one start was four. With a little support, his win/loss records could have been much better.

Owens started against the Yankees and appeared to have a case of the jitters in the first inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, before getting out of the inning. He gave up a single to Chase Headley to lead off the second and then proceeded to shut down the hot hitting Yankees for the next four innings, getting 12 batters in succession.

At the end of five innings, the Sox had come back and led the Yankees 2-1 going to the sixth. At that point, Owens had thrown 87 pitches and the Yankees had the meat of their order, Chris Young, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann coming up.

In his first big league outing, it looked like an ideal time to get the rookie out to make his first big league experience a positive one. Taking him out at that point would ensure that he couldn’t lose and he had had a great game against the first place team in the division. The last thing he needed was a bad finish to his first outing.

Instead, Farrell sent him out to start the sixth and he gave up a single to Young and a double to Rodriguez. Then, Farrell took him out and the floodgates opened and the Sox relievers gave up 12 runs as 21 Yankees batters came to the plate in the next two innings.

In his 21 starts at Pawtucket this year, Owens had averaged 95.3 pitches per game and he had already thrown 87 when the sixth inning started. Why leave him in when it was obvious he would be over 100 before the inning was over? Why leave him in when the bullpen had had a day off the day before and should have been ready to go? Why leave him in to face the meat of the Yankee order, for the third time? It isn’t as if the game was crucial to the Red Sox winning or losing the pennant.

There was no logical reason to send him out there in the sixth. There was every reason to take him out after five and let him savor his outing and build his confidence.

Henry Owens is obviously going to be an effective major league pitcher for many years. The Red Sox have kept him in the minors, not wanting to rush his development and hurt his future and rightly so. I have felt and predicted all along that he would help this ball club this year and expected he would be in Boston before now, particularly given the lack of effective pitching the starters have shown.

The decision to leave him in the game in those circumstances is just the latest example of bad decision making at the field and management level that has given Boston fans a last place team that can’t get out of its own way.

The Red Sox have 47 wins and 60 losses in their first 107 games. To put that into perspective, even Bobby Valentine won 53 of his first 107 games.