…simple as that.
Nope, I am not just copying the post from right before the previous series against the New York Yankees, though this may seem to be the case.
It’s just that this time a different starting pitcher may now be the key to the Boston Red Sox’ success in the American League Championship Series.
Last round, we talked about Chris Sale. Though Sale wasn’t quite at the level we know he can get to, he was pretty good in Game One. We all likely wondered how he would look the second time around in Game Five, but I think we are also all glad it didn’t get to that point. Most importantly, the fact that Sale was able to come out in the eighth inning of Game Four and mow the side down on 13 pitches was hopefully pretty telling. That he was able to bounce back nicely in between starts and would be even more good to go for his next one. Hopefully.
That leaves us with the Sox’ other “ace”, David Price. A disaster in Game Two at Fenway against the Yanks, he is now again slated for Game Two against the Houston Astros. Mistake? Perhaps.
We all know the postseason numbers, 0-9 in 10 starts, ERA over 6.00…yada, yada, yada. Embarrassing for a pitcher of his caliber…and of course at his current salary level.
Can it change? Can Price finally do something right in a start and be a “hero”? Get the hometown fans on his side for once?
I deem that unlikely. I would say most others do as well.
In addition to the poor career postseason stats, Price himself came up with some other beauties this year. He can’t pitch in the cold…his fingers get tingly. Or do they get tingly because of the carpal tunnel, from which he laughably says playing video games don’t affect that? Sure buddy. Then there was some stuff about being allergic to dogs or grass or something. Honestly, the guy is such an arseclown that I’ve lost track of all the excuses.
Let’s face it, Price has to take a start in this series. Because if he doesn’t, are you giving that one to Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez or Drew Pomeranz? No thanks. Eduardo Rodriguez perhaps, but are we at the point where he can’t really give you a ton of innings now since he hasn’t started much in recent weeks? I don’t know, but something to think about. Either way, wouldn’t it be better to give Price only ONE start, say Game Four? That way, since he actually has a good track record of pitching well in relief in the postseason, maybe he can throw a few innings in Game Seven, should the series get there. Also, Houston will be warmer for him, though admittedly the dimensions of that field, as opposed to Fenway, may be a worse scenario for him. But still…
This is not to say that Nathan Eovaldi or Rick Porcello are better pitchers than Price. They are not, though they both pitched well against New York in the Division Series. But Porcello doesn’t necessarily have a sterling postseason career record either. And Eovaldi has only that one playoff start to his credit. A great one, but just that one nonetheless. But they maybe should have priority in the ALCS because they are quite simply pitching better NOW.
I suppose, either way, manager Alex Cora is going to do plenty of mixing and matching with his pitching staff all series long. Starters pitching in relief and all that. Anything to get outs. Unless you want to see Joe Kelly in a close game, that is. Which absolutely no one wants. Except for the opposition.
So maybe it all doesn’t matter? We’ll see…but with Price having to potentially make two starts in this series is concerning. And he better not lay two more eggs. That makes him a huge key to the series.
Since it seems that all we do in this space is make predictions, let’s see how things stack up on paper for the teams:
The Red Sox top four of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are pretty damn good. But are the Astros’ top four of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel even better? Could be. But let’s call it a wash. The rest of the lineup? Astros all the way. Looks like 5-7 is some combination of Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick. None of those guys have performed like they did in 2017 when the Astros won the World Series. Correa has been hurt of course. But wouldn’t you still take these guys over the Sox’ 5-7 of Steve Pearce/Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez/Rafael Devers and Ian Kinsler/Brock Holt? I would. Top it off with anyone the Astros throw out there at 8-9 will be better offensively than Jackie Bradley Jr. and whoever the catcher is. Looks to me like the Astros have the edge here top to bottom.
Not going to spend a lot of time here because I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of Houston Astros games to know specific defensive skill sets. But on a macro level…at catcher, while Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez can certainly handle the defense for the Sox, Martin Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year, for whatever that’s worth. If Pearce, Holt and Devers are out there, the Sox infield defense probably pales in comparison to the ‘Stros. Though, I know, Holt is good enough at second. The outfield most certainly goes to the Sox. Sssssooo…an edge here either way? I’m not sure there is one.
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton against Sale, Price, Eovaldi and Porcello. Can’t be any debate here. At first, I was thinking Astros by a mile. But at a deeper glance, it’s probably closer than we think. Sale and Verlander are probably a wash. Cole a huge gap over Price. But the other four could go either way. Though Morton was sensational last year in the playoffs. So you kind of have to give the edge to Houston here, no doubt.
