Sunday, April 1, 2018

Power in Unexpected Places

Raise your hand if you thought the first two Red Sox home runs of 2018 would come from Eduardo Núñez and Xander Bogaerts.

Now put down your hand, you liar.

This shouldn't be construed as anything against either Núñez or Bogaerts: they're both extremely talented, fun players.

But if we're being honest, neither is known primarily for his power. Both players had their career highs in homers back in 2016, Núñez with 16, and Bogaerts with 21. Decent numbers, sure, but not mind-blowing, and they average 11 and 13 HRs per year, respectively.

If you're the betting type, you likely would have put your money on new slugger JD Martinez, or maybe one of the youngsters like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, or Rafael Devers (who, after all, hit the final home run of 2017 for the Red Sox).

But baseball's funny that way. The first Red Sox home run of 2018 was Núñez's, in spectacular inside-the-park fashion, and the first traditional round-tripper went to Bogaerts, who is on an absolute tear to begin the season. 

If the Red Sox can keep getting this kind of production from their middle infield, 2018 should shape up to be a pretty great season.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Statement Start to 2018 for David Price

I'm sure yesterday's game was an uncomfortable experience for David Price doubters in Red Sox Nation. Price pitched a gem, going seven innings, with five strikeouts, scattering just five hits and allowing zero (!) walks.

That dominating performance led to the first win of the young season for the Red Sox, even with the minimum possible run support provided by an RBI single from Rafael Devers.

I know some Red Sox fans hoped David Price would opt out at the end of this season, given his less than stellar performances during the first two years of his deal. But the odds were never in their favor, given his age and the truly mind-boggling amount of money he'd be leaving on the table.

Prior to this offseason, you might have wagered that Price could chase an even higher payday with an out-of-this-world 2018 (setting aside that Charlie Morton, Adam Wainwright, and Dallas Keuchel will also be free agents, plus Clayton Kershaw could also opt out after this year, and no one wants to compete with him on the open market).

But you can bet that Price was watching the trajectory of last offseason with the rest of us: the days of behemoth contracts for aging players seem to be behind us - at least for now. Even if Kershaw opts to stick with the Dodgers, teams have been saving up for the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and might not have a hundred million dollars to spare for a 33-year-old pitcher.

So whether you're a David Price fangirl like me, or a serial doubter, buckle up. The David Price era in Boston is just beginning - and I have a good feeling about the 2018 chapter, given how beautifully it started.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Opening Day was Good, Actually

Regardless of outcome, I think we can all agree that Opening Day should be a holiday. Honestly, even more so when you have to swallow spirit-crushing late-innings losses like the Red Sox coughed up yesterday afternoon.

But with the first loss of the season behind us, we can all relax into baseball's wonderful routine: we get to watch our team play 162 times over the course of six months - and then hopefully reset the standings and watch them compete well into October.

Baseball fans are truly #blessed.

I won't waste your time opining about the bullpen: we all know the Red Sox need to improve in that area. But there is one small silver lining. Remember the nightmare that was Matt Barnes on the road last season?

Home or Away -- Game-Level
Generated 3/30/2018.

Barnes tossed a completely clean inning yesterday! At the Trop! Hopefully he's turned a corner, and the rest of his bullpen cohort can learn from his example.

Bullpen aside, Chris Sale was as spectacular as ever. Six shutout innings, nine strikeouts - Sale was betrayed by his own bullpen, but I'm sure he doesn't look at it that way. 

A throwback who berates himself for anything less than a complete game, Sale is likely back in the weight room, vowing to go the distance in his next outing, or at the very least, hand the ball directly to Craig Kimbrel.

In other positive news, Eduardo Núñez's knee looks like it's just fine, which is a huge relief after we watched him be carried off the field in Houston last October, and then saw him spend spring training treating the questionable joint with kid gloves.

Lastly, I think a lot of us came into the season underestimating what kind of factor Xander Bogaerts is going to be at the plate. An injury last season saw him underperforming, but there was no sign of that yesterday, as the shortstop clubbed two doubles against Chris Archer (whose line yesterday certainly doesn't reflect his skill).

The Red Sox are going to be fine. The bullpen will get better - and if they don't, I'm fully confident that Dave Dombrowski will make the moves necessary to avoid another catastrophic meltdown like the one we witnessed yesterday.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that you never have time to dwell on a loss, even one as gruesome as yesterday's. David Price takes the mound today, and I fully expect him to set the tone for what should be a huge year for him - and for the Red Sox.

Buckle in, fellow Red Sox fans: the season's just begun, and we've got (at least) 161 more games to watch. What could be better?