The Boston Red Sox won again Thursday night, completing a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels and pushing their record to 16-2 for the first time in the franchise’s 118-year history. They are the seventh team since 1908 to win at least 16 of the season’s first 18 games and the first to do it since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers. They are also the first team in the live ball era, which dates back to 1920, to start 16-2 or better under a new manager — Alex Cora, former bench coach for the Houston Astros, was wooed away from the reigning champions in October.
It’s more than just wins and losses, though; the Red Sox are dominating opponents. They have scored a major league-high 116 runs in 18 games and lead all teams in OPS (.859) and weighted on-base average (.372), which accounts for how a player reached base instead of simply considering whether a player reached base. Mookie Betts is batting .391 with six home runs, producing runs at a rate that is more than double the league average after adjusting for league and park effects (238 wRC+), making him the best hitter in baseball. This is also his best start, by far, through the first 17 games of the season since entering the big leagues in 2014.
|Mookie Betts||AVG||SLG||ISO||WOBA||Average exit velocity (mph)||Average launch angle (degrees)||Average flyball distance (feet)|
Free agent acquisition J.D. Martinez is hitting .338 with a .415 wOBA, which is lower than you would expect considering the exit velocity and launch angle of each ball put in play (.455 expected wOBA). In fact, this entire lineup is under performing a little bit based on their quality of contact: they should be hitting .301 with a .556 SLG and .387 wOBA according to their underlying metrics.
Boston’s pitching has been stellar, too. Red Sox pitchers are second in ERA (2.63) and as a group have been worth 4.1 wins above replacement, tying them with the Astros for the most-valuable collection of arms in 2018. They are also first in FIP (2.82), which adjusts an ERA to account for league average results on balls in play and league average timing.
Rick Porcello, a disaster last season, is looking more like the Cy Young Award winner he was in 2016. He is 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA, striking out 23 with just one walk in 25 2/3 innings. His fastballs, slider and change-up are all working again, with the four-seam and sinker the key to his resurgence in 2018.
Porcello threw his sinker 35 percent of the time in 2016 and less than 25 percent in 2017. This season, he’s back to using that pitch as his focal point (41 percent) and saving the four-seam fastball for when he is ahead in the count against a lefty or when he has two strikes on a right-handed batter. His change-up is also mixed in more often, and a significant weapon against left-handers who get ahead of him in the count. The results speak for themselves: Porcello is getting batters to chase more pitches and umpires to call more strikes in addition to forcing weaker contact overall.
|Rick Porcello (March and April)||Games||Batters faced||Chase rate||Called strike rate||Average Exit Velocity (mph)||Percentage of hits hit 95 mph or harder||Expected wOBA|
“He can do so many different things,” Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie said of Porcello to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald Wednesday. “He was two different pitchers tonight. He was a four-seam pitcher early in the game and then we got back to doing what he does: sinker down in the zone, cloning all your pitches in the bottom of the zone. The score allowed him to do that. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
I get it — it’s April and too soon to know for sure how good this Boston team is or isn’t. Even Martinez is hesitant to call the Red Sox the best team in the majors.
“I think it’s way too early for that,” Martinez told Alden Gonzalez of ESPN. “Come at me when it’s July, you know? That’s when you can start having those conversations.”
By that time the Red Sox should be in firm control of the AL East. FanGraphs estimates Boston has a 71 percent chance to win the division and gives them a 13 percent chance to win the World Series, second only to the defending champion Houston Astros.
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