Firing John Farrell was obviously a change in direction for the Red Sox. Of course Farrell won a World Series and back to back division titles in his five-year tenure as the Sox manager, but he made questionable decisions and was a very dull personality in the clubhouse.
When the Red Sox hired Cora, I, like many others, was extremely excited to see what changes he’d bring. I was really looking forward to seeing how the 2018 season would start and the decisions Cora would make.
2018 has obviously gotten off to a great start, but let’s examine how Cora has done in managing all aspects of the game:
There’s not much that Cora can do in terms of situational starting pitching. He basically constructs the rotation, and it’s up to the rotation to how they pitch. This is the harder phase of the game to determine how well a manager is doing.
One thing that Cora has done very well with his starting pitching is workload. We saw in the playoffs last year how gassed Chris Sale was by the time the season ended. Even Sale himself admitted that he burnt out by time the playoffs rolled around.
In 2018 Cora has done a great job of lowering the total amount of pitches that the starters throw during their outing. An extra 10-15 pitches doesn’t seem like much now, but it will pay dividends later in the season.
The lineup is definitely an area that I think Cora could improve upon. I think the 1-2 punch of Betts and Benintendi is a perfect fit. I’m glad that he stuck with the idea of Betts in the lead-off role.
As far as other parts of the lineup, I think there are some improvements to be made. The DFA of Hanley Ramirez came as a surprise to many, including myself. That being said, I am not going to be talking about the first base situation, because Mitch Moreland is without a doubt our everyday first basemen going forward.
One thing that I want Cora to shy away from is using Eduardo Nunez often. I understand that we signed him to a contract this off-season, but I really don’t like watching him play. In his time with the Red Sox last year, he was absolutely fantastic. But he just doesn’t seem to have it this year. This will be easier because Pedroia is back in the lineup, which is another point. If Cora does have to rest Pedroia, I would prefer to see Brock Holt over Nunez, as Holt has had a terrific start to the season.
The catching situation is another interesting story for the Red Sox this summer. So far Cora has used a platoon of Christian Vasquez and Sandy Leon. It makes sense because certain pitchers in the rotation like throwing to certain catchers. I’d rather see a platoon of Leon and Swihart. Vazquez is sometimes good, but I have not been impressed by him on either side of the ball. If I was Cora, I would use Leon as the everyday catcher, with some Blake Swihart starts two or three times a week.
Overall, Cora has done a decent job with the lineup, all things considered.
One of the most challenging parts of being a manager is dealing with the bullpen. This is an area that Cora has been very good with, but also questionable at times.
Something to consider when assessing how Alex Cora has managed this injured bullpen. Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, and Brandon Workman have yet to throw a pitch in 2018 for the Red Sox.
One thing that Cora has done poorly with is giving certain guys the ball when he shouldn’t. He has repeatedly given the ball to someone like Heath Hembree or Brian Johnson when a starter comes out and men on base. Then things get ugly quickly.
Another mismanagement by Cora is not utilizing the long relievers like Hector Velazquez. There were two straight games in Toronto when there was a perfect opportunity for Velazquez to come in, but Cora gave the ball to Brian Johnson instead.
One thing Cora has done very well with the bullpen is not being afraid to use Craig Kimbrel when he needs to. He has put Kimbrel in the eighth inning a few times to face the heart of the order, which is a great move.
Another favorable move by Cora is to put faith in Joe Kelly in high leverage situations. Joe Kelly has posted an 0.37 ERA since Opening Day, and I love the fact that Cora has been riding him into the ninth night in and night out.
Overall, considering the injuries the Red Sox have faced, I think Alex Cora has done a tremendous job. He has some areas to improve upon, but you can’t be mad at someone who is managing the best team in baseball.