Dating back to the final two games of the Chicago White Sox series, the 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox have now won seven of their last eight games. While this is all well and good, I unfortunately now believe it has fostered a sense of hope among Red Sox nation that this season is not yet lost. I hate to act as the grim reaper, but this, in my opinion, is a false sense of hope that has led some to ponder not selling veteran players prior to the July 31 trade deadline. While winning seven of eight is a fantastic accomplishment for any baseball team, let us not forget that the Sox are still tied for last place in the AL East, 7.5 games out of first place, and 6 games out of the second Wild Card spot with only 64 games left to play.
According to two of the better projection systems out there (Fan Graphs and Baseball Prospectus), the Sox have a less than 10% chance of making the playoffs. Fan Graphs is a bit more bullish, giving the Sox a 9.8% chance of achieving a playoff birth. Baseball Prospectus, on the other hand, is much more bearish on the Sox postseason chances giving them a 3.9% chance. Thus, if you are a projections man, you should realize that it is going to take a miracle for the Red Sox to make the playoffs.
And, for those of you who still believe the 2014 Red Sox can replicate what the 2013 LA Dodgers did, please know that at this point in the season last year, the Dodgers were 49-47 and only a half game out of first. So, there is that.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Unless you have watched every Sox game via ESPN Gamecast you obviously know the value that Bradley brings to outfield night in and night out in center field. According to Fan Graphs, his UZR/150 currently stands at 21.5 and his outfield arm UZR is 4.4! His UZR/150 is good for 3rd best in baseball behind only Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward, neither of whom play center field. And, according to my eye test, I would take JBJ over Gordon any day of the week.
Well, not only has Bradley been playing phenomenal defense, but now his offense has finally come around. Since June 29 (Sunday Night Baseball in the Bronx) Bradley has raised his average from .206 to .231 and has reached base in all but two of the twelve games he has played in since then. He is hitting .351/.400/.405 with seven runs in the All-Star break shortened month of July.
In a redemption story similar to that of Bradley Jr. (minus the demotion), Nava has also found himself in a bit of a groove of late at the plate. Nava, like Bradley, has raised his average from .205 on June 21 to .246 after today’s 6-0 win over Kansas City. Nava is typically only hitting against RHP (he sat against LHP Danny Duffy on Saturday) and the Gomes/Nava platoon situation seems to be finally working.
If you take a look at Nava’s heat map’s below that outline his batted ball outcomes in relation to batting average, you will notice that he is not chasing nearly as many pitches outside of the zone during over the past month. This has resulted in Nava hitting better pitches and seeing a drastic rise in his batting average.
Since returning from the Disabled List on June 25, Clay Buchholz has looked much more like the Buchholz of old rather than the unmitigated disaster that we saw for the first two months of the 2014 season. In the month of July, Buchholz sports 2.86 ERA, tossed a shutout in Houston, and, wait for it, has walked only ONE batter. In his first ten starts of 2014, Buchholz walked 24 hitters. In addition he is inducing more swing and misses, which has resulted in an increased strike out rate (24 in 28.1 innings). Needless to say, Buchholz’ return to form has directly coincided with the Red Sox improved play.
If we are being honest, it has been a season to forget for Dustin Pedroia. His current slash line of .274/.342/.372 is well south of his career norm line of .300/.367/.447. In addition, Pedey has accounted for only 85 Red Sox runs (49 runs, 36 RBI) and has swiped just two bases (2 for 8 in SB attempts). While Pedroia’s power numbers have been in decline for the past three seasons, he is on pace for a career worst offensive season. Perhaps Pedroia is, once again, playing hurt, but his down offensive numbers is certainly a cause for concern regardless.
With the return of Clay Buchholz, John Farrell had to make a decision as to who would remain in the Sox rotation: Rubby De La Rosa or Workman? After Workman’s previous three starts (18 innings, 15 runs, 20 hits, and 7 walks) the decision was not difficult at all. Workman was sent back down to Pawtucket and De La Rosa was recalled to man the final Sox rotation spot. While this certainly does not mean all is lost for Workman (he will more than likely be recalled if Peavy, Lackey, or Lester is dealt before the trade deadline), he certainly has work to do.
Will Middlebrooks and Jenny Dell got engaged. Good for them. Former Fire Brand writer Ben Carsley tweeted this about the engagement, which took place during quite possibly the worst Home Run Derby of all time:
Dell and WMB getting engaged is legit the second-most exciting thing to happen during the derby.
— The Official Xander Bogaerts Victory Lap Account (@BenCarsley) July 15, 2014
While Middlebooks personal life may be fantastic – I mean, Jenny Dell, you guys – his baseball career continues to remain in the gutter that is Pawtucket. Farrell said yesterday that Middlebrooks rehab clock has been “restarted,” so he will be down in Pawtucket for 18 more days. More than likely that is where he will remain unless he is traded or one of Holt, Bogaerts, Pedroia, or Drew gets hurt.
While I still believe that it is time for the 2014 Red Sox to sell, many Sox fans still hope that this season of agony is not all lost.