Boston Red Sox

Do the Red Sox have the best outfield in baseball?

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Do the Red Sox have the best outfield in baseball?

There’s a litany of reasons why the band that brought you “Win, Dance, Repeat” can be considered the best outfield in baseball.

Mookie Betts finished second in the 2016 A.L. MVP race (and should have finished first). Jackie Bradley, Jr. is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game and finally provided some offense last year, launching 26 home runs. Then there’s the 2017 top-ranked MLB positional prospect Andrew Benintendi, who burst on the scene by batting .295 (31-for-105) through 34 games.

The Red Sox have had their share of stellar outfielders over the years, but this could be the best group the franchise has seen. And yes, that includes the beloved Jim Rice-Fred Lynn-Dwight Evans combo.

How about today's game? Well, after reviewing the other 29 outfields, there’s no question the current Red Sox stack up with any of them.

Not convinced? Take a look at the best three outfields other than Boston's.

COLORADO ROCKIES: Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl

Gonzalez is an established MLB talent. Since he became an everyday outfielder in 2010, he’s hit .296 and is averaging 26 home runs. The long-ball total could be even higher if he could get stay on the field; however, Car-Go’s only played in as many as 130 games four times since 2010. In addition, he’s a three-time Gold Glove winner, and was in consideration again last season.

Blackmon’s continued to turn heads since his 2014 All-Star campaign. The 2016 Silver Slugger winner finished with 29 homers last year and a .324 average.

The third spot is up for grabs, but it's because there's actual competition for the job and not a lack of talent. Dahl, the Rockies' first-round draft choice in 2012, looks to be the best candidate after hitting .315 with 23 extra-base hits in his first 63 games with Colorado.

Still, Boston has to be considered  better. Betts is an MVP candidate and hasn’t had health issues like Gonzalez (knock on wood). Blackmon may be a better hitter than Bradley, but Bradley’s defense is far superior. In comparing the two young talents, Benintendi has faced more adversity -- between his injury and the postseason -- than Dahl, and he’s risen to the occasion. Plus, most general managers around the league seem to think he’s the best young offensive talent in the game.

MIAMI MARLINS: Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich

Stanton is one of the most physically gifted players in baseball, without question. But injuries have plagued him, especially the last two years. And while he can hit the ball a country mile -- averaging 41 home runs for every 162 games played -- his career average (.266) has taken a hit in the past few seasons.

Ozuna earned his first All-Star nod in 2016, finishing with 23 home runs. The 26-year-old has now hit 23 home runs twice in his career.

Yelich could become the best of Miami’s trio, after maintaining a high average (.298) in 2016 and tripling his 2015 home-run total by hitting 21 last year.

The Marlins have youth with Stanton (27) being the oldest, but their youngest is older than both Betts and Benintendi. The Red Sox’ bunch is better on defense, top to bottom. And other than Stanton’s raw power, they are offensively superior, too.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES: Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen had a rough 2016, but was an MVP candidate and Silver Slugger winner from 2012-2015. Had last season gone differently for him, the Pirates might’ve been higher on the list.

Marte earned his first All-Star nod and took home his second Gold Glove in as many seasons. In his fifth MLB season, he hit over .300 for the first time and swiped 47 bases, a career high.

Polanco is the youngest of the three (25) and still has to mature at the plate, hitting .253 through three seasons. However, he showed off some power in 2016 by launching 22 long balls in 144 games.

The Pirares are solid all-around defensively, maybe the best in that category of these contenders. But offensively they don’t hold a candle to Boston’s Killer B’s.

While there are other teams worth looking at -- the Nationals, Royals, Mets, Tigers, and Angels to name a few -- some were missing that solid third piece (Los Angeles), others are aging (New York) and some are just a clear tier below the rest (Detroit).

Which makes it hard to escape the conclusion that no matter how you slice it -- tools, statistics, age -- the Red Sox have baseball’s best all-around outfield.

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

BOSTON — Congratulations, Dave Dombrowski. It’s September, and you built a certified, top-notch bullpen. 

Credit goes all around. The pitchers themselves receive the most, with the front office, John Farrell and the rest of the staff taking their slices as well.

But the success is particularly notable for an executive who perennially had terrible bullpens in Detroit. Dombrowski knows the reputation he garnered, too.

Maybe now he’ll start to shed it.

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The trouble in his old job wasn’t for lack of trying. Joe Nathan didn’t work out. Many folks didn’t.

“I think that there’s a few factors there,” Dombrowski said in 2016 of his bullpens in Detroit. “At one time we had (Jose) Valverde (from 2010-13 who) was the best closer for a couple years. (Joaquin) Benoit pitched very well as a set-up guy. We had a very solid bullpen at that point.

“We were unlucky a little bit in, for example, a guy like Joel Zumaya — who was a dominant guy, young — hurts his arm. Somebody you’re counting on. . . . Really (Bruce) Rondon never lived up to the early expectations. I know he’s still young, he’s doing better. So we got a little unlucky on those things. He got hurt too.”

So it goes. Per FanGraphs’ measurement of WAR, the Tigers had the worst bullpen in the majors from 2003-15, Dombrowski’s tenure.

The Sox’ bullpen is fifth in WAR this year, and second in ERA. Last year’s group was good, but not this good. 

