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A refreshing change from 2017: Cora admits a mistake

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A refreshing change from 2017: Cora admits a mistake

BOSTON -- Accountability Alex is in full affect, painting a new image for his club and helping his players as he goes.
The Red Sox manager on Tuesday afternoon acknowledged something the 2017 Red Sox seemingly never did: a mistake. He noted a flat-out lapse in judgment in a particular moment from Sunday's game. 


Is Sox' fast start worth celebrating?
Cora should have pulled J.D. Martinez from left field for a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. was on the bench, the Sox had an 8-7 lead and Craig Kimbrel was on the mound.
But the bottom of the eighth inning was pretty wild as the Sox erased a five-run deficit.
"Honestly -- I'm going to be honest with you," Cora said. "We scored six runs, and we were so excited about it, and the manager missed that one."
Woah. No song and dance? Cora was later asked why he was being so honest.
"Because I did. Why lie, you know?" Cora said. "It happens. Everybody saw it. I think I ask our guys to be genuine, transparent and responsible. So, if I'm asking them to be that way, well, I better be that way. Because if I say something else, they know I'm not telling the truth."
Refreshing as a sip of Zima. In Game No. 9 as a big-league manager, Cora made a mistake, and he publicly identified it. Heck, Gabe Kapler has probably made it impossible for Cora to look bad anyway.
Cora said from the outset of his time with the Sox he wasn't going to change his approach, and after 2017, it was clear the Sox needed Cora to follow through to that end.
Whether Cora realizes it or not, there's a ripple effect when he takes the stage as he did Tuesday. He pulled the conversation, and any pressure that comes with being a part of the conversation, away from the players and onto himself. You can call that the Tito Special.
Instead of a discussion with the media about Martinez's subpar play in left field Sunday, as could have cropped up, Cora's pregame session veered toward the skipper. And he steered it there, whether he meant to or not. The manager does not control the questions, but he does seem to understand what the public, the media and the fans, generally want to hear -- and serving it appears a genuine response. And when the media hears something interesting about the manager -- like an admission of fault -- the media typically follows that thread.

There was one other move Sunday that was a little puzzling: Choosing not to pinch run for Christian Vazquez with Blake Swihart in the eighth inning. The latter is certainly faster. Vazquez scored the tying run in the eighth inning on a Mookie Betts single as the Sox stormed back, but a better throw home probably nails Vazquez.
"He's one of our best base runners out there," Cora said. "He's not the fastest one, but his secondaries are a lot better than a lot of guys that we have and he has a sense of the game. Where they were in the outfield, that was probably, you know, I don't think there was going to be a play. With two outs and you go with the swing, he was going to get a good jump and score."
Speed is still what matters most, so Cora's explanation may have been missing a piece. Did Cora feel comfortable with Swihart catching in the ninth inning, or would he have had to then turn to Sandy Leon and leave no catchers on the bench? That's unclear. But, unlike the choice to leave Martinez in the outfield, leaving Vazquez in was by design.


Four potentially undervalued pitchers Red Sox could target this offseason

Four potentially undervalued pitchers Red Sox could target this offseason

It's time for the Red Sox to start thinking like a small-market team, because burning money in the name of their rotation could have dire consequences that stretch well into the 2020s.

With Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi set to earn $80 million annually through 2022 despite being major injury risks, the Red Sox will need to bargain hunt to fill the rest of their rotation. So where might they turn?

The key will be finding undervalued assets. One way to identify them is to look for pitchers with the biggest disparity between their ERA and FIP.

The latter — fielding independent pitching — is an ERA-like number derived from the events a pitcher can directly control: walks, strikeouts, home runs, and hit by pitches, the idea being that everything else is in the hands of the defense. FIP has its flaws, because it operates on the assumption that a pitcher can't impact balls in play, which means hurlers aren't credited for the majority of their outs, but it can still be a useful tool.

A wide spread between a pitcher's ERA and FIP can suggest bad luck or bad defense that mask some underlying strengths. The Red Sox, interestingly enough, looked a lot better as a staff via FIP than ERA, led by Chris Sale (4.40 ERA vs. 3.39 FIP), David Price (4.28 vs. 3.62), and even Rick Porcello (5.52 vs. 4.76).

