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Let’s check a few items at the door. I was born in New England. I grew up a diehard Red Sox fan. My dog is named Fenway. I’ve taken the Kenmore stop off the T many times. (Please don't ask me about Wonderland.)
Alas, the team overpaid my fandom back, and then some, through the years. All I ever wanted was one championship in my lifetime — the Red Sox won several. Obviously I never threw a pitch, set a lineup, or made a trade. It has nothing to do with me. And trust me I get it, the public gets sick of a repeat winner. If you loathe all New England sports teams, I understand where that comes from.
I wouldn’t call myself a diehard anymore, though I happily participate in a daily text thread with my old school New England peeps (and when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, I’ll be as engaged as possible). I don’t need the Boston teams to be good, I just want them to be interesting.
I have no idea if the 2021 Red Sox are good. But they’re sure as heck interesting. They’re watchable. They’re exciting. And this is all that matters.
The Red Sox celebrated Patriots Day with a brunch-time laugher, a 11-4 romp over the White Sox; especially notable given that Lucas Giolito started for Chicago. Somehow Bobby Dalbec went 0-for-4 at the bottom of the Boston lineup, but everyone else had a share of the scoring. The Red Sox are now 11-6 on the year.
I have no idea if the Boston pitching staff — cobbled together as it is — will hold up. But this club is going to mash.
The 2021 Red Sox grade well in every offensive category you could care about. First in runs, first in batting average. Second in on-base percentage, second in slugging, first in OPS. The Red Sox are merely eighth in home runs, but Fenway Park has often been misunderstood. It’s not really a home run park, but it’s an offensive park. There’s almost no foul territory, the batting eye is appealing, and doubles are handed out at the entrance.
Every team needs its best players to be its best players, and that hasn’t been a problem in Boston. J.D. Martinez (.383/.439/.800, six homers) looks like a monster again, reunited with his security blanket, in-game video. Xander Bogaerts is off to a .386 start. Rafael Devers already has five homers and a .542 slugging percentage. Alex Verdugo (.295/.357/.525) has star written all over him. And Christian Vazquez (.308/.345/.481) is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball.
You probably can’t add any of the Big 5 in a competitive roto league. But perhaps the ancillary pieces are of interest.
Enrique Hernandez isn’t an ideal leadoff man — he hardly walks, and has a modest OBP — but he’s batting a solid .269, with a .463 slugging. He homered Monday, his third of the year. Hernandez carries second, short, and outfield eligibility, and is available in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Marwin Gonzalez is almost universally available, and unlike Hernandez, he’s a batter who knows how to work a count. Gonzalez has a puny .209 average, but don’t miss the eight walks and that pretty .364 OBP. He’s already scored eight runs, hit a homer, stolen two bases; there’s subtle value to his game.
In deeper mixed leagues, Gonzalez is one of my preferred bench options, a player who qualifies at four positions (first, second, third, outfield). Don’t forget how useful he was with the Astros in 2018, or the Twins two years back. His current Yahoo tag is four percent.
Maybe this team will collapse by midsummer. Surely the Yankees will wake up at some point. I can’t talk you into the Boston pitching staff. But let’s go where the runs are. Let’s embrace the buoyancy. Offense is fun. And the 2021 Red Sox are fun.
Scouting Michael Fulmer
I’ve lived in Michigan for a while now; my heart is back east, my body is here. I don’t ardently root for the Detroit-area teams, but I’d prefer they’re competitive. People are nicer when the local teams are doing well.
That backdrop established, here’s our scouting job for Tuesday — let’s watch Micheal Fulmer against the the Pirates.
You remember Fulmer, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. He looked like a lawnmower into midseason 2017 — even made the All-Star team — before his body started betraying him. An elbow problem squashed that season, and an oblique injury messed him up in 2018.
Since then, the story has been dead. Fulmer eventually needed Tommy John surgery two years ago, and was ineffective in limited action last year. But maybe his body is finally healed, ready to rock. He’s still just 28. We’ve seen plenty of pitchers find themselves after the TJ surgery.
Fulmer has four appearances this year — three in relief, one start — and the results are encouraging: 12 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 12 K. His velocity — which was down to 93.1 last year — is back in the mid-90s, equal to his salad days. The BB/K ratio is worthy of endorsement, as you know.
The Pirates offense hasn’t been a train wreck, but it’s ordinary — 19th in runs, 13th in OPS. This is a winnable matchup. The Royals, the weekend assignment, are of similar strength. If you want to play the streaming game, or kick the tires on a longer-term addition, Fulmer is ready to add in 79 percent of Yahoo leagues.