One of Dombrowski’s premier pick-ups in Boston, Addison Reed, has a common refrain when asked about his own pitching: he doesn’t change a thing. 

When Reed got rocked in one of his early outings with the Red Sox, against the Yankees, he said he didn’t change. When he got in and out of trouble in the eighth inning Monday night in another extra-inning win for the Red Sox, 10-8 over the Orioles in 11, he said he didn’t change.

Same for Dombrowski, it would seem. 

He continued to go after established relievers. There was the huge trade for Craig Kimbrel. Carson Smith took a while to contribute because of arm injuries, but he had the 11th-inning save Monday, and his velocity appeared to be creeping up. 

The Tyler Thornburg situation was troubling, so Dombrowski went out and got Reed from the Mets.

Could Dombrowski have had success sooner if he had changed his approach? Well, maybe, but that’s a different argument.

It’s worked. He didn’t change a thing. 

How cliche. But cliches, we should point out, have become a central theme in all these extra-inning wins for the Sox (they're 14-3). Grit, resiliency, determination — you run the risk of drowning on those words, even if they’re well deserved.

Those relievers, though. Both throughout the season and in these marathon games the Sox too often seek, the ‘pen has been unexpectedly excellent, with a rotating cast of characters.

“It’d be nice if we started winning those games in nine and not going extras,” Reed joked, with a presumed kernel of truth. “If it takes 19, 20 innings to get that win, we’ll take it.”

The roles for the postseason are still up in the air, which is strange for a ‘pen that’s been so successful. But at the same time, it suggest an equal distribution of success (and at times, challenges).

The bottom line: Dombo did it, with his relievers making him look smart.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Benintendi's single in 11th sends Red Sox over Orioles, 10-8

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Benintendi's single in 11th sends Red Sox over Orioles, 10-8

BALTIMORE -- Roaring from behind and then finally winning in extra innings, the Boston Red Sox did more than merely maintain their lead in the A.L. East.

They showed their mettle, a characteristic that should come in handy during the postseason.

Andrew Benintendi hit a two-run single in the 11th inning, Mookie Betts had four RBIs and Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles 10-8 Monday night for their ninth win in 12 games.

Xander Bogaerts homered and scored three runs for the Red Sox, who remained three games ahead of the second-place Yankees in the AL East and reduced to four their magic number for clinching a playoff berth.

Boston erased a five-run deficit with a six-run fifth inning and needed 10 pitchers to beat a skidding Orioles team that has now lost 10 of 12.

"This is a big one, being down early and coming back," Benintendi said. "Obviously it's a good win, but it's kind of a character win. Everybody contributed tonight."

After three walks - one intentional - off Miguel Castro (3-2) loaded the bases in the 11th, Benintendi hit a grounder past diving second baseman Jonathan Schoop to give Boston its major-league leading 14th extra-inning win against three defeats.

"That's one of the reasons we stand here today," manager John Farrell said.

Matt Barnes (7-3) pitched the 10th and Carson Smith got three outs for his first save.

"Our group has such grit, such determination, such competiveness," Farrell said. "There's no quit in them."

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia left in the fourth inning after being struck in the face by a foul ball he chopped off the plate. The team described the injury as a bruised nose and listed his availability as day to day.

It was the second freak injury Pedroia sustained at Camden Yards this season. On April 21, the All-Star was spiked on a late slide by Manny Machado, a play that created bad blood between the teams into May.

Baltimore built a 5-0 lead against Doug Fister over the first three innings, taking advantage of five walks and getting a two-run double from rookie Austin Hays.

After Betts hit an RBI double in the fourth, Adam Jones countered with a run-scoring single in the bottom half. But the 6-1 advantage vanished in the fifth under a torrent of six hits against Dylan Bundy and two Baltimore relievers.

The key blows in the six-run inning were a two-run double by Brock Holt - Pedroia's replacement - and a bases-loaded double by Betts that scored all three runners.

"It was just that one inning. I let things slip away from me," Bundy said. "I didn't really limit the damage very well, obviously. I was just leaving balls over the middle of the plate and they made me pay for them."

Pedro Alvarez homered in the bottom half and Tim Beckham put Baltimore back in front with a two-out RBI double .

"We find a way to build a big inning, we give it right back and then from that point on the bullpen is outstanding," Farrell said.

The see-saw leveled in the seventh when Bogaerts homered off Donnie Hart to make it 8-all.

BUNDY WILL CONTINUE

As the Orioles stagger to the end of the season, there's speculation that manager Buck Showalter might shut down Bundy, who's now at a career-high 169 2/3 innings.

"I don't think we're at that point yet," the manager said. "Stuff's fine, he feels great between starts, he's getting extra days rest."

Bundy said: "It's September. Everybody is tired right now. So, you've got to battle through it."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Betts was in the starting lineup despite hurting his thumb in two places Sunday. ... DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) did not start but appeared as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ... 2B Eduardo Nunez will test his sore right knee running the bases Wednesday. Farrell said: "Wednesday will be a good test in terms of where he is at."

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-5, 3.28 ERA) looks to keep his outstanding season going in his fourth start of the year against Baltimore. Pomeranz was 25-36 lifetime before this season.

Orioles: Kevin Gausman (11-10, 4.83 ERA) makes his 32nd start of the year, the fourth against Boston. He's 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA against the Red Sox in 2017.