How long should Red Sox give John Farrell?
The Red Sox are 7-8 and their starters have a 5.65 earned run average, the worst in the American League. So much for the idea of getting off to a good start. That sense of urgency everybody talked about in spring training hasn’t translated to the field yet.
The Sox are actually two games worse than they were at the same point of last season. The question now becomes how many games are enough to properly evaluate the work of manager John Farrell?
It’s not 15 games and it shouldn’t be 25, either. David Price has allowed 17 runs over 21 2/3 innings and you can’t blame that on the manager. The same is true for the uneven work of new closer Craig Kimbrel.
It’s also not Farrell’s fault that Eduardo Rodriguez and Carson Smith landed on the disabled list before the season even started.
But at some point, Farrell will be held accountable for all these problems because somebody has to be. Some feverish members of the fan base already want a change, upset with Farrell’s in-game decision making.
The trick is deciding how many games represent a fair sample to consider before promoting bench coach Torey Lovullo.
Around 40 games — a quarter of the season — seems logical. The Sox have an off day scheduled for May 19, just after a three-game series in Kansas City against the defending-champion Royals. Barring rainouts, they’ll have played 41 games at that point. Rodriguez and Smith will presumably have returned by then.
Price will have made five more starts and Kimbrel won’t have the excuse of a new league and a new team.
It’s better to be a little early with this decision than a little late. The Red Sox have been a formidable team offensively and are getting outstanding production from David Ortiz in his final season. That can’t go to waste.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski fired Phil Garner six games into the 2002 season when he ran the Detroit Tigers, so anything is possible. But in this case, given the injuries and Price’s poor performance, Farrell deserves a chance to see what he can do with a better pitching staff.
A few other notes and observations on the Red Sox:
■ Using data to fully evaluate a catcher’s defense is impossible because of all the variables. It’s the one position that defies metrics. We can measure how well a catcher frames pitches and throws, but nobody will ever be able to quantify his ability to work with a pitcher.
How Christian Vazquez influences pitchers is sometimes as subtle as how hard he throws the ball back to the mound or where he positions his glove.
Vazquez even occasionally refuses to allow pitchers to shake him off, shaking his head back at them and demanding they throw the pitch he called. It happened to Rick Porcello in Vazquez’s first game back in the majors.
It’s the unknown of how much that is worth that makes the competition between Vazquez and Blake Swihart so interesting.
If Vazquez is able to perform offensively somewhere in the vicinity of league average for his position, it’s an easy decision to catch him. But if he can’t, does his defense outweigh Swihart’s potential offensively?
It seems surprising that the Red Sox are already talking about moving Swihart to left field. Swihart is only 24 and should get every chance to improve his defense and compete with Vazquez.
Jason Varitek did not become a starting catcher in the majors until he was 27.
■ Going into this weekend, Ortiz has played 15 games in Houston. Are the Astros really going to give him a retirement gift of some sort? I’m rooting for cowboy boots.
■ With Joe Kelly on the disabled list for what could be a long time, the 2014 trade Ben Cherington made with the St. Louis Cardinals looks worse than ever. The Cardinals got 43 starts and a 3.10 ERA out of John Lackey. He also appeared in four playoff games, winning twice.
Lackey left for the Cubs via free agency and now St. Louis will get a first-round pick in June as compensation.
The Red Sox have received 38 starts and a 4.80 ERA from Kelly since the trade. The Tortured Ghost of Allen Craig played 65 games for the Sox and hit .139 before he was sent to Triple A. The Sox owe Craig $9 million this season, $11 million in 2017 and a $1 million buyout before the 2018 season.
Kelly is coming up on his second year of arbitration. What a mess.
■ Red Sox chairman Tom Werner recorded a lengthy podcast interview with Katie Nolan of Fox Sports. Among the interesting comments:
On Manny Ramirez: “I can only tell you that I have dealt with a lot of talented people in both television and sports and often talent comes with a certain kind of personality that perhaps doesn’t like authority. He was a joy to watch on the field but challenging off the field.”
On players he has a close relationship with: “I have an extremely good relationship with Tim Wakefield and David Ortiz. Kevin Millar and I text every other day. I love Kevin. I’ve spent a lot of time with him at his mansion in Austin.”
Tom Werner chills with Kevin Millar? Who knew?
On pursuing being commissioner two years ago: “A number of owners thought I had some idea how to move baseball forward. A number of owners asked me to come in to the search committee about my ideas. The best guy won. Rob [Manfred] is moving the sport forward. The ideas I had, many of them he’s agreed with and espoused.”
Werner also said he continues to favor a pitch clock in the majors and likes bat flips and other shows of emotion.
■ The San Francisco Giants did not give out No. 48 last season out of respect to Pablo Sandoval. But they did this week, assigning the number to rookie lefthander Steven Okert.
■ Not to jinx him, but Hanley Ramirez has played 13 games at first base without an error. Based on the early defensive metrics, he’s in the top half at his position. I thought putting him at first base was a mistake and I was wrong as wrong could be.
■ There are 10 concerts scheduled at Fenway Park from July 15 to Sept. 9, the most in a single year. In order, Fenway Park will host Dead and Co. (two nights), Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Pearl Jam (two nights), Billy Joel, Zac Brown Band (two nights) and Jason Aldean.
It raises the question of whether the field will be beaten up for the baseball games. Senior director of grounds Dave Mellor and his crew will be busy during that 56-day stretch, particularly if it rains during some of the shows.
Sox president Sam Kennedy professed no concern. “I am confident in Dave Mellor and his team. They are the best in baseball,” he said.