We have written (and spoken) ad nauseam about the Red Sox’ bullpen woes. And now their closer has had problems getting people out. With Lance McCullers likely in the ‘pen for the ‘Stros, along with Collin McHugh and Ryan Pressly, who seemed to have been lights out, there are some strong middle guys right off the top. Add in some other useful pieces such as Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp and Joe Smith before you get to Roberto Osuna, now you’re talking. Although Osuna is apparently a piece of crap in real life and the Sox have had success against him in the past, how does he look compared to Craig Kimbrel at this very moment? Shoot, it looks like the Astros don’t even have Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Brad Peacock on their active roster for this series. And those guys have been pretty valuable over the years. Landslide here for Houston.
People locally have been acting like Cora and A.J. Hinch are equals. But didn’t Hinch’s team win the World Series last year? Yes, with Cora’s help of course. But still. And though Cora has done a great job with the Sox this year, this is still his first year managing anywhere, so also we need to remember it is his first foray into the postseason. We all saw first-time manager Aaron Boone puke on himself in the ALDS. Who is to say Cora doesn’t do the same in the ALCS? I’m not saying he will, but we have to consider the possibility for sure. Hinch has been there. Cora has not…as a head guy. That counts.
Adding it all up? What it says “on paper” to me is Houston in five. That’s what the Blowhard is going with. Hope the Sox make it closer of course. And if they can get it back to Fenway for Games Six and/or Seven, maybe things go their way. And that’s why they play the games…
It’s that time again. Except, the Blowhard is actually going to make his picks BEFORE the real game, as opposed to previous years. What a novel idea, eh? Anyway, 32 players are selected. 20 are supposed to be position players and 12 are supposed to be pitchers. I’ll stray from that a bit, as we always do here. 19 position players and 13 pitchers for the AL this year, simply because I could not leave one of the pitchers off, while I could have left several positional guys off. Plus, you already know we cheat on positions themselves. More of that to come as well. One rule we do not cheat on? Each team is represented. Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule, but for all those spots, I suppose every team should have SOMEONE there. (S) for the starter. Comments below each position.
C: Wilson Ramos, TB (S)
Wretched. There is literally only one catcher worth All-Star consideration in the entire league. All-Star mainstay Salvador Perez is hitting .213. Everyone’s wunderkind, Gary Sanchez, is hitting .190 and now hurt. I could go on. But why? Someone like Yan Gomes (.247, 10 homers), may well get the backup spot in real life. Or you can go with designated hitter Evan Gattis (.257, 18 homers, 62 RBI). And they may well do it. I was tempted to do it myself since we already went through how we cheat on positions. But Gattis has caught a grand total of FOUR innings this year. So even I cannot do it here. Since the position has been so poor, and we aren’t playing a real game, I’m sticking with just one catcher here.
1B: Jose Abreu, CWS (S)
Yup, just one guy here too. Abreu is the only White Sox remotely qualified for selection as well, so this is pretty obvious. No backups? Nope. Anyone can play first base. And this position is remarkably thin in the league as well. But maybe not “remarkably thin this year”, perhaps? Look back at the selections the Blowhard made at 1B last year: Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso and Abreu. Abreu has been legit for years. But those other three dudes predictably came crashing back to earth this season. Miggy Cabrera is well into the back nine and hurt again anyway. The person who may well be the backup this year in the real game…and I gave at least slight consideration to? Mitch Moreland. MITCH MORELAND!! But alas, I couldn’t pull the trigger on that one.
2B: Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Jed Lowrie Oak, Gleybar Torres, NYY
I gave serious consideration to starting Lowrie here. He’s having a hell of a year. 15 homers and 61 RBI? Wow. Good for him though. But couldn’t put him over Altuve in the end. Gleybar’s real-life chances may be somewhat torpedoed by his recent hip injury. But he deserves to be on my team. Yankee or no Yankee.
3B: Jose Ramirez, Cle (S), Yangervis Solarte, Tor, Alex Bregman, Hou, Mike Moustakas, KC
Ramirez is putting up sick numbers again, so that was easy. Solarte is far and away the Blue Jays rep. His numbers are decent enough. Bregman has been pretty hot and won Player of the Month in June. That helped grease the skids to get him on this roster. Plus…he’s pretty good anyway. Moose? Welp, the Royals traded away their actual representative in Kelvin Herrera. So it was between Moose, Whit Merrifield (?) and some pitcher named Keller that was in middle relief most of the year. Middle reliever that isn’t good enough to close and isn’t (wasn’t) good enough to start on a team that is almost 40 games under .500 already? Nope. Moose can also backup at first base on this team since teams now want him as a 1B and he has been playing there recently in the majors. Not to mention…the Blowhard actually met Moose last year at a game at Fenway. He graciously shook my hand when he could have just as easily punched me in the face. That alone is reason enough to put him on this team.
