Week four of the 2017 baseball season in the books, and the Red Sox come out of it with a 13-11 record, which is good for third place in the American League East. The week got off to a slow start with Sox dropping two games against the Yankees while scoring a total of just one run. That is, how do we say, not ideal. Even worse we wasted two brilliant starts by Porcello and Sale.
Luckily the team was able to recover and take two of three from the defending World Champs at Wrigley East over the weekend. A lot has been made about how many Cubs fans were at Fenway this weekend and people aren't exaggerating. I was there for Saturday's afternoon game and had never seen that many visiting fans at a Red Sox game before. For those wondering, yes Cubs fans are extremely obnoxious. Now let's get into the biggest stories surrounding the local nine:
--Anyone that has ever played some form of baseball, from the pros to college to men's slow pitch softball leagues, knows that hitting is contagious. Once a couple guys on a team start hitting there is a trickle down effect on the rest of the line up. This is what we saw in the first inning of Friday night's game against Jake Arrieta. The top of the Boston order was able to get on base and then BOOM we put up a five spot right off the bat. However, anyone that has ever played some form of baseball before also knows that when a few bats go cold most the ones around the team do as well. That is what we saw from innings two through nine Friday night (and for other large portions of the season so far, such as the Yankee games). Our offense is in a really weird spot right now. We are hitting for average but aren't hitting for power. A lot of our production comes against bad pitching and all at once before we go cold for a series. I worry that, while we have a lot of talent in our lineup, we don't have many great situational hitters that are required to win championships. It's something to monitor as we head into May.
--I'm over Steven Wright as one of this team's five members of the rotation. Last year was great. There was a period of time during the first half where he was our best starting pitcher, and he got rewarded for that with an all star selection. But that time has come and gone. Over Wright's last 82 innings pitched he has allowed 67 runs to score. In 2017 he has a 8.25 ERA. And when the knuckle ball isn't on this guy gets SHELLED. Look at the start against Baltimore a few weeks ago where they were hitting the ball all over the place. Performances like that give the team zero chance to come back in the game. The problem is right now the Red Sox legitimately don't have another option. As bad as Wright has been I would rather throw him out there than suffer through another Brian Johnson or Henry Owens start. However, I think it's clear who should lose their rotation spot if/when David Price comes back.
--One of least talked about Red Sox stories right now is how well Eduardo Rodriguez has pitched through the season's first month. Last night against a stacked Cubs lineup E-Rod pitched six innings of one run ball while allowing five hits, walking just two, and striking out nine. For the season he now has a 2.70 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings pitched. That's good for 12 strikeouts per nine innings, which is currently the third best mark in the American League. If there's a worry with Eddie it would be the 14 walks he has allowed. The free passes haven't come back to bite him yet but if his current walk rate keeps up then they absolutely will. Decreasing the walks is the only thing that is preventing Eddie from becoming a reliable number three starter.
--We are a month into the official rookie season for 22-year-old Benny Baseball and would you look at that - he looks the Red Sox in nearly every meaningful offensive category! Currently Benny is batting .333 with a .392 on base percentage. That combination of hitting for average and drawing walks is rare, especially for such a young player. He homered twice in the weekend series against the Cubs to bring his total on the year to three, which puts him on pace for the 15-18 dingers most were expecting from him this season. He has more than justified manager John Farrell's decision to bat him second to open the year. On an unrelated note the kid perfectly plays balls hit off the monster every single time. He's going to be special.
--I'm starting to worry a bit about Jackie Bradley Jr. He went on such an absolute tear in May and June of last year that just looking at his end of season numbers doesn't tell the whole story. The 29 game hit streak was awesome and led a lot of fans to think he had officially "arrived" as an offensive threat. In a lot of ways he had. But since July 27th, 2016 through today he is batting .207 with a .290 OBP. We know JBJ is a streaky hitter. That's alright. But he's going to have to go on another hot streak at some point this year (preferably soon) if he wants to be a perennial all star caliber player. His defense alone makes him an above average regular but I would be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for more out of him overall.
--Hanley Ramirez is also a streaky hitter. On June 21st last year he had just five home runs and ended up finishing the season with 30. He hit the living piss out of a couple balls this weekend to give him three homers on the year and I'm hoping this is the start of a Hanley hot streak where he just carries the offense for a few weeks.
--Christian Vazquez started every game against the Cubs and is slowly but surely becoming this team's starting catcher. Despite going 0-for-3 last night he is batting .412/.444/.588 on the year. He has an extremely lucky BABIP so far so don't expect this to continue, though he should be playing over Sandy Leon regardless.
--Seeing Koji pitch at Fenway in another uniform on Saturday physically hurt my soul. Seeing Lackey pitch in another uniform? Not so much.
--My biggest takeaway from the weekend: Cubs fans are obnoxious.