Midseason Red Sox Report

PLUS: WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL-STAR OFFENSES AT COORS FIELD?

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Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

Incoming Hall of Famer Larry Walker had three doubles and three RBI when the Rockies opened Coors Field with an 11-9, 14-inning win over the Mets on April 26, 1995 . . .

Walker and fellow Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, George Brett, and Larry Walker were the only players to hit .300, pound 300+ homers, and steal 200+ bases . . .

Counting Derek Jeter, 57 players have been elected to the Hall of Fame on their first try . . .

How hard is it to get into Cooperstown? Hank Greenberg didn’t get in until his ninth try . . .

The four Hall of Famers elected by a single vote over the minimum 75 per cent: Willie Keeler, Al Simmons, Ralph Kiner, and Fergie Jenkins.

Leading Off

Red Sox Midseason Check-Up

By Tyler Maher

It’s officially the All-Star Break, and the Boston Red Sox are still atop the AL East standings and are tied for the most wins in the American League. I’m not sure how they’re doing it or how long they’ll keep it up, but it’s been an interesting ride nevertheless.

Like most great Red Sox teams, this one is built around offense. The Sox rank Top-3 in the AL in a number of hitting categories, including runs, hits, slugging, and OPS. As expected, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez have carried the load and are all deserving All-Stars this year. Martinez’s resurgence in particular has mirrored the team’s, as he’s reclaimed his status as one of the game’s best hitters following a terrible 2020.

Beyond them, however, Boston’s lineup lacks depth and still has several holes. While the left side of the infield has been excellent, the right side has been a disaster. Bobby Dalbec has appeared over-matched in his first full MLB season with a 36.8 percent strikeout rate, and his .673 OPS is unacceptable for a first baseman. Second base has been nearly as bad, as the Red Sox have been unable to find a consistent option at the keystone since Dustin Pedroia broke down (Jeter Downs, where art thou?).

Boston has problem areas elsewhere as well. Behind the plate, Christian Vazquez has regressed into a subpar hitter and has seemingly lost his ability to hit for power. The outfield has been fine, but overall is a far cry from the Mookie Betts-Andrew Benintendi-Jackie Bradley Jr. trio that preceded it. Alex Cora is still searching for a reliable lead-off hitter to set the table for the heart of the order, as the top spot has been a black hole all season long primarily due to Kike Hernandez’s struggles there.

And for a team that was supposed to be built on depth and versatility, the Sox haven’t gotten much production from their bench and role players. Marwin Gonzalez, Franchy Cordero, and Danny Santana have all been essentially useless since coming to Boston, while Michael Chavis has continued to flounder and looks like the second coming of Will Middlebrooks.

The lineup is also extremely right-handed heavy, as Devers and Verdugo are the only regulars who bat from the left side. That’s great when they’re playing in Fenway, but hardly ideal when they’re on the road or matched up against a tough righty.

None of those issues are necessarily fatal flaws, per se, but it will be tough for the Red Sox to keep relying on Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez for the rest of the season. If they go cold or get injured during the second half, scoring runs will be a challenge if no one else is able to pick up the slack. 

While the lineup has performed about as well as expected, the pitching staff has experienced a massive improvement from last year’s dumpster fire.

The starting rotation has held up, with the top five starters missing just two turns thus far. Nathan Eovaldi has stepped up to lead the staff in Chris Sale’s absence, and Sale’s impending return in the next month or so should provide a huge boost to the rotation.

While Eduardo Rodriguez has been inconsistent after missing last season due to COVID, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, and Garrett Richards have all been effective for the most part. Getting five or six solid innings from them most nights has been a major part of the team’s success this year, especially since Boston’s bullpen has been one of the best in baseball.

While good luck and timely situational hitting have helped the Red Sox outperform their expected W-L record by multiple wins, they are still a strong (if flawed) team that should be able to reach the playoffs barring a second-half collapse. After banking 55 wins already, they could have a losing record the rest of the way and still finish with 90 wins, which would likely be enough for a Wild Card berth. 

