John Farrell Hasn’t Been Perfect In-Game Manager, But Red Sox Skipper Still Deserves Ton of Credit for Turnaround


John FarrellThe Red Sox had an interesting week. It was also a productive week.

When the Red Sox boarded their flight to San Francisco last Monday, they did so on the heels of a crushing loss to the Yankees. Boston, of course, fell to New York on the national stage in an eventful game that saw Ryan Dempster drill Alex Rodriguez and A-Rod subsequently hit a home run against the veteran right-hander.

This Monday, the Red Sox returned home to Boston after going 4-2 out west. First, the Sox took two of three from the Giants. Then, they put together some fantastic starting pitching and cooled off the red-hot Dodgers. The trip was capped by a complete-game gem from Jake Peavy.

Throughout it all, the questions kept rolling in to the mailbag. So let’s not waste any more time. (Insert drum roll.)

Why does John Farrell keep having Dustin Pedroia bat third? It doesn’t make any sense to me. He would be my No. 2 hitter. Why not move Shane Victorino down to the five spot in the lineup, and move Pedroia back to the two spot where he’s most comfortable?
–Alex, Nashua, N.H.

John Farrell was actually asked during last weekend’s Yankees series at Fenway Park about Dustin Pedroia batting third. Here is the response he offered:

“When our top three guys are getting on base, we’ve got so much more ability to be active on the base paths. When [Shane] Victorino is doing what he’s capable of in the two hole, I think it just gives us the ability to have our on-base guys at the top of the order. There’s an argument to be made where [Daniel] Nava could be in one of those top two or three slots as well, but I think there’s a lot of value in being consistent every day when guys walk in and they know where they’re going to be at in the lineup.”

Farrell answered the question in conjunction with other questions about Pedroia, who had exited one of the three games versus New York after fouling a ball off his shin. Some of the discussion touched on Pedroia’s drop in power this season despite his overall solid year.

I agree that Pedroia is a very unconventional No. 3 hitter. But I also find it hard to argue with Farrell’s reasoning for plugging him into that spot in the lineup, and it’s nearly impossible to argue with the overall results. The Red Sox, after all, have featured one of the most effective — even if not exactly explosive — offenses in all of baseball this season.

Victorino has been a very solid pickup, and I like what he has given the Red Sox out of the two hole when healthy. Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury can be menacing for opposing pitchers when it comes to applying pressure on the bases, and therefore, Victorino holds more value hitting second than he would hitting fifth. Ideally, you want someone with more right-handed power hitting in the No. 5 spot behind David Ortiz, which is part of the reason why Mike Napoli had as long a leash as he did.

After this season, the Red Sox might consider switching things up. Ellsbury may not return, and Xander Bogaerts figures to someday emerge as a middle-of-the-order presence. But for now, don’t expect much to change at the top of the Red Sox’ order. If it does, it’d be because of injuries, in which case Boston would have bigger issues.

Can you tell me if Cody Ross and David Ross are related? They look alike.
–Renie A., Tampa, FL

Cody Ross and David Ross are not related. I agree with you, though. They do kind of look alike. It’s not a Jake Peavy-Jeremy Renner resemblance, but there’s a resemblance.

Why has Daniel Nava seen less playing time in the second half? I believe he has earned the right to be in the lineup every day.
— Mark Huestis

You definitely don’t need to be a Red Sox fan to appreciate Daniel Nava and his emergence this season. His story is one of the coolest in baseball, and he’s such an easy guy to root for.

When it comes to Nava’s second-half playing time, the dip has been a combination of matchups and Farrell wanting to get the 30-year-old off his feet from time to time. We haven’t seen much regression from Nava — except for in the power department — but we must keep in mind that he’s currently in uncharted waters. Nava’s previous career highs for games and plate appearances were 88 and 317, respectively, in 2012. He’s now up to 109 games and 430 plate appearances, and Farrell recently noted that some fatigue was starting to settle in.

“This is clearly the highest number of at-bats he’s had at the big league level,” Farrell said before the Red Sox’ Aug. 18 game against the Yankees. “We gave him a few days to kind of regroup physically. There might have been some fatigue setting in with him where he hasn’t been accustomed to this number of at-bats. It’s all getting a read on how they’re reacting, the at-bats you see and just giving guys a spell when they need it.”

