Series Preview - Red Sox (59-60) @ Orioles (61-57)
We've taken three series in a row. Each different part of the team is doing their job, and doing it well. We sit 2.5 games behind the Orioles and are looking at a 3 game set. We sweep, and we pass them in the standings. We lose this series and I am seriously concerned about my mental health until next April.
Where were you on August 11th? Everyone in Boston remembers. That was the day the impossible happened. OUR Boston Red Sox won a regular season series against an AL East opponent. A 1-game stunner over the Baltimore Orioles. I was on my deck, weeping as John Schreiber recorded the final out. But, just as we all remember where we were when it happened, so do the Orioles. They never want to feel that low again. The embarrassment of losing a 1-game series against a team you play 19 times a year is not something you soon get over. So believe me when I say this, the Orioles will be ready, and the birds are out for blood. Let's take a look at the matchups:
Friday, August 19th 7:05 PM - Kutter Crawford (3-4 4.18 ERA) vs Jordan Lyles (9-9 4.48 ERA)
Saturday, August 20th 4:05 PM - Michael Wacha (7-1 2.44 ERA) vs Kyle Bradish (1-4 6.38 ERA)
Sunday, August 21st 7:10 PM - Nick Pivetta (9-9 4.28 ERA) vs Dean Kremer (5-4 3.58 ERA)
These three pitchers we're facing STINK against the Sox. As a team, the Red Sox combine for 52 hits in 157 ABs between the three of them. That is good for a .331 average against the three starters we will see this weekend. And there isn't one that's dragging them down, it's fairly uniformly distributed between the three of them. If we were to ever sweep a series against the Baltimore, it's this one. Especially when we have 2 of the hottest hitters in baseball giving us lift outside of our core hitters. Those 2 batters are Alex Verdugo and Christian Arroyo. Dugie, since the All-Star Break, is leading the AL in Doubles with 11, and is slashing .348/.408/.506 which is good for a .914 OPS. Similarly, since returning from the IL, Christian Arroyo is batting .390 with a .988 OPS and 7 XBHs. 2 guys that are absolutely raking, and it is lifting the rest of our offense up. And boy have we fucking needed it.
Xander and JD have gone dormant. Their power numbers are absolutely nonexistent. JD's last home run was on July 10th. Since that date, he is 15-96, a .156 batting average. That's downright terrible. His OPS is fucking .468 in that time. 29 Ks compared to 10 walks, and 10 RBIs. We ain't giving him a QO if this is how he finishes out the season. And then there's Xander. I hate to break it to everyone, but he really isn't having a very good season. First and foremost, it doesn't take advanced analytics to see that he just doesn't have power anymore. He had 26 HRs last season, 11 (in a 60 game season which translates to 30 in a regular season) in 2020, and 33 in 2019. He was incredibly lucky April through July, with a BAbip (that's batting average on balls in play) of .389 when the league-wide median is .293. His numbers are incredibly inflated, but they are certainly on their way back down to Earth. This is backed up by a rolling average chart of his xwOBA (provided by redsoxstats on twitter):
It's been trending down for a while now, and it looks like we still haven't bottomed out. In August specifically it's finally catching up to him. In his last 55 ABs (all of August), he has 12 hits, and is slashing .218/.254/.327 which would be an OPS of .582 with 10 Ks and 2 BBs. Why did his numbers go back down? His BABip found its way back to level, coming down to .244. In just 14 games, he has a Win Probability Added of -.777, which is -9 on a whole season, and by the way, that's only looking at offensive statistics. It's a slump for sure, which happens to everyone, but I feel like it's starting to pull his numbers back down to where they should have been all season. If we see him finish out the last month and a half with these numbers, it isn't crazy for him to take another look at opting in to the 3 years $60 mil he has on the table, or at least negotiate with that AAV in mind instead of what Correa got. It'd be on par with what Trea Turner signed (1 yr, $21 mil) this year coming off a significantly better season that what Xander is currently having, and just below Marcus Semien, who hit 45 home runs and had an .873 OPS in his last season before signing his $25 mil/yr deal. I'm sure he wants more years, it's bad timing to become a free agent going into your age 33 season, and I still think it's highly unlikely that he opts in, but I don't think it's entirely hopeless to give up on him being in a Sox uniform for the rest of his career.
I want to make something abundantly clear. I love JD and Xander. They'll be the first to tell you that they've underperformed, and no one wants them to be playing at high level more than they do. But I also try to be realistic about these things. Is it in the best interest of the Boston Red Sox to keep these guys beyond this season? With JD, I don't know where he can contribute if this is what his power looks like going forward. With Xander, I still absolutely believe it is in our best interest to keep him, but if he does opt out before we can add more years to the contract, and someone wants to blow him out of the water with an offer, I'm ok with moving on from him. It sucks, but it's also the reality of the situation. Ok, with that out of the way, we have a series to play this weekend.
Tonight, we have Kutter Crawford going for us. Kutter Crawford has seen the Orioles once, and it was back in May where he was unable to record an out and allowed 2 runs to come in. Don't care, doesn't matter now. This is the new and improved Kutter Crawford. The one that went 6 and only allowed 2 to the Yankees. Not only has he proven that he can get out elite hitters at the major league level, he can beat them on his own by striking them out. He has a 9.1 K/9 which would put him right under Shane Bieber and Nestor Cortes in that statistic. I trust Kutter Crawford to get the job done.
