Red Sox Take Two Of Three From MLB's Measuring Stick, The Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox

I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year. They’re also the favorites to win the World Series again this year.

That’s what a measuring stick is. It’s not April records. Last night, when I called the Cubs the measuring stick in the MLB, you wouldn’t believe how many whiny fans claimed that it was the Orioles and the Yankees because of their April records. Are they both good teams? Yup. Are they going to finish the season with records above .500? Probably. Shit, they might even both claim a postseason spot this year. But are they anywhere close to being in the same talent bracket as the Chicago Cubs? Ummmm no. No, they’re not.

Here’s the main thing that I’ve taken out of that Cubs series in which the Red Sox took two out of three from the defending champs — Boston saw two of Chicago’s top three starting pitchers in Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs saw zero of Boston’s. Now, that’s a big picture assessment, not a “what have you done for me lately?” assessment, because in fairness, Eduardo Rodriguez has been the Red Sox second best starting pitcher through the first month of the season. On paper, you had Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello as your three-headed monster, but Price hasn’t pitched a game yet, and Porcello is still trying to deflate his ERA after it ballooned to seven and a half after allowing eight earned runs to the Rays last month.

Back to Rodriguez for a second. You know what bugs me? When fans say that Rodriguez is doomed to become the next Clay Buchholz, a pitcher with all the talent and ability in the world who just can’t quite figure it out at the major league level, while also having an inability to stay healthy. I get it, though. He’s certainly had his fair share of injuries and other issues that have kept him from performing at a high level in the big leagues, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that he’s only 24 years old with plenty of time to come into his own. With three starting pitchers penciled in ahead of him to start the year and with the spotlight off of him, could this be his breakout year? It feels like it could be.

After Rodriguez’s start last night in which he punched out nine Cubs, the Red Sox now have three pitchers in the top five in the American League in strikeouts per nine innings — 2. Sale (12.42), 3. Rodriguez (11.96), and 5. Drew Pomeranz (11.22). Also, take from this what you will, as there’s obviously a decent-sized gap between Rodriguez’s 2.70 ERA and Pomeranz’s 4.15 ERA, but I’m looking at Rodriguez’s WHIP (1.24) and Pomeranz’s WHIP (1.25), and those K/9 marks. Glass half full or glass half empty? Has Rodriguez actually been worse than we think, or has Pomeranz actually been better than we think? Hm.

As you know, a 162-game season is all about storylines. You’ve got your season-long storylines and the storylines of the month, week, series, day, etc. The storyline of the past week has been that the Red Sox offense has stunk. The Red Sox storyline of the past month is that they can’t hit for power. Now, just because Hanley Ramirez popped two homers at a combined distance of six million feet over the weekend does not mean that these two problems are magically solved. I need to see the offense perform consistently for more than, I don’t know, one fucking weekend before I think everything’s all good.

However, it’s great to see Hanley hitting for power this early, because this is a guy that you actually expect to see power hitting from. Andrew Benintendi should not be leading the team in home runs on May 1. Yes, he’s one of the best hitters on the team and he’s got some pop, but he’s not a home run guy. If Benintendi is leading the team in homers in May 1, all that says to me is that the guys whose job it is to hit for power are doing a dog shit job of hitting for power.

I mentioned this in a blog last week, and it’s easy to forget since he ended up with 30 homers in 2016, but Hanley didn’t get it going with the power until late June last year. He only had five home runs as late as June 21. Over the weekend, Hanley hit his second and his third home runs of the season, both of which were absolute BOMBS. The Red Sox needed somebody to step up, especially with the Cubs in town, and Hanley was that guy. Again, it was nice to see a couple wins against a great team, but I’m not saying the offensive woes are gone for good because of two games over one weekend.

Final score: Red Sox 6, Cubs 2