Red Sox

Why the Red Sox were right to replace pitching coach Dana LeVangie

Why the Red Sox were right to replace pitching coach Dana LeVangie

Name a veteran Red Sox pitcher who exceeded expectations this season, and you'll understand why the team revamped its coaching structure on Tuesday.

The list is short: Eduardo Rodriguez and Brandon Workman. If you want to include rookies Marcus Walden and Josh Taylor, that's fine, but technically they arrived with zero expectations.

The heavy hitters flamed out. Former Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello posted one of the worst ERAs in baseball while trying to force the team's fastball-up, offspeed-down mantra that never really fit his repertoire. Ace Chris Sale delivered the worst record (6-11) and ERA (4.40) of his career. Nathan Eovaldi got hurt. David Price got hurt. Ryan Brasier crashed and burned. Matt Barnes flamed out. On a smaller scale, Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson regressed.

Following such a disappointing performance, change was inevitable, and on Tuesday it came swiftly. Pitching coach Dana LeVangie is out, retained as a pro scout as he closes in on 30 years with the organization. Assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister has also been reassigned, primarily to the minor leagues, as a VP of pitching development. Advance scout Steve Langone will join LeVangie in pro scouting.

It's tempting to say that injuries to Sale, Price, and Eovaldi cost these men their jobs, and there's some truth to that, but the Red Sox struggled as a staff all year in ways that suggested they were falling behind the times.

Their anti-launch angle approach failed to take into account rivals like the Astros and Yankees, who began to adjust offensively with more level swings that still allowed them to produce record home run totals, especially against fastballs up in the zone — 288 for Houston, 306 for New York — without sacrificing the ability to put the ball in play. The Astros struck out less than any team in baseball, and the Yankees led the AL in line drives.

Red Sox pitchers took a chase approach that became predictable, particularly in the bullpen, where it felt like every reliever threw either fastballs above the letters or curveballs in the dirt. The Red Sox walked more batters (605) than every team except the Marlins, and not even a franchise-record 1,633 strikeouts (10.0/9 IP) could compensate.

Their attempts to simplify the game plan only seemed to make things more complicated. In an act of paranoia straight out of a '70s thriller, they chose to combat sign stealing with something requiring the constant consultation of nuclear codes. Watching Red Sox pitchers step off the mound, scrutinize index cards tucked into their hats, and then give it up anyway became one of the most frustrating sights of an extremely frustrating season.

All of that said, LeVangie would probably still have a job if he had been able to unlock Sale. The team insisted all season that the left-hander's problems were mechanical, even though he ended up shutting it down with elbow issues in August. While his average velocity has dropped considerably from its Red Sox peak of 98 mph in June and July of 2018, the southpaw was still hitting 98 mph this August.

So why were his results so mediocre despite strong peripherals (35.6 K percentage, 3.39 FIP)? He lacked fastball command early in the season, especially up in the zone to right-handers, and his slider periodically lacked bite, too. His slugging percentage allowed on fastballs jumped over 100 points, to .447. His foul ball percentage on sliders — typically a put-away pitch — jumped from 13 percent to 19 percent.

Those are the kinds of results that, fair or not, LeVangie is judged upon, and they were consistently lacking in 2019. The job won't be any easier for his replacement, whose primary task will be keeping the rotation's Big Three healthy and effective. That might be a losing battle.

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MLB Rumors: Red Sox nearing deal with Jonathan Lucroy to boost catcher depth

MLB Rumors: Red Sox nearing deal with Jonathan Lucroy to boost catcher depth

The Boston Red Sox need catcher depth, and they're reportedly getting some in a former All-Star.

The Red Sox are "close" to a deal with free-agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Mass Live's Chris Cotillo reported Tuesday morning.

Lucroy is expected to back up starter Christian Vazquez and reserve Kevin Plawecki and could sign a minor-league deal with Boston, per Cotillo.

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The 33-year-old comes with an impressive pedigree: He's a two-time All-Star with 10 major league seasons under his belt who boasts a .274 career batting average. He tallied 24 home runs and 81 RBIs during an impressive 2016 campaign and represented the United States at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

He spent his first six-plus seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and played five years under Ron Roenicke, who was just named Boston's interim manager.

Lucroy has bounced between five teams over the last four seasons, however. He split time between the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs in 2019 and hit .232 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs over 101 games.

The veteran catcher still would be a decent signing as a backup, joining Kevin Pillar as Chaim Bloom's latest depth add in the wake of last week's Mookie Betts/David Price blockbuster.

That deal also netted Los Angeles Dodgers catcher prospect Connor Wong, who likely will begin the year in Double-A Portland.

MLB Rumors: Brock Holt agrees to deal with Brewers

MLB Rumors: Brock Holt agrees to deal with Brewers

Another beloved member of the Boston Red Sox will be playing for a new team in 2020.

The Milwaukee Brewers and utilityman Brock Holt agreed to a deal on Monday, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

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Holt spent seven of his eight MLB seasons (2013-19) in Boston, earning two World Series rings over that time. An All-Star in 2015, Holt hit .270 with 23 home runs and 203 RBI during his Red Sox career while playing every position other than pitcher and catcher.

But it wasn't all about what Holt contributed on the field. Above all else, it'll be the 31-year-old's clubhouse presence that will be missed. NBC Sports Boston's own John Tomase recently summarized the immense impact Holt has had on the organization and the city of Boston.

Holt joins a Brewers team that finished 89-73 in 2019 before falling to the World Series champion Washington Nationals in the National League wild-card game.