March 31, 2019

G4: Mariners 10, Red Sox 8

Red Sox  - 300 301 001 -  8  9  1
Mariners - 027 100 00x - 10 12  1
Once again, the Mariners tried to give the game away in the ninth inning. On Sunday afternoon, Cory Gearrin walked the bases loaded, not bothering to confuse matters by throwing more than a couple of strikes along the way. Unfortunately, after the first walk (four pitches to J.D. Martinez, none of which were close), Xander Bogaerts hacked at Gearrin's first offering and flied to right, so there was one out.

Chasen Bradford came in with the potential tying runs on base. Blake Swihart took a strike, then watched three balls out of the zone. Bradford's 3-1 pitch was further outside than ball 3, but plate umpire David Rackley called it a strike (pitch #5 below). Bradford followed up with another wide one - and Rackley made the correct call this time - and a run was forced in.

But Bradford then steadied himself. Christian Vazquez went down swinging on a 1-2 slider low and away, a pitch that was so far beyond his reach, even swinging a boat oar would have been useless. Jackie Bradley also fell behind 1-2 before grounding out to second, ending the game and giving the Red Sox a 1-3 record as they travel to Oakland.

Rick Porcello (2.2-6-9-4-3, 73) pitched a clean first inning, gave up a two-run single to Dee Gordon in the second, and was buried in a third-inning avalanche. The nine runs allowed by Porcello are tied for the second-most he's ever allowed and his four walks are tied for the most in a Boston uniform.

The Red Sox are the fourth team since 1908 to allow six or more runs in each of the first four games of a season. ... The 11 home runs given up by the Red Sox are the most ever allowed by a defending World Series champion in its first four games.

Boston scored three quick runs in the first off Wade LeBlanc (5.1-7-6-3-1, 90). Mookie Betts grounded out, but Rafael Devers doubled to left and score don J,.D. Martinez's single to left-center. Xander Bogaerts walked and Sam Travis reached on an infield error, loading the bases. Mitch Moreland popped to left, but Eduardo Núñez grounded a single into left for two runs.

Jay Bruce opened the Seattle second with a double to right and Omar Narváez singled to center. With runners at first and third, Porcello bore down and caught Tim Beckham looking at strike three (ending a nine-pitch at-bat) and got Ryon Healy to foul to third. On NESN, Dennis Eckersley was impressed, exclaiming, "He's getting out of this!" Sadly, no. The final out was elusive. Porcello got ahead of Daniel Vogelbach 0-2, but the Mariners DH eventually worked an eight-pitch walk. Gordon ripped the first pitch he saw to left-center, cutting the Red Sox's lead to 3-2.

The Mariners sent 11 men to the plate in the third. (Eck made no pronouncements this time.) Mitch Haniger reached second when Martinez, battling a brutal sun in left, dropped his fly ball. JDM caught Domingo Santana's fly ball, but the next five Mariners reached base. Bruce walked on four pitches and Narváez cracked a three-run homer to right. Beckham walked, Healy singled, and Vogelbach walked. Gordon's sac fly to left scored one run and Mallex Smith's single scored another. Brian Johnson came out of the bullpen and his first pitch was ripped down the left field line by Haniger. Two more runs crossed the plate, making it 9-3.

At this point, I was debating how much more of the game to watch before deciding a comeback was unlikely and heading out to enjoy a sunny afternoon. With two outs in the top of the fourth, Martinez bopped a three-run homer to left. Giving up a seven-spot early sucks, but trailing by only three runs in the fourth inning is no big deal. (My internal debate was postponed.)

Bruce and Mookie Betts traded solo home runs and it was 10-7 until the ninth inning, when it looked like an eleventh-hour comeback might be possible, since both teams were actively working towards making it happen. But the Mariners suddenly withdrew their assistance and things ended quickly after that.
Rick Porcello / Wade LeBlanc
Betts, RF
Devers, 3B
Martinez, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Travis, DH
Moreland, 1B
Núñez, 2B
Vázquez, C
Bradley, CF
Andrew Benintendi begins the day on the bench after hitting a foul ball off his right kneecap last night.

Red Sox relief pitchers have allowed zero runs in their last 8.2 innings and have retired 21 of their last 24 batters. In the last two games, the Mariners were 2-for-25 (.080) with 12 strikeouts against the bullpen.

Schadenfreude 246 (A Continuing Series)

George A. King III, Post:
An addition to the Yankees' clubhouse this year is a lighting system mounted on a wall above the entrance that helped turn the clubhouse into a party room on Opening Day.

For the Yankees' sake, that system better be in play Sunday after the way they let the putrid Orioles fly out of Yankee Stadium on Saturday with a 5-3 victory that was witnessed by 42,203 disappointed customers.

Wasted opportunities at the plate early and three errors sprinkled throughout the game made a ninth-inning rally not enough to beat what many believe will be the worst team in the majors this season. ...

Gary Sanchez's error on a throw to second instead of third when the Orioles pulled off a double steal helped the visitors score twice against James Paxton and cop a 2-1 lead. The winners added a run in the seventh against Chad Green, and LeMahieu's throwing error after making a nice stop at third base on Joey Rickard's grounder to start the ninth accounted for one of the two runs in the ninth being unearned. ...

Baltimore starter Nate Karns, who missed all of last season with an elbow problem, walked Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Voit with one out in the first, and it appeared for the second straight game the Yankees were going to ambush the Orioles in the initial frame after scoring three in the first on Opening Day.

But Andujar's hard-hit ball on a 1-0 pitch was fielded by Karns and turned into a killer double play.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
Entering just the third game of the season, [Aaron] Judge sees the Yankees as having their backs against the wall. ... [W]inning series against rebuilding teams like the Orioles is how the Yankees (1-1) can get an edge against the defending World Series champion Red Sox.

Last season, the Yankees struggled against the Orioles early on and finished 12-7 against them. The Red Sox went 16-3 against Baltimore.

The Red Sox helped themselves win the AL East last season by beating up on the leasts of baseball. They went 66-19 against teams that finished with a losing record. The Yankees went 57-31. ...

[I]t wasn't just the Orioles getting lucky Saturday. The Yankees dug their own holes on defense too.

Gary Sanchez's throw to second on a double steal in the fifth allowed a second run to score that inning. LeMahieu's throwing error in the ninth allowed Joey Rickard to reach and eventually score. Voit also made a throwing error in the third. ...

It may be the first weekend of the season. There are still 160 games to go, but those mistakes and missed opportunities are the things that could haunt them in October.

Ken Davidoff, Post:
When a bottom-of-the-ninth-inning rally fell short at Yankee Stadium, the team found itself on the wrong end of a 5-3 loss to the egregiously awful Orioles, dropping the season record to 1-1. James Paxton's stellar pinstripe debut went for naught as his teammates stranded 11 runners on base, and DJ LeMahieu, also registering his Yankees launch, mitigated his overall impressive showing at third base — his first game there since 2014 — by committing a costly throwing error of his own that led to a pair of Baltimore insurance runs.

So Sanchez hardly operated alone in this loss to this expansion-caliber club on which the Yankees should routinely pound. He stands the highest, however, because of what we know he can do, and what we saw him not do last season. ...

The Orioles had just tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the sixth, Dwight Smith Jr.'s single scoring Jesus Sucre from third and advancing Richie Martin to second, when they tried a double steal with a 1-and-1 count on Trey Mancini. Rather than try to get the lead runner Martin at third, Sanchez fired to second, and his throw fell short and to Gleyber Torres' left, skipping into center field. Martin strolled home for the 2-1 lead that the O's never relinquished. ...

Throw in praise from Paxton for his battery work — "Gary was great back there," the tall lefty said — and hope remains the Kraken will reign.

For the benefit of all Yankees, though, it would be helpful if that unleashing occurred sooner than later.
George A. King III, Post:
Since a drastic drop in velocity during spring training led to stud reliever Dellin Betances undergoing tests that revealed inflammation and an impingement in his right shoulder and landed him on the injured list to start the season, it was impossible to ignore the scoreboard readings for Aroldis Chapman on Opening Day.

The Yankees closer's calling-card four-seam fastball that routinely pushes the speed guns into triple digits averaged 95.3 mph ...

[One] talent evaluator suggested the Yankees might want Chapman, 31, to pitch more than throw as he ages. ... Another scout who viewed Chapman's performance Thursday was in a different pew than the first two.

"I would be a little bit concerned. The velocity is down and he threw more breaking balls than I have ever seen him throw. It is one thing to work on things in spring training, but now the season is here and the velocity is down," the scout said. "It didn't look like the ball was coming out easy. He might not be stretched out, it's early, or it could be he is 31."

WEEI Revolving Door Of Announcers: Josh Lewin: Ignorant And Unable To Get Facts Right

I listened to the Red Sox's radio broadcast on Saturday night. Joe Castiglione was paired with Josh Lewin, the first of his many broadcast partners this season.

