Nation STATion: Love that Muddy Chicken

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Nation STATion: Love that Muddy Chicken

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

Dustin Pedroia has a new nickname. In the wee hours of the morning, after the Red Sox defeated the Rays 1-0 in 16 innings, Josh Beckett (who pitched brilliantly) said, "The Muddy Chicken is definitely the player of the game."

Watch as soon the nickname will go viral. You will hear him called that tonight when you watch the game, you will see it in print, there will be signs at Fenway, t-shirts sold on the street, bobble-head dolls created, and restaurant entrees named for him.

And Beckett added, "He got it done when we absolutely needed it."

But doesnt the Muddy Chicken do that more than any player on the team?

Think about this: In the five hour and 44 minute marathon last night, the Rays were 3-for-50, the rest of the Red Sox were 2-for-45, and Pedroia was 3-for-7 (and he was robbed on a great play by B.J. Upton in the 15th).

Around this time of the year in 2008 (622 to 79), the player formerly known as the Laser Show, had a career high 17-game hitting streak in which he hit .474 (36-for-76). He had a 16-game streak in 2009 and hit .375 (24-for-64).

Last night, Pedroia extended his current hitting streak to 15 games. He is hitting .384 (25-for-65) during the streak, and doing it with power. He has seven homers during this stretch after hitting just three in each of his two previous longest runs.

Since June 15 he has reached base safely in 27 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors. Over that time, hes scored 26 runs and driven in 19. In 129 plate appearances, hes struck out only nine times.

Not coincidentally, since June 9, when Dustin Pedroia had his knee scoped, he has hit .378 (48-for-127) with nine homers, slugged .701, and had an OPS of 1.171. Hes hit .463 against lefties since that date. Not only that, he has walked in 15.2 of his plate appearances. Since June 9, hes hit .409 with runners in scoring position.

To show you how good the Muddy Chicken has been, during that time period, hes hit .333 when the count is 0-2 and .386 when hes had two strikes on him at any point in the count. In his last 151 plates appearances, hes struck out just 11 times while in the 153 plate appearances prior to that (May 2 to June 8), he hit .233 with two homers and 21 strikeouts.

Pedey is now hitting .293. Like Youk and Jacoby Ellsbury hes hit 13 homers and his 47 RBI are nearly as many as Jarrod Saltalamacchia (24) and J.D. Drew (24) combined.

Hes such an integral key to the Sox success. In 55 winning games, hes hit .332 and scored 50 runs. In 35 losses hes hit .225 and scored just 12 times.

There are only six infielders in the majors who are in double figures in homers and stolen bases (Pedroia has 17 steals) and none has as high a batting average as Pedroia. Oh yeah, when it comes to fielding, he has a Zone Rating of 5.489, second only Ben Zobrist. And his Total Zone fielding is 10 total fielding runs above average, the best number of any second baseman in baseball.

As I look at Boston's roster, I see Pedroia as the player most likely to be a Sox-lifer. Hes the guy I anticipate inheriting the C when Tek retires as captain. By the time he is done, he will be the Red Sox equivalent of Derek Jeter, although he has already surpassed the Yankee captain by winning the 2008 MVP. Jeter has never been an MVP, finishing second once, and third twice.

Last night after the game, Big Papi said, "Just put it down in the newspaper, I wouldn't trade Pedey for nobody in this league right now."

Hell be even happier when he hears we put it down in Nation STATion.

Gotta love that Muddy Chicken, ahhh Pedey, youre the one.

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland put up mediocre numbers and won a Gold Glove in a walk year. For his efforts, he received a one-year, $5.5 million contract on the open market. 

That’s not a lot. Maybe his .233 average stood out to teams more than his 22 homers, but either way it’s somewhat surprising that a one-year deal on low money is the best he could do given the fact that his career average was .258 prior to last year and he’d hit .275 or higher in two of his previous four seasons. 

The contract might not be a major score for Moreland, but he said choosing Boston was. 

“I had a couple options, but really just the whole fact that it’s place that I really wanted to play,” he said of Boston. “Getting an opportunity to come here and be a part of a winning environment, being part of a winning environment and having a chance to go out and play for a championship is huge to me, personally, and this is a great option. 

“What they were able to do last year, you know you were in for a fight when you were playing these guys. It was a gritty group of guys that had a ton of talent. I like to think of myself as that type player, as a gritty type player and hopefully I felt like I could fit in here and move forward and try to help out and make that goal happen of winning a championship. 

“That’s the main goal as far as playing this game for me. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity here, and that was before the [Chris] Sale news broke, too, you know? So seeing that also, it just shows you that we’re in it. We’re in it and trying to go all out to make that happen. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

It doesn’t hurt that his batting average is higher at Fenway Park than it is in any other stadium in which he’s had at least 30 at-bats. Moreland has hit .341/.378/.683 with four homers and eight RBI in 41 career at-bats at Fenway. Asked to explain his success in Boston, he noted that “comfortable” was the only word that came to mind. 

So what is the Red Sox’ plan for the former Rangers first baseman? To play him at first against righties and let Hanley Ramirez DH, John Farrell said. 

Farrell did also point to Moreland’s recent work against lefties. Last season was one of two in his career (the other being 2013) in which Moreland had a better average against lefties than against righties. Moreland hit .277/.320/.479 against southpaws last season, with .221/.293/.407 marks against righties.

“Against right-handed starters, Mitch will be the first baseman,” Farrell said. “That gives us the flexibility to DH Hanley in that spot. One thing I also mentioned to Mitch is we’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers, last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career.

"With Mitch, getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley moving to the DH slot, that alignment, we also have the ability against quality left-handers, where Hanley would go back to first base and then we’ve got the ability to rotate some guys through the DH slot. 

Added Farrell: “His strengths as a player are many, but we feel this is a very good fit in a number of ways, and positionally first and foremost.” 

Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

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Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland Thursday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the team designated left-handed pitcher Williams Jerez for assignment. 

Moreland has played his entire career with the Rangers, winning a Gold Glove at first base last season. He hit .233/.298/.422 with 22 homers and 60 RBI for the Rangers last season before becoming a free agent. He has a career batting average of .254, with a career-high 23 homers in both the 2013 and 2015 seasons. 

A second-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 draft, Jerez started his professional career as an outfielder before being moved to pitcher.