Saturday, October 27, 2018

World Series 2018 Rosters - Dodgers Pitchers

After last night's marathon longest-ever-World-Series-game, the Dodgers have cut the Red Sox's series lead in half in the most dramatic fashion possible. Here are the pitchers that LA will use to try and pull even tonight.

In my last post, I suggested that Chris Sale might be the best lefty pitcher in the game right now, which is an assertion that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw would take issue with. Even given the injuries that have limited him to fewer than 25 stars per season over the last three years, his career-long history of excellence speaks for itself: seven consecutive All-Star nods from 2011 thru '17, three Cy Young Awards, one NL MVP, and even one Gold Glove to boot. Not to mention he's the active career leader in ERA (2.39), FIP (2.64), WHIP (1.005), win percentage (.689), shutouts (15), hits allowed per nine innings (6.7), and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.4). If there were no such thing as postseason demons, Kersh would have a practically flawless resumé - as it stands, he carries a 4.28 ERA over 23 playoff starts (and six relief appearances), which is not terrible by objective standards, but you would expect more from a future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately his pinch-hitting appearance in the 17th inning last night didn't do anything to bolster his postseason reputation, but at least he'll have another chance to pitch in