May: Red Sox discussion, observations and trend tracking...AKA It's not all about the Benjamins

Fishy1

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Re: Abreu - the only issue is whether he can hit lefties. Cora doesn't seem very confident that he can.
He's had a very limited showing against LHP, but yeah, it's been ugly.

82851

The BB% is slashed in half, the K% is doubled. Not good stuff. It's only 30 plate appearances, of course, and guys can improve... but there's not really any reason to do that right now with Rafaela, Refsnyder, and O'Neill all on the team.

He might be a strong-sided platoon guy for his entire career, which doesn't make him bad per se, just the sort of guy you're probably going to keep as long as he's cheap and then let walk.

As for the team as a whole... my sense is that the Sox's woes with runners on base are largely driving their miserable May performance, and on the year, I dove into how it was bad in an earlier post. But it's been extra bad in May. Red Sox are middle of the pack as a team offensively for the month with the bases empty, a 91 wrc+, good for 16th in the league.

With runners on base, they fall to 26th in the league, with a wrc+ of 77.

With RISP, it's even worse, 27th in all of baseball, a wrc+ of 68.

And yeah, I don't think this is predictive, and that they'll do much better in the future. But when I look at the gap between their Pythag and their record, I can't help thinking their performance with RISP is a huge part of it.
 

Rovin Romine

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There are 23 position players “projected” to have 5.9 wins this year; only 9 did so last year.

IIRC, Verdugo was on pace for a 5 win season at this point last year, and ended up at like 1.5.

(Just checked- a year ago the Sox leaders were Verdugo at 1.3 and Yoshida at 0.6 fWAR- on pace for 4.5 and 2.1 wins. They ended up at 1.4 and 0.6).
Maybe if you think of WAR like batting average it will make more sense. Some guys start hot hitting .350 and up. But they do not stay hot for the whole year.

In Duran's case, playing a 9.5 WAR clip for 1/4 of the year means thusfar he's been as valuable as [Insert Sox Player's full WAR season here.] It gives you a quick and relatable benchmark for performance, which is good if older folks are biased against contemporary players and view "ye olden days" through rose-tinted glasses.
 

BaseballJones

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For sure, Duran or Abreu or Wong could enter a long stretch of playing poorly and their bWAR number will decrease; it won't just remain static until he plays better again. The point I'm making is simply that Duran has been, so far, one of the better players in all of MLB to this point in the season, which is a very nice development, especially as we were all wondering whether 2023 was, for him, a fluke. It appears that he's made the leap to at least "good, solid MLB player".
 

Fishy1

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For sure, Duran or Abreu or Wong could enter a long stretch of playing poorly and their bWAR number will decrease; it won't just remain static until he plays better again. The point I'm making is simply that Duran has been, so far, one of the better players in all of MLB to this point in the season, which is a very nice development, especially as we were all wondering whether 2023 was, for him, a fluke. It appears that he's made the leap to at least "good, solid MLB player".
Yeah, the question with him is if he could survive a drop in BABIP. Last year it was .381, this year it's .348 (which I think is fairly sustainable given his speed and how hard he hits the ball). He's surviving that drop by pumping his walk rate up by 2% (which sounds small but isn't) and cutting the K rate by about 4%. So even though he's hitting almost 20 points lower in batting average, his OBP is virtually the same as last year.

There's so much to like on his savant page, too.

82867
 

changer591

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Here's a random observation. I'm an ex-fan only because I no longer have the time that I used to have years ago after I graduated college, which coincided with the great run in the early 2000s. I went from watching every game on NESN from my apartment in Davis Square to barely catching any games at all because I don't have NESN anymore and I just don't follow things as much as I used to.
I probably couldn't name every single player on the roster...but I find myself checking in on the Box Score every single night before I go to bed and I'm starting to just wonder at how this young pitching staff is doing it. I mean, it's incredible once you really look at it. I'm starting to believe this might be the start of something special in the next couple of seasons, and while this might not be the most entertaining team, it's actually starting to raise my interest level a bit from where it's been since the pandemic.
I'm starting to go from entirely neutral on the team as a whole to slightly positive no matter what happens the rest of this season.
 

