John Farrell has to prove himself all over again as a manager, the pundits say, after two years of cellar-dwelling. Rightfully so.
How’s he doing so far?
He kept Steven Wright and Matt Barnes on the pitching staff and one has anchored the back end of the rotation and the other the front end of the bullpen. The decision to send Henry Owens back to AAA has been vindicated, even in his recent major league performances. Owens has had more luck than skill to stay on the mound in his past two starts. He labors on the mound to put his infield to sleep. He seems to have no advantage facing left-handed hitters.
He gave Travis Shaw a shot at third base he needed, and a star was born.
He gave Brock Holt a shot in left field, and he co-leads with Jackie Bradley in outfield assists. Holt will never make a manager look bad, he does so many things well.
Ditto Jackie Bradley. I had given up on Bradley. In April he might have been MVP for the Red Sox, giving Pedroia a run for it.
He’s put his runners in motion, and the Sox lead the American League in stolen bases. Any other year that would have to be a misprint. By moving runners off first base, Farrell has avoided the deadly double-play, which was all-too-common on past Red Sox teams.
Not sure if he deserves credit, but the Red Sox hitters are going to the opposite field, which screws up the defensive strategies of their opponents. I was wrong about Pedroia starting the year, but I was not wrong about his needing to hit to right field. Suddenly he is hitting to right and hitting fewer groundouts.
He brought Christian Vasquez hastily back to the majors before his arm was fully healed and turned the season around for Rick Porcello and Koji Uhehara, both of whom need to use the dirt in front of home plate as targets. Today’s catchers need all the skills of a hockey goalie to keep the wild pitches down to a minimum. The entire staff can relax a little more with runners on base, because Vasquez holds them as well as any crafty left-hander.
The jury is still out on a few of Farrell’s choices: 1) Clay Bucholz (champ or chump?) 2) Patience with pitchers who walk as a strategy: see Bucholz, Owens, and Joe Kelly when healthy. When you walk two batters in a row that is either lousy control or loss of confidence. Either way you should be out of the game. Walks need to be punishable by the hook or fines, so pitchers stop pitching around hitters they fear. And the first pitch strike is no solution, if it is always the same pitch. Pitching is not easy, but the Red So have enough talent on their staff, if the staff is willing.
Overwhelmingly good decisions for Farrell in April. The outlook is brilliant for the Red Sox after an erratic spring, and Farrell deserves a lot of credit.