Boston Red Sox: 5 Bold Predictions for the Final Month of the Season
After months of highs and lows, the Boston Red Sox—along with everyone else—have reached the stretch run.
You've witnessed the placid hope of spring and the languid enjoyment of summer. Now, brace yourself for the angst and triumph of autumn.
This is when hopes are met or dashed, and when bold predictions sometimes come to fruition.
With that in mind, here are five outside-the-box guesses for how the Sox's final month will unfold.
We'll use stats and recent trends, but this involves plenty of guesswork. Also, keep in mind we're going for bold but not wholly implausible, so you won't find any Pablo-Sandoval-bobblehead-night prognostications.
Hanley Ramirez Will Get Hot
Overall, Hanley Ramirez is hitting .246 on the season, and he hit an even-worse .232 in August.
With veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia due to come off the disabled list and the infield becoming crowded, it's easy to imagine Ramirez losing at-bats.
Then again, the first baseman/designated hitter has gone 5-for-16 and clubbed two home runs and two doubles in his last four games.
That coincided with a move down to the No. 7 spot in the batting order. Despite a 0-for-4 Thursday against the New York Yankees, Ramirez is flashing signs of adversity-stoked life.
"The most frustrating thing about Hanley is that when you bring up his poor numbers, he gets hot," Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports noted. "Move him down in the order, he gets hot."
Don't look now, but the 33-year-old Ramirez could get scaldingly frustrating in the weeks ahead.
Rafael Devers Will Go Cold
Rafael Devers has been a godsend for the Red Sox, hitting eight home runs with 17 RBI through his first 32 games, turning a triple play, launching an opposite-field home run off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and generally injecting life into Boston's lineup.
At the same time, the kid is only 20 years old and took a scant 38 plate appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket before his call-up.
He hasn't homered since Aug. 19 and has only two extra-base hits in that span to go along with 13 strikeouts.
None of this is to say Devers isn't an incredibly talented, exciting young hitter with a glistening future.
He's showing hints of a rookie slowdown, however, and won't be the guy who posted a 1.231 OPS in July for the Sox.
Andrew Benintendi Will Surpass Aaron Judge as the AL's Top Rookie
If you use FanGraphs' WAR calculation as a guide, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is the most valuable rookie in either league with a mark of 5.6.
Bashing 37 home runs with a .578 slugging percentage will do that for you.
Judge has been in a protracted slump, though. He's hitting just .179 since the All-Star break with a .690 OPS, compared to marks of .329 and 1.139 in the first half.
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, meanwhile, is hitting .333 in August with a .979 OPS. In a three-game set against the Yanks through Aug. 11-13, he went 5-for-13 with three home runs.
Judge is the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year honors because of his Ruthian early production.
By year's end, though, Benintendi is on track to be the league's top rookie in terms of recent output and future trajectory.
"He's having a great year, and he's kind of struggling right now," the 23-year-old Benintendi said of the 25-year-old Judge, per Wallace Matthews of the New York Times. "I went through that for two months. I'm sure he'll figure it out."
Chris Sale Won't Reach 300 Strikeouts
After his most recent start Tuesday, Red Sox ace Chris Sale has notched 264 strikeouts.
Only 15 different pitchers have recorded 300 strikeouts in a single season, and the only active pitcher to do it was Clayton Kershaw in 2015.
Sale's got a shot, but it says here he won't do it.
That's no knock on 28-year-old lefty, who has been positively brilliant in his first season in Beantown. He's going to get MVP votes, and he's going to deserve them.
With 28 games remaining on the Red Sox's schedule, Sale could make six more starts. If he pitched every fifth game, his last scheduled outing would be Game 162 against the Houston Astros on Oct. 1.
That tussle could matter, assuming the best record in the AL were still in play. Or maybe the Red Sox will stumble and be battling the Yankees for the AL East crown along with various wild-card permutations.
Entering play Friday, Boston holds a 4.5-game lead over New York in the East and trails the 'Stros by 4.5 games for Junior Circuit supremacy.
In all likelihood, things will have been decided before Sale's final scheduled start and the Sox will hold him back to open their postseason slate.
That leaves him five starts to record 36 strikeouts. He's averaged 12.8 per start this season. The math checks out.
Boston could begin limiting his innings soon, though, with an eye on the playoffs. And even the best punchout artists have a turn or two where they don't miss as many bats. On Aug. 24, Sale struck out only three while yielding seven runs.
He's the AL Cy Young Award front-runner and perhaps the best pitcher in either league right now. But Boston won't push him just to reach that 300 milestone, and the guess here is he'll fall tantalizingly short.
David Price Will Contribute...out of the Bullpen
While Sale has sizzled, fellow southpaw David Price has fizzled.
The $200 million-plus man hasn't pitched since July 22 and has made just 11 starts this season while battling elbow issues.
He threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday that manager John Farrell dubbed "encouraging," per Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, but that's a far cry from contributing.
Assuming he doesn't suffer any setbacks, can Price be stretched out fast enough to return to the rotation? Or is his likeliest path back in 2017 via the bullpen?
"At this point, you can't rule that out," Farrell told WEEI's Dale, Holley & Keefe show (h/t Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com). "Like I said, it is just going to be dependent on maybe his stamina, durability, all that, how that continues to build here."
Price isn't going to supplant closer Craig Kimbrel, obviously, but he could see some high-leverage relief innings if he responds to the role.
That's a giant "if," as with all things Price. These are bold predictions, though, so we'll go with Price erasing a share of this season's bad taste with some clutch September pen work.