chrisfont9

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Here's a random observation. I'm an ex-fan only because I no longer have the time that I used to have years ago after I graduated college, which coincided with the great run in the early 2000s. I went from watching every game on NESN from my apartment in Davis Square to barely catching any games at all because I don't have NESN anymore and I just don't follow things as much as I used to.
I probably couldn't name every single player on the roster...but I find myself checking in on the Box Score every single night before I go to bed and I'm starting to just wonder at how this young pitching staff is doing it. I mean, it's incredible once you really look at it. I'm starting to believe this might be the start of something special in the next couple of seasons, and while this might not be the most entertaining team, it's actually starting to raise my interest level a bit from where it's been since the pandemic.
I'm starting to go from entirely neutral on the team as a whole to slightly positive no matter what happens the rest of this season.
It's always fun to dream on rising young stars in sports, if you're a fan of any sport. That's why, IMO, it's not really about the trophies, it's about watching people become something. [Before I had kids I never said shit like this.]

This team is starting to look like they are really worth settling in and watching for a while. I don't suddenly think they'll be anything in the playoffs this season, but the sheer number of intriguing and/or legitimately very good players on the roster is significant. Baseball is awash in great young talent, not just a handful of teams, so the winning part won't be easy. But I am starting to really enjoy this. If Duran sets the triples record I'm buying his jersey.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Wholeheartedly agree. This team’s record may only be average so far, but there’s a ton to like and wish in here. I think this season has been, while frustrating at times, really encouraging and am looking forward to the rest of it. Things certainly seem to be moving in the right direction.
 

bosockboy

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Playing meaningful games in September and a season of reps for the kids would be a big win. The AL isn’t stacked, a WC at 83-86 wins is possible.
 

chrisfont9

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Duran's performance this season has definitely been a bright spot. He's looking like a legit ML starter with star upside now. As @Fishy1 said, he's built upon last season in small but meaningful ways that offset the drop in BABIP. The fact that his xwOBA and actual wOBA are right in line is very encouraging.
He's got 2.8 bWAR(!) so far, 1.7 oWAR and 1.2 dWAR. Even if you discount defensive metrics, that's a ton of value.

The 8th inning with him and Rafaela on the bases was so cool, so much athleticism, you just knew they were scoring. It's not just the numbers, it's how they do it.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I was just following gameday last night and was puzzled (and thought for sure the Rays would win) when Cora pulled Criswell. His pitch count was low and he was cruising. It ended up okay but I don’t think it was the best decision
 

Max Power

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I was just following gameday last night and was puzzled (and thought for sure the Rays would win) when Cora pulled Criswell. His pitch count was low and he was cruising. It ended up okay but I don’t think it was the best decision
Criswell is the only starter that Cora routinely pulls early. They must really hate his third time through the order numbers.
 

simplicio

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I think there are a lot of possible explanations. He's never thrown 120 innings, he doesn't have the velocity to rely on once the hitters have established familiarity, and he was seeing the Rays for the second time in a week after they rocked him pretty hard last Thursday. He also hasn't been going longer than 5 innings since he was in AA with the Angels in 2021.

I was surprised he even started the 6th, but I'd guess with Whitlock down and his role seemingly more permanent they may be pushing him (carefully) for longer outings.
 

joe dokes

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I think there are a lot of possible explanations. He's never thrown 120 innings, he doesn't have the velocity to rely on once the hitters have established familiarity, and he was seeing the Rays for the second time in a week after they rocked him pretty hard last Thursday. He also hasn't been going longer than 5 innings since he was in AA with the Angels in 2021.

I was surprised he even started the 6th, but I'd guess with Whitlock down and his role seemingly more permanent they may be pushing him (carefully) for longer outings.
This makes sense. Especially in the context of Sox just tied the game, runner on and one out, in the middle of the order. IF the Sox had a lead, or IF there were two outs when TB got a runner on, maybe things are different. Also, Sunday and Monday were pretty unstressful games for the bullpen. regardless it's a nice change from needing 4+ bullpen innings in 3 of 4 games.
 

