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Drew Pomeranz…

…since we are on the theme of making a Boston Red Sox pitcher the title of our blog posts before each postseason series…but more on him later…reluctantly…

So the 2018 World Series begins in a mere few hours and the Sox are of course in it…can you believe it?!  I know, hard to fathom that anyone can say that they don’t believe a 108 win team made the World Series.  But it’s true.  After all, the Blowhard picked them to lose both rounds in their American League run.

And that alone makes me kind of afraid.  We feel like the Sox can beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But do we go against the grain and pick them here after predicting losses in the first two rounds?  I don’t know, sounds like a jinx.

In any event, the Red Sox should indeed win this series.  The feeling here is that the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians all had real legit chances to beat the Sox leading up to the World Series.  But we never thought anyone from the National League had a real chance.  Even if the Chicago Cubs made it out of the NL, which we thought would be the one to make it.

And, as you well know, this Sox team has never inspired championship confidence in the Blowhard, that much has been pretty obvious.  Despite the stellar record, we just never had that feeling.  Sure, sometimes the Sox really do feel like the proverbial “team of destiny”, or that “this is their year”.  But we always thought the other shoe would fall and they would leave the playoffs with a whimper.

Now?  Hmmmmmm…perhaps the Dodgers are that “team of destiny” too?  Maybe “this is their year” too?  They have been in the playoffs six straight years.  Last year was the closest they have come to winning it all during that stretch, losing in seven games to the Astros.  This year is the 30th anniversary of their last World Series win.  Kind of a long gap for a storied franchise, no?  And doesn’t the underdog sometimes win the Series?

Look, although we have long felt the National League is the inferior league, they are 9-9 against the American League in the World Series since 2000.  (Yup, I just figured that out).  Sure, sometimes they do actually have the better team.  But it almost always feels like they don’t.  To me anyway.

The Dodgers appear to have a pretty good team.  A lot of pop in their lineup.  Adding another bat as the DH for the four potential games at Fenway won’t help the Sox there.  Some flexibility in the field with guys playing all over the place and all their lefty/righty platooning.  And their pitching is solid.  Clayton Kershaw is one of the best ever.  Hyun-Jin Ryu had a great half-year.  Walker Buehler?  I don’t know.  But he’s a kid with good numbers.  Rich Hill has been pretty good too…as long as he doesn’t have any blisters.  And we know what Kenley Jansen can do.  Who really knows about their bullpen, though they have pitched well in the postseason.  The staff’s ERA is a mere 2.79 overall.  And, I don’t know why, but I have a funny feeling that 22-year-old Julio Urias will have a say in this Series.  Despite only pitching 7 1/3 major league innings this season (11 2/3 more in the minors, due to recovery from injury).  Just a hunch.

The Dodgers bats have not been good in the postseason though.  Hitting .218 as a team with a .691 OPS.  And that’s helped slightly by Ryu going 2-5.  Cody Bellinger is a putrid 5-36.  And 35 home run surprise Max Muncy hasn’t been much better at 6-33.  Can’t even talk about their catchers at 5-44, since look at the Sox’.  But Yasmani Grandal, in particular, apparently has been a disaster behind the plate as well.

We are not going to do a full-blown analysis as we did last round since we can’t say we’ve actually watched a ton of Dodger baseball this season.  But the Blowhard’s take is that the Dodgers have the edge in pitching.  Because again, which Chris Sale and David Price will show up?  Rick Porcello too, for that matter?  And can Nathan Eovaldi do it again?  And what the hell are we going to get from Craig Kimbrel?  Not sure.  Adding Pomeranz to the bullpen adds actually…nothing.  But I guess he can’t be as bad as Brandon Workman was in the playoffs.

The feeling is the Sox have the edge in the lineup.  Again, the Dodgers have some pretty good hitters so they could prove us wrong.  But the Sox have some good ones too.  And I’m not counting Jackie Bradley Jr., who hopefully spends the majority of the games in LA firmly stapled to the bench.  Side note:  Mookie at second base sounds really cute, but I can’t say I love it.  If they were keeping a better bat in the lineup besides JBJ by making that move…maybe.  But I’d rather stick with Brock Holt and even Ian Kinsler at second and leaving Betts in the outfield with Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez.  Then bringing JBJ in for defense late.  Speaking of Mookie, he is 8-39 in the playoffs for a .205 average.  You think that will stay like that?  I don’t think so.  I hope not anyway.

One last variable:  Does the weather make any difference to the road team?  Meaning, in particular, 40-degree night games in Boston for a warm weather team from California?  Perhaps.  Can’t rule it out for sure.

Oh, and one other thing we can’t rule out?  Manny Machado intentionally trying to injure someone.  But I digress…

Adding it all up?  Despite the 16 wins regular season gap in wins between the two teams, this series on paper seems a little closer than we would like to think.  The initial thought is Red Sox in seven.  Hesitant, as mentioned earlier because we picked the Sox to lose in each of the first two rounds.  Let’s hope we are not wrong again…

 

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David Price…

…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:

Lineup:

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.