Their staff ERA of 4.70 surpassed their 4.28 FIP by the widest margin of any team in baseball. Defensive metrics are notoriously spotty, but Fangraphs ranked Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts dead last at his position in defensive runs saved, saying he cost the Red Sox 19 runs. Similarly, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (minus-2) and third baseman Rafael Devers (minus-13) were considered negatives, too. Bogaerts and Devers aren't going anywhere, but Bradley, a defending Gold Glover, is likely to be traded this winter. The Red Sox could also upgrade their defense at second base.

In any event, we're drifting a little far afield. The point is finding opposing pitchers who significantly underperformed their FIP, which could make them targets this winter. Here are four names to remember.

1. Joe Musgrove, RHP, Pirates

A first-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove was traded to the Astros a year later before joining Pittsburgh as the centerpiece in the 2018 Gerrit Cole blockbuster. He made a career-high 31 starts this year, going 11-12 with a 4.44 ERA that masked a 3.82 FIP.

Those relatively middling numbers still established the 26-year-old as Pittsburgh's most effective starter, and he remains under team control through 2022.

With the Pirates in what feels like an eternal rebuild, it's hard to imagine they'd consider any player untouchable. Musgrove could make for an intriguing target.

2. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Reds

Gausman is a non-tender candidate, since he's set to make at least $10 million in his final year of arbitration. Chosen fourth overall in the 2012 draft by the Orioles, Gausman was once considered a top-10 prospect.

He has yet to live up to that hype, but he's better than the numbers suggested last year between Atlanta, where he posted a 6.19 ERA (and 4.20 FIP) in 16 starts, and Cincinnati, where he found use as a reliever (4.03 ERA, 3.17 FIP). Gausman struck out a career-high 10 batters per nine innings and is still only 28, so perhaps a flyer is in order, particularly if other teams are viewing him as a reliever and the Red Sox give him an opportunity to start.

3. Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Tigers

How does the AL's loss leader sound? Pitching for a woeful team, Turnbull went just 3-17 with a 4.61 ERA in 30 starts. His 3.99 FIP suggests better stuff than results, however, and he doesn't become a free agent until 2025.

Turnbull throws 95-97 and is considered a piece of Detroit's future, but it never hurts to ask. The 27-year-old went winless in his final 18 starts and is a late bloomer who was still pitching in Double A at age 25.

4. Pablo Lopez, RHP, Marlins

The rookie went 5-8 with a 5.09 ERA in 21 starts, but his 4.28 FIP and low walk rates (2.2 per nine innings) suggest some promise. The 23-year-old hails from Venezuela and can't become a free agent until 2025. He features a low-90s fastball and changeup, and the Marlins like his competitiveness. Being the Marlins means they're in perpetual fire-sale mode, however, and Lopez is worth a look.

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Andrew Friedman announces he's staying with Dodgers, taking biggest name off board for Red Sox

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Andrew Friedman announces he's staying with Dodgers, taking biggest name off board for Red Sox

The Red Sox can cross the biggest name off their GM search before he was ever even an option.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman announced on Monday that he will finalize a deal to stay in L.A. "in the next couple of days." Friedman had technically become a free agent after the Dodgers' season ending in shocking fashion against the Nationals last week.

His five-year, $35 million contract expired, but the Dodgers moved quickly to lock up the 43-year-old, who has built consistent winners in both Tampa and Los Angeles and was considered the most intriguing candidate for the job of running the Red Sox, which opened up when the team parted ways with Dave Dombrowski in September.

With Friedman off the board and the Twins reportedly nearing a deal to extend Lynn native Derek Falvey as their chief baseball officer, the Red Sox have seen the candidate pool for their opening diminish before their search even starts. Before the season ended, the Diamondbacks took another name out of play by extending GM Mike Hazen, a Massachusetts native and former Red Sox executive. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein also declared his commitment to Chicago, though his contractual status hasn't changed.

One name that hasn't been taken off the board is Chaim Bloom, Tampa's VP of baseball operations. The 36-year-old Yale graduate oversees Tampa's baseball operations alongside Erik Neander, and the two guided the Rays to a wild card before taking the Astros to Game 5 of the ALDS.

Widely considered one of the most innovative franchises in the game, the Rays have reached 90 wins in two straight seasons despite fielding one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

This team makes sense for J.D. Martinez in 2020>>>

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