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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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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