Joe Kelly Makes Solid Red Sox Debut, Red Sox Defeat Cardinals 2-1

There was much anticipation before Joe Kelly’s debut with the Red Sox in St. Louis, in that he was facing both his former team and one of his best friends. St. Louis’s starter, Shelby Miller, was Kelly’s best man at his wedding and the two are reportedly very close, adding an interesting wrinkle to the second of three contests between last October’s World Series opponents. Kelly also received several standing ovations from the grateful crowd at Busch Stadium. Brandon Workman will oppose Adam Wainwright in St. Louis tonight to decide the winner of the three game series. Some more notes from last night’s 2-1 Red Sox win:

  • Joe Kelly made a solid start against his former team. Kelly’s final line on the night came out to 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 2 K, while throwing 53 of 97 pitches for strikes. Kelly seemed to struggle with his command early on, as evidenced by the four walks, but he seemed to settle in as the game went on. Those command issues could certainly be reasonably explained by some jitters against facing his old team in their ballpark for the first time. The two strikeouts were also a bit low, especially since Kelly shows plus stuff most times, but he is not a pitcher that lives and dies with the strikeout. Kelly has a career K/9 mark of just 5.97, but his career 52.2% groundball rate (56.6% this season) suggests that he can still be effective without missing many bats, as evidenced by his start last night.
  • Xander Bogaerts had himself a pretty good night on both sides of the ball. Bogaerts made a nice diving play to help get Kelly out of a first-and-third jam and end the second inning, showing much greater comfort and skill at shortstop than he had at third base. Since the trade of Stephen Drew to the Yankees, Bogaerts has been much better defensively, which in turn has seemed to give him a much-needed confidence boost. Bogaerts also drove in both of the Red Sox’ runs in the game; the first on a two-out double to score Daniel Nava in the fourth inning, then he lifted a sacrifice fly to score Yoenis Cespedes and give the Red Sox the lead in the top of the ninth. A surge by Bogaerts would be a huge boost to the Red Sox lineup, as well as set him up for a breakout season in 2015.
  • Even though he wasn’t in the starting lineup, David Ortiz still left his mark on the game when he pinch-hit for Nava with runners at second and third and no outs in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals elected to intentionally walk Ortiz (who was promptly pinch-run for by Jackie Bradley Jr.) and pitch to Bogaerts instead. Looks like they learned their lesson last October about pitching to David Ortiz with runners in scoring position.
  • The Red Sox bullpen was excellent in support of Kelly’s strong start. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combined for two shutout innings in relief, with Uehara recording his 23rd save in the process.

Jose Fernandez Bests Yasiel Puig for NL Rookie of the Year

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was the overwhelming choice for the NL Rookie of the Year award on Monday. The 21-year-old right-hander received 26 first-place votes from the BBWAA to become the fourth Marlins player in history to win the award. His 142 point total was well ahead of second-place Yasiel Puig. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller finished a distant third with 12 points.

It was pretty much a given that the award was basically between Fernandez and Puig and it all depended on what the voters valued more. Would they go for the amazing offensive numbers that Puig put up once he was called up by the Dodgers in early June? Or would they reward the Cy Young-type stats that Fernandez compiled for a terrible Marlins team? In the end, pitching trumped offense, as Fernandez’s performance this season was able to win out over Puigmania.

Fernandez was the 14th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He defected from Cuba in 2008 at the age of 16 and then attended high school in Tampa. While he began the season at the #5 prospect in baseball per Baseball America, the Marlins plan was to initially have Fernandez start the year in AA and perhaps get called up towards the end of the year. However, injuries depleted the starting rotation before spring training was done. Therefore, despite never pitching above Single-A, Fernandez made the Opening Day roster and jumped right to the big leagues.

For the season, Fernandez was nothing short of awesome. In 28 starts, Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 0.979 WHiP, while posting 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings. The Marlins decided to shut Fernandez down in September so he wouldn’t get overused. He made the All-Star team, finished 2nd in the league in ERA, 2nd in strikeouts per nine innings and 3rd in WHiP.

Puig, like Fernandez, is also a Cuban defector. After making his way to the States in 2012, he signed a 7-year/$42 million contract with the Dodgers. He started this season in AA Chattanooga and was called up to the majors in early June. The Dodgers were struggling at the time of the call-up and then heated up. Much of the credit for L.A.’s surge was given to Puig, who was tearing the cover off of the ball in his first few weeks up. While he did cool off a bit, he still had a wonderful season. Overall, he hit .319/.391/.534 with 19 HRs, 42 RBI and 11 SBs in 104 games.

Of course, Puig didn’t quietly go about his business this season, and that appeared to rub a lot of baseball writers and sports radio hosts the wrong way. His perceived arrogance and lack of fundamentals led to a lot of media types going on about playing the game the ‘right way’ and that he needed to be taught a lesson. One has to wonder if the negative media coverage of Puig might have helped Fernandez win the award by as wide a margin he did. While, no doubt, Fernandez deserved to win the award, Puig’s offensive numbers were pretty darn good. It just seems to me that the vote should have been a little closer, if not a lot.