The Sox will get Jordan Lyles. Lyles has nightmares about this lineup. 27 hits on 84 ABs, for a .321 BAA. 2 doubles, 3 home runs. He struggles with the middle-to-back of our lineup, specifically Eric Hosmer. Hosmer has had a tough go at the plate since coming to Boston, batting only .206 in 38 PAs with 0 home runs. With that being said, you get the feeling he's due. He has been making very solid contact, and looking at the numbers this could be a breakout series for him in his Sox tenure. He is 5 for 13 with 2 HRs, 2 Ks, and 2 BBs against Lyles. That's a .385 BA and a .846 SLG, but with an EV of 104.1 and a LA of 22.8, the expected numbers are much higher at 1.176 xSLG and .412 xBA. Hopefully he finds his first dinger tonight. Additionally, although I just spent the last paragraph talking about how much he stinks as of late, JD could have a bounce back night. He is 5 for 11, but with 4 Ks. Pham has also seen him well historically, going 4 for 9 with a home run. Devers and Kiké are the other 2 guys to look out for, with Devers being 4 for 11 with 2 doubles and Kiké is 3 for 8. Lyles features a 5 pitch mix of a 4-seamer, slider, sinker, changeup, and curveball, thrown in that order of frequency. The fastball is at 91, the offspeed hangs out around 80, and the change is at 86. This season, we have faced him twice, both times in May, where he would go 10.1 total innings with 16 hits allowed, 4 ERs,4 BBs and 9 Ks. We're due to rock him for a short appearance so we can clear out their bullpen early in this series.
Heading into Saturday, we will see Kyle Bradish. We've seen the least of Bradish this season, with only 22 ABs against him. In those ABs, we have 9 hits spread pretty evenly through our lineup, with 2 doubles and 2 home runs. The doubles are from Dugie and Raffy, the home runs from X and Arroyo. My guess? Arroyo and Dugie stay hot in Camden against the rookie. We have seen him twice, once was his first major league start ever in which he would go 6 and allow 2 Earned, but the second time we faced him he couldn't get out of the second inning, allowing 6 hits, and 6 Earned. He is pretty consistent in his performances throughout the last couple of months, he throws into the 5th and allows around 3 runs. his issue is one that our pitchers are familiar with, and it's home runs. He lets up around 1 per game, and even if it doesn't get out, the ball is getting tattooed. He is bottom 2% in Avg EV, bottom 9% in xBA, and bottom 10% in xSLG. We should put up a crooked number against him.
The Sox are sending out Wacha for his second outing since coming off the IL. In his first, he absolutely dominated the Yankees. In fact, if the Yankees continue their skid and it opens the door for someone in the division to take a run at first, I will be hanging a banner claiming that Michael Wacha murdered the Yankees dead. However, Wacha doesn't have the best of numbers against the O's. In 51 ABs, he has allowed 18 hits, 3 doubles, a triple, and 5 HRs. That is very not good. A .353 BAA and .745 SLG. Mullins, Mountcastle, Odor, and Santander have taken him deep, with the 1B Mountcastle doing it twice. Mullins also has 2 doubles and a triple. Sidenote, Mullins may have the strongest Coolness to Good At Baseball ratio in the league. May break out R studio and plot that out. Honestly, I could have sworn I remembered Wacha pitching to the Orioles this year, but it would appear that he has not, so I'm gonna disregard everything I just wrote and say this is the new Yankee-murdering Wacha that has a 0 ERA and averages 7 innings pitched since coming off the IL (sample size irrelevant). So yea, he's gonna do that again.
In the finale, we have Pivetta going against Dean Kremer. Dean Kremer sounds like the evil principal in a Nickelodeon live-action show about a group of high school misfits who realize that it isn't about "being cool", it's about the power of friendship. He also has one of the most luscious manes I have seen on a diamond:
I haven't even looked at his baseball savant page, but you can't be a bad pitcher and have that lettuce, it's scientifically impossible (see HiroSaw having a a .43 road ERA with .129 BAA and .186 this season when not at Fenway). He's also from Vegas, so you know he's a wildcard. Do his numbers reflect that? Not exactly, but outliers occur in science all the time. He was the pitcher that allowed the Red Sox our first AL East win last week, going 5.2 and allowing 4 Earned on 6 hits, with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts. He also most recently went 7 for 2 Earned against he Blue Jays. Beyond his last outing against us, he we have 57 plate appearances with 16 hits, 9 of which are doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 5 walks and 13 Ks. I do have one very important thing to point out about these numbers:
These statistics belong to none other than Kevin Plawecki. The heart and soul of this team. That triple back in 2020, his only in a Boston uniform, was off a fastball from Dean Kremer. Kevin Plawecki ranks bottom 7% of the league in sprint speed, and he picked up this triple standing up. Basing my outcome for this game off of that information alone, Kevin Plawecki will hit for the cycle on Sunday. Book it.
Pivetta gets the nod for the Sox. He pitched extraordinarily well against the Pirates, going 7 and allowing only 1 hit. He's seen them plenty, 106 PAs, 24 hits, 5 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs. Also 29 Ks which I love to see, and only 8 walks. Mullins is 8 for 21 with 2 doubles and home run, but 8 strike outs. Mountcastle is the only other guy that really hurts him, with 5 hits, 2 of which are home runs, on 18 at-bats. If Pivetta can limit the damage against those 2 guys, I like our chances in this one.
I think there is a realistic chance we sweep this series. The numbers all lie in our favor. This could be a very good chance to see some of our guys that are slumping break out a little bit. That'd be a welcome development with the rest of this month being against wild card opponents. Take care of our business, the rest will work itself out. Have a good weekend everyone.