Series Preview - Red Sox (51-52) @ Astros (67-36)
I ain't gonna lie, I needed some time off from this team. I still watched it all, but the thought of writing about the Red Sox over the last week legitimately infuriated me. The good news is, we pretty much know what we are getting for the rest of the season, and we can shift our priorities a little bit. We watch for the future, and we'll have a much better idea of what that looks like over the next 20-something hours.
Monday, August 1st 8:10 PM - Nathan Eovaldi (4-3, 4.43 ERA) vs Luis Garcia (8-6, 3.81 ERA)
Tuesday, August 2nd 8:10 PM - TBD (Likely Crawford) vs Cristian Javier (6-6, 3.26 ERA)
Wednesday August 3rd 2:10 PM - TBD (Likely Hill) vs Jose Urquidy (9-4, 3.86 ERA)
I am going to kick this off with some good times. We really still don't know who stays and who goes, but this team is not going to look the same when it's time to write the next preview.
This is required listening whilst reading. I don't make the rules, I just enforce them. And also make them.
That song is for some of the best players the Red Sox could have asked for over the last couple of years. Three champions whose names will be etched in Red Sox history forever.
To JD Martinez, who is likely the best FA signing of the last decade for the Red Sox. While his on-the-field play speaks for itself, the guidance that he brought to the Red Sox clubhouse is something that cannot be understated. JD has always had such a cerebral approach to hitting, reminiscent of another great Red Sox righty by the name of Manny Ramirez. It most certainly had a lasting impact on our lineup, from Mookie back in 2018 to Xander and Devers now. He was the rising tide that lifted all ships our lineup. A man who could've opted out when things started to look bleak, but decided to stick with the city that embraced him. Thank you JD.
To Nathan Eovaldi. I think everyone in Boston thinks of the same performance when they hear the name Nathan Eovaldi. October 26th, 2018. Game 3 of the world series. Nathan Eovaldi, after pitching both days prior out of the pen, coming in and laying down 6 innings of work. He would end up getting the loss in a true war of attrition, but Eovaldi stepped up and said that he would pitch until his arm fell off, saving the rest of our arms for the remainder of the series. Then, to top it off, walked into AC's office and said he was good to go the next day. Truly a rare breed of pitcher that seems to be harder and harder to come by nowadays. Thank you Nathan Eovaldi.
To Christian Vazquez. Vaz is special to me because I grew up a catcher and always looked up to whoever put on the pads for the Sox. It's a position that can sometimes be thankless, but Vazquez has carried himself in such a way that made me proud to have him behind the dish night in and night out. Never a "me" guy, always a "we" guy. This season really drove that point home. With the shitstorm rolling downhill at full speed, Vazquez is one of 6 players in baseball since June 18th with over 100 PAs, a BA of greater than .300, more than 5 HRS, 10 DBLs, and 15 RBI. The rest of that list includes Vladdy Jr, Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, and Trea Turner (via @bostonsportsinf on twitter). He never once surrendered when he had on a Red Sox uniform, and that has been true all the way to the end. Thank you Christian Vazquez.
Again, I don't know if we even trade any of these guys, but it's looking like they are the most likely candidates to be wearing a different jersey come August 3rd. It's bitter-sweet minus the sweet. I wish it could've ended with another magical run, but it doesn't look like that is going to be the case. It has been an honor to call these three players Boston Red Sox.
Onto the task at hand. The Houston Astros and Luis Garcia. Last time we saw Garcia was back in May when we knocked him around for 3 ER over 4 innings. Garcia has stumbled a bit in July, carrying a 4.70 ERA through the month with 12 ER over 24 innings total in 4 starts. However, he is still one of the better pitchers in the game, and aside from last start he has had the Red Sox lineup in a camel clutch in his prior performances. JD and Xander have a homer each, and Vaz and Dugie each have a pair of hits. Although Garcia has been trending towards being an average pitcher over the last month, he is still obviously a very effective, and fucking frustrating pitcher. He throws his fastball 43% of the time at 94 MPH, followed up by a well-placed cutter at 86 for 31% of the time, and splits his last quarter of his pitches between a changeup, curve, and slider. He really doesn't have a weak pitch. His spread of put-away pitches is fairly evenly distributed between each of pitch in his arsenal, with the fastball expectedly being slightly lower than his off-speed. He does have one tendency we can jump on though, and that is he will let up home runs on his fastball. 10 HRs on the 4-seamer while the rest of his pitches combine for 7 HRs total between the rest of his 4 pitches. Maybe we see JD put one more fastball oppo before he heads for greener pastures.
