Written by Cole Nefsky, Gideon Turk, and Sean Addis
The Red Sox Shocking Lack of Lineup Depth
Coming off a season in which Mookie Betts put up a good run for the MVP, Andrew Benintendi was promoted mashing, and the Red Sox as a team led the majors in runs scored, you would think that despite losing David Ortiz, they would still have a top tier offense. This certainly has not been the case so far.
The Red Sox are fifteenth in the league in runs scored, as close to the middle as you can be in an even-numbered team league. The disappointment has been evenly spread throughout the team. Betts hasn’t lived up to last year, with his TAv falling .017 points to .279, Pedroia has a career worst .264 to go along with Benintendi’s .268. Sandy Leon hasn’t been keeping the miracle of last season alive, Christian Vazquez has hit like Christian Vazquez, and Hanley Ramirez is playing a lot like an aging ex-shortstop with dwindling power and some horrible BABIP luck.
This team’s offense certainly isn’t dead, given that many of these guys have the ability to turn it around at any minute, but it’s not the monster it was last year, and we should be much more worried about scoring runs than preventing them in this series.
Steve Pearce Is Regressing…in the Best Possible Way
When he isn’t spending time rehabbing from injury, Steve Pearce is actually a professional baseball player who is supposed to be occupying left field and providing bottom of the order power for the Blue Jays. However, that task has come a lot harder to Pearce than one would have expected going into the year; he got off to a horrific start with the club before he landed himself on the DL, hitting just .209 with a .629 OPS as of May 14th. Pearce worked his way back from injury and was back with the club again on June 16th. Since then, it’s been nothing but success.
In nine games and 29 plate appearances, Pearce is batting .500/.552/.731, a level of success that has raised his overall batting line up to the point where he now has a respectable .786 OPS in 2017. How has this occurred? One word: Luck. His BABIP in April and May was .232. In June, it is .571. Neither of those numbers is sustainable, but what it tells us is that Pearce wasn’t as bad as he was playing before, and he isn’t as good as he is now. (Shocking that a player won’t hit .500 for the entire season!) His career BABIP is .290, so this regression was always predictable.
His BABIP numbers aren’t convincing enough for you? How about looking at his exit velocity data? In his first stint before the disabled list trip, Pearce had an average exit velocity of 88.7 MPH. Since returning, it has actually gone down, all the way to 84.5 MPH! Pearce is making worse contact than he was before, and getting more hits. How? Because they are finding holes, whereas over the course of the first two months of the season, they were finding gloves.
The Blue Jays were due for some positive regression, and Steve Pearce is definitely the beneficiary of some of it right now.
Chris Sale Is Getting Better
Game two of the series will be the Canada Day game on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Jays will have the unenviable task of facing Boston ace, lefthander Chris Sale. In April he absolutely dominated the Blue Jays, pitching eight scoreless innings allowing four hits and striking out 13.
Sale has had a great first season in Beantown, posting his lowest BB/9 (1.7), hits/9 (6.5), HR/9 (0.7, which doesn’t bode well for a home run dependent team), and his highest K/9 (12.3). Why the early season dominance? As Ryan Schultz wrote on June 9th for Beyond the Box score, Sale has altered his approach. He is throwing his fastball and sinker with more velocity, while using his assortment of pitches more effectively. Sale has moved away from relying as heavily on his fastball, with a reduction from 45.3 percent previously to 34.9 percent this year, and has increased the usage of his very good changeup and back door slider to shut down righties. The results have been devastating for the opposition as right-handed hitters are hitting .202 this season, compared to .227 over the previous three years.
Toronto has historically struggled against the lefty with a slash line of .184/.238/.316. Add to the the Blue Jays’ overall struggles this season against southpaws, Sale not being prone to the home run ball, and his improved effectiveness against righties, and it could be another Canada Day game at the Rogers Centre where there isn’t much to celebrate for Blue Jays fans.
Lead Photo © Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports