Boston Red Sox Series Preview: 9/18 to 9/20

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This season has gone according to plan for the Red Sox. No, seriously. Hard to expect much more than last place after trading away the face of the franchise Mookie Betts while not doing anything to address an awful pitching staff. Can’t say I mind it! Too bad this is the last time we’ll see the Red Sox this season. The Yankees have won all seven games against Boston this season.

Their Story So Far

The Red Sox were in disarray the last time they played the Yankees, but they’ve been a bit better since. Still, nothing to write home about. Boston fell to 6-17 on August 17th after the Yankees swept them in four games in the Bronx. Since, the Red Sox have gone 13-15 to bring their record to 19-32. Better, but the team remains in the AL East cellar.

Oddly enough, the Yankees have also gone 13-15 since that Red Sox series ended. Obviously, things are much better of late as a result of an eight game winning streak, a reminder of how much better this Yankees team is than Boston even during the bad times. In any case, the Red Sox aren’t as meek as they were about a month ago. Boston’s bats have come alive.

Through 8/17.249.310.41692.309
Since 8/17.276.342.468114.329

23 year-old third baseman Rafael Devers has led Boston’s offensive charge over the last month. He’s got the league’s 5th-highest wRC+ (202) since that series at Yankee Stadium ended. You might recall just how awful Devers was earlier this year. He departed Yankee Stadium with a .183/.239/.317 (44 wRC+) batting line last month. What a turnaround.

It’s not just Devers hitting, though. Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo have continued to hit well at the top of the lineup. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been hot and power-hitting prospect Bobby Dalbec has contributed in spite of an astronomical 50.8 percent strikeout rate.

As good as the Red Sox bats have been, the pitching has remained awful.

Through 8/17199.06.065.40
Since 8/17240.05.935.29

The needle’s barely removed on what is objectively the league’s worst pitching staff. Boston pitchers have the MLB’s worst ERA, FIP, and WAR. It’s literally a below replacement level pitching staff. After watching what the Yankees did to the Blue Jays pitchers this week, we should expect a few more slugfests this weekend.

Injury Report

  • Dustin Pedroia, 2B: knee joint procedure
  • Andrew Benintendi, OF: strained rib cage
  • Zack Godley, RHP: strained flexor
  • Kyle Hart, LHP: hip impingement
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP: COVID-19, myocarditis
  • Chris Sale, LHP: Tommy John surgery
  • Colten Brewer, RHP: strained finger
  • Austin Brice, RHP: strained lat
  • Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP: sprained SC joint
  • Josh Taylor, LHP: shoulder tendinitis
  • Andrew Triggs, RHP: radial nerve irritaiton

Spotlight: J.D. Martinez

As already noted, the Red Sox offense has been much better of late. J.D. Martinez hasn’t been a part of that surge, however. Martinez sits at .206/.294/.371 (73 wRC+) in 194 plate appearances this season, a career-worst batting line. It’s been even worse recently, though. Martinez owns a .174/.263/.337 (54 wRC+) batting line in his last 99 plate appearances.

It does seem that Martinez has been a little bit unlucky this season at first glance. His batting average and slugging percentage are below his expected marks of .235 and .469, respectively. Hence, his .282 actual wOBA sits far below his .330 xwOBA. That said, those expected marks aren’t exactly good for any hitter, let alone someone of Martinez’s (perhaps former) caliber.

Martinez hasn’t had a season with an xwOBA below .400 in the Statcast era, so you can see how significant of a drop he’s exhibited this year. He’s simply just not hitting the ball as hard this year. His exit velocity is down about two MPH and his launch angle has increased roughly two degrees. The combination of more lift at lower exit velocities is a recipe for decline.

Aside from his batted ball problems, he’s also making less contact. His strikeout rate is up from 21 percent last year to 24.7 percent this year. Remarkably, he’s whiffing at more fastballs than previously. You can watch some cherry-picked examples of fastball swings-and-misses above or look at this chart below.

Like so many hitters, Martinez has clobbered opposing fastballs in the past. Last year, he had a .404 wOBA against fastballs. A year prior, .467. But this year, he sits at .289. He does have a .366 xwOBA against heaters, but that’s also by far a career-low (previous: .434 in 2016).