SS: Manny Machado, Bal (S), Francisco Lindor, Cle
You can start either one, doesn’t matter to me. Lindor has scored 36 more runs than Machado…THIRTY-SIX! Of course, the Orioles are horrific, so that doesn’t help Manny. But both are clear-cut here. Jean Segura is probably the last guy off my All-Star roster so he may have a case too. Carlos Correa isn’t having too great a year, but he, along with Andrelton Simmons, Eduardo Escobar and…even Xander Bogaerts…probably warrant bench consideration for the real game. But not quite for me.
OF: Mike Trout, LAA (S), Aaron Judge, NYY (S), Mookie Betts, Bos (S), Nick Castellanos, Det, Eddie Rosario, Min, Nomar Mazara, Tex, Mitch Haniger, Sea
Didn’t have to think too hard about the starters. They are so obvious, not sure I need to say anything really. Castellanos was Detroit’s clear rep and we picked Rosario over the SS Escobar to represent the Twins. I suppose one could have gone with Shin-Soo Choo as the Ranger rep. But since Choo DH’s two-thirds of the time, I chose Mazara. Despite Choo’s clear advantage in OPS. Haniger? Segura? Nelson Cruz? Could’ve gone with either of these three for my last spot. I chose Haniger. Whatever. Andrew Benintendi? Close. Next year kid.
DH: J.D. Martinez, Bos (S)
As usual, 1 DH is enough. Martinez has put up some huge numbers this season. Can’t ignore those. Plus, he plays some outfield. Not well, mind you. But he still is sent out there sometimes. Good enough for me. Already teased above that Cruz is not on my team. He’s having his usual good year. But hasn’t played an inning in the field. Gattis has those 4 innings at catcher, nothing else. Mike…oops, Giancarlo…Stanton had that horrible start and has since come on. But everyone else besides J.D. really didn’t move the needle for me enough this season. Especially when they are all primarily designated hitters.
P: Luis Severino, NYY (S), Justin Verlander, Hou, Gerrit Cole, Hou, Blake Snell, TB, Corey Kluber, Cle, Chris Sale, Bos, Charlie Morton, Hou, James Paxton, Sea, Trevor Bauer, Cle, Craig Kimbrel, Bos, Aroldis Chapman, NYY, Blake Treinen, Oak, Edwin Diaz, Sea
I will probably cut and paste this preamble every year, in case there are any new readers that may give a crap. I know, fat chance. Anyway, here it is: As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers. Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say. Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball. Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus. Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers. So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last. And if it does, they will go back to another key role.
4 closers this year for me though. Simply couldn’t find a reason to leave any of them off, they have all been THAT good this year. If I had to take one off, it would probably be Kimbrel. Although he has been good this year, he hasn’t been as lights out as last year. Chapman, Treinen and Diaz have been dominant this season. Can’t ignore this.
All 9 starters are no-brainers to me as well. Don’t know how any of them do not make the real squad. I’ve heard some chatter about Morton being the odd man out. 11-2, 2.83, 141 K’s in 108 innings. How can you leave him off? 3 Houston starters should make it, deal with it. And Lance McCullers could have been a fourth in less competitive years.
Came down to Severino or Verlander to start. Could even make a case for Sale based on the totality of the numbers. I imagine Severino’s 14 wins will get him the real start. No complaints here on that.
Shohei Ohtani as a dual weapon in this game? Not this year due to injury. But don’t rule it out going forward.
Next: The 2018 National League All-Stars…
…so now that the World Series has concluded, Major League Baseball is about ready to announce their award winners. The Gold Glove awards (yaaaaaaawn) were announced last night. The Blowhard of course feels like he should add his two cents, starting with the American League…and remember, the postseason does not count:
Most Valuable Player:
- Aaron Judge, NY Yankees
- Jose Altuve, Houston
- Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
- Carlos Correa, Houston
- Mike Trout, LA Angels
- Nelson Cruz, Seattle
- Brian Dozier, Minnesota
- George Springer, Houston
- Josh Donaldson, Toronto
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland
Again, a 10 person ballot, so we did what we needed to do here. Turns out MLB had the same top 3, though it appears there are really only two candidates in Judge and Altuve. Spots 3 through even 20, I suppose you could have all kinds of different orders. Since Ramirez had the same OPS as Altuve and was on the best team in the league, I went with him third.
Anyway, back to the top two candidates. It appears that Altuve may have a leg up on the real ballot, based on what is being talked about nationwide. And sure, he was consistent all year long, while Judge was miserable in August and not so good in July either. Altuve hit 62 points higher. And Judge struck out 124 more times. But if you take a deeper dive, Judge’s OPS was 92 points higher, he scored 16 more runs (with Altuve being probably in a better overall lineup), walked a ton more and of course…the 52 homers. For those of you who believe in sabermetrics and the WAR stat, Judge was on top 8.8 to 7.9.
