Beard vs. No Beard – How the Boston Red Sox began winning after their skipper’s fortunate shave

It was a noticeable change when Alex Cora wore a salt-and pepper beard to the 2022 MLB season. Boston Red Sox Manager had maintained a clean, shaven appearance. However, the change lasted just a month. On May 10, the Red Sox were last behind the rebuilding. Baltimore Orioles Cora was frustrated with the team's record of 10-19. He felt he had to make a change to improve the team's vibe.

Cora stated, “I'll tell ya what: If we win ten in a row it's on us, because I should've recognized that before.”

The Red Sox ended a five-game losing streak by winning the game after the shaving. Atlanta BravesBoston hasn’t looked back since. With a beardless skipper, the team is now 10-4 and has passed the Orioles in American League East standings. This has closed the gap between them and the New York YankeesThe Tampa Bay Rays And the Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox won six consecutive games before Wednesday's defeat.

We identified the four main stat lines that helped Boston turn around their season since Cora took out a razor. We then predicted whether similar performances could be expected in the future.

Trevor's turnaround

Before May 10, .194 batting average, 0.545 OPS, with no home runs

Since: .300 batting percentage, 1.173 OPS and eight home runs

Is it real? It is true.

Nearly two months into 2022's season, Trevor Story He finally felt like he could take deep breaths.

Story stated, “It's definitely one of the most crazy times in my life.”

Let go of the pressure that comes with signing a six year, $140million contract with the Red Sox. Story and Mallie welcomed Stetson seven weeks ago. Story is still learning how to be a father, adapting to a new place, new ballparks, new teammates, and exceedingly high expectations.

In the first weeks of the season, teammates noticed that Story was quiet. Red Sox infielder, Alex Rodriguez, admitted that he's not quick to come out of his shell.

Story stated, “It takes me some time to adjust to new surroundings and being around new people.”

Story isn't content to just walk around Fenway Park, however. Story was welcomed by the third baseman with a hug on Sunday Rafael Devers Devers danced to Latin music over the speakers as he spoke. Story is now more open with his teammates and is smiling more often. His locker is also a shrine to his sneaker collection.

Story has been breaking free from his shell as he also broke out of the early-season slump. Story's six-homer week, which included a three-homer game the next night and a grand Slam the next day, won him his first major league title. American League Player of the Week honorsIt has been a catalyst for Boston's recent success.

Story has looked a lot more like he did in the past with the Colorado Rockies Chaim Bloom was an All-Star batsman who convinced Boston's chief of baseball officers to grant him his first major free agent contract. The Red Sox's management was confident that Story would make a comeback, even though he had a rough start to the campaign. Even though his slash didn't reflect this, Story's exit velocity was consistent with his time in Colorado.

Story has had the opportunity to see both sides of Fenway Park's fan experience in just two months. Story heard the boos of Red Sox fans May 5, when he struckout four times in an 8-1 loss to the Red Sox. Los Angeles Angels The crowd praised him for hitting three homers on May 19, and they were adulated by him.

Story stated that you can see the passion and the environment coming in. However, it doesn't make it enjoyable when you're in a slump. It's wonderful to have that positive feeling and keep the momentum going. It's all about winning. You don't just hear about it, the experience is something completely different. Both the good and bad. They are both intense.”

While Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez While Devers and Devers were consistent in the first half of the season, the Red Sox needed Story to lead their offense, particularly given the struggles of other hitters. Enrique Hernandez, Bobby Dalbec, Alex Verdugo Jackie Bradley Jr.

This brings us to…

As a group, the offense has been significantly better

Before May 10, 95 runs (28th in MLB), 16 home runs (28th), .621 OPS (26th)

Since: 95 runs (second), 23 home runs (third), .894 OPS (first)

Is it real? It is real, but it has an asterisk.

Three of the worst 25 hitters in baseball have at least 120 plate appearances. They are Dalbec (41 WRC+), Verdugo (59) and Hernandez (69).

Boston had high hopes for Dalbec (26), to make a comeback and be an everyday first baseman. This was based on his second-half performance last season, which saw him hit.269/.344/.611 along with 15 home runs. Dalbec, who was.219/.264/.409 and had 10 homers during the first half 2021, has been even worse this season. He is currently batting.159/.248/.234 in 40 games.

He was a revelation in the playoffs last year after a very successful first season in Boston. However, he has not looked the same in 2022. While he's swinging at a faster rate, he's struggled against fastball. He hit.282 against them 2021 and has fallen to.216 in 2022. His popup percentage has increased from 8.9% to 22.7% while solid contact has fallen from 9.1% to 3.9%. He is in the sixth percentile for hard-hit percentage of all baseball hitters.

