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Posts Tagged ‘Jarrod Saltalamacchia’


The 2014 season seemed promising for the defending World Series champion Red Sox. They returned almost all of their starting rotation. The missing member of the 6 primary starters from the previous season was its weakest link: Dempster. The bullpen was largely intact as well. The pitching seemed to be ready to go. The one mystery was how Buchholz would bounce back from the injuries that hampered him for the 2nd half of the season.

They had a number of new players in key positions. Two were highly touted rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. Ellsbury would be missed in terms of offense but they hoped to make that up with Xander’s estimated production to be far greater the Stephen Drew’s. I was not wild about the signing of Pierzynski but his offense was expected to compensate to the loss of Saltalamacchia (he was go from .273 to a paltry .220 with the Marlins). The hope was for Middlebrooks to bounce back.

The plan was slightly altered when Grady Sizemore had an awesome camp and make the opening day roster. Looked great but then he failed to produce at the same pace. Or nearly any pace.

But I get slightly ahead of myself. All the breaks that went their way in 2013 didn’t in 2014. The new replay system seemed stacked against them in the first month as everyone tried to adjust. Lots of blown calls seemed to go against them. Some of these were game changers, or so it seemed.

Another thing that went right in 2013 is that a high number of players who played above their means. They had above average seasons, often career years. Saltalamacchia, Nava, Carp had career best seasons. Papi hit exceedingly well for his age. He hit for average and power. Napoli bounced back to have a good offensive season as did Victorino. Part of what went wrong was regression to mean for the players still on the roster, and not on the injured list.

The main problems initially were a lack of production from the outfield. Nava was pressing and in a big slump to start the season. Victorino was hurt and the combination of Sizemore and Bradley hit about .220. Middlebrooks continued to struggle. The offense was stagnant. Even Pedroia and Papi got off to a slow start. Seemed like the only guys who didn’t were Napoli and Xander.

Buccholz was just plain horrible. New reliever Mujica was too, and blew some games early. Peavy just couldn’t buy a break.

And then the real problems started. Napoli injured a finger and was never the same. Middlebrooks got hurt, again. This “forced” them to re-sign Drew and shift Xander to 3rd. For the first time in his career, shortly after the switch, Xander entered a big, ugly slump. Unknown to the rest of the world, Pedroia was still hurt and not productive at the plate though he still played stellar defense. But he was the only one. Okay, Bradley was playing fantastic defense. Xander struggled at third, and they couldn’t throw a base runner out.

The changes started to come fast and furious. They gave up on Sizemore and cut him (he was hitting .216 at the time and hit a slightly more respectable .243 for the Phillies). Pierzynki was cut (he hit .254 for the Sox and would go on to the Cards and hit .244 for them on the way to the playoffs). Peavy (1-9, 4.72) was traded to San Francisco where he was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA helping the Giants make the playoffs. Amid tons of chatter about signing an extension, Lester was traded to the A’s who he helped make the playoffs. Lackey was sent to St. Louis whom he helped make the playoffs. Noticing a theme here? Let’s not forget trading Miller to division champion Baltimore.

One plus was that Christian Vasquez had the opportunity to show he can handle a staff and throw out runners. His production was not great, but he stopped the other teams that ran at will on Boston early in the season. Those runs saved amount to something important.

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I had the expectation that the Red Sox could make the playoffs. I saw many of the issues from 2012 resolved by the changes that the front office made. They got some guys known to love playing the game, and able to grind out at bats. The previous season they lost plate discipline. I expected the starters to return to much better form than they exhibited the previous year. I can’t see Lester and Buchholz having lost it. Guys can just have bad years, and when there is turmoil in the club house it is hard to focus on your job. So, I expected both the pitching and hitting to be better.

I didn’t expect a World Series. As the season developed, I saw it as a distinct possibility particularly after soundly beating the Tigers and Dodgers late in the season. I was encouraged in that they didn’t have any big losing streaks.

I was also encouraged by their resiliency. They survived after Clay’s rather inexplicable injury. They survived season-ending injures to the 2 men competing to be the closer: Hanrahan and Bailey. It was disconcerting to see Miller also go down with an injury, but they had enough depth to deal with his loss in the bull pen. It was Pedroia, in my mind, that set the pace for the team. He suffered a thumb injury in the season opener and kept playing. His power numbers were down, but he still hit for average and still played exceptional defense, earning a Gold Glove award.

A tragedy like the Marathon bombings could have distracted them. In this case it drew them together and provided them with additional motivation. Some analysts have said they took off after this, but they were playing great ball with great results before the Patriots’ Day tragedy and the following hysteria until the brothers were killed and captured by authorities.

One concern was their hitting against the elite pitchers, particularly lefties. Sometimes funny things happen and the Red Sox ended up facing 3 of the best pitching staffs in the Rays, Tigers and Cardinals in the playoffs. Not an easy assignment. Thankfully the Red Sox had a pretty good staff of their own. Ellsbury carried them offensively in the first round. Papi was a consistent force in the last 2 rounds. There were surprising contributions from Gomes, Victorino and Napoli who struggled offensively. They had just enough offense to win these pitching battles.

It ended up being a very satisfying.

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