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Boston Red Sox Series Preview: The return of Hosmer comes early

The Red Sox are sort of in no-man’s land, which kind of makes them the perfect spot for a guy like Hosmer and now he’s coming back to KC a few weeks ahead of schedule.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Things are a little different in the American League East. The Boston Red Sox would be fighting for the AL Central lead but instead are at the bottom of their division. They got there partially from the bottom completely falling out on them for a while. In the last two games before the break and the first game after the break, they were outscored 55-8. Yes, that’s over three games. But they appear to be playing slightly better baseball, if only for a few games with some wins in Houston against an excellent Astros team, even with a loss yesterday. The question leading into the deadline on Tuesday was if the Red Sox would buy, sell, or sort of move in place. They chose the latter option. They did trade Christian Vazquez and Jake Diekman, but then they also acquired Tommy Pham and old friend Eric Hosmer.

The weird thing about their moves is that the offense isn’t the problem. Yes, it can be inconsistent at times, but with Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez in the middle, they score enough runs, though they are missing Trevor Story and now Rob Refsnyder as well. Their pitching has been the problem. If you’re not going to sell, you should be out getting pitching. Their best starter all year has been Michael Wacha and he’s on the shelf with a shoulder issue. Chris Sale was in his second start of the year when he was hit with a ball and is out again. Their bullpen has upside and can be very good on any given day, but they can also be very bad on any given day as well. It just feels like they’re stuck in the middle and their deadline decisions indicated they were happy to stay there.

Royals vs. Red Sox Matchup Stats

Category Royals Red Sox
Category Royals Red Sox
Winning % .390 .500
Team wRC+ 93 99
Team xFIP 4.51 4.06
Run Differential -132 -20
Highest fWAR Bobby Witt Jr., 2.0 Rafael Devers, 4.6

Red Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jarren Duran CF 161 .232 .280 .384 5.6% 29.2% 82 0.1
Tommy Pham LF 395 .239 .319 .374 10.6% 25.8% 91 0.7
Rafael Devers 3B 388 .322 .376 .605 6.4% 18.8% 170 4.6
Xander Bogaerts SS 424 .312 .387 .460 9.7% 20.8% 138 4.3
J.D. Martinez DH 389 .284 .350 .454 8.2% 23.7% 124 1.1
Alex Verdugo RF 414 .264 .304 .368 5.3% 11.1% 85 0.5
Eric Hosmer 1B 369 .272 .336 .391 8.9% 14.9% 107 0.4
Christian Arroyo 2B 146 .248 .303 .391 5.5% 13.7% 93 -0.4
Kevin Plawecki C 115 .170 .263 .240 9.6% 19.1% 44 -0.5

Red Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Reese McGuire C 169 .234 .268 .292 3.6% 19.5% 59 0.4
Bobby Dalbec 1B/3B 296 .205 .280 .360 8.8% 32.1% 78 -0.2
Yolmer Sanchez INF 40 .059 .179 .059 12.5% 30.0% -27 -0.4
Jaylin Davis OF 18 .375 .444 .438 11.1% 44.4% 155 0.1

Red Sox Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Tanner Houck 32 60.0 5 4 22.7% 8.9% 3.15 3.69 0.8
Garrett Whitlock 19 58.2 2 1 25.6% 5.1% 3.07 3.30 1.3
John Schreiber 39 40.2 3 1 30.5% 6.0% 1.55 2.69 1.1

Royals vs. Red Sox Projected Pitching Matchups

August 4 - RHP Nick Pivetta vs. LHP Kris Bubic, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Nick Pivetta 21 118.2 8 8 22.6% 8.7% 4.47 4.25 1.5
Kris Bubic 17 74.1 2 6 18.2% 11.6% 5.45 4.70 -0.1