Defense:

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.

Starting pitching:

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.

Relief pitching:

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.

Coaching:  

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…

Super Bowl…

So we are finally here.  Super Bowl LII is almost upon us.  These two weeks of hype always kill me…of course especially when the hometown team New England Patriots are in the actual game.  The two weeks did help me for sure in one case however…it allowed Rob Gronkowski enough time to shake the cobwebs (literally) and allow him to suit up in the game.  No need to speak about how important that is.

Did I pass my time last Sunday by watching the Pro Bowl?  Ummmmm…no.  But I suppose I should have watched that mess instead of what was probably the worst Grammy telecast of all time.  But that’s a story for a different day.

By the way, did you know that David Carr was in the Pro Bowl?  That guy had a putrid season.  How the hell…nevermind.  Another story for another day.

Time to get to the matter at hand…

Philadelphia “at” New England (-4.5)

Last year, I thought New England was going to hammer Atlanta from the get-go.  Although I do think the Pats could win big here, I won’t make that mistake again.

Just once…ONCE…I would like to see a Pats blowout win in the Super Bowl.  Win or lose, I am tired of the nerve-wracking endings in the Big Game during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.  I know, cry me a river, right?  The Pats have been to 8 Super Bowls with that duo, what the hell am I complaining about?  My apologies.  But I still want that comfortable blowout.  And for those of you that may say, “well, the Falcons were blowing the Pats out late in the third quarter and THEY lost.  You really can’t feel comfortable until the clock reads 0:00…”.  That may be true in theory, you would be absolutely correct.  I am generally a “0:00 guy”…talk to me when the game is officially over…in any sport.  But I would also assure you the Pats ain’t blowing that type of lead that late.  Sorry.  So the chances that I would be comfortable under that scenario would probably be pretty good.

In any event, I don’t think I will ever find that comfort.  It appears the formula seems to be set in the Super Bowl for the Patriots:  don’t score in the first quarter, continue feeling the game out in the second quarter, make halftime adjustments and show some life in the third quarter, head into the fourth quarter down (just hopefully not to the tune of 28-3 or 28-10 or the like), score late to secure the victory…or give up a miracle catch near the end and lose a heartbreaking one.  3 point game in the end either way.  Hard to go against what seems to be habit.

Enough of the preamble.  Let’s get down to brass tacks.  Although I have not watched a ton of Eagle football this season and sure as hell have not studied any of their game film.  But after soaking in all the hype for the past two weeks, here are some thoughts/concerns on the game/matchups/etc., in no particular order:

*The Eagle defensive line scares the bejesus out of me because, well, the Patriot offensive line scares the bejesus out of me.  That one is easy.  No, Chris Long doesn’t necessarily make me nervous.  But Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham kind of do.  The good thing is that the Eagles apparently like to rotate these guys to keep them fresh.  Why is that good?  The Patriots can presumably go no huddle the times that the backups are in the game.  Thus obviously keeping the starters on the bench.  Unless the Eagles are willing to take penalties and/or use timeouts.  Which also would be beneficial to the Pats.  Not to mention the fact that running a lot of plays would seem to wear down those fat hogs on the line and perhaps the defense as a whole.  See, Falcons, Atlanta, Super Bowl LI.

*Malcolm Jenkins seems to have a reputation of being a very good player.  However, the rest of the secondary and linebacking corps don’t necessarily make me fret.  Saw a stat recently that showed that Philly’s defense is rather pedestrian on the road, for whatever reason.  Minneapolis is not Philadelphia, as you are well aware.  Eli Manning also carved them up late in the season, while having virtually zero weapons on offense.  This should make Eagle fans a little nervous since, you know, Manning is done.

If Jenkins and say, a linebacker, take Gronk, then that leaves the rest of the secondary to take on the Patriot receivers.  Brandin Cooks had a pretty good game against Jacksonville, despite one horrific drop.  Danny Amendola is money.  But I also have a gut feeling that this is the week that Chris Hogan decides to show up again.  I wouldn’t bet serious money on it, but it’s a lingering thought I haven’t been able to dismiss.  Would be a nice story, since Hogan has been hurt/invisible for most of the year.  We’ll see…

*Doug Pederson is from the “Andy Reid coaching tree”.  What that essentially means is if this game is close in the 4th quarter, expect horrible game decisions and inexcusable clock mismanagement.  There is no way around that.  Pederson is also coaching in his first Super Bowl (with a backup quarterback…more on him next), Belichick his eighth.  This fact simply cannot be overstated.

*If Carson Wentz was playing in this game, I may have a different prediction.  Maybe not, but the point is moot.  Nick Foles is the QB.  Foles had a monster season a few years back in his first go-round in Philly.  But has done little since.  Ergo, that’s why he is a backup QB.

