Projecting Potential Slides in 2018

Photo Credit: AP

By the end of the 2018 season, there will be players who have succeeded and failed. Here are three that may have a downside for 2018.

Somewhere in my DNA is the vestiges of the Fellowship of the Miserable. Win a lottery? Is that good news? No – the first words are about all those taxes. An ingrained characteristic that is Bostonian like our three pastimes – politics, sports, and revenge.

Major League baseball is rampant this time of the year and putting a serious dent in internet ink supplies with their online bully pulpit MLB.com that is supposed to provide us with our daily fix of the baseball mundane. I openly admit being an addict and have no hope of recovery.  The latest installment is ten players primed for a comeback in 2018. So, how do I apply this to the Red Sox?

Naturally, in full negativity mode, I will have my own is called comedown stories for 2018 with – no surprise here – the Red Sox.  A real negative approach would be 25 Red Sox players primed for a comedown, but I will limit it to just a select few. This is more intuitive based on the classic Star Wars line about “I have a bad feeling about this.”

My first selection would be Drew Pomeranz. There are certain mysteries in life-like why people in Massachusetts don’t use turn signals and what magical set of conditions, circumstances, and baseball pixie dust allowed the lefty to accumulate 17 wins?  The metrics give a little insight and seem a bit skewed to his win total.  In particular that xFIP that is more than a tad higher than his ERA.

Maybe all this negativity rests in the Pomeranz of 2016? That was not the bill of goods the Red Sox expected. If this was Amazon, the Red Sox should and could have used the return to sender option. But last season Pomeranz suddenly became Mr. Dependable.  I am not convinced and have Pomeranz schedule for a very blunt “regression.”

In 2015 Joe Kelly made 25 starts for the Red Sox. I clearly cannot recall any of them. This was not a LSD issue, but one of impressions.  Kelly throws hard and that is quite memorable when that little LED flashes triple digits at Fenway Park.  The rest just blazed ordinary as in a 4+ ERA and FIP.

Last season was the final transition of Kelly to the bullpen after an injury and control plagued 2016. Kelly, however, went 2-0, 1.02 ERA in 14 games as a reliever in 2016 to set the stage for full bullpen exposure.   The transition in 2017 went boffo as they are prone to say in the theater biz.  Kelly went 4-1 in 54 games, 13 holds (if anyone cares), 2.79 ERA, 50.6 GB%, and a 6.5 H/9. What’s not to like?

I look at one item that simply makes me want to gargle with lighter fluid – walks.  I hate them with a passion and they are a warning sign.  Last season it was 4.2 BB/9 and that is of concern.  Kelly has flipped and flopped between starter and bullpen and I remain unconvinced of his stability in a key situation with that nasty BB/9.

I would add Hanley Ramirez to this list, but Hanley has already reached the bottom of the statistical well. So, I must look elsewhere for a player – a veteran – and I select none other than one of my top ten baseball favorites – Dustin Pedroia. And that is all-time top ten, and I go way back to when they chewed tobacco and didn’t use helmets.

Pedroia in 2017 was back to form – not MVP season form – but back to where he was leading the team in hitting and had returned to defensive glory. Then the injuries started.  Seems the injury bug for Pedroia is now an expected outcome each season.  Each nick and dent takes away a bit more and in 2018 I expect a step – a large step – backward for the Red Sox icon. Wear and tear, folks.

From my lofty perch, it is all about the dual combination that is a career killer – age and injury – and Petey is collecting both. Underestimating Pedroia can be fatal as he has long had a history of putting his naysayers into the punishment stocks.  Not this time.

The good news is this is a rather slim list as I expect a few – more than a few – rebounds from personal mediocrity or disappointment in 2017. That should heavily tip the scales in favor of pluses instead of minuses.

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About Rick McNair

Born in Boston and have lived in the area all my life but not as a Red Sox fan. My first game was actually at Braves Field where I saw a very young Eddie Matthews hit a home run. The Braves left and I quickly switched loyalties. I enjoy discussing the Red Sox past and the connection of that past to the present. I will often bring in remembrances of that into posts. As a retired teacher I have the time to occasional travel to foreign baseball soil and love meeting up with other fans of RSN on the road. I am also a fan of the NY Football Giants (via NJ) - a dwindling breed in Massachusetts.
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