Josh Lewin was horrible. He talked way too fast and made numerous factual errors. Several comments made him sound like someone who had never watched baseball before and did not understand the game. Part of this act seemed linked with a strong desire of making Red Sox fans crank up the gloom-&-doom meter before the third regular season game was even over.

Recapping the top of the first inning, Lewin said - only three batters (and fewer than 10 pitches) after it happened - that Eduardo Rodriguez "had wanted no part of Jay Bruce" and had walked the Mariners' cleanup hitter on four pitches. Lewin had clearly forgotten that Rodriguez's first pitch to Bruce was actually a strike, but plate umpire Dan Bellino did not call it.

In the top of the fourth, Dylan Moore had a long plate appearance against Rodriguez. After Moore fouled off Rodriguez's ninth pitch, Lewin said correctly that the at-bat would be going to a 10th pitch ... but then quickly checked himself and said (wrongly) that it would be going to an 11th pitch.
Lewin: 3-2 on its way. Swing, another ground ball foul. So this is going to be a 10 -- check that, an 11 pitch at-bat now. Dylan Moore. Who started last year in Biloxi, Mississippi. Double AA ball for the Brewers. And really working hard here against Eddie Rodriguez. Memorably, Alex Cora once had a 14-pitch at-bat, he homered on the 14th pitch.

Castiglione: Off Matt Clement.

Lewin: Yep. Back when he was with the Dodgers, was Alex. 3-2 pitch. Busted that, roller towards short, could be two. The flip to second, one, turned on to first, double play! It was worth the wait. 11 pitch AB and finally a splintered-bat roller
from the rookie Dylan Moore.
Alex Cora's "memorable" at-bat from 2004 lasted 18 pitches, not 14. It's a fairly well-known highlight. Castiglione knew the opposing pitcher and I'm assuming he did not want to blatantly point out Lewin's mistake on the air.

Lewin was also getting things that were happening in front of his face completely wrong. By saying again (wrongly) that the double play happened on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Lewin committed three errors in quick succession before Moore did the same thing on the field in the ninth inning. Two batters later, the inning ended when Mitch Haniger struck out swinging. Lewin said it was a called strike three.

At another point, Lewin was speaking at length about teenage pitcher David Clyde's debut for the Rangers back in 1973. His recollections were colourful (something about Clyde making his MLB debut only six days after his high school prom), but since he got the Cora story wrong, and said other strange things, I have no idea if anything he said about Clyde was truthful. He also rattled off the names of players who had never played in the minors before making the majors, including Dave Winfield, who played his first game more than 45 years ago. Everything Lewin said was delivered with the confidence of someone describing the clothes he is wearing.

Bruce hit a three-run homer in the next inning, giving Seattle a 6-2 lead. Lewin said it "was really hard to figure" how the Mariners were scoring so many runs, since they were not expected to be a high-scoring club. I guess the idea that any team could have a three-game stretch where they did not conform to a pre-season stereotype was utterly foreign to him.

The 2018 Red Sox led the AL in runs, hits, doubles, average, on-base, and slugging, but they also had a three-game stretch (April 21-24) in which they scored only four runs and a four-game stretch ((June 8-11) with only eight runs.

The 1927 Yankees scored only five runs over three games (June 1-3). ... And the 2018 Orioles went 47-115, but somehow managed to score 46 runs on 54 hits in five games (May 10-13), 37 runs on 45 hits in three games (July 27-29), and 29 runs on 41 hits in three games (August 27-29). ... This kind of stuff happens all the time. But Lewin acted like he had no idea.

Lewin also seemed mystified at how Seattle starter Mike Leake was getting batters out since he was not throwing 95+ mph. He expressed this confusion several times. Clearly, Lewin has never heard of Greg Maddux - or even Tim Wakefield.

Lewin was often way off in describing where pitches were thrown. He told listeners that a pitch up and away, which barely edged into the strike zone, had been thrown "right down the middle". (Castiglione does this, too, with alarming frequency. A good rule of thumb: If you are listening to the radio without a TV nearby, never trust the announced location of any pitch.)

NESN also had issues because ... NESN. In the top of the first, instead of showing the batted ball or third strike, the broadcast reversed back through the at-bat's pitches. That happened for both of the first two batters. For the third batter, the screen simply went black.

And check out the strike zone graphic in the top of the sixth:

March 30, 2019

G3: Mariners 6, Red Sox 5

Red Sox  - 011 000 003 - 5  9  2
Mariners - 200 130 00x - 6 10  3
The Red Sox nearly pulled off another game-winning, ninth-inning rally. They were aided by Mariners rookie third baseman Dylan Moore, who committed an error on three consecutive plays with two outs. And with the potential tying run at third base, Xander Bogaerts was called out on a low 0-2 pitch that appeared to be an obvious ball on TV. However, NESN's strike zone is deceptive because it's actually smaller than the true strike zone. Brooks had the pitch at the very bottom of the strike zone.

This is the first time in Red Sox history that the starting pitcher has allowed six or more runs in each of first three games of a season.

Eduardo Rodriguez (4.1-8-6-3-5, 105) resumed his old ways, throwing 31 pitches in the first inning and 26 in the fourth. The Globe's Alex Speier tweeted that pitching coach Dana LeVangie said Rodriguez didn't stick with his game plan, failing to use his changeup against lefties. LeVangie thought Seattle's right-handed hitters would be sitting on changeups away, so he wanted Rodriguez to attack with his cutter inside, but he didn't do it aggressively enough to open up the plate. LeVangie called it "a little kick in the teeth ... it's a little bit of a wakeup call for all of us".

In the first inning, he allowed a leadoff single and retired the next two hitters before issuing a walk and giving up an RBI-single and an RBI-double. Jay Bruce later tagged him for a three-run homer in the fifth.

The Red Sox quickly tied the game. Mitch Moreland doubled to left-center with one out in the second and scored on Jackie Bradley's first-pitch single to center. In the third, Rafael Devers walked, stole second, and scored on J.D. Martinez's single to left.

Rodriguez settled down for two innings. He was aided by a fantastic running catch by Mookie Betts, who raced to his left and snagged Domingo Santana's line drive with the very tip of his glove and was able to hold on to the ball as he disappeared into the corner. Ryon Healy doubled to right to start the fourth and Rodriguez followed that by issuing a four-pitch walk. Moore grounded into a double play, but Dee Gordon singled to left to give Seattle a 3-2 lead.

Singles by Andrew Benintendi and Devers in the fifth seemed promising, but Martinez lined to center and Bogaerts chased a 2-2 cutter out of the zone.

The Mariners broke the game open in the fifth. Mitch Moreland was charged with an error when he could not hold Bogaerts's high throw on Santana's grounder. Edwin Encarnacion singled and Bruce clubbed a first-pitch homer to right-center, giving Seattle a 6-2 lead. Rodriguez then walked Tim Beckham before getting Healy on a pop to short left. Heath Hembree came in and gave up a single, but struck out Moore to end the inning.

Zac Rosscup faced the bottom third of Boston's lineup in the top of the ninth. Christian Vazquez batted for Blake Swihart and dropped a single into left. Rosscup struck out Bradley and got pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez to ground out to shortstop.

Benintendi got ahead 3-0 before walking on a full count. Betts grounded to third. Moore bobbled the ball and then rushed his throw to first. It sailed over everyone and into the stands. Vazquez scored, making it 6-3, and the runners advanced to second and third. After Seattle convened a mound visit, Devers ripped a 1-1 pitch directly at Moore. The hot shot knocked him back and the ball trickled off into left field. Another error - Benintendi scored: 6-4.

The Mariners changed pitchers, bringing in Nick Rumbelow to face Martinez. JDM fell behind 0-2 after failing to check his swing and tapping a foul down the third base line. Martinez also grounded to Moore, who had to be muttering to himself by this time. He bobbled the easy grounder and then threw low to first. The ball bounced in front of Healy, and he could not scoop it. Another error! Betts scored. Boston now had Devers at third and Martinez at first, and trailed 6-5. I was hoping that Bogaerts would drop a bunt down the third base line. I figured there was a solid chance that Moore, fearing a fourth error, would not even bother with it. But Bogaerts instead looked at three pitches - all called strikes.

Eduardo Rodriguez / Mike Leake
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Devers, 3B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Moreland, 1B
Swihart, C
Bradley, CF
Holt, 2B

Earlier: Orioles 5, Yankees 3 (B9 rally sputters to a halt, ruining the day for about 42,000 people)

March 29, 2019

G2: Red Sox 7, Mariners 6

Red Sox  - 010 101 013 - 7  8  1
Mariners - 210 300 000 - 6  8  1
Mitch Moreland's pinch-hit three-run homer with one out in the top of the ninth gave the Red Sox their first victory of the season.

Rafael Devers doubled off Hunter Strictland to start the inning, with the Mariners holding a 6-4 lead. A passed ball put Devers on third and Blake Swihart (batting for Sam Travis) was hit by a pitch. Jackie Bradley grounded to first and Devers was tagged out at the plate. Moreland, who had started loosening up for a possible late-inning at-bat in the middle innings, hit for Christian Vazquez and crushed Strictland's 2-0 pitch. The line drive to right had an exit velocity of 114 mph - the third-hardest home run by a Boston player since 2015.

Matt Barnes pitched the ninth, getting a groundout to shortstop and striking our Domingo Santana and Daniel Vogelbach.

Manager Alex Cora:
The coaching staff [said] "We should save Mitch in case something happens later in the game," and we went with Blake [Swihart] first [as a pinch-hitter in the ninth]. We wanted Mitch to hit with men on and put a good swing on it. ... From the seventh inning on, he was preparing and was in the cage with [coaches] Ramon [Vazquez] and Andy [Barkett]. That's what they do, they prepare. We don't stop playing.
Like Chris Sale on Opening Day, Nathan Eovaldi (5-8-6-2-3, 89) gave up three home runs. Mallex Smith homered on Eovaldi's second pitch of the game and Santana hit a solo shot with one out. Omar Narvaez went deep in the second. Two doubles, a single, and a sac fly brought in three Mariners runs and gave Seattle a 6-1 lead in the fourth.

Boston had hit three home runs before Moreland connected: Xander Bogaerts leading off the second, J.D. Martinez in the sixth, and Vazquez in the eighth. A run also scored on Bradley's double play in the fifth.

The bullpen, maligned by so many "experts" before the season began, pitched four no-hit innings, with seven strikeouts. Colten Brewer, Brandon Workman, Brian Johnson, and Barnes each pitched one inning. Brewer walked two in the sixth, the Mariners' only baserunners after the fifth inning. Johnson struck out the side in the eighth.
Nathan Eovaldi / Yusei Kikuchi
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Nunez, 2B
Devers, 3B
Travis, 1B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Kikuchi is a 27-year-old rookie left-hander from Japan. He made his debut on March 21 in Tokyo, allowing one earned run to the Athletics in 4.2 innings.

(I'm missing this game, but will update things on Saturday morning.)

March 28, 2019

G1: Mariners 12, Red Sox 4

Red Sox  - 110 002 000 -  4 11  2
Mariners - 034 012 20x - 12 12  2
Psst .... the Red Sox also lost on Opening Day last season. It did not seem to affect them all that much.*

The first 1.5 innings went according to plan, with the Red Sox scoring a single run in each of the first two innings and Chris Sale striking out the side in the first and retiring the leadoff man in the second. After that ... bad things happened, and often. The 12 runs were the most ever allowed on Opening Day by a team that won the World Series the previous fall.

The Mariners belted five home runs (something they did not do in any game last year), with Tim Beckham tagging Sale (3-6-7-2-4, 76) twice. Beckham entered the game 0-for-15 (with nine strikeouts) in his career against Sale, who actually allowed three dongs (he did not do that in any of his 27 starts last season).

The seven runs surrendered by Sale tied his career-worst in a Red Sox uniform. After Beckham went deep in the second, Sale got the second out, but then gave up a walk and single to the bottom two hitters in the Mariners' lineup and he hit Mitch Haniger. Domingo Santana doubled into the right field corner, scoring two runs. Haniger tried to score from first and was thrown out, a call that was upheld after Seattle challenged it.

Sale gave up four runs in the third. Edwin Encarnacion homered to lead off the inning. Ryon Healy walked with one out and Beckham went yard again. Mallex Smith then tripled and scored on a sac fly. Healy homered in the fifth off Velazquez, who left the bases loaded for Heath Hembree in the sixth. Hembree walked Jay Bruce to force in a run and another run scored on an error. Santana belted a two-run dong in the seventh off Thornburg.

The start of the game was nice. Although Andrew Benintendi grounded out to first on the first pitch of the day, Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez all singled, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Eduardo Nunez reached on an infield error to start the second. Jackie Bradley grounded a single into center. With Christian Vazquez batting, Boston pulled off a double steal without a throw. Vaz struck out, but Nunez was able to score on Benintendi's pop-out to shallow left. Third baseman Healy had his back to the plate when he caught the ball.

After that, there was not much from the bats. Xander Bogaerts doubled with two outs in the third. Mitch Moreland walked, but Nunez struck out. Singles by Betts and Martinez in the fifth went for naught.

Nunez doubled to left-center to open the sixth. He went to third on a balk - Vazquez asked for time, the plate umpire refused, but Marco Gonzales (5.1-9-4-1-4, 94), thinking time had been granted (since it almost always is), stopped mid-motion). Vazquez shot a double to the base of the wall in left and, after a pitching change, he scored on Benintendi's single to right. Seattle's lead had been cut to 8-4, and a sliver of hope might have been sighted. But Betts flied to center and Devers looked downright ugly on a three-pitch strikeout. He swung and missed at three fastballs. The first one actually hit him, the second was down the middle, and the third one was up and away.

Everyone in the Boston lineup had at least one hit, except for Moreland (who walked).

More from the bright side: Dave O'Brien did not annoy me even once today.**

*: The 2004 and 2007 teams also started their seasons 0-1.

**: That's because ESPN broadcast the game.

Chris Sale / Marco Gonzales
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Devers, 3B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Moreland, 1B
Nunez, 2B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
The Boston Red Sox's 119th season starts today!

Rafael Devers, 22 years old, batted .385 with a .954 OPS in spring training, will be Boston's #3 hitter. In the words of manager Alex Cora:
I challenged him and he did a good job. ... He hung in there with lefties. He creates balance. Maybe with Steve Pearce being hurt it's a little bit different. When Steve is healthy, he'll hit third against lefties and we'll decide what we'll do with the rest of the lineup. Steve is not here, Rafael did a good job, so go get them, kid.
If we do what we set out to do, people are going to be talking about this group forever and that's cool. We talked about it [Tuesday], in the era that we are it's very difficult to have so many guys who have played in the World Series back on one team. I don't want to make a big story out of it. I hate talking about next year. But we know where we're at (with free agents) ... Hopefully they're all back but some of them won't be. It's a pretty close group. [Tuesday] that was the message. We have a chance to do something special, very special. ... I think baserunning is going to better earlier this year than last year. Last year we were awful. But I think they understand that part of the game now and every out counts so offensively baserunning wise I think is something we feel is an advantage for us so we'll be better.
Xander Bogaerts:
I think if everyone does their job and does similar to what they did last year, we'll be in a good place. But it ain't easy, man. It ain't easy repeating. In 2014 (after winning it all in 2013), we had a bad year. I don't think we even had a winning record. But this is a better team. This is a talented team. Hopefully we have something good for a long run. ... [W]e have pretty much the same team. All these guys know each other well. The guys we traded for at the deadline are also here, with Nate and Pearce. That was huge for us during the season and also in the playoffs. ... It's not something you can do easily but I think we have the team to do it.
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner:
The best you can hope for is you get into the postseason and then I think you have eight very evenly matched teams. I think we were very, very fortunate. We rolled over three very good teams. There's a degree of good fortunate and randomness to it. Statistically it's very hard.
J.D. Martinez:
Everything has to go right. No. 1 is starting with health, keeping your 25 guys healthy for an entire season ... To be able to keep that and then once you get into the playoffs it's a different animal. The timings gotta be right. Everyone's gotta be clicking on the right cylinders. You need those big hits. ... Baseball is a weird game, you know? You can do everything right and the ball bounces one way and you lose. So it's not easy.
Principal owner John Henry:
If you see what is going on behind the scenes, especially last year, I don't think that we had a lot of good fortune. There were a lot of things going on behind the scenes that were really smart last year. I do feel that you have to have some good fortune.
David Price:
[A] lot of teams make a lot of improvements to their teams in the offseason and you're playing almost a month more of baseball than everybody else, so your offseason is a little bit shorter. ... [T]he World Series hangover. I don't know. I don't think a lot of guys in our clubhouse have been through that. I guess we'll find out.
Chris Sale:
[Cora] wins championships. Back-to-back World Series champion [2017 Astros, 2018 Red Sox]. You talk to some of the Houston guys, too, they'll have nothing but really, really good things to say about him. He makes it fun. He can light a fire underneath you. He holds it down. He's an unbelievable leader. With any team that is great, they have to have a great leader. There's no question that he's that.
Dustin Pedroia:
[Repeating is] the toughest thing in sports. You're the hunted and everyone is coming after you. Every game you play, you have to be on top of your game and be the best. We're ready for that. We're excited. Just seeing the look on some of our guys' faces, I saw most of them come up in '14. Some of them took their lumps, know what I mean? We all did as a team. Just remembering those times and then seeing them celebrate and be on the best team in the world [last October], that was the best part for me to see ... how happy they were in what they accomplished.
2019 AL East Predictions Wrap-Up (number of votes):             Yankees 35, Red Sox 17
MLB Network Radio :  Yankees 11, Red Sox  7
ESPN:                Yankees 16, Red Sox 14, Rays  1
Sports Illustrated:  Yankees  7, Red Sox  2
The Sporting News:   Yankees  9, Red Sox  4
NBC Sports:          Yankees  7, Red Sox  0
CBS Sports:          Yankees  3, Red Sox  2
USA Today:           Yankees  5, Red Sox  2
New York Post:       Yankees  5, Red Sox  2
Boston Globe:        Red Sox  3, Yankees  3
Sneaking in under the wire with some 2019 predictions is Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal:
AL East: Red Sox
Other Divisions: Twins, Astros, Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers
World Series: Cubs over Red Sox

AL MVP: Mike Trout
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
AL MOY: Rocco Baldelli

NL MVP: Anthony Rendon
NL Cy Young: Walker Buehler
NL ROY: Fernando Tatis Jr.
NL MOY: Davey Martinez
And: I now live on the west coast - three time zones away from where I watched last year's World Series (and, actually, spent my entire life) - and I'm extremely curious how the change in game times will feel ... and how many games I will realize with a start have already begun (without me).

Night games will start at 4/5:00 PM, weekend day games will be at 10:30 AM, and I'll have to set an alarm to get up for the Patriots Day game (8:00 AM!). Of course, generally speaking, thi si snot so strange - a fair amount of readers have always been in this (or a similar) boat.

I'm going to continue using Boston time in post titles, though, and hope I don't get too confused.

So without further ado ...

Welcome to The 2017 Regular Season!

If you want to print a one-page season schedule from ... good luck.

I went to the Red Sox's MLB site this morning, clicked SCHEDULE, chose '2019 Regular Season Schedule', and clicked print.

And got a schedule for 2017.

March 27, 2019

2019 Red Sox W-L Contest Entries

The entries for this year's W-L contest:
                W-L     JBJ OPS

Girish K.     123-39      .747

James G.      105-57      .850

D.Ing         104-58      .915
Steve H.      104-58      .778
Ben A.        104-58      .730

Laura K.      103-59      .960

John Q.       102-60      .749

Warren S.     101-61      .869
Paul H.       101-61      .857
Jere S.       101-61      .777
Kathryn L.    101-61      .765

Allan W.      100-62      .825
Sean M.       100-62      .816
Tim L.        100-62      .777

Jacob L.       99-63      .888
Dr. Jeff       99-63      .800
Jeff L.        99-63      .793

Ian R.         98-64      .855
John G.        98-64      .850
Patrick K.     98-64      .845
Ezra R.        98-64      .770
Matt K.        98-64      .754
Matt B.        98-64      .750
Edward G.      98-64      .750
Michael G.     98-64      .725

Joshua H.      97-65      .760
Tim B.         97-65      .745
Jeff M.        97-65      .699
Anthony G.     97-65      .678

David F.       96-66      .793
Jeff A.        96-66      .698

Rich G.        94-68      .861
Ray P.         94-68      .751

Tim R.         92-70      .769

2019 Predictions: The Athletic, Boston Herald, NY Post

Jim Bowden, The Athletic:
AL East

Boston Red Sox - Predicted finish: 1st

Pitching: The Red Sox just extended their ace, Chris Sale, which bodes well for their medical staff's view of his health going forward. ... [T]he Red Sox have the best starting rotation in the division. Their bullpen is loaded with power arms, but no experienced impact closer ... However, they're confident that Matt Barnes can successfully take over as closer after watching him succeed in high-leverage situations last year, and they think Ryan Brasier can successfully move into Barnes' old role. The X-factor this summer could be rookie left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, who throws 100 mph with one of the game's top spin rates on his breaking ball.

Offense: The Red Sox have one of the most balanced and deepest lineups in the game, with a tremendous combination of speed and power. ...

Defense: The Red Sox also have the best defensive outfield in the sport, with three centerfielders manning the outfield position: Benintendi in left, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Betts in right. The trio combined for a 17.6 WAR last year.

Big Picture: The Red Sox were able to bring back practically the entire team from last year, outside of Kimbrel and Joe Kelly. The bullpen's ability to close games and succeed in high-leverage innings will probably be the determining factor in whether the Red Sox can repeat as champions.

New York Yankees - Predicted finish: 2nd (1st wild card)

Pitching: The Yankees had an immediate setback this spring when their ace, Luis Severino, was shut down with right shoulder tendinitis. He is not expected to return until sometime in May. ... The Yankees bullpen, when healthy, is the best in baseball. ... Dellin Betances will start the year on the IL with a sore shoulder ...

Offense: The Bronx Bombers will live up to their name again this season; they have the most powerful lineup in baseball ... Gary Sanchez, my pick for comeback player of the year, should lead all catchers in dingers.

Defense: The Yankees will miss center fielder Aaron Hicks, who is starting the year on the injured list with back issues after agreeing to a seven-year, $70 million contract. ... Overall, the team is in the top third of the league defensively. ... The left side of the infield could be an issue for New York, as both Andújar (who is still developing his consistency) and Troy Tulowitzki (dealing with a lack of range at this point in his career) are likely to be below-average defensively.

Big Picture: The Yankees will need a healthy Luis Severino and Dellin Betances if they want to catch the Red Sox this year. ...

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees*, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: Cleveland, Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Royals
AL West: Astros, Athletics*, Angels, Mariners, Rangers

MVP: Aaron Judge
Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
Rookie of the Year: Yusei Kikuchi, Mariners
Executive of the Year: Brian Cashman, Yankees
Manager of the Year: A.J. Hinch, Astros
Comeback Player of the Year: Gary Sanchez, Yankees
Bowden also wrote up the NL:
NL East: Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Atlanta, Marlins
NL Central: Cubs, Brewers*, Cardinals , Pirates, Reds
NL West: Rockies, Dodgers*, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants

MVP: Nolan Arenado
Cy Young: Walker Buehler
Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles, Nationals
Executive of the Year: Matt Klentak, Phillies
Manager of the Year: Bud Black, Rockies
Comeback Player of the Year: Corey Seager, Dodgers
Michael Silverman, Boston Herald:
AL MVP: Trout (Alternates: Betts, Bregman, Lindor)
AL Cy Young: Cole (Alternates: Bauer, Sale, Kluber)
AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Alternates: Eloy Jimenez, Yusei Kikuchi, Josh James)
AL Manager: Rocco Baldelli, Twins

NL MVP: Arenado (Alternates: Bryant, Machado, Goldschmidt)
NL Cy Young: Scherzer (Alternates: deGrom, Buehler, Syndergaard)
NL ROY: Victor Robles (Alternates: Fernando Tatis Jr., Peter Alonso, Touki Toussaint)
NL Manager: Gabe Kapler, Phillies
New York Post
AL East
Ken Davidoff        - Yankees, Red Sox*, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
George A. King III  - Red Sox, Yankees*, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
Kevin Kernan        - Red Sox, Yankees*, Rays*, Blue Jays, Orioles
Mike Puma           - Yankees, Red Sox*, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
Joel Sherman        - Yankees, Red Sox*, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
Mike Vaccaro        - Yankees, Red Sox*, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
Dan Martin          - Yankees, Red Sox*, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
(*: Wild Card Team)
AL East: Yankees 5, Red Sox 2
AL Central: Cleveland 4, Twins 3
AL West: Astros 7

NL East: Nationals 5, Phillies 2
NL Central: Brewers 4, Reds 2, Cardinals 1
NL West: Dodgers 6, Padres 1

AL Champions: Astros 4, Yankees 3
NL Champions: Dodgers 3, Nationals 1, Brewers 1, Cardinals 1, Padres 1
World Series Champions: Yankees 2, Astros 1, Brewers 1, Cardinals 1, Padres 1, Dodgers 1

AL MVP: Judge 3, Betts 1, Trout 1, Bregman 1, Stanton 1
NL MVP: Arenado 2, Acuna 1, Soto 1, Yelich 1, Goldschmidt 1, Machado 1

AL Cy Young: Sale 4, Cole 2, Verlander 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 4, deGrom 1, Nola 1, Strasberg 1

AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 5, Eloy Jimemez 2
NL ROY: Victor Robles 4, Pete Alonso 1, Fernando Tatis Jr. 1

Joel Sherman, on the American League East:

1. Yankees - Over/Under win total: 97
Key player: James Paxton. He was important anyway, but with the loss of Luis Severino for at least a month and the season-opening absence of CC Sabathia as well, Paxton simply can't be Sonny Gray redux — an AL West ace who flames out in New York. ...

Player who'll need to step up: Gary Sanchez. ... Last year he batted .186, the worst ever by a Yankee with at least 350 plate appearances. ...

Biggest question mark: The rotation depth will be challenged from the outset with Severino and Sabathia sidelined. Luis Cessa and Domingo German are going to have to hold serve from the mound and Troy Tulowitzki at short until injured players return.

How it'll go down: The past four champs — Royals, Cubs, Astros and Red Sox — have been built around young, starry, positional cores. The Yankees have such a group. It can be their time.
2. Red Sox - Over/Under win total: 94
Key player: Chris Sale. When healthy, Sale is on the short list for best starter in the majors. But he has not been right late in each of the last two seasons, including two second-half injured list stints for shoulder inflammation last year. The rest of the rotation ... is strong, but the depth is not, so Sale's availability is vital.

Player who'll need to step up: Ryan Brasier. ... The Red Sox have stated belief in Braiser and Matt Barnes. The ability to become the first repeat champs since the 1998-2000 Yankees hinges on finding the right late-game formula.

Biggest question mark: Beyond the obvious relief conundrum, the Red Sox will have to avoid the physical/mental letdown that has beset recent champions.

How it'll go down: Aside from Kimbrel, Boston is returning a championship roster headed by AL MVP Mookie Betts. The Red Sox are good enough to repeat ...
Re "the physical/mental letdown that has beset recent champions": I have to point out that the most recent champion - the 2017 Astros, who won 101 games and the World Series  - actually won two more games (103) in 2018.


The Athletic:
As​ we did last​ season, this spring The Athletic​ had​ our beat​ writers​ ask as​ many players​ as​ they could​​ — about a third of the league overall, including players from all 30 teams — about a wide range of topics. ... [E]ven when granted anonymity, some players declined to discuss a few of the more controversial topics, so the players who did answer had a bigger say in the results.

1. Who is the most intimidating pitcher in the game?
Max Scherzer, Nationals (38.7%), Chris Sale (18.5%), Aroldis Chapman (11%)
On Scherzer: "I don't think there are many of them left that will throw at you and don't give a shit."

On Sale: "Two weeks before we even played the Red Sox, (teammates) were looking to see if Sale lined up against us. I'm like, 'I've never seen that.' These guys were like, 'Shit.'"
2. Who is the most intimidating hitter in the game?
Mike Trout, Angels (40.2%), Aaron Judge (12.6%), J.D. Martinez (7.5%), Giancarlo Stanton (6.3%)
On Trout: "He's going to end up being the best player ever, and we're watching him, taking him for granted."
4. Who is the most underrated player in the game?
Anthony Rendon, Nationals (11.4%), Paul Goldschmidt (8.9%), DJ LeMahieu (5%), Nick Markakis (4.4%)

5. Who is the most overrated player?
Bryce Harper, Phillies (62%), Marcus Stroman (4.1%)
On Harper: "It's marketing. It's star power. But what has he done besides have one year?"
8. Which manager (aside from your own) would you least want to play for?
Gabe Kapler, Phillies (18.3%), Joe Maddon (16.1%), Buck Showalter (7.5%), Mike Scioscia (6.5%)
On Maddon: "His glasses weird me out."

On [Aaron] Boone: "I was a Sox fan in '03 when he hit that home run off Tim Wakefield."
11. Do you think there has been collusion among teams that has affected free agency?
Yes: 40%, No: 17%, Don't know: 43%

12. Do you think there will be a work stoppage when the current CBA expires?
Yes: 28.6%, No: 25%, Don’t know: 46.4%

13. Do you think MLB should ban the shift?
Yes: 17.4%, No: 77.2%, Don't know/no opinion: 5.4%

14. Should the DH expand to the National League?
Yes: 37.7%, No: 58.6%, Don't know/no opinion: 3.5% ...

18. Who is the dirtiest player in the game?
Manny Machado, Padres (64.8%), Chase Utley (9.3%) "even if he is retired"

2019 Predictions:, MLB Radio Network, USA Today, The Sporting News, Baseball America
What does the 2019 season have in store? Will the Red Sox be able to repeat as World Series champions? Or will other American League powerhouses overtake Boston? Will the Dodgers again reign in the National League, or will one of a number of improved Senior Circuit teams capture the pennant?

We polled more than 50 experts from the and MLB Network universe for predictions ...

AL East: Yankees 35, Red Sox 17 (Estimated based on "the Yanks garnered twice as many votes as the Red Sox")
AL Central: Cleveland 40, Twins 12
AL West: Astros 52
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox, Rays

NL East: Nationals 27, Phillies 25
NL Central: Cubs 19, Cardinals 17, Brewers 16
NL West: Dodgers 42, Rockies 11 (One extra vote in here?)
NL Wild Cards: Brewers, Phillies

AL Champions: Astros 27, Yankees 20, Red Sox 5
NL Champions: Dodgers 14, Nationals 12 (What about the other 26 votes?)
World Series champions: Astros 28, Yankees 15 (What about the other 9 votes?)

Also: "Should Los Angeles reach the World Series, it would mark only the fourth time in MLB history a club has gotten to the Fall Classic after losing the previous two years (also the 1909 Tigers, the 1913 Giants, and the 1923 Yankees, with the Yankees the only club to win on the third try)."
MLB Network Radio
AL East: Yankees 11, Red Sox 7
AL Central: Cleveland 13, Twins 5
AL West: Astros 18
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 11, Yankees 6, Twins 5, Rays 4, Angels 4, Cleveland 3, Athletics 1, Mariners 1

NL East: Nationals 14, Phillies 3, Mets 1
NL Central: Cubs 11, Cardinals 5, Brewers 2
NL West: Dodgers 10, Rockies 8
NL Wild Cards: Phillies 8, Dodgers 6, Cardinals 6, Nationals 4, Rockies 4, Brewers 3, Cubs 2, Mets 2

AL Champions: Yankees 11, Astros 7
NL Champions: Nationals 6, Cubs 5, Rockies 3, Phillies 2, Dodgers 1, Cardinals 1
World Series champions: Yankees 10, Astros 6, Rockies 1, Phillies 1
USA Today
AL East: Yankees 5, Red Sox 2
AL Central: Cleveland 6, Twins 1
AL West: Astros 7
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 5, Rays 4, Yankees 2, Angels 1, Twins 1, Cleveland 1

NL East: Phillies 4, Nationals 3
NL Central: Cubs 3, Cardinals 3, Brewers 1
NL West: Dodgers 7
NL Wild Cards: Cardinals 3, Nationals 2, Phillies 2, Atlanta 2, Brewers 2, Rockies 2, Cubs 1

AL Champions: Yankees 3, Astros 2, Red Sox 1, Cleveland 1
NL Champions: Nationals 3, Dodgers 2, Phillies 1, Cardinals 1
World Series Champions: Nationals 2, Dodgers 1, Astros 1, Cleveland 1, Cardinals 1, Yankees 1

AL MVP: Bregman 3, Trout 2, Stanton 2
NL MVP: Goldschmidt 3, Acuna 3, Bryant 1

AL Cy Young: Cole 3, Sale 2, Verlander 1, Kluber 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 3, deGrom 2, Nola 2

AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 4, Eloy Jiminez 2, Jesus Luzardo 1
NL ROY: Victor Robles 5, Pete Alonso 1, Touki Toussaint 1

Here are the six teams that are given more than a 5% chance of winning the World Series:
          W-L    RunDiff   Win Div  Make PS  Win WS
Yankees  97-65     +147      47%      82%      13%
Red Sox  95-67     +131      39%      76%       9%
The Rays have a 12% chance of winning the AL East (which seems high).

The Sporting News
AL East: Yankees 9, Red Sox 4
AL Central: Cleveland 10, Twins 3
AL West: Astros 13
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 6, Rays 3, Angels 3, Athletics 2, Yankees 2

NL East: Nationals 8, Phillies 4
NL Central: Cardinals 7, Brewers 3, Cubs 2
NL West: Dodgers 12
NL Wild Cards: Phillies 5, Cubs 4, Brewers 2, Atlanta 2, Rockies 1, Cardinals 1, Nationals 1

AL Champions: Yankees 6, Astros 4, Red Sox 2, Cleveland 1
NL Champions: Nationals 4, Cardinals 3, Cubs 2, Brewers 2, Phillies 1, Dodgers 1
World Series Champions: Yankees 4, Astros 2, Nationals 2, Red Sox 1, Phillies 1, Brewers 1, Dodgers 1

AL MVP: Trout 7, Judge 4, Bregman 1, Ramirez 1
NL MVP: Harper 3, Goldschmidt 2, Acuna 2, Aguilar 1, Arenado 1, Hoskins 1, Soto 1

AL Cy Young: Sale 6, Cole 3, Verlander 2, Kluber 1, Bauer 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 7, deGrom 2, Syndergaard 1, Flaherty 1

AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 6, Eloy Jiminez 2, Yusei Kukuchi 1
NL ROY: Victor Robles 3, Pete Alonso 1, Nick Senzel 1, Chris Paddack 1
Baseball America
AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
Other Divisions: Cleveland, Astros, Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers
Wild Cards: Red Sox, Angels, Atlanta, Brewers

World Series Champions
Teddy Cahill   - Red Sox over Dodgers in 4 games
Justin Coleman - Astros over Brewers in 6 games
J.J. Cooper    - Astros over Dodgers in 7 games
Carlos Collazo - Dodgers over Yankees in 7 games
Matt Eddy      - Dodgers over Astros in 6 games 
Josh Norris    - Dodgers over Astros in 6 games
Kyle Glaser    - Yankees over Cardinals in 6 games
Kegan Lowe     - Yankees over Nationals in 5 games
AL MVP Top 3: Trout, Betts, Bregman
NL MVP Top 3: Arenado, Acuna Jr., Rendon

AL Cy Young Top 3: Verlander, Sale, Cole
NL Cy Young Top 3: Scherzer, Nola, deGrom

AL ROY Top 3: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez, Yusei Kikuchi
NL ROY Top 3: Fernando Tatis Jr., Nick Senzel, Victor Robles

Red Sox

Team Strengths: The homegrown outfield of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. remains arguably baseball's best, while mashing designated hitter J.D. Martinez and every member of October's starting rotation return as well.

Team Weaknesses: The Red Sox's bullpen needed help from the starters to get through the postseason, and now setup man Joe Kelly and closer Craig Kimbrel departed as free agents. ...

What They Did About It: The Red Sox relied exclusively on minor signings to try improve their relief corps. Ryan Weber, Erasmo Ramirez and Carson Smith signed minor league deals, and Colten Brewer was acquired in a trade with the Padres. Jenrry Mejia, who was reinstated from his lifetime ban last summer and hasn't pitched in the majors since 2015, was to signed a minor league deal as well.

Final Outlook: The Red Sox's bullpen has a lot of questions marks, but with mostly every major contributor to the lineup and starting rotation back, the defending champions should return to the postseason.


Team Strengths: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner all return in an elite outfield group, with Jacoby Ellsbury and onetime top prospect Clint Frazier also available if they can prove they're past their injuries. The rotation received a boost with the trade for James Paxton and re-signing of J.A. Happ, and an elite bullpen became even better after Zack Britton re-signed and Adam Ottavino came aboard.

Team Weaknesses: At first base, Greg Bird continues to struggle to stay healthy and Luke Voit needs to prove last season wasn't a fluke. At third base, Miguel Andujar needs to improve his defense. Even so, the Yankees' weaknesses are stronger than nearly any other team's.

What They Did About It: The Yankees improved their overall infield depth with the signings of Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu. In addition to helping the middle infield until Didi Gregorius returns, Tulowitzki and LeMahieu are capable of playing third base as well, allowing Andujar to shift to first base if Voit and Bird struggle.

Final Outlook: The Yankees took a 100-win team and made it stronger and deeper. The franchise's first World Series appearance since 2009 is in play.

Some People Never Learn

Jesus Christ, didn't anyone learn their lesson from last year?

Mike Lupica of acknowledges that his (and his fellow writers') fanciful dreams of infinite home runs off the bats of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge of the Yankees fizzled like month-old cola, but, undeterred, he promptly re-enlists in his fantasy world, telling himself that The Pinstriped Dong Show has simply been delayed by one year.
We were in the press box at The Trop on Opening Day of last season ...

The Yankees had beaten the Blue Jays, 6-1, and Giancarlo Stanton -- the new guy who had hit 59 home runs for the Marlins the year before -- had hit two on this day. [And thus was on pace for ... Lupica, fingers trembling, does some quick math ... 324 home runs!]

At the time, all of us were thinking the exact same thing: There was no telling how many he and Aaron Judge -- who had hit 52 long balls for the Yankees in 2017 -- were going to hit. ...

We really thought it possible that Judge might hit 100 homers between them [Does anyone edit this guy? Or maybe Judge is so awesome, he's really two people.], chase Mantle and Maris' 115 the way Mantle and Maris had chased Ruth. No one thought a number like that was out of reach. [You should get out more, Mike.]

They hit 65 between them. ...

So maybe Year 2 for the combination of Judge and Stanton is the Home Run Derby that we expected from them ...

All Rise Judge and Stanton were supposed to be the most fearsome 1-2 punch in the sport last season. Only J.D. Martinez, who hit 43 for the Red Sox, became a far more significant acquisition for them than Stanton was for the Yankees. He and Mookie Betts, the eventual AL MVP Award winner, became the 1-2 punch that the Yankees hoped that Judge and Stanton would be.

The Red Sox beat the Yankees out of the AL East title, beat them in the ALDS, then won it all. ...

Maybe the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium has just been delayed a year, to the New Year in baseball that begins on Thursday.
Check back in 365 days for Lupica's column: "Year 3 Of Judge-Stanton Combo May Be Historic".

2019 Predictions: Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NBC Sports, CBS Sports

Sports Illustrated
AL East: Yankees 7 votes, Red Sox 2
AL Central: Cleveland 8, Twins 1
AL West: Astros 9
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 7, Rays 3, A's 3, Yankees 2, Twins 1, Angels (1

NL East: Nationals 7, Phillies 2
NL Central: Cubs 4, Brewers 3, Cardinals 2
NL West: Dodgers 9
NL Wild Cards: Phillies 6, Mets 4, Cardinals 3, Cubs 2, Brewers 1

AL Champions: Astros 5, Yankees 2, Red Sox 1, Cleveland 1
NL Champions: Nationals 4, Dodgers 2, Brewers 1, Phillies 1, Cubs 1
World Series Champions: Astros 4, Yankees 2, Dodgers 2, Phillies 1

AL MVP: Trout 5, Judge 2, Bregman 1, Ramirez 1
NL MVP: Arenado 3, Acuna 3, Soto 1, Harper 1, Rendon 1
AL Cy Young: Sale 3, Bauer 1, Snell 1, Clevinger 1, Cole 1, Berrios 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 3, deGrom 2, Nola 2, Buehler 1, freeland 1
AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 4, Eloy Jimenez 3, Josh James 1 (one vote missing?)
NL ROY: Victor Robles 4, Pete Alonso 2, Fernando Tatís Jr. 1, Nick Senzel 1

Emma Baccellieri previews both the Yankees and Red Sox


2018 finish: 100–62, lost in ALDS to Red Sox
2019 prediction: 99–63, First in AL East

Movin' On Up! ... Aaron Hicks ... finally put all the pieces together at the plate in an injury-marred half-season in 2017, and he matched this performance in an almost-but-not-quite-full-season in 2018. In 137 games last year, Hicks amassed 4.7 Baseball-Reference WAR, seventh-highest of any outfielder. ... Hicks just might be one of baseball's best leadoff hitters, and an entire year of solid play can cement that.

Sell! Brett Gardner's performance dipped last year after struggling to elevate the ball. The ensuing high groundball rate fueled his career-low 86 OPS+ over a full season. The 35-year-old should probably rebound some, but at this point, don't expect too much.

Appreciate This Man! Adam Ottavino stepped into the spotlight with a dazzling 2018, striking out more than a third of batters and logging a 2.43 ERA. ... Ottavino ditched his fourseam fastball for a sinker, which was a heavy contributing factor in his sudden success. ... Ottavino's January signing can be a true difference-maker. And, yes, he could definitely strike out Babe Ruth.

A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: The Yankees spent the offseason bolstering their bench and their bullpen, so it was unfortunate that their first major injury of the season came to starting pitcher Luis Severino. Severino was shut down early in March with rotator cuff inflammation, and will be out until at least May. ... Severino is coming off the best two-year stretch of any homegrown Yankees starter since Chien-Ming Wang in 2006-07 ... He is the one irreplaceable Yankee, and until he's healthy, this team is second to the Red Sox in the AL East. ​

MLB.TV Rating: 9.2. You've got masterful slugging from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, vibrant youth in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, and first-class pitching from Luis Severino and James Paxton. Just like last year's Yankees, this club can be a bit hard to stomach for seasoned haters of the franchise: It's a Yankees team that's genuinely, seriously, undeniably likeable. They're not just good. They're fun, and that makes all the difference. Maybe you don't have to like them, but it sure is hard to hate them.

Keep an Eye Out for... ... Luis Cessa's strong spring has made him the frontrunner for a spot here after getting a brief showing in the big leagues in each of the last three seasons, mostly in the bullpen. But there are a few other options. There's Jonathan Loaisiga, considered one of the organization's top prospects, who showcased a strong breaking ball last season. Or maybe it's Domingo German, who's shown promise but is probably better suited for a role in the 'pen, given his struggle to develop a third pitch. ...

Scout's Takes - A rival scout analyzes the 2019 New York Yankees

What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?

Starting pitching consistency would be the one big concern. CC Sabathia is 38, J.A. Happ is 36. James Paxton is a great acquisition if he stays healthy. Can Luis Severino repeat what he did last year?

Who is the most overrated player on the team?

Gary Sanchez. When I heard they wouldn't trade him for J.T. Realmuto, I was shocked, because Sanchez just seems to have lapses of focus defensively and gets into funks offensively. He's got an incredible tool package, but there's a lack of consistency. Second place is Giancarlo Stanton. He's an Adonis, but there are a lot of holes and a lot of streaks where there are some really, really bad at-bats. But when it's all said and done, on a club like that, his numbers fit really nicely.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Dellin Betances. When you dig into the numbers, he's been unhittable for four years now. He'll go two weeks without having five balls put in play hard. The other guy, on the offensive side, is Didi Gregorius. He brings so much positive energy. That's something that will be missed this year.

What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?

They've got three for me: Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and Severino. Andujar has some glitches defensively which he's been working hard on. Severino's stuff is unhittable at times, but he gets into some funks. Torres I'd put a little bit ahead because he's the whole package. He was pretty consistent all year, plus his defense is so attractive. His power keeps getting better and his maturity at the plate will continue to get better.

What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?

This is a guy I really like, but Greg Bird is kind of a shadow of what you thought he might be. I'm not seeing it. He's probably close to a thousand at-bats behind where he should be because of all of his injuries. He just doesn't seem to have the same rhythm or swing. It's a different look when you watch him now. Maybe the other would be Clint Frazier. I'm not a big fan of his. I think he's going to be an everyday guy, but not an impact guy.

Who gets the most out of his talent?

I have a man crush on Aaron Judge. He's my new hero. It’s about how he handles himself. He's talented, and he has a quiet leadership style where he does the right thing all the time. I think everybody on that team recognizes that. He's so big and strong. You want to rock the boat with that? I'm a huge fan of his.

Who gets the least out of his talent?

Sanchez. A lot of it is laziness and focus. He went and had a huge first year, and then all of a sudden, you saw the lazy, complacent guy.

Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?

Betances and Severino. When they're on, they can be unhittable. You can't get the barrel to the ball. It's high-octane velocity with late movement, hard breaking balls with late depth. It's tough to get the barrel to the ball when those two guys are on.

Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?

Brett Gardner. He's a little grinder who's gotten so much out of his ability and continues to contribute. He's not afraid to hit with two strikes, he can steal a base, he can play centerfield still. I think that's why they re-signed him so quickly. He's a great leader; he's accountable for what he does everyday. I saw him coming through the minor leagues and I got him right, because he wasn't the most gifted guy, but I had him as at least an everyday guy whose makeup may make him an impact guy.

Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?

It's must-see with Stanton, Judge and Sanchez. You go out there in Yankee Stadium, about 500 feet away [from home plate], and you might get hit.

Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.

Judge and Severino.

Name the guy (or guys) on this team you would never want in your clubhouse.

Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman. He's very talented, but every year he gets into funks where he can't throw strikes. I guess he helped the Cubs win the World Series, but I don't know how much he really did. And he's had the off-field issues. He's good, but I wouldn't want him.

Whose effort could use a jolt?


Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?

Aaron Judge. You're going to have to get him out, he's not going to get himself out. He does have some holes: his swing can get long at times and he can get into funks, but he's pretty patient. I was amazed at how good each at-bat was in the playoffs against Boston.

On the mound, probably Severino. Don't ask me why, because he shit the bed pretty bad the one year in the playoffs [the 2017 AL wild-card game], but he bounced back from that, and from everything I've heard about him, he has a tremendous focus to be great. I think with maturity, he's got a chance to be like Max Scherzer, that warrior guy, because he doesn't want to come out of games. A lot of starters now will happily give the ball to their manager. You can tell he's pissed when he's gonna come out.

Who don't you want in that situation?

On the mound it's Betances because of some of his funks. I think he's great in that seventh-inning bridge role where he's unhittable, but the later you get in the game, he might get excited. I hate to nail him on that, but I just don't think he's ever going to be a closer. With the way the game is now, though, he still has tremendous value. Their bullpen with him, a healthy Zack Britton, Chapman, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle is going to be lights out this year.

On the hitter side, it'd be Sanchez. He gets himself out sometimes. You saw a lot of that last year. It was a tossup between him and Stanton. Stanton at times can give you some of the ugliest at-bats. He can just wave at three pitches like he doesn't even give a shit.

Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?

Jonathan Loaisiga is a guy who can come up if somebody gets hurt and be pretty dominant. He's fun to watch. He's got a plus curveball, a plus fastball, and he throws strikes.

Is the current manager one you would hire to run your club?

I'm an Aaron Boone fan, and I would hire him. I like him. I like the relationship he has with his players. He protects his guys. He's a baseball lifer. I think he's only going to get better the more he manages. He's still making mistakes, but I think he's going to learn from them and become more confident.

What is the ceiling for this team this year? What about the next three years?

Deep playoffs, possible World Series, times three. They've done a great job as an organization, they have depth to trade from, they have money to sign. They're in a great place.

Emptying the notebook:

... Troy Tulowitzki has lost a step, but I think a lot of that is trying to play under more control. He's been a very pleasant surprise. His swing looks better, and I really think he's got a 'fuck you Toronto, I'll show you I can still play' vibe about him ... They signed a great makeup kid in DJ LeMahieu, who's going to help them win a bunch of games. ... Masahiro Tanaka is a great pitcher ... He's going to win 13–14 games and have a couple of stinkers ... 
[Note: Man, that scout does not think much of Gary Sanchez!!]

Red Sox

2018 finish: 108-54, won World Series in five games over Dodgers
2019 prediction: 96-66, Second in AL East

Movin' On Up! Rafael Devers's first full season in the majors had plenty of rough patches. The young third baseman logged a pedestrian 94 OPS+ after struggling to draw walks and hit lefties. But Devers is just freshly 22 and already shown big-league patience, power (21 HRs in 2018) and an improved ability to hit southpaws. He'll likely master all of these traits by the time he's old enough to rent a car.

Sell!: Dustin Pedroia has finally made a return to gameplay in spring training—a good sign, after a knee injury kept him out for a chunk of 2017 and essentially all of 2018. Even if he manages to stay healthy for 2019, though, Pedroia is still a 35-year-old whose comeback attempt looks like a uphill battle.

Appreciate This Man! It's hard to stand out on a club so studded with stars; Jackie Bradley, Jr. might not do so even if he was able to consistently hit like he did during his breakout 2016 season. But the centerfielder is worth your attention for his defense alone. The human highlight reel regularly manages not only to make some seemingly impossible acrobatic catches, but to make them look smooth.

A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: Last year, Xander Bogaerts broke out with a .288/.360/.522 season. This year, look 40 feet to Bogaerts's right for the next young Red Sox star. Devers was disappointing in 2017, posting a .298 OBP and playing poor defense at third base. Eduardo Nunez, no glove man himself, was chipping away at Devers's playing time in the second half. Still, Devers is just 22, younger than almost every player who got Rookie of the Year votes in the AL last season. When he hit the ball in the air, he averaged an exit velocity of 95.4 mph on his line drives and fly balls, in the top 50 among all hitters. His strikeout rate of 25% is just barely above average in today's game, and his walk rate of 6.6% is good for a player in his age-21 season. Devers will take a big step forward in 2019.

MLB.TV Rating: 9.1. They're the reigning World Series champions featuring Chris Sale's slider, J.D. Martinez's dingers and Mookie Betts' everything? Yeah. (Now included: Heightened drama in the later innings, courtesy of a bullpen that lost Craig Kimbrel and does not look fit for a team of this caliber.)

Keep an Eye Out for… Michael Chavis, one of the organization's top prospects, should be up this year at first or third, with the potential for plenty of power and plenty of strikeouts. ...

Scout's Takes - A rival scout analyzes the 2019 Boston Red Sox

What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?

Who's gonna pitch the ninth? I think Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes are co-favorites here. Stuff-wise, it probably should be Barnes, but both are similar guys: They throw hard and have good offspeed but are unproven. Do they go out and spend a lot of money and re-sign Craig Kimbrel? If they did, they'd probably be the favorites in the league again, but it's a lot of money.

Who is the most overrated player on the team?

I don't think they have one.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Brock Holt's a good player. Other people look at him and see a utility guy. He's better than that. He'd be a starting second baseman for most clubs. He can hit good pitchers. He uses the whole field. He understands what pitchers are trying to do with him.

What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?

Rafael Devers is a good hitter. He's got power. He has to improve his footwork at third base. His hands are okay and he can get to most things.

What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?

Christian Vázquez really hasn't made any offensive strides at all. He's always been a good defender, but he never got better offensively. He doesn't make enough contact and is easy to beat: just locate fastballs and throw him breaking stuff.

Who gets the most out of his talent?

The outfield as a group. They work hard at their craft. They're outstanding defenders, especially in Fenway, where it's very tough to play. J.D. Martinez plays it like Mike Greenwell used to—he's out there and does what he can, but he's not really a great outfielder—but the other three have basically got the whole thing covered.

Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?

Nathan Eovaldi's gas sets everything else up. Chris Sale's slider is incredible. It grinds like Steve Carlton's used to grind, like Randy Johnson's. It just keeps coming. It grinds right into the back foot of righthanders.

Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?

Dustin Pedroia, but he's just starting back to playing. They'll ramp him up a little bit. He's an absolute tiger.

Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s, because nobody expects it. It's not because he hits it longer than anybody, it's because he's not supposed to be a power guy and he just mashes.

Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.

Mookie Betts and Sale. Mookie is obvious: He works hard, he's a great talent, an all-around player, a clubhouse guy. I have concerns that they're not going to keep him. They'll offer him a ton and a half and he might take the money. Sale has electric stuff and electric commitment to his craft. He wears down a little bit, though.

Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?

Mookie steps up.

Who don't you want in that situation?

Right now, Rafael Devers, because he expands the zone, but he's going to get better. Going into last year it would definitely have been David Price, but he stepped up a little bit this year.

Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?

Darwinzon Hernandez. He's got some kind of arm, it's electric, but he's a puppy. Right now the only thing he can command is his fastball.He needs a lot of work, but it's in there, boy.

Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?

I give Alex Cora all the credit. He'd be at the top of the list. He's been there. He's played in the big leagues. He was not a great player himself, but he understands how to handle all kinds of guys. He's got a great feel for the ebb and flow of the clubhouse. In tough situations, Alex is never frantic.

What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?

Win the whole thing. It's gonna depend on what they do in the ninth inning. If this were a seven-inning game, they'd win it again, but they have to figure out the eighth and ninth innings. Kimbrel is a huge loss, but Joe Kelly put up a lot of important innings for this club, too.

Emptying the notebook:

The core of the team is the outfield, obviously. Mookie Betts is probably the best player in the league. Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn't hit a lot of home runs, but has big power. He's a little like Ichiro — Ichiro could have hit 35 home runs a year if he wanted to, but then couldn't hit .350. ... I'm a big fan of Eduardo Nuñez. He knows how to win games. His numbers are never great, but he's an ideal utility guy. He knows his role, he can play a number of positions. He's what a winning team has to have on their bench.
AL East: Yankees 16 votes, Red Sox 14, Rays 1

AL Central: Cleveland 28, Twins 3
AL West: Astros 28, A's 2, Angels 1
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 17, Yankees 12, Rays 9, Angels 7, A's 7, Twins 5, Astros 3, Cleveland 2

NL East: Nationals 13, Phillies 11, Atlanta 5, Mets 2
NL Central: Cubs 12, Brewers 10, Cardinals 9
NL West: Dodgers 24, Rockies 6, Padres 1
NL Wild Cards: Phillies 9, Nationals 9, Cardinals 8, Dodgers 7, Atlanta 7, Cubs 6, Brewers 6, Rockies 5, Mets 3, Padres 1, Reds 1

AL Champion: Astros 15, Yankees 7, Red Sox 5, A's 3, Cleveland 1
NL Champion: Dodgers 10, Nationals 6, Cardinals 4, Phillies 3, Brewers 3, Cubs 2, Atlanta 2, Rockies 1
World Series Champion: Astros 14, Dodgers 4, Yankees 4, Red Sox 3, Nationals 3, A's 2, Cardinals 1

MVPs, Cy Youngs and Rookies

AL MVP: Trout 12, Judge 6, Lindor 6, Bregman 2, Chapman 2, Betts 1, Correa 1, Stanton 1
NL MVP: Arenado 10, Goldschmidt 7, Acuna 4, Machado 3, Bryant 2, Harper 2, Bellinger 1, Rendon 1, Soto 1

AL Cy Young: Cole 10, Bauer 4, Sale 4, Snell 4, Verlander 4, Kluber 3, Berrios 1, Carrasco 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 18, deGrom 5, Nola 5, Darvish 1, Flaherty 1, Syndergaard 1

AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 19, Eloy Jimenez 8, Yusei Kikuchi 2, Jesus Luzardo 1, Forrest Whitley 1
NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles 15, Pete Alonso 5, Nick Senzel 5, Fernando Tatis Jr. 3, Francisco Mejia 1, Chris Paddack 1, Brendan Rodgers 1

David Schoenfield:

Most exciting outfield: Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox had the highest cumulative WAR from outfielders in 2018, at 18.6, edging the Brewers' 17.9 mark (the Yankees were a distant third at 13.7). There is the possibility that the Red Sox group fares even better, as there was a lot of optimism in Red Sox camp that Bradley is poised for his best season yet. In 2018, the batted-ball metrics suggest that Bradley hit into a lot of bad luck in the first half, when he hit .210 with a .265 BABIP. In the second half, with more normalized batted-ball results, he hit .269/.340/.487. He still struggled against lefties (.185 on the season), but look for him to repeat his 2016 numbers and boost his WAR by two or three.
NBC Sports
AL East: Yankees 7
AL Central: Cleveland 6, Twins 1
AL West: Astros 7
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 7, Rays 3, Athletics 1, Twins 1, Angels 1, Cleveland 1

NL East: Nationals 3, Phillies 3, Atlanta 1
NL Central: Cubs 4, Cardinals 2, Brewers 1
NL West: Dodgers 5, Rockies 2
NL Wild Cards: Cardinals 3, Nationals 3, Dodgers 2, Phillies 2, Atlanta 2, Cubs 1, Brewers 1

AL Champions: Astros 4, Yankees 3
NL Champions: Nationals 4, Dodgers 1, Rockies 1, Cardinals 1
World Series Champions: Astros 3, Yankees 2, Dodgers 1, Nationals 1

AL MVP: Trout 5, Bregman 1, Correra 1
NL MVP: Arenado 3, Goldschmidt 2, Freeman 1, Harper 1

AL Cy Young: Sale 3, Cole 2, Verlander 1, Carrasco 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 2, Buehler 2, Nola 2, Taillon 1

Todd Dybas: "The Yankees are built for the modern game with bullpen pitching and multiple guys who could hit 40 homers."

Alex Pavlovic: "The World Series hangover is real, so expect the Yankees to pull away from the Red Sox."

Lou Merloni: "The Yankees won 100 games last year and have improved their biggest weakness ... The Red Sox are loaded but the bullpen will cost them the division ..."

Vinnie Duber: "The Yankees' lineup is going to hit about a million home runs ... The Red Sox are still a playoff lock in a top-heavy AL ..."

Tony Andracki: "[T]he Yankees somehow improved upon a 100-win team even without breaking the bank ... There's no way the Red Sox will miss the playoffs ..."

Corey Seidman: "I just think the Yankees have more than the Red Sox for the division ..."
[Note: A million home runs. Really? ... And the WS hangover is real. ... Oh, okay, Mr. Science.]
CBS Sports
AL East: Yankees 3, Red Sox 2
AL Central: Cleveland 4, Twins 1
AL West: Astros 5
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 3, Athletics 2, Yankees 2, Rays 1, Twins 1, Angels 1

NL East: Nationals 4, Phillies 1
NL Central: Cardinals 3, Cubs 2
NL West: Dodgers 5
NL Wild Cards: Cubs 3, Phillies 3, Cardinals 2, Mets 1, Atlanta 1

AL Champions: Astros 3, Yankees 2
NL Champions: Nationals 3, Cubs 1, Dopdgers 1
World Series Champions: Astros 3, Yankees 2

AL MVP: Trout 2, Bregman 2, Judge 1
NL MVP: Goldschmidt 3, Acuna 1, Baez 1

AL Cy Young: Verlander 2, Sale 1, Cole 1, Kluber 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 4, Buehler 1

AL Rookie: Yusei Kikuchi 3, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 2
NL Rookie: Victor Robles 3, Nick Senzel 1, Pete Alonso 1

AL Manager: Rocco Baldelli 3, Charlie Montoyo 1, Aaron Boone 1
NL Manager: Dave Martinez 4, Mike Shildt 1

AL Comeback Player: Byron Buxton 3, Miguel Cabrera 2
NL Comeback Player: Corey Seager 4, Yu Darvish 1