People seem to be overrating Foles at this point, simply because he had that one monster year and…he did play well against a good Viking defense in the NFC Championship.  But have those same people seen the rest of the games Foles played this year?  Wasn’t pretty.  In fact, the Eagles had to go back to some plays that were in Chip Kelly’s playbook to make Foles feel more comfortable.  I don’t necessarily think this is a great thing.  Kelly is also close pals with Belichick.  And likely is still vengeful toward the Eagles after his treatment there.  Maybe he deserved it, but still, that doesn’t change his feelings.  In any event, I’m guessing there was a conversation between Bill and Chip during the prep time.  Of course, Pederson also probably spoke to Reid as well, so maybe it’s a wash.

One thing is for sure though…Nick Foles is not going to single-handedly beat the Patriots.

*I’m praying that Pederson runs the ball 40 plus times with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi to “keep the ball out of Brady’s hands”.  This will not beat the Patriots.  Will he be that stupid?  I don’t think so, but you can’t underestimate some people.  Oh, and if Blount can fumble early in the game like last year, that would help me a great deal.  Thank you in advance.

*Speaking of Philly running backs, we all know Blount has hands of stone and judging by the numbers, Ajayi doesn’t do much damage catching the ball either.  This is favorable for the Pats.  We know their linebackers may be the worst collection of stiffs I have ever seen.  I don’t care how many sacks special teamer Marquis Flowers had in the last two regular season games against the Bills and Jets.  And if I see Elandon Roberts try to cover ANYONE in the Bowl…

*One big concern for the Patriot defense against the Philly offense is that Philly doesn’t have that ONE dude that Bill usually likes to take out of the game and let the others beat them.  They have a bunch of dudes that can do some things.  This undoubtedly makes things a little more difficult to prepare for.  My guess is that they try to take away tight end Zach Ertz first.  But then you have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and to a lesser extent, Blount and Ajayi and to an even lesser extent, but perhaps on a deep shot or two, Torrey Smith.  Corey Clement may actually be someone to fear more than a smidge as well.  As poor as the Patriots’ third down defense has been recently, this has to be a big concern for the team.  Even with the two weeks to prepare.  A lot of options.

*One thing about the Eagle offense that they themselves should be concerned about is that Jason Peters is not at left tackle.  Peters is supposed to be awesome, from all the people who actually watch offensive line play.  But he is hurt.  His backup, some Vaitai character with a real long first name, has apparently struggled.  The Pats D-Line is no juggernaut, as we all know.  But maybe Trey Flowers makes his presence felt?

*Aside:  Philly fans are absolute lunatics.  This is absolutely no secret.  I’m glad I’m not in Minny, as one of them may try to set me on fire.  Better to let them do that to someone else.

*Aside, Part II:  Loved Jeffery predicting a win.  You be you, brutha!  Don’t teams ever learn?

*Aside, Part III:  Just for fun, with everyone on the active roster being “healthy” (ie:  not injured enough to be listed on the injury report), here’s my take on the inactive list:  Mike Gillislee (wasted year), David Harris (why bother even having him this season?), Alan Branch (too bad he apparently packed it in this year.  He’s pretty damn good when he’s engaged), Bernard Reedy (who?), Kenny Britt (glad you came for the ride!), Jacob Hollister (sorry, just no room kid) and…Cole Croston (yup…who?).  That seemed fairly easy, though don’t rule out Belichick surprising people.  Like the year he released Tiquan Underwood the day before the Super Bowl, so he could activate someone from the practice squad (Alex Silvestro and yes, I just had to look that up) to have an extra defensive lineman available.

*Aside, Part IV:  I don’t want to hear any more about injuries…Wentz’ specifically.  Sure, having him healthy and active would probably put a different spin on this game.  But you don’t think the Pats wish they had Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower, among others?  EVERY team loses key players EVERY season.  Deal with it.

*Aside, Part V:  I don’t want to hear about the officials either.  The Patriots have historically have had plenty of bogus calls go against them as well.  No different from any other team.  Those things tend to even out over time.  And I would bet that officiating will not be a factor in this years’ Super Bowl either.

*Dion Lewis…PLEASE hang on to the ball.  Thank you.  I have a hunch you may be catching the ball quite a bit and not running it as much.  Hopefully that helps.

*Rex Burkhead WILL make a few plays.  Perhaps out of the slot.

*Stephen Gostkowski has had a nice career.  But my confidence, and likely Patriot fans’ confidence, in him is not where it was a few years back.  Let’s make him a non-factor, ok?

*With “Tom vs. Time” and “The Two Bills” and all that crap going on this week, it would appear Brady and Belichick are putting some unnecessary pressure on themselves to win this game.  Like, why did they do these now?  Tom certainly and Bill probably had some say in when these would come out.  Why add this to the mix before the game if you really don’t need to?  It probably doesn’t matter, what do I know?  It just doesn’t seem like normal operating procedure for the two of them though.

Ok, that seems like enough.  Prediction time…oh, one more thing.  I love Seth Wickersham of ESPN picking the Pats to win 38-9.  Yeah, the same guy who wrote that piece about New England organizational discord several weeks ago.  I’d love to have his back on that prediction and see it come to fruition.  But…

New England 27, Philadelphia 24.

Week (against the spread):  1-1

Week (straight up):  2-0

Season (against the spread):  142-124

Season (straight up):  180-86

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