Verdugo's season started hot with three homers in the first eight games. However, he hasn't hit a home run since. With a hard-hitting percentage of 41.2, Verdugo continues to hit the ball well. This ranks him behind only Devers and Martinez, Bogaerts, and Bogaerts, among Red Sox players who have at least 100 plate appearances. His launch angle is among the worst in baseball, ranking among the top 20 among qualified players for the batting title. This has contributed to his terrible batting average on balls-in-play (BABIP) which dropped from.327 to.219 by 2021.

Still, Boston's offense is flourishing since Story broke out of his season-starting slump. This has lessened the pressure on the rest, including Bogaerts and Martinez, who all bat well above.300; Martinez's.372 ranks second in major leagues.

Even Franchy CorderoSince being called up from Triple-A, he has had some at-bats with Dalbec, including a 10-inning walk-off grand-slam against him. Seattle Mariners Sunday

Cora stated that Cordero made changes to his approach after a difficult season last year, when he often rode the bus between Triple A and the major leagues. Cora claimed Cordero has changed too much his approach to making contact, in an effort to address public criticisms about his strikeouts. Cordero lost power on his swings as a result.

Cora said, “He is more confident now.” He was trying to make an adjustment and it backfired against him. He has power in his best swings and they were not a part his game last year.”

While the core is capable of carrying the lineup, Story's struggles at beginning the season are a warning to the Red Sox that if Bogaerts (Devers), Martinez (and Story) don't click — and the others start to — the Red Sox may be in trouble when they face off against the rest the very strong division.

Pivetta was lit up

Before May 10, 0-4, 6.08 ERA..356 BABIIP

Since: 3-0, 2.05 ERA..140 BABIP

Is it real? It is somewhere in the middle.

After joining the Red Sox in 2020, a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, Nick Pivetta His brilliance has been mixed with mediocrity, and he's had flashes of brilliance. His most recent flash was a complete-game, two-hit win over the AL West-leading. Houston Astros April 18.

Boston's front offices hoped that the right-hander would carry the team's roster even before ace. Chris Sale He suffered a rib injury during spring training. Pivetta's performance in spring training has been better than usual. However, many peripheral statistics about his season — such as his exit velocity for hits and hard-hit percentage, his walk and strikeout rates, suggest that he is a league-average pitcher.

His 2022 overall numbers (4.25 ERA, 1.51 WHIP) are a notch higher than his career averages (5.09 ERA & 1.375 WHIP). His FIP is 3.89, which is better than his career record of 4.46. So perhaps there's something else in the 29 year-old.

The pen is even more powerful!

Before May 10, 4.19 ERA (23rd MLB), 2.28 WHIP (222nd), and.230 opponent batting averaging (22nd).

Since: 2.83 ERA (4th), 0.89 WHIP (2nd),.179 opponent batting averaging (first).

Is it real? It's a mirage but it won’t be as bad in April.

If you don't hit, it's better to pitch. Boston's slow start was made worse by a weak bullpen.

2021 relief ace by the Red Sox Garrett Whitlock He was promoted to the rotation and has posted a 3.15 ERA with a 1.100 WHIP in five games. The terrible run of a former All-Star reliever has led to his departure. Matt Barnes. Barnes's ERA has been 7.11 in 15 games. His strikeout rate has dropped from 37.8 and is now 17.2. His fastball velocity has dropped nearly 4 mph, from 95.8 mph in 2021 to 92.1 mph in 2022. He is also facing a lot of opposition who are hitting.385 against Barnes. Before May 10, Barnes posted a 7.84 ERA in 10⅓ innings across 12 games.

Tanner Houck He has been the Boston bullpen's Swiss Army knife, but has not been able to recreate his 2021 success. Houck is walking batters faster than 2021 and batters are hitting the ball harder from the righty at 25 years old. His average exit velocity is 91.2 mph, an increase of 87.2 mph in 2021. Houck had a 9.00 ERA before May 10.

Though a small sample size, Houck and Barnes have both pitched better since May 10; Houck has posted a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings over three appearances, while Barnes has a 2.08 ERA in 4⅓ innings across five appearances. They have also been complemented by Jake Diekman He has a 2.35 ERA across 19 appearances this season John Schreiber, who has not allowed a run in 10⅓ innings over 10 appearances.

The bullpen is the Red Sox's greatest weakness, according to the Red Sox's management. Despite the team's recent run, Boston still has 8 saves to 10 blown saves. And, even though their win probability is up, it's only 20th in MLB.

While the bullpen is under less pressure after the team's offensive revival over the last few weeks, Sunday was a clear day. Hansel Robles Before Cordero's walkoff grand slam saved them, he made a mistake against the Mariners.

The Red Sox could have a bullpen that is competent enough to keep them winning. However, this is a far more likely scenario than for the offense or starting rotation.

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