March 12, 2019

Playing Pepper 2019 - Red Sox

Will Pedroia be an everyday contributor?
Time for the annual Playing Pepper preview hosted at the Cardinals C70 website, which previews every team. I was again one of the writers asked to answer some questions on the Red Sox. Below are the questions and answers, which are now also up on the C70 site along with what others' prespectives.

Make sure to check there daily for previews of the other MLB teams.


1) What are your thoughts on the offseason?  What was good, what was bad, what else should they have done?

It was good that they quickly resigned World Series heroes Steve Pearce and Nate Eovaldi. There was nothing bad. I was disappointed to see Joe Kelly leave, but his value was probably at an all-time high after the postseason he had. A lot of the fandom is concerned about our lack of a proven closer, but I think the bullpen will sort itself out.


There’s a fine line between being complacent because you are the reigning Champions, and an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, and making changes for the sake of change. In general I don’t like it when teams don’t make any changes, because typically all other teams have done something to improve, so you will have fallen back relative to the competition. But the Red Sox are in a precarious position where their hands are kind of tied as far as making moves go. They don’t have anything of value to trade other than established starting players that they need, or bench pieces which are probably move valuable to the team than what they would get in return, and they can’t afford to take on much more salary.


2) How has the afterglow of this championship been different than the last three?

Somewhat more stressful. The way they dominated most of the season, and rolled through the playoffs, it almost would have seemed a disappointment if it culminated in something less than a Championship. But they benefited from some luck and timely moves and their record was probably better than their talent would indicate. So expectations for this upcoming season are unrealistically high. Instead of enjoying the offseason as much I did the previous ones, I’m bracing for the almost inevitable disappointment that I’m afraid the 2019 season will bring.


3) Mookie Betts had an incredible 2018.  Can he reach those levels again this season?
Mookie Betts was 25 years old last season, turning 26 during the playoffs. Players with similar starts to their careers (as per Bill James’ similarity scores shown on Baseball Reference), include Duke Snider, Manny Ramirez, and Carl Yastrzemski. Typically young players keep developing and peak between 26 and 30 years of age. This is a long-winded way of saying, yes, I think he can not only reach the same levels, but even improve on them.

4) What is your general outlook for 2019?  Where will they finish in the division?

I don’t think they can top what they did last season. I believe their win total will drop into the mid 90s, and they will be in a fight for the division all season point. Ultimately I see them falling short and losing in the first round of the playoffs.


5) What’s the biggest question for this team going into the season and what’s the answer to it?

I asked my readers this, and they all (I mean both of them) said the bullpen. Personally, I’m less worried about that than I am about Chris Sale. If he continues to be his dominant usual self when he’s healthy that’s great, but if his injuries limit his effectiveness or time on the field, there’s a big dropoff in replacing him with a number 6 starter.

The other big question I have is will Dustin Pedroia be healthy, and if so does carrying both Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt on the bench become redundant, and is that a luxury that can be afforded? There is also Tzu-wei Lin, Marco Hernandez, and Michael Chavis waiting in the minors, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the bench players traded if Pedroia is injury free enough to at least play some of the time.

6) What do you expect will give you the most joy watching this team on a regular basis this season?

Unlike some previous incarnations of the Red Sox, where you could see teammates did not support each other and some players weren’t very likeable, this is a very likeable bunch which makes them easy to root for. I love watching the young guys smiling and having fun, and the sense that the rest of the players are all rooting for them.

Last year it seemed out of place watching a Red Sox team have a deep playoff run without either Pedroia or David Ortiz.  If Pedroia is healthy I will enjoy watching his competitiveness on every single pitch in every single game. That was the one thing I missed last year.



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