You probably can’t go wrong either way. But what sealed it for me? Judge hit .311, with 15 homers, 32 RBI’s and a 1.352 OPS is September as the Yanks made their playoff push. I know, he may have been hitting some of those bombs against minor league callups. But one also probably should consider the pressure of a playoff race as a factor as well. Along with the fact that everyone else is hitting off the same bums too. Anyway…
As for the rest…the true MVP may well have been Correa if he hadn’t missed over 50 games. Trout obviously still stakes a real claim to being the best player in baseball. So despite Mikey missing almost 50 games himself, he’s still gotta be there. Another member of the “about 50 games missed” club is Donaldson. His team sucked after having high expectations at the start of the season. But his numbers were sick in the games he did play. So I found a place for him.
I felt that someone from that inexplicable Twin playoff team had to be in the Top Ten…so that’s why Dozier is here. And he won a Gold Glove too…YAAAAY! Cruz and Springer…I suppose Francisco Lindor, Gary Sanchez, Jose Abreu, Justin Upton, Jonathan Schoop, Edwin Encarnacion or whoever else could have filled those spots. Lastly, as I’ve said in the past, I don’t love including pitchers in the MVP race. Once every 5 days for a starter and once every 3 days or so for a closer aren’t the same as playing every single day. But for one, I included 3 guys that missed about a third of the season here. And for two, if a pitcher’s performance deserves consideration, then it deserves consideration. Kluber’s 5-0, 0.84 in September helped him to deserve consideration.
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland
- Chris Sale, Boston
- Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland
- Luis Severino, NY Yankees
- Craig Kimbrel, Boston
This race seems pretty cut and dried to me. As opposed to last year where Kluber, Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander were pretty tight and any one of them could have won. Porcello did and boy do the voters probably feel foolish about that now. Maybe not, since each year is different. But we all know Porcello was horrific this year. Kind of makes me personally want to take the award away from him last year.
As for this year, Sale had his 300 strikeouts and all and had probably had a healthy lead in this race as the summer wore on. But Kluber’s stretch run blew him past Sale to take the Cy. Severino will be third in the real world, as he has already been announced as the third finalist. I’m going with Carrasco though, maybe for the sole reason that I hate the Yankees, I don’t know. Kimbrel was pretty dominant this year, so even though I don’t love relievers in this spot, his performance was hard to ignore. If you put Verlander there, I could live with that. But Ervin Santana or Drew Pomer…nevermind.
Rookie of the Year:
- Aaron Judge, NY Yankees
- Trey Mancini, Baltimore
- Andrew Benintendi, Boston
There really is no 2nd and 3rd here. Judge will be unanimous. Mancini had a higher OPS than Benintendi (.826 to .776), so I went with him 2nd. Plus, I was continuously furious with Andrew for all the boneheaded plays he made on the bases this season. Deserves to be knocked down. There really weren’t any other choices here. Yuli Gurriel is apparently technically a rookie this year. But since he is 33 years old, has played professionally since he was about 8 and had exactly 130 at-bats in 2016 (if he had 131, he would not have been considered a rookie in 2017), I’m passing on him for my ballot. Honorable mention goes to Matt Olson of Oakland here, since he hit 24 bombs in only 59 games and 216 plate appearances this year. Maybe I should have put him second…
Manager of the Year:
- Paul Molitor, Minnesota
- A.J. Hinch, Houston
- Terry Francona, Cleveland
Hinch’s Astros won the World Series. Tito’s Indians had the best record in the league. But Molitor is the ONLY choice here. The Twins made the playoffs this year after losing 103 games in 2016. How did they do that? I have no idea. Have you seen that squad?
Dozier had a good year. Miguel Sano was having a good year…until he missed the last 6 weeks or so with some sort of shin problem. Byron Buxton woke up in the second half (and won a Gold Glove…YAAAAY). Jose Berrios developed some and Santana had a nice year leading the rotation.
But the rest? Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star closer for the team…then was dealt to the Nationals at the trading deadline. The corpse of Joe Mauer is still around…and did hit .305. Kind of an empty .305 though. The rest of the pitching staff was pretty horrendous…and they actually gave a 44-year-old Bartolo Colon 15 starts, AFTER he went 2-8, 8.14 in 13 starts for the Braves.
I can’t see how this team finished anywhere near the playoffs. So Molitor should win this thing unanimously. Though I’m sure some idiot voted for John Farrell because the Red Sox finished first this year. After all, Nick Cafardo probably has a vote, eh?
Next: The National League