For beginners, let’s get the housekeeping issue out of the way: The Sports Hub has been open for business since August 2009, so it only took us 8 1/2 years to figure out that we could augment The Baseball Reporters with a digital element. So here it is: the official Baseball Reporters “Behind The Seams” blog, where we’ll try to augment some of the things that could use visual or written support.
For example: recently, I saw the following comment from JD Martinez in the Boston Herald, where Jason Mastrodonato asked him about the challenge of hitting at Fenway Park.
“I’m kind of on the fence with it,” Martinez said. “Most of my power and my strength is the opposite field, the other way. But I do hit balls to left field. It’s one of those things where I’m trying to see how it’s going to be.
“A lot of those balls that are fly outs to left are probably gone, but I think it’s going to play fair because a lot of the balls I hit to right are probably not going to go out. Just hope the balance is there. I’m not going to change the way I approach anything. I’m staying with what got me here.”
This is the part that warrants attention: “a lot of the balls I hit to right are probably not going to go out.”
Over the winter, I wondered how Fenway would affect Martinez’ opposite-field power, which might be his single greatest attribute as a hitter. If opposing pitchers can get him out on deep flies to right field, then that’s how they’re going to pitch him. A chart is far more valuable than an explanation in this case, and here’s what we found, a spray chart depicting where Martinez’ home runs would have landed last season if he played all of his games at Fenway.
So in this blog, this is what we’re shooting for: a component that hopefully adds to the product by going to places where radio can’t easily go. Sometimes there will be obvious examples and sometimes there won’t. But you get the idea.
On To 2018
All of that said, let’s kick off the 2018 campaign with a general thought. There’s been a lot of talk about the Red Sox over the last couple of years – and a lot of frustration based on how they’ve finished (and acted, at least in 2017). Boston’s 1-6 performance in the postseason has been a colossal disappointment – a failure, frankly – and the offseason lacked sizzle, especially after Giancarlo Stanton ended up with the Yankees.
So are the Red Sox the favorite to win the World Series in 2018? No. But the criticism of them has gone too far. The 2018 Sox have questions like everybody else – Martinez, David Price, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are all critical players whose performance could swing the season – but the suggestion that they are somehow mediocre is grossly overstated. The Red Sox are a good team. We just need to find out if they can be great.
Starting in 2016, only eight MLB teams have averaged 85 wins a season. The Red Sox are one of them – and they rank fifth, ahead of the Houston Astros, with an average of exactly 93 wins per year. Here is that list:
Of course, this is Boston. And this is the Golden Age in Boston sports. That means 93-win seasons aren’t good enough. Only two teams on that list – the Cubs and Astros – have won the World Series in the last four years. Put in that context, the Red Sox might not even be the biggest disappointment in baseball over the last two years. That honor probably goes to the Dodgers. Or the Washington Nationals.
Could this team win the World Series in 2018? Of course. But again, as is the case with every team, things have to break right. Between now and the end of the regular season, there will be ample opportunity to second-guess the Red Sox and critique their players or performance. (And trust me, we will.) At the moment, they are the most expensive team in Red Sox history (about $230 million) and the best teams in baseball rest in a group slightly ahead of them.
In 2018, the Red Sox need to make up that distance.
— By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub