Playing nine innings while realizing Chris Sale is a great teammate in every way but the most important one …
▪ I don’t know if the Red Sox won the trade deadline. But they sure didn’t lose it, despite reactions and overreactions beginning at, oh, 4:01 p.m. on July 31. (Consider this a guilty plea, but some deserve far longer sentences than I do.)
Since finally making his injury-delayed start with the Sox, Kyle Schwarber has been an on-base machine (.406 OBP, .863 OPS) and he’s someone you want at the plate late in the game (.975 OPS in late and clutch situations over the full season). If the Red Sox make the postseason and somehow stick around a while, I bet he delivers a memorable moment or two.
Chaim Bloom should have picked up another reliever other than Austin Davis (who has been adequate) and Hansel Robles (who has mostly been combustible), but the Red Sox clearly got more help than it seemed at the time.
▪ Which team got the most at the deadline? Easy. The Dodgers, who added historically great Max Scherzer (7-0 with a 0.78 ERA for LA) and Trea Turner (the NL batting leader as of Tuesday at .316) for a talent-rich package of four prospects, including catcher Keibert Ruiz.
The Blue Jays probably helped themselves the most among the Red Sox’ current competition, adding righthander Jose Berrios (the AL leader in starts and innings) for 2020 No. 5 overall pick Austin Martin and another prospect.
Joey Gallo remains the ultimate three-true-outcome player (homers, walks, and strikeouts). For the Yankees, he’s batting .166 with 12 homers, 32 walks, and 71 strikeouts in 184 plate appearances; the worst of those outcomes is far more likely than the others.
The complaints have quieted that the Red Sox didn’t acquire Anthony Rizzo (two homers, five RBIs in September).
▪ In a sense, the Red Sox picked up Bobby Dalbec at the trade deadline as well — or at least he picked himself up and started mashing like a one-man tribute to the Bash Brothers.
In 39 games since Aug. 1, or the day after the deadline, Dalbec is slashing .316/.409/.737 (for a 1.146 OPS), with 12 home runs, 22 extra-base hits, and 36 RBIs in 132 plate appearances. He’s still striking out at a high rate (34 K’s in 112 at-bats), but it’s not nearly as high as it was, and he’s walked 15 times in that stretch after walking just 13 times in his first 280 at-bats.
Obviously, he’s not going to stay this hot, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this streak changed the shape of his career. He might have been another couple of 0-for-4s away from getting a one-way trip to Worcester for the rest of the summer.
▪ The easy and logical comparison for Blue Jays superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is of course his Hall of Famer dad, Vlad Sr. But doesn’t he kind of remind you of a certain one of his dad’s contemporaries atop those late 1990s and early 2000s American League leaderboards? Don’t you see a lot of Manny Ramirez in his vicious, compact, righthanded swing?
Vlad Jr. is putting up numbers that look awfully similar to those on the back of Manny’s baseball card. The 22-year-old is currently leading the league in batting (.321), on-base percentage (.411), slugging (.617), and home runs (46), and with 105 RBIs, he’s eight behind Salvador Perez and Jose Abreu for the league lead.
Vlad Jr. has a 174 adjusted OPS. Manny had a 174 in 1999 when he hit .333 with 44 homers and 165 RBIs.
▪ Curious to see how the American League Cy Young race plays out. Toronto’s Robbie Ray has to be the favorite at this point, even though he probably wasn’t drafted in your fantasy baseball league.
Ray, MLB’s all-time leader (no kidding) in strikeouts per nine innings (11.25), has a 2.63 ERA and 233 strikeouts in 177⅓ innings. He leads in Baseball-Reference WAR for pitchers by a comfortable margin over the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole (6.9 to 5.7).
Cole (15 wins, 3.03 ERA, 231 K’s) might win the thing, but he has come up small in a couple of important starts in the second half.
I do hope Red Sox rock-of-the-rotation Nate Eovaldi gets a few votes. He’s fourth in the AL in pitching WAR, behind Ray, Cole, and the White Sox’ Lance Lynn.
▪ The Venn diagram of people who like to point out that Alex Verdugo has a higher batting average than Mookie Betts this season and claim Mookie never would have signed here is a closed circle of the closed-minded.
Betts has missed 40 games, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be durable deep into his contract, but let’s stop with the extremely selective statistical comparisons in a transparent attempt to justify trading a generational player.
Last year, Betts was second in the MVP race, first in the NL in WAR, and won a World Series, and he has an .887 OPS this year while excelling defensively and on the basepaths as usual.
You want to compare Verdugo with an ex-Red Sox outfielder, make it Andrew Benintendi, who has the exact same WAR (2.6) this season.
▪ Here’s something that simultaneously came to mind and blew my mind after reading Peter Abraham’s Sunday Baseball Notes item this week on Tony La Russa. The White Sox have the same person managing them now as they did on Opening Day 1981, when Carlton Fisk hit a three-run homer off Bob Stanley (was he involved in every lousy moment from 1978-86, or does it just seem that way?) in the eighth inning to defeat the Red Sox in his first game with the White Sox.
Fisk was 33 then, and La Russa 36. Fisk is 73 now, and La Russa turns 77 on Oct. 4.
▪ Even if Guerrero wins the Triple Crown, the MVP has to be the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. He has 44 homers, 23 stolen bases, a .952 OPS, 9 wins, a 3.28 ERA, and 146 strikeouts in 123⅓ innings. My favorite stat from his extraordinary two-way season? He has worked far more walks (77) than he’s allowed (44).
As baseball fans, we deserve to see Ohtani and Mike Trout play at least one full season together at the peak of their powers.
▪ The Red Sox have had their frustrating stretches, and some of their problems are self-inflicted, but they deserve a tip of the cap for being in a position to play meaningful games in late September in a season when most pegged them to be mediocre to lousy.
There are no more true pennant races, but the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees being within 2½ games of each other in pursuit of two wild-card slots is about as close as we get. This is going to be fun. It already is.