Do the Red Sox have the best outfield in baseball?

red-sox-outfield.jpg

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.

Farrell: Price to make first Red Sox start of year Monday in Chicago

Farrell: Price to make first Red Sox start of year Monday in Chicago

David Price may have allowed six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings Wednesday night during his second rehab start in Triple-A, but the Red Sox apparently liked what they saw.

MORE ON PRICE

Manager John Farrell announced moments ago that Price will rejoin the Red Sox Monday and start that day's game in Chicago against the White Sox. Farrell said the Sox were more concerned with how Price felt physically after his rehab start, not the results, and they're satisfied he's ready to return.

More to come . . . 

Chili Davis: Red Sox hitters' lack of strikeouts not by design

Chili Davis: Red Sox hitters' lack of strikeouts not by design


BOSTON - The Red Sox aren’t hitting for power as much as they’re expected to and they’re striking out less than anyone. Far less.
 
So, maybe they should just swing harder? 
 
It’s not that simple, considering they have the second-best batting average in the majors, .271, and the third-best on-base percentage, .342.
 
Entering Thursday, the Sox had 300 strikeouts, 34 fewer than the 29th team on the list, the Mets. (The Mets have also played 34 games, while the Sox have already played 36.)
 
In April, when this trend was already evident, Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis was asked if the lack of strikeouts were by design.
 
“I don’t think it’s purposeful,” Davis said. “But that can be a good thing and it could be a bad thing. You know, to me striking out is never good, but it’s how you strike out that matters to me. 
 
“You chase pitches early and you put a guy in a two-strike count and allow him to use his strikeout pitch or his finish pitch, it’s not a good way to strike out. If you’er battling, if you’re taking good swings at pitches, or if the guy’s making pitches, different story. Not striking out because you understand you’re still getting to have a quality at-bat.
 
“To be honest with you, there are guys in certain situations I’d rather see 'em strike out, believe me. And it kind of sounds stupid.”
 
No, it doesn’t. Because in the Moneyball era people started to widely understand that with runners on, a strikeout can be a better outcome than simply putting the ball in play because of the double-play possibility. One out on a swing [or no swing] is a lot better than two.
 
“Exactly,” Davis said. “In a double-play situation, with a big slow guy running and two strikes on him, and he just put the ball in play, he’s done exactly what they wanted him to do.”
 
What a coincidence: the Sox have grounded into more double plays than all but two teams. They’re tied with the Blue Jays with 51, trailing the Astros’ 54.
 
Last year, the Sox had the eighth-most double plays and the fourth-fewest strikeouts. But they also led the majors in slugging percentage, whereas this year they’re in the bottom third. (They’ve perked up in May.)
 
“I don’t think they’re necessarily swinging to not strike out,” Davis said in April. “But, I think the home runs haven’t come because you know, I don’t think we’ve actually gotten on track yet as an offense the way we would like to.”
 
Davis cited the weather, which in Boston has continued to be chilly even into May. Hitters have noted the weather too, but that only goes so far.
 
Sox manager John Farrell on Wednesday noted the team’s draft philosophy.
 
“If you go back to the origin of the players that are here, a lot of them came through our draft and our system,” Farrell said. “So there was a conscious effort to get the more rounded athlete, not a one-dimensional player...Throughout their minor league career, there’s great emphasis on strike-zone discipline, understanding your limits within the zone. That’s not to suggest you’re going to forfeit the power that you have, but to be a more complete hitter, I think that’s going to win you championships rather than being one dimensional.”
 
But much of this year’s lineup is the same as last year’s.
 
In 2017, the Sox are swinging at 44.2 percent of pitches, fewer than all but four teams. Last year, they swung at 44.3 percent of pitches, second-to-last. So, that hasn’t changed.
 
Last year, their contact rate was 81.6 percent, highest in the majors. This year, it’s the second-highest, 80.1. That hasn’t really changed either.
 
Maybe the process hasn’t in fact changed much at all, in fact — but the outcomes are looking different because that’s how it goes sometimes. At the least, it’s something to keep an eye on as the year progresses.