Nick Pivetta is a veteran now, but I can remember way back when he was a young pitcher with the Phillies and so many people were convinced he’d tap into the stuff and become a very good starting pitcher. He’s stayed pretty average, which certainly has value. He certainly has the ability to get the strikeout, which he tapped into incredibly well last season, but the strikeouts have fallen off a bit this year to a much more average level. He’s useful. Sometimes he’s good. Part of the reason for the drop in strikeouts is that his velocity is down 1.5 MPH from last season on his fastball. That pitch has actually been a bit more effective with less velocity, but whatever likely mechanical issue is causing that drop is impacting his other pitches, I think. His curve, which was dominant for him last year is getting hit pretty hard. The shape isn’t that different, but he is getting a bit more extension which can change the look to a hitter. He’s getting a good amount fewer whiffs on it than last year and that’s sort of his bread and butter strikeout weapon against lefties. He’ll use the slider against them, but not as much. That’s led lefties to having an OPS about 80 points higher against him than righties.

Career vs. KC: 2 GS, 9.1 IP, 0-1, 8.68 ERA

Since coming back from Omaha, Kris Bubic has a 3.84 ERA in 11 starts spanning 61 innings. He’s gone 20 innings in his last three starts as well, so he’s starting to give the Royals some length. And while he’s not getting a ton of strikeouts, he does have 14 with just five walks in those last three games. He’s been good over reasonably long stretches before, so I wouldn’t say that the lefty has figured everything out or anything, but it does feel like he’s back on track to be a part of a rotation at the back end. I still think he needs to get back to that slider that he talked about in spring training because righties are hitting .248/.318/.389 against him, but lefties are torching him with a .375/.488/.688 line. He needs something to get those same-siders out whether it’s a slider or something else.

Career vs. BOS: 2 G, 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 1-1, 9.45 ERA

August 5 - RHP Josh Winckowski vs. RHP Zack Greinke, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Josh Winckowski 9 45.0 4 5 14.1% 8.1% 5.00 4.59 0.0
Zack Greinke 17 87.2 3 6 13.4% 4.8% 4.41 4.56 0.8

Josh Winckowski was a 15th round pick of the Blue Jays in 2016 and came to Boston as part of the three-team trade with the Royals that brought Andrew Benintend to Kansas City. He had been traded to the Mets a couple of weeks earlier. To be honest, his minor league numbers are pretty non-descript. He threw strikes reasonably well and limited hits reasonably well, so he limited runs reasonably well. But the Red Sox had a need and he was pitching pretty well in AAA when they needed the help, so he came up. As is often the case, his strikeouts have dropped from his minor league numbers and his walk rates have come up. He’s also allowed more hits. He has a pretty big pitch mix showing a sinker, slider, four-seamer, changeup and cutter. The issue for him is that only his slider and cutter have gotten results. One of his issues is one we’re all too familiar with in Kansas City. He simply gets too much of the plate too often. And when he doesn’t, he’s missing the zone. It’s a tough way to live. He’s also been lit up by lefties. One thing I’ll note is that he does okay the first time through the order. But after that, things get ugly, so don’t get too discouraged if the Royals don’t hit early.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

I’m sure Zack Greinke is pretty happy to be pitching back in Kauffman Stadium. He wasn’t terrible in his last start against the Yankees, but he definitely gave up a small park home run that would have been a fairly long flyout in his home park. Greinke has a 1.65 ERA compared to 7.16 on the road. That’s a fairly big difference, I’d say. He has posted a 4.91 ERA against the AL East, but all of his starts to this point against them have been on the road, so it’ll be nice to see him get the chance to face one of those offenses at home. I think his fastball has been very well located over his last couple of starts and has given up just one hit in 14 at bats. That hit was the home run, but as I mentioned, it wasn’t exactly a moonshot. Since he’s come back from the IL, he’s thrown 36 innings in seven starts with a 3.50 ERA and 25 strikeouts to eight walks ,so he’s looked good.