Eovaldi's last outing against the Astros is not one that I would like to remember, but struggle to forget considering I was in the outfield bleachers for all 5 of the home runs he allowed on May 17th. However, today, I think all eyes from across the league will be on his fastball velocity. In April of this year, he was averaging 96.8 MPH on his fastball, and the xwOBA on it was .267. Since then, he has lost over 2 MPH, and his xwOBA on that same pitch was at .464 for the month of July. Obviously he spent some time on the IL, but it's still concerning for any GM looking for a power pitcher. With all that being said, and me being the optimist that I am, I think he goes balls to the wall for what might be his last start for the Red Sox, and I cannot wait to see it.
Tuesday, we go up against Cristian Javier. Our stat-line against Javier is an interesting one. We are batting .240 in 25 ABs, but each hit is an EBH. 6 hits, 5 of which are doubles and 1 triple. X and JD have 2 doubles a piece, Arroyo has the lone triple, and Refsnyder has the other double. Javier's percentile rankings are also things that you don't see often. His Avg EV, and Barrel% are in the low to mid 30s, but his xERA is in the 88th percentile. A chase rate in the 16th percentile, a BB% in the 26th percentile, but somehow a K% in the fucking 96th percentile.He features a 94 MPH fastball 61% of the time, a slider another 26% of the time, then a curve and a changeup combining for 13% of the time. His off-speed doesn't seem to be all too filthy, which is uncommon for a pitcher with a K% that high. The difference maker seems to be the movement on his fastball, which I have circled here compared to all pitchers in the league:
With that much "vertical" movement, combined with where he throws it, smells like a lot of strikeouts from our less disciplined hitters:
I have a feeling that Tuesday's game is going to be a frustrating one to watch, with the middle of order managing to get on, but the back of our lineup is going to struggle to move guys over and ultimately get them in.
Wednesday, we are going to see Jose Urquidy. Yet another curious case, as his standard pitching stats seem fairly strong on the surface. 9-4 on the season with a 3.86 ERA is obviously very strong and cannot be overlooked, especially considering that in July he had a .85 WHIP and 2.73 ERA over 5 games. He does have a home run issue, with 17 allowed this season, but it doesn't seem to have hurt the Astros as bad as it could have. You would think he is at a minimum hovering around average for his percentile rankings, but it would appear that he has been truly very lucky this season:
People ROPE the ball off of him very consistently, but the balls are just going to the right places in the field. Maybe there really is something to how much the Astros shift (almost 80% of the time against LHH where the league average is at about 56% of the time), and their positioning happens to be exactly right for Urquidy to be covered with how much hard contact he allows.
He is very in line with what we will see in the games prior, a fastball at 94 MPH 55% of the time, changeup 15% of the time, curve 12% of the time, then a slider and a cutter to round things up. He has very interesting pitching splits with what he throws to righties and lefties, opting for the changeup and curveball to lefties, and pretty much exclusively slider and cutter to lefties, obviously with his fastball being thrown pretty much uniformly to each:
It makes sense with how these pitches break, but that is one of the strongest dichotomies I have seen since beginning this blog. Righties have definitely gotten the better end of the stick off of Urquidy, with 14 HRs and a 1.36 whip compared to 3 HRs and a 1.05 WHIP against lefties, so expect a righty heavy lineup on Wednesday.
I'm not going to lie, it felt weird writing this blog. A eulogy of the Red Sox that we have come to know and love, but with the goal of moving forward as Boston teams have done through the eras. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Re-sign Xander. Re-sign Devers.