Fishy1

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Duran's performance this season has definitely been a bright spot. He's looking like a legit ML starter with star upside now. As @Fishy1 said, he's built upon last season in small but meaningful ways that offset the drop in BABIP. The fact that his xwOBA and actual wOBA are right in line is very encouraging.
He's been hammering the snot out of the ball the last few games. Deep drives to center and left field. I think he's using a bigger leg kick than he was for the last stretch where he was fairly unproductive. It's paying dividends clearly. 8 XBHs since the 15th (though one of those was a dropped pop-up).
 

RS2004foreever

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Since I made this comment 2 days ago Duran has 1 home run and 3 doubles.
You are welcome.
I am continuing to accept thanks for Duran's turn around.
My Cayman's account # is...
I am still skeptical of him generally - but no denying he has been great over the last week.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I think there are a lot of possible explanations. He's never thrown 120 innings, he doesn't have the velocity to rely on once the hitters have established familiarity, and he was seeing the Rays for the second time in a week after they rocked him pretty hard last Thursday. He also hasn't been going longer than 5 innings since he was in AA with the Angels in 2021.

I was surprised he even started the 6th, but I'd guess with Whitlock down and his role seemingly more permanent they may be pushing him (carefully) for longer outings.
I'm really, really hoping that Bryan Mata can just get moving along quickly, dominate his way back up to AAA as a one inning reliever and take over the closer's role after they deal Kenley.
 

simplicio

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I expect zero from Mata, let alone taking over as closer. I think the more likely scenario is him sucking enough in his rehab to go unclaimed when he's DFA at the end of his stint. He's the next Darwinzon.
 

Yo La Tengo

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I'm really, really hoping that Bryan Mata can just get moving along quickly, dominate his way back up to AAA as a one inning reliever and take over the closer's role after they deal Kenley.
I'm hoping Hendricks will be able to fill that role later in the season (his stated goal is a return in August but that might be ambitious). Looking at Mata's career MILB stats, he's been the starting pitcher in 82 of his 85 appearances , from 2017 forward. If the Sox braintrust thinks he's done as a starter, I'd be ok with a tryout in higher leverage spots in the bullpen, but I'm hoping the goal is still for him to be a starter and, if so, he should be working toward that goal by building up innings in the minors this year.
 

Rovin Romine

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I expect zero from Mata, let alone taking over as closer. I think the more likely scenario is him sucking enough in his rehab to go unclaimed when he's DFA at the end of his stint. He's the next Darwinzon.
He's an enigma. Bad health, questionable command, but perhaps 3 ML quality pitches - Fastball, Slider, Change.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I'm hoping Hendricks will be able to fill that role later in the season (his stated goal is a return in August but that might be ambitious). Looking at Mata's career MILB stats, he's been the starting pitcher in 82 of his 85 appearances , from 2017 forward. If the Sox braintrust thinks he's done as a starter, I'd be ok with a tryout in higher leverage spots in the bullpen, but I'm hoping the goal is still for him to be a starter and, if so, he should be working toward that goal by building up innings in the minors this year.
I forgot about Hendricks but I'm skeptical if he'll be able to contribute at all. I'm aware of Mata's starting history but he's looking like a guy that, based on his arsenal, would be a better reliever IMO. He's injured too often as a starter and the Sox have some depth there finally. I think there's more of a lack of closer types which I think Mata could excel at.
 