This is an unusual year in numerous respects, so it’s not easy to pinpoint the source of Martinez’s difficulties. That said, there are a couple of possibilities I’ll float. One, he’s now 33, so maybe he’s lost a little bit of bat speed. Another? Maybe he’s not too please with the organization he signed with. It’s a far cry from the Dave Dombrowski era. Remember how Martinez reacted to the Mookie Betts trade?

Not good. Can’t blame him if he’s still disgruntled. He does have an opt-out after this season, similar to last winter, but I can’t imagine him exercising it. He’s still got $38.75 million coming his way through 2022. I wouldn’t count on him beating that in this winter’s market, especially after this poor performance.

Projected Lineup

  1. Alex Verdugo, RF (.326/.381/.511, 138 wRC+)
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B (.293/.345/.550, 135 wRC+)
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS (.284/.342/.500, 122 wRC+)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (.206/.294/.371, 73 wRC+)
  5. Christian Vázquez, C (.265/.327/.397, 94 wRC+)
  6. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (.265/.339/.419, 102 wRC+)
  7. Yairo Muñoz, LF (.333/.333/.511, 122 wRC+)
  8. Bobby Dalbec, 1B (.241/.305/.593, 130 wRC+)
  9. Christian Arroyo, 2B (.250/.300/.500, 108 wRC+)


  • Kevin Plawecki, C (114 wRC+)
  • Jonathan Araúz, INF (49 wRC+)
  • Micahel Chavis, 1B/LF (64 wRC+)
  • Tzu-Wei Lin, INF (1 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:30 p.m. EDT

LHP Martín Pérez

The southpaw has been OK for Boston this season (4.33 ERA, 5.14 FIP in 52 innings). He didn’t fare so well in his one start against the Yankees this year. Luke Voit took him deep and Pérez was pulled after three innings.

LHP Jordan Montgomery

2020 has been a bit of a roller coaster for Monty. It seems like he’s either been really good (like last start against Baltimore) or terrible with nothing inbetween. He’s faced Boston twice this year and has allowed 2 runs in 9 1/3. innings.

Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m. EDT


Boston hasn’t announced its starter, but odds are one of Chris Mazza or Dylan Covey get the ball here. Perhaps the Sox throw an opener before one of those two follow. Mazza threw 18 pitches Wednesday and Covey tossed 23 on Tuesday.


Happ’s turnaround began with his start against the Sox on August 16th. Including that game, the veteran lefty owns a 2.45 ERA and 3.64 FIP in 29 1/3 innings pitched. I don’t think anyone saw this coming after a disastrous 2019 campaign.

Sunday, 1:07 p.m. EDT

RHP Tanner Houck

This will be the 24 year-old’s second big league start. Boston’s 1st round pick in 2017 tossed five shutout frames against the Marlins in his debut. He walked three and struck out seven. Houck offers a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a slider.

RHP Deivi García

García makes up the other side of this rookie vs. rookie matchup. He’s established himself as a key piece of the Yankees’ rotation in his first four starts (3.28 ERA and 3.97 FIP in 24 2/3 innings) and is appointment television now.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Phillips Valdez, Marcus Walden, Robert Stock, Domingo Tapia, Robinson Leyer, Chris Mazza, Dylan Covey, Ryan Weber

LHP: Jeffrey Springs

Boston’s top relief arms all pitched yesterday. Still, Barnes (14 pitches yesterday), Brasier (13), and Valdez (18) could be available tonight. I’d probably rule out Valdez, who’d be working three straight days even though he threw just five pitches on Wednesday. No one else has worked consecutive days of late. I suppose it’s also worth noting that Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Weber combined for 15 pitches yesterday.

We’re probably in for some high scoring affairs this weekend. Boston’s pitching is terrible and the Yankees offense is hot. Meanwhile, the Red Sox bats have sorta come to life. In any event, the Yankees should win all three of these games and finish the season 10-0 against Boston.


Mailbag: Playoff Matchups, Outfield Situation, Domingo Germán, Deivi Garcia, Paxton Trade, & Injuries


Game 51: The Yankees are at Full Strength

1 Comment

  1. Luke Voit

    Here is a guess, regarding JD Martinez: He’s proving that it’s harder to hit a baseball when you don’t know what pitch is coming.

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