Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia's sad connection to Jim Rice, and other surprising Red Sox numbers

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Dustin Pedroia's sad connection to Jim Rice, and other surprising Red Sox numbers

Cover the Red Sox for a year and you'll spend a lot of time staring at Baseball-Reference, the pre-eminent site for the kind of stats you would've found on a Topps card in 1986, as well as many of the advanced numbers that have transformed the modern game.

Over the course of a season, some numbers will occasionally jump out at you. Here are five, from lowest to highest, that caught my attention in 2019.

.001 — The difference in OPS between Rafael Devers (.916) in his superstar breakout year and Mookie Betts (.915) in his lackluster MVP follow-up. Anyone who watched the team knows that Devers was the more impactful offensive player, especially from May through July, when the Red Sox still  believed they had a shot at the playoffs. And yet when all was said and done, their numbers were virtually identical. It turns out that context matters.

3 — Hits for Dustin Pedroia since the start of 2018. He's had just 31 at-bats in that span, but that has been enough to drop his lifetime average from .300 to .299. He's almost certain to become a victim of the Jim Rice Effect. The Hall of Fame slugger was a .300 hitter for almost his entire career, dropping below that threshold on May 5, 1989. He played only 29 more games, and finished at .298. Let the record show that Pedroia was still a lifetime .300 hitter (technically .299535, but baseball rounds up), until grounding to short to lead off his penultimate game against Baltimore's Dan Straily. If this is it, he'll finish his career two hits shy of .300.

10 — Wins in Brandon Workman's out-of-nowhere dominant season, which saw him become the first pitcher in history to follow a 1-10 season (in 2014) with a 10-1 campaign. Only 55 pitchers since 1900 have won no more than one game while losing at least 10. Even rarer is the inverse, which has been done 21 times. Workman is the only pitcher to appear on both lists.

15 — Andrew Benintendi home runs since the second half of 2018. Benintendi entered the 2018 All-Star break with 14 bombs and nearly made the All-Star team. He has suffered a mystifying power outage since, managing just two homers in the second half of 2018 and 13 last year. That means he has dropped from 14 homers in the first 91 games of 2018 to 15 in the 195 games since.

21 — Months that Jackie Bradley Jr. has hit under .220 with the Red Sox. Compare that to three crazy outliers that saw him hit over .350 and it becomes clear how misleading it is to call him streaky, a term that suggests roughly equal performance in both directions. Take away August of 2015 (.354), May of 2016 (.381), and June of 2017 (.353) and Bradley's career average dips from .236 to .221, which helps explain why the Red Sox are likely to move on from the defensive whiz this winter.

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Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell would check a lot of the boxes the Red Sox would be looking for in their managerial search. The popular former Red Sox third baseman is a Cuban-American who speaks Spanish and English and is media-savvy as an analyst for the MLB Network. 

Still, there's one condition he has that will probably take Lowell out of the running. 

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The 2007 World Series MVP and 2018 inductee into the team's Hall of Fame has no managerial experience, but told WEEI's Rob Bradford in a text message, "I would love to if I knew it was just for a year and Cora was guaranteed to come back."

Alex Cora, a Red Sox teammate of Lowell's for three seasons (2006-08), was let go by on Tuesday after he was named as the central figure in Major League Baseball's investigation of sign-stealing by the Houston Astros when Cora was their bench coach in 2017. Cora is also alleged to have brought a similar system to Boston when he became manager before the 2018 season. MLB is continuing to investigate the allegations against the Red Sox and it will likely result in a suspension of one season or longer for Cora.

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a season by MLB and subsequently fired by Houston.

With Cora facing perhaps a longer punishment, or perhaps even a lifetime ban from baseball -- and from Red Sox ownership's telling silence when asked if Cora would ever manage in the majors again -- Lowell's plan of temporarily filling in until Cora's return isn't likely to fly. 

Ron Roenicke sounds clean, making him the safest choice to replace Alex Cora as Red Sox manager

Ron Roenicke sounds clean, making him the safest choice to replace Alex Cora as Red Sox manager

SPRINGFIELD -- The Red Sox are unlikely to name a manager in the next few days, preferring instead to take as disciplined an approach to this momentous decision as they can, given the time constraints.

They'd love to hire from within for the sake of continuity, but they face a dilemma: what if they tab a coach to replace Alex Cora, only to find him implicated when MLB completes its investigation into allegations of sign-stealing in 2018?

The coaches met the media on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, and one of them sounded like the safest bet to emerge unscathed from whatever report MLB produces. And so, given the challenges that loom, with spring training only three weeks away, it's fair to say bench coach Ron Roenicke put his best foot forward as an honest and forthright potential face of whatever follows this scandal.

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"It's obviously a tough time," Roenicke said. "And I know things over the years, maybe some little things have happened before. But when something like this comes out, it obviously damages the game. I think you try to get past it. You try to do things the right way. I came from being with Mike Scioscia for a long time in Anaheim and it was something that was really important to Mike, how we went about things as a staff and what we did. 

"I took that same philosophy when I went to Milwaukee and managed. I always felt like yes, there's lots of things we could do on the field. When I was a third-base coach I could give pitches to the hitters since 2000 when I was in the big leagues and that's legal to do from the third-base box. But I didn't think it was right, so I didn't do it.

"I spent so many years playing this game and trying to do things the right way," Roenicke added. "It's hard. It hurts in all areas. You try to raise your kids to do things the right way, you try to live your life that way, you try to be that way in your career. So,  anytime you see that, it hurts. I also realize that we all screw up. I've screwed up. Everybody has. It just happens this is a huge deal, and it's sad to see that for the game."

It remains unclear if the Red Sox are focusing on an interim solution or someone who could fill the role longer term. They'll undoubtedly take a host of characteristics into consideration, not least of which is a facility with analytics, which Cora embraced. Roenicke, 63, might not be the most progressive choice in this regard, but outside of pitching coach Dave Bush, it's hard to single out a Red Sox coach who would be.

From a messaging standpoint, though, the Red Sox could do a lot worse than the avuncular former Brewers skipper, who led Milwaukee to 96 wins and an NLCS berth in 2011, finishing second in the Manager of the Year voting. He also spent eight years in the major leagues as a switch-hitting outfielder.

He certainly didn't sound like someone concerned about being caught up in the collateral damage of whatever the Red Sox may or may not have done in 2018.

"It would be concerning if something happened that I knew I was a part of, that I was brought into as part of that," he said. "I know what I do. I always try to do things the right way."

Roenicke checks some boxes. He'd be the most obvious interim candidate on the staff if the team wants to conduct a more traditional managerial search next fall. And he'd allow for the continued development of third base coach Carlos Febles, who's a potential future manager, or even former All-Star catcher Jason Varitek, a special assistant who, in a perfect world, would spend some time on a coaching staff before considering his next step.

Roenicke was asked if he still harbored hopes of managing last week, before we had any idea of the scandal that was about to unfold.

"I'm always content," he said. "Coaching is fun. It's a fun job. Managing is challenging. I enjoy it. I love the challenge of it. I wasn't really thinking about it too much, but my phone was lit up every day from my friends or whoever, saying this was a possibility."

At this point in the offseason, the Red Sox probably won't find a perfect solution. There are safe ones, though, and none feels safer than Roenicke.