Career vs. BOS: 9 G, 8 GS, 46.0 IP, 2-5, 5.09 ERA

August 6 - RHP Nathan Eovaldi vs. LHP Daniel Lynch, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Nathan Eovaldi 16 87.2 5 3 23.1% 4.3% 4.11 3.36 0.7
Daniel Lynch 16 76.2 4 7 22.9% 9.4% 4.70 4.26 1.0

It feels like you couldn’t go a Nathan Eovaldi start earlier in his career without hearing how much potential he has if he just puts it all together. And he parlayed just a ridiculous postseason in 2018 after getting traded to the Red Sox into a four-year deal. He struggled some in 2019 but he’s been good since. What he’s become is a control artist with fewer than two walks per nine in each of the last three seasons including this one. He throws hard, but his velocity is down by 0.7 MPH from last year and by 1.4 MPH from just three seasons ago, so that’s a pretty big drop. He’s throwing it less this year, maybe because of that and is throwing his splitter more, which has been downright nasty. But where he’s gotten himself in trouble is with his slider. Opponents are hitting .383 with a SLG of .809. Yikes. That splitter has helped him put up reverse platoon splits. He’s also put up a 2.25 ERA on the road compared to 6.81 at home, so he’s also probably happy this game is in Kansas City.

Career vs. KC: 6 G, 4 GS, 26.0 IP, 3-1, 3.12 ERA

No news is good news and after a solid 5.1 innings in another return from the IL for Daniel Lynch, it seems like his finger is okay, so fingers crossed (though I’m not sure he should be crossing fingers). He was great against the White Sox with seven strikeouts and no walks. Yes, you’d like to see him get deeper into the game, but it was also just his first start back and I thought he was generally in control, especially after getting through a 10-pitch at bat to start the game. The Red Sox have had some serious issues with sliders from lefties, hitting .189 this year with a .255 SLG. That means the lefty should be working heavily with his best pitch to see if he can’t continue his success.

Career vs. BOS: First Appearance

August 7 - RHP Kutter Crawford vs. RHP Brad Keller, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kutter Crawford 16 53.2 3 3 25.0% 7.6% 3.86 3.86 0.9
Brad Keller 20 113.1 5 12 15.6% 8.4% 4.61 4.34 1.0

Kutter Crawford was a 16th round pick in 2017 out of Florida Gulf Coast University, which, yes, is where Chris Sale was drafted out of as well. He’s been more of a strikeout pitcher in the minors with a decent enough but not great walk rate. He debuted last year with one bad start, but has gotten much more of a chance this season. And yes, Kutter throws a cutter. And it’s pretty good actually. He throws more four-seam fastballs and that’s been hit some, but the cutter and curve are his money pitches. Keeping with the trend of splits, Crawford has handled righties exceptionally well with a .566 OPS allowed, but lefties have gotten him to the tune of an .832 OPS wth five of the six home runs he’s allowed this season. He’s been good the first two times through the order, but the third time has been rough. He’s allowed a .318/.348/.409 line the third time through, so it’s not terrible, but he can be beaten.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

Brad Keller has had a rough go of it since the break. He walked five in his first start back. He was okay in his second start with three runs allowed in six innings. But then he got rocked in Chicago, giving up eight runs on 13 hits in just 5.2 innings. To be honest, I can’t tell you why he was out there for the sixth, but now he’s 0-3 with an 8.62 ERA 15.2 innings since the break with nine strikeouts and nine walks. Maybe there’s a good reason he wasn’t traded.

Career vs. BOS: 5 G, 3 GS, 16.2 IP, 0-1, 8.10 ERA

Royals vs. Red Sox Prediction

While the Red Sox are playing better, they’re running four righty starters out there against a lineup that features a lot of key lefty bats. I think the Royals offense will do just fine against the Red Sox pitching, but I can probably say the same for the Red Sox offense against the Royals pitching. The Red Sox are better, but this just feels like a split to me.


Will the Royals spoil Eric Hosmer’s return?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Yep, they’ll sweep the Red Sox.
    (7 votes)
  • 8%
    He’ll get a win, but that’s it. Royals take three of four.
    (15 votes)
  • 50%
    Split down the middle.
    (88 votes)
  • 26%
    The Royals will get one, but only one.
    (46 votes)
  • 11%
    He’ll be laughing with every groundout to second during a Red Sox sweep.
    (20 votes)
176 votes total Vote Now