Nava has reached base safely in 33 straight starts dating back to June 22, which represents the longest active on-base streak in the majors as a starter and the longest single-season Red Sox streak since Pedroia reached safely in 37 consecutive starts in 2011. Clearly, he’s helping the Red Sox win games, even if he hasn’t homered since June 18. The Sox need his versatility down the stretch, though, so it has made sense to get him some rest when possible, especially with Jonny Gomes playing at a high level as well.

Nava also missed a few games while on the paternity leave list.

Why didn’t the umpire throw out Ryan Dempster for hitting A-Rod on purpose?
–Alice Flanders, Otisfield, ME

Reasonable question to ask. He should have.

Why wasn’t John Farrell fined or penalized for the Dempster-A-Rod incident? In his role, he has an overall responsibility for his team’s performance and his players’ actions. Dempster lost control of the game after hitting A-Rod. What good came from intentionally hitting A-Rod? It was all bad for the Sox, no matter how you look at it. Farrell should be called out!
–Ger, Avon, CT

You’re absolutely right that nothing good came from hitting Alex Rodriguez. But you’re wrong that Farrell should have been disciplined.

There’s no way of telling who really knew that Dempster was going to plunk A-Rod as part of some sort of vigilante justice. In fact, Dempster himself hasn’t admitted to doing such. Therefore, there isn’t much basis for penalizing the manager in that situation.

I think John Farrell is a better out-of-game manager than in-game manager. He’s surprisingly poor with pitchers. I give him C+. What do you think?
–Fred, New Haven

I think you’re a tough grader.

However, I do agree with your overall sentiment. Farrell’s strongest asset as a manager this season has been his handling of the clubhouse, not necessarily his in-game tactics.

Farrell has made a few head-scratching decisions this season — pinch-running Nava against the Rays, sitting Ellsbury in a big game against Tampa, sitting Ortiz after back-to-back four-hit performances and bringing in Brayan Villarreal rather than Koji Uehara last week in San Francisco, to name a few. But he has done a tremendous job of helping to change the clubhouse culture, which was essentially his biggest task upon being hired.

The term “resilient” has been associated with the Red Sox all season, and I think Farrell deserves quite a bit of credit for that. This team has an uncanny ability to not get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. They’ve really been on an even keel since Day 1, and it’s a reflection of Farrell’s managerial work.

The 2013 Red Sox are an exciting bunch with a ton of personality. But they’re also a focused club capable of turning the page when things don’t go according to plan. You’ve got to tip your cap to Farrell, even if certain decisions have been questionable.

I’d lean more toward the B+ range, although this is a progress report and not a final report card.

Do you like beer and fried chicken?
— Dennis Spitoleri

Yes. Video games, too.

I haven’t heard anything lately about Daniel Bard. What is his status, and do you believe that the organization will give up on him?
–Richard Crain, Suffolk, VA

Daniel Bard just pitched in a game for the first time since May 15. He tossed a scoreless inning in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Bard said recently that he was hopeful that he could contribute to the Red Sox this season. That seems very unlikely, but the organization doesn’t appear ready to give up on him just yet.

Are the Red Sox going to do anything to make the bullpen stronger? Go Red Sox!
— Elizabeth Hyatt Still

It seems like we’ve barely seen the bullpen of late. The unit only needed to record five outs during the Red Sox’ series against the Dodgers, as Boston’s starting pitching was tremendous.

I really don’t expect to see any shake-ups before September call-ups, although Boston does have an interesting bullpen dynamic. The Red Sox currently have four left-handers and three right-handers in the ‘pen after activating southpaw Matt Thornton before Sunday’s game.

When rosters do expand, we’ll probably see some combination of Pedro Beato, Jose De La Torre, Steven Wright and Villarreal. All have spent time in the majors this season, and all are currently on Boston’s 40-man roster.

One more interesting name is Ryan Rowland-Smith, who has put together an excellent season for Pawtucket. Rowland-Smith hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2010, when he fell apart at the seams for the Mariners, but he is 7-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 51 2/3 innings over 36 relief appearances with the PawSox this season. One hurdle, however, is that the lefty — yes, another one — isn’t on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, so calling him up would require a corresponding roster move.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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