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Brian Johnson Is Wildly Underestimated (And Some Stuff About Sale, Nunez, and Lin)

Brian Johnson is a really good pitcher.  He doesn't overpower folks but he has 4 good pitches and off-the-charts "pitchability".  But he throws so softly, it must be temporary.  This is Kason Gabbard, or Vaughn Eshelman all over again, right?

No, Johnson is a legitimate talent.  He was the 31st pick in the 2012 draft coming out of the University of Florida.  At the time, Bleacher Report said:
The broad-shouldered left-hander boasts a fastball that sits at 90-94 mph, as well as a variation that cuts and sinks at a few ticks lower.  Overall, Johnson exhibits command of four pitches, including a slider that ranges from an above-average to plus offering. He’s adept at attacking both right- and left-handed hitters and has shown an ability to work both sides of the plate with all his pitches.
That sounds a lot like a guy we now call Brian Johnson.  He doesn't throw that hard?  Actually, FanGraphs has him throwing his fastball anywhere from 84.6 to 93.8, with an average aro…

Swihart Starting: As Planned

In January 2015, Blake Swihart was the top catching prospect in baseball and by the start of the 2016 season he seemingly had stranglehold on the Sox starting catcher gig.  He lost that hold quickly and hasn't been able to find his footing since.

By September 5, 2016, Christian Vazquez was recalled from Pawtucket.  As he had worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, he had been sent down on July 6 because he wasn't hitting and hadn't recovered his arm strength.  During Vazquez's sojourn to Rhode Island, the Sox relied on Ryan Hanigan as the primary backup for the best hitting catching in baseball at that time: Sandy Leon

After Vazquez was recalled, Hanigan only started a few games for the Sox with Leon starting most games and Vazquez reclaiming a spot on the roster (joined also by Bryan Holaday who started a couple games as well).  By October, Vazquez had shown enough that he made the 2016 playoff roster over Hanigan and Holaday.  That winter, they let H&H Bac…

The Hard Truth About Dustin Pedroia

For whatever reason, second base is a position in which career longevity is rare. Dustin Pedroia is 34 and most of his modern comparables didn't play much or play well beyond that age.  As I detailed a little while back, really solid second basemen like Jose Vidro, Carlos Bearga, Ray Durham, and Ian Kinsler all puttered out (or are currently mid-putter as is the case with Kinsler) around that time in their careers, or slightly earlier.  Placido Palanco is probably the best case scenario -- and he moved to third. 

It is of course possible that Pedrioa has some good years ahead of him.  It's possible his knee surgery eventually fully heals and gives him new life.  But it's also possible we're seeing the beginning of the end, or even the end of the end. 

I, like any Sox fan, want to see Pedroia out there and succeeding.  I want to believe that his passion for the game and Scrappy Doo-like "let me at 'em" attitude will win out.  But, while I'm not a docto…

Hanley Exits Stage Right

Hanley Ramirez has been released by the Red Sox.  With Pedey coming back, this had occurred to me as an option but a very unlikely one.  It seemed like having three catchers was a luxury they couldn't afford, or they'd send Brock Holt down temporarily or put Nunez on the DL just because he really is always injured so why not.

In the end though, they realized keeping Hanley didn't make sense.  If he came out of his slump, you're likely going to get stuck with him for next year or have a conflict with him and the fans when you bench a productive player.  But it was more likely he'd have good moments but never be all that good.  He's been terrible for about 3 weeks now.  Cutting bait with Hanley means you have more money for next year (Kimbrel & Mookie perhaps), you don't have the headache of however he's going to act if/when you bench him, and you keep other options on your roster.  As for the money, you're already spending it either way so don…

Opening Day & Possible Unlikely 2018 Contributors & Breakthroughs

It's opening day and the Sox are playing the Rays.  While the beauty of baseball is that any team can beat any other team on any given day, the Sox should - and need to - dominate the Rays this season.  The Rays are going to try a 4 man rotation (a very good idea btw with the way the game is trending) - but then they lost one of those four.  Rumor is that they are close to signing Charlie Hough.  Their best player is Kevin Kiermaier whose very solid, but essentially their best player is Jackie Bradley, Jr.  Even if Wilson Ramos returns to All Star form and C.J. Cron finally becomes decent, this will be a pretty bad team.  They'll get a jolt when star SS prospect Willy Adames arrives but otherwise the Sox need to feast on the Rays this year if they hope to win the division.

The Sox opening day lineup meanwhile has a couple of sorta-surprises from where we started spring.  Hanley is starting at 1B over Mitch Moreland despite a righty starter, and Christian Vazquez is catching Chr…

The Red Sox Wildcard Liability: the Bullpen (of course)

While we already talked about the infield defense as the one real glaring weakness on the Red Sox, the bullpen is the biggest wild card.

Last year's Red Sox bullpen was outstanding but there is reason to believe it over-performed.  In addition, it seems like John Farrell had a little magic with the 'pen, but hopefully it was really Dana LeVangie who had the magic touch since he is making the odd move from bullpen couch under one manager, to pitching couch under a new one (within the same organization) - and he's the rare pitching couch who never pitched professionally.

Last year's Red Sox won the division in large part because they were a ridiculous 15-3 in extra inning games.  It feels like once a week they'd go to extras and someone like Heath Hembree or Hector Vazquez would put up a couple zeros on the board until Sandy Leon blooped a single that scored JBJ.  Now, those guys aren't bad pitchers but that was not normal.

This year, the Sox will rely on mostly t…

The 2018 Red Sox Biggest Liability: Infield Defense

This Red Sox team is stacked.  At the moment, the biggest concerns seems to be the Mookie Betts hasn't been hitting and the fifth starter is likely going to be the perfectly capable Brian Johnson or Hector Vazquez for the first month or so.  But this team does have one real problem with it - and another possible one I'll write about later.  The infield defense has the potential to be pretty bad.  Given that I'm usually the one seeing hope in dark Sox times, I figured I'd try to dampen everyone's spirits now that we're cloaked in the warm glow of J.D. Martinez in a Red Sox uniform.

Based on what new manager Alex Cora has said so far, the Red Sox most likely Opening Day infield will be Hanley Ramirez at first, Eduardo Nunez at second, Bogaerts at short, and Devers at third.  That's a group that has the potential to really hit, but they also all have big defensive question marks.  It's not great when Bogaerts is your best defensive infield starter.  For the…

JD Martinez and Red Sox Depth

The Sox have signed JD Martinez; so, that's good.  His track record, personal reports on work ethic and attitude (aka lessons learns from Panda mania), and the fact that he's seen most of his success in the American League point to this being as sure a success as you can have in free agency.  He is getting a hefty pay check while the Sox aren't locked down for 6, 7 or Hosmer years.

Taking as a given that Martinez will be an outstanding hitter in the middle of the lineup, this signing - along with the signing of Eduardo Nunez earlier in the weekend - gives this Red Sox offense the most depth they have had since the 2013 champions.  That team taught us that it makes good baseball sense to go a few players deep at each position if you can, and to not obsess with how you'll find at bats for everyone.  Here we go again with that approach.

The 2018 Red Sox are remarkably deep and flexible.  When someone gets hurt, the likelihood is that that player will be replaced in the l…