Rovin Romine

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I forgot about Hendricks but I'm skeptical if he'll be able to contribute at all. I'm aware of Mata's starting history but he's looking like a guy that, based on his arsenal, would be a better reliever IMO. He's injured too often as a starter and the Sox have some depth there finally. I think there's more of a lack of closer types which I think Mata could excel at.
FWIW, Hendrick's target date is quite possible - we'll know more as it gets closer of course. But he's a legitimate monster if he's healthy: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hendrli01.shtml
 

richgedman'sghost

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I forgot about Hendricks but I'm skeptical if he'll be able to contribute at all. I'm aware of Mata's starting history but he's looking like a guy that, based on his arsenal, would be a better reliever IMO. He's injured too often as a starter and the Sox have some depth there finally. I think there's more of a lack of closer types which I think Mata could excel at.
I expect even less of Mata than you do of Hendricks. At least Hendricks has a good history when healthy. Mata has proven nothing at the major league level and has a very questionable future. Plus Mata has been used almost exclusively as a starter. What makes you think he could handle the workload of a reliever? If he's coming back from an injury it might make more sense for Mata to start and then have 4 days off. That's what Mata is most comfortable doing.
 

Fishy1

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I expect even less of Mata than you do of Hendricks. At least Hendricks has a good history when healthy. Mata has proven nothing at the major league level and has a very questionable future. Plus Mata has been used almost exclusively as a starter. What makes you think he could handle the workload of a reliever? If he's coming back from an injury it might make more sense for Mata to start and then have 4 days off. That's what Mata is most comfortable doing.
Yeah, Mata has done nothing above AA that would suggest he's ready to be a major league pitcher. He's had major control issues going on 8 years now, and he hasn't walked fewer than 4 BB/9 since 2019, in A+ ball.

The bullpen is stacked right now at the major league level, with Campbell and Hendriks on the horizon to step in if anyone goes down. Luis Guerrero is at AAA right now too, doing exactly the same thing as Mata always has -- striking out a ton and walking far too many. If they have to DFA Mata and he gets claimed elsewhere, they've got plenty of other guys with tantalizing stuff and horrible control in the minor leagues.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Yeah, Mata has done nothing above AA that would suggest he's ready to be a major league pitcher. He's had major control issues going on 8 years now, and he hasn't walked fewer than 4 BB/9 since 2019, in A+ ball.

The bullpen is stacked right now at the major league level, with Campbell and Hendriks on the horizon to step in if anyone goes down. Luis Guerrero is at AAA right now too, doing exactly the same thing as Mata always has -- striking out a ton and walking far too many. If they have to DFA Mata and he gets claimed elsewhere, they've got plenty of other guys with tantalizing stuff and horrible control in the minor leagues.
Im thinking with a limited pitching palette he’d be able to focus on his two best pitches. His projection as a ML starter would probably be 2 more years working a pitch count up.
He was fantastic in ST as basically a relief arm. Converting him now means you likely will hold onto him. Otherwise he’s occupying 40man space without likely contributing.
As a starter, he’s shown he gets injured and doesn’t have a high ceiling. In his time throwing shorter outings he’s shown a potential as a power late inning type.
 

BaseballJones

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Nice little four game winning streak going now.

11-3 win over StL as the offense gets 14 hits (and 3 homers). Pivetta allowing just one hit and one run in six splendid innings.

5-0 win over TB behind a dominant start by Houck and another Devers homer.

5-2 win over TB. Criswell with 5.1 solid innings. Again. The guy has been pretty darned good for the Sox, as his era is now at 2.86.

8-5 win over TB after falling behind 3-0. Bello rights the ship after a rough second inning to give a quality start. Offense came alive.

29-10 aggregate score over these four games. Very nice. Three excellent starts and the worst start of the four was still 6.0 ip, 4 h, 3 r by Bello. So once again the starters are getting it done.

Starters over the four games:

6.0 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 8 k (Pivetta)
7.0 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 er, 1 bb, 5 k (Houck)
5.1 ip, 6 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 6 k (Criswell)
6.0 ip, 4 h, 3 r, 3 er, 4 bb, 6 k (Bello)

TOT: 24.1 ip, 13 h, 6 r, 6 er, 6 bb, 25 k, 2.22 era, 0.78 whip, 9.2 k/9

Pretty nice. Especially coming off a four-game losing streak.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Nice little four game winning streak going now.

11-3 win over StL as the offense gets 14 hits (and 3 homers). Pivetta allowing just one hit and one run in six splendid innings.

