Previewing the Boston Red Sox | The Process Report

Previewing the Boston Red Sox

After splitting with the defending world champs in their yard the Rays come home to face the team that has already won the 2017 World Series according to various media outlets. It’s been awhile since the Rays have faced their familiar foe, and in that time both teams have twisted themselves into completely different versions of themselves. The Rays built their initial run on pitching. For years the Red Sox have used a powerful offense to bludgeon opponents and cover up suspect pitching. No more. Welcome to the funhouse.

(all data covers last 30 days)

Well I’ll be dipped. The Rays continue to ride their well above average offense that has maintained the powerful contact, but found a way to get the strikeouts down to around league average. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will take their walks, strikeout less than league average, but show some of the weakest production on balls in play in the league. The Rays have a legitimate argument that their offense belongs amongst the top five teams in the league while the Red Sox look more like an average offensive unit.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have good hitters. Bradley Jr., Moreland, Mookie, Benintendi and Hanley all come in as above average guys. Not best in the league or anything, but good players that can do damage. The problem is that the bottom half of their roster has been an utter mess. This was a team with holes coming into the year, and the biggest are at third base or catcher or the entire bench. At shortstop, Xander Bogaerts has been in a pronounced and prolonged slump, in which, he has struck out four times more than he has walked while hitting with absolutely no authority. The reigning king of the Damon Double won’t have the Fenway low wall to kick his balls equidistant between infield and outfield defenders at the Trop. The team cannot let him be a thorn in their paw.

Continuing with their shortstop you can see that his actual production has far outstripped what you should expect. This is probably a time where underlying numbers are well ahead of more basic public figures. Folks will see it soon enough if they haven’t already. The other side of the coin shows Moreland and Hanley as guys that have significantly underperformed expectations. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Moving over to the pitching you can see why Boston has had so much success of late. They get a ton strikeouts without having to walk the world to get there, and they are above average at allowing weaker contact. The Rays walk even fewer, but can’t quite throttle up the strikeout quite as often when they need it. Additionally, when batters do put it in play they’re doing so at an above average clip.

Chris Sale has been everything the team could have hoped for and then some. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’ll get the nod in the series opener tonight. Drew Pomeranz joins him as a better than average starter, but the well-compensated David Price and Rick Porcello have not been what you would call good. Both allow hard contact and far too many walks, though they can dial up the siddown when they need it. I didn’t think they had a real fifth starter at the beginning of the season and that looks like a trend that has continued. Their bullpen is very good, and very deep. Be careful what you wish for when their bad starters leave early.

The guys with larger numbers of balls in play don’t look like they have a ton of regression in either direction in store. Hector Velasquez does look like one guy that has seen far better results than he should have, however.

It is impossible for me to over exaggerate the enormity of this series. Tampa Bay currently sits five and a half games back of Boston. Even a split in this series makes it awfully tough for them to make up the ground necessary before running out of time. If they can take three out of four they will close the gap considerably, and may even find themselves in second place as they head into some much deserved rest over the All Star Break. If you will it, it is no dream. Go Rays!

Here’s a look at some loose projections for each game based upon unofficial lineups:

Game 1

Game 2

Game 3

Game 4

I see the Rays as big dogs in the first two games before becoming a favorite and then a coin flip in the last two, respectively. I cannot imagine the frustration from this Rays fanbase if/when they lose the first two, but those that hang on should still be able to hope for a split. The problem here is that the Red Sox can roll three lefties, and the Rays really don’t have an answer for that.


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