Seattle Mariners Vs. Boston Red Sox Series Preview


The Boston Red Sox finished in last place a year ago. The year before that they won the World Series, but the year before that they finished in last place. If there’s anything the San Francisco Giants have taught us, it’s that baseball follows strict patterns, and thus it became clear that this year the Red Sox would win the World Series. Bad news for the Seattle Mariners, and everyone else.

Despite this clear piece of fortune teller evidence, the pundits still had their gripes with this Boston team. Even after an active and spendy offseason in which they imported a pair of third baseman (with the idea that one of them would be the left fielder), many saw obvious room for improvement in the rotation. It would be nice to have an ace. It would be nice to have anyone who’s better than a number three, really.

So far the 2015 World Champion Boston Red Sox seems like a pretty safe bet to not happen, given that the starting five have struggled even beyond what many expected. All five starters have FIPs that are much better than their ERAs, so it’s not like the team has a better option than to keep hoping for positive regression. But so far, not so good. Runs are scoring, even if they shouldn’t be.

Clay Buchholz is the poster child for this crazniess. The only rotation holdover from the (start of the) 2014 season is currently saddled with a 5.73 ERA despite a 3.09 FIP. His results have been amongst the worst in the game, though his peripherals place him in elite territory. The smallest FIP/ERA gap in the rotation belongs to Rick Porcello, who’s got a 4.50 ERA and a 4.08 FIP. Those numbers are mediocre, but Porcello’s also got the second-lowest FIP of the bunch behind Buchholz. So the starters have been both bad and unlucky, really.

When a group is performing this poorly as a whole, we look at two things: catchers and defense. The Red Sox lost their starting catcher to a season-ending injury before things even got going, and have had to lean increasingly hard on Ryan Hanigan. Except that Hanigan’s got a good reputation behind the plate and has good defensive marks so far. And he’s hitting. He’s not the problem, though the team would surely prefer a healthy Christian Vasquez.

The defense is the unit that is really, really not helping Boston’s arms. Hanley Ramirez has been unbelievably awful in the outfield, like, not-a-chance bad. He’s got a 128 wRC+ and -0.4 WAR. That’s only after a recent cold streak, since up until last week or so he was one of the best hitters in the league. Now he’s been less than worthless, and while he’s been the worst defender, he hasn’t been the only guy dragging the team down.

Pablo Sandoval and Mike Napoli are off to uncharacteristically crappy starts in the field, while Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts have been more pedestrian than anything up the middle. The defense was supposed to be so good that the team could get away with punting left field. Hasn’t worked out like that so far, and the team is hurting for it.

Also, Napoli isn’t hitting. David Ortiz isn’t hitting. Bogaerts isn’t hitting. Allen Craig and Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino aren’t hitting. This team is 16-18, half a game better than Seattle, yet nothing’s working for them. Oh yeah, the bullpen is baseball’s second-worst, beating out only the Padres. It’s almost amazing how far this team has been able to ride it’s few decent hitters.

The Mariners will throw, in order, Roenis Elias, J.A. Happ, Felix Hernandez, and James Paxton. They’ll be countered by Joe Kelly, Buchholz, Porcello, and sixth starter Steven Wright. At least they’re switching something up, right? The Mariners have easy pitching advantages three out of four days, with Happ/Porcello basically a tossup at this point. Yeah, Happ can be expected to be as good as Porcello, who signed an extension worth over $80 million before the season began.

The road to .500 has proven longer and more winding than anyone would have ever wanted it to be, but this, as always, is a golden opportunity. So the bats are coming alive? Let’s see what they can do to this wobegon group, then. Sweep puts ’em over .500. Always think sweep thoughts.

More from Emerald City Swagger