5-0 win over TB behind a dominant start by Houck and another Devers homer.

5-2 win over TB. Criswell with 5.1 solid innings. Again. The guy has been pretty darned good for the Sox, as his era is now at 2.86.

8-5 win over TB after falling behind 3-0. Bello rights the ship after a rough second inning to give a quality start. Offense came alive.

29-10 aggregate score over these four games. Very nice. Three excellent starts and the worst start of the four was still 6.0 ip, 4 h, 3 r by Bello. So once again the starters are getting it done.

Starters over the four games:

6.0 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 8 k (Pivetta)
7.0 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 er, 1 bb, 5 k (Houck)
5.1 ip, 6 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 6 k (Criswell)
6.0 ip, 4 h, 3 r, 3 er, 4 bb, 6 k (Bello)

TOT: 24.1 ip, 13 h, 6 r, 6 er, 6 bb, 25 k, 2.22 era, 0.78 whip, 9.2 k/9

Pretty nice. Especially coming off a four-game losing streak.
super early but they’re hanging in to a WC spot. If they hang out here for the next month, hopefully Casas can bring in the extra offense.
I’m bullish on the SP continuing to be this or close to this good. It’ll come down to long term health, innings limits.
If they can get in, with Casas, they have a good enough team to do some damage
 

BaseballJones

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If by some amazing string of events the Red Sox make the playoffs, I think they might be a tough out.

Bello, Houck, Crawford and Pivetta make for a nice four-man rotation. Criswell moves to the pen, making it even deeper, and he, Slaten, Martin, Weissert, Berardino, and Jansen (assuming they're all still on the team) make for a pretty solid bullpen.

And by then hopefully Casas would be back, adding a massive bat to the lineup. If they can only get there, I think they indeed could do some damage.

Long, LONG way to go though.
 

RS2004foreever

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If by some amazing string of events the Red Sox make the playoffs, I think they might be a tough out.

Bello, Houck, Crawford and Pivetta make for a nice four-man rotation. Criswell moves to the pen, making it even deeper, and he, Slaten, Martin, Weissert, Berardino, and Jansen (assuming they're all still on the team) make for a pretty solid bullpen.

And by then hopefully Casas would be back, adding a massive bat to the lineup. If they can only get there, I think they indeed could do some damage.

Long, LONG way to go though.
If you believe - and I can't keep up with what the analytics say - that teams with two really good starting pitching are good playoff teams - the Red Sox are interesting. They and the Phillies are the only two teams with 2 pitchers in the top 10 in War.
Whether the Red Sox have enough offense once Casas gets back is an open question. But if Duran and Abreu keep hitting they just might have enough.
So many ifs of course....

83017
 

Fishy1

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Their struggles with guys in scoring position have also evaporated the last few games. Most teams OPS somewhere around .040 points better with RISP, and they were .040 worse. With that coming around, I expect them to score more runs even without Casas.

Getting Yoshida back would be great too. He's not great shakes but an above average bat im the mix would beat what they've been getting from DH.
 

chrisfont9

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Maybe it's just been a good few days and not something to overreact to, but their athleticism has shown how the way this team is constructed can really put pressure on a defense, while taking pressure off their own pitching. I like what I see of Grissom, he's been solid in the field. Thankfully we don't have to talk about him losing that ball in the roof and staying at first.

We could use another bullpen arm, but I guess we are just waiting to see if Bernardino is the guy.
 

Fishy1

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Maybe it's just been a good few days and not something to overreact to, but their athleticism has shown how the way this team is constructed can really put pressure on a defense, while taking pressure off their own pitching. I like what I see of Grissom, he's been solid in the field. Thankfully we don't have to talk about him losing that ball in the roof and staying at first.

We could use another bullpen arm, but I guess we are just waiting to see if Bernardino is the guy.
Agree about the athleticism. The only real chuggers on the team right now are Devers, Dom Smith, and Cooper. (Grissom is about league average for sprint speed). Abreu isn't super fast but he's still managed to steal 7 bases.