We still have a long way to go, of course, and the AL East race is far from settled. The Tampa Bay Rays aren’t going anywhere, and I’m not counting out the New York Yankees or Toronto Blue Jays yet either. Given how close all four teams are in terms of talent, it’s very possible that whomever wins the Trade Deadline will come out on top at the end of the season. 

The Red Sox know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Now it’s up to Chaim Bloom to do what he can to fix them.

Tyler Maher is a content editor for The Game Day who still can’t wrap his head around how the Boston Red Sox have been so successful this year. His e.mail address is tylermaher@comcast.net.

Cleaning Up

Coors Fails To Provide Usual Avalanche Of Runs

By Dan Schlossberg

Maybe the players were distracted. Maybe they were thinking of other things, from title chases to future contracts. Maybe they were just exhausted by the thin air and the constant demands on their time.

Whatever the reason, the most hitter-friendly park in the majors fell flat on its face in front of the TV cameras Tuesday night in Denver.

Unlike the 1998 All-Stars, who produced a record 21 runs in a 13-8 American League victory, this year’s injury-depleted version managed just seven — all but two by the power-packed American League.

The whole atmosphere seemed surreal.

The most photogenic park in the majors, which normally has views of the real Colorado Rockies, was ensconced in haze produced by western forest fires. Nobody saw the majestic snow-capped peaks — and everybody had trouble viewing the specially-painted purple seats in the upper deck that mark an elevation of 5,280 feet.

With the humidor temporarily sidelined for Home Run Derby, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso hit 74 balls into the seats, won $1 million for the second year in a row, and proclaimed himself the best power-hitter in baseball. But he wasn’t on the National League roster for the game a night later.

In fact, it’s hard to believe the game was played in the same stadium where balls disappeared like shooting stars one night and behaved like bowling bowls the next.

Coors has and needs the longest dimensions in the majors; balls hit in the thin, almost arid air travel 10 per cent further in Denver than they do in New York, which is at sea level. That means a 400-footer in Yankee Stadium should go 440 feet in the Mile High City.

More home runs (303) were hit at Coors in a single season (81 home games) than anywhere else. The Rockies once hit seven homers in a game and also gave up seven in another. They twice recovered from nine-run deficits and bounced back from an eight-run hole three times.

No lead is safe. In fact, the average score of a game in 1999 was 8-7.

In their first 18 seasons, the Rockies had six batting champs and three home run kings. Larry Walker and Todd Helton both had 49-homer seasons, the club record, while Andres Galarraga knocked in 150 runs.

Walker, a three-time batting champion and five-time All-Star, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sept. 8. But there was great debate over his selection because of “the Coors Field Factor.”

Rockies sluggers generally prosper at home but sweat on the road. From 2012-15, for example, the team led the National League in runs at home but ranked last on the road.

The All-Stars were licking their chops during batting practice but must have succumbed to the unusual heat and humidity by the game time.

Except for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., whose long home run to left gave the American League a lead it never lost, only catchers J.T. Realmuto and Mike Zunino — unlikely long-ball heroes — managed to clear the fences in the 91st All-Star Game.

Once again, Joaquin Andujar was proven right in his one-word description of baseball: “Youneverknow.”

HTP weekend editor Dan Schlossberg covered both Denver All-Star games, in 1998 and 2021, but wonders why the offense declined so dramatically. He writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, and more. A prolific baseball author and speaker, he can be reached at ballauthor@gmail.com.

Timeless Trivia

The notorious Coors Field humidor, which adds moisture to baseballs in an effort to keep them in the park, was sidelined for Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game . . .

A new Denver sports bar named Tom’s Watch, located in McGregor Square across from Coors Field, has 550 seats, 150 TV screens, and 130 vaccinated staff members . . .

All-Star Week generated an estimated $100 million for the Denver economy, according to Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver . . .

To anyone who thinks the Covid crisis is over, the Red Sox-Yankees game scheduled for Yankee Stadium Thursday was scratched after several Yankees tested positive . . .

With all the hype over Trevor Bauer’s administrative leave, why is there radio silence about Marcell Ozuna, who faces serious legal charges — and likely MLB punishment — even after he recovers from the fractured fingers he injured in Boston May 26 ?


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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