Campbell is due back soon, with Hendriks coming at the trade deadline, hopefully. Winck is down in AAA, too. Campbell's return probably pushes Kelly back to AAA, where he belongs (the guy has fantastic stuff but seems to have no idea where the ball is going).
 

chrisfont9

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Agree about the athleticism. The only real chuggers on the team right now are Devers, Dom Smith, and Cooper. (Grissom is about league average for sprint speed). Abreu isn't super fast but he's still managed to steal 7 bases.

Campbell is due back soon, with Hendriks coming at the trade deadline, hopefully. Winck is down in AAA, too. Campbell's return probably pushes Kelly back to AAA, where he belongs (the guy has fantastic stuff but seems to have no idea where the ball is going).
Winck is getting stretched out for the next SP injury, right? If so, that would be wise.
 

joe dokes

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Winck is getting stretched out for the next SP injury, right? If so, that would be wise.
I also wonder if there's another thought at work--even if healthy, their current two best -- Houck and Crawford -- are going to pitch more than they ever have. A turn or two of extra rest during one of those 20 games in 20 days stretches might help stave off some fatigue. IIRC, that was the plan when Whitlock was thought to be ready to return.
 

chrisfont9

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I also wonder if there's another thought at work--even if healthy, their current two best -- Houck and Crawford -- are going to pitch more than they ever have. A turn or two of extra rest during one of those 20 games in 20 days stretches might help stave off some fatigue. IIRC, that was the plan when Whitlock was thought to be ready to return.
Maybe that or just a less specific plan to always have six guys and see who needs a break at some point. But they would be the prime candidates.
 

Sin Duda

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If by some amazing string of events the Red Sox make the playoffs, I think they might be a tough out.

Bello, Houck, Crawford and Pivetta make for a nice four-man rotation. Criswell moves to the pen, making it even deeper, and he, Slaten, Martin, Weissert, Berardino, and Jansen (assuming they're all still on the team) make for a pretty solid bullpen.

And by then hopefully Casas would be back, adding a massive bat to the lineup. If they can only get there, I think they indeed could do some damage.

Long, LONG way to go though.
I'm as optimistic as anyone, BaseballJones, but our top 4 starters have a combined one playoff start (Pivetta, 5 IP). I hope they keep performing at this level, but who knows?
 

YTF

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I have been cautiously optimistic about this team for the past few years, but I think that anyone believing that Casas will be ready on June 21st and anyone counting on Liam Hendricks coming back in July or August and being Liam Hendricks right from the get go is overly optimistic.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I'm as optimistic as anyone, BaseballJones, but our top 4 starters have a combined one playoff start (Pivetta, 5 IP). I hope they keep performing at this level, but who knows?
Pivetta has 2 playoff starts. 8.2 IP dominant performance against the Rays in which he made a pretty convincing case that he has top quality stuff. The 5 IP was Houston.
 

jon abbey

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I don't think that matters too much anyway. Jordan Montgomery only had 6.2 postseason innings pitched before he started five postseason games (plus one long relief appearance) for TEX last year and helped lead them to a WS win, 31 innings of 2.90 ERA.
 

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Even the greatest post-season pitchers ever had zero post-season experience at some point. If the pitching is good enough to get this team there, we have to trust that the pitching will be competitive in the post-season.
 

RS2004foreever

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An off-topic story - no idea where to put it.
When I coached baseball one of the fung things was the Hispanic families that would show up to watch their kid play. Parents/siblings/cousins/great aunts would all show up. And unlike other parents I have never heard ONE complaint about where their kid played.

https://x.com/AP/status/1794005431695581438
 

Tony Pena's Gas Cloud

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Last night continued an aggravating streak. Every homestand this year, the team has laid a complete egg at Fenway in the first game. Not just bad luck losses, but absolute non-competitive duds. If this was just 2024, it could be chalked up to small sample size noise, but the 2023 team was 2-11 in such games as well. Is it a jetlag thing? Cora having his teams unprepared (I'm not a Cora basher, just throwing ideas out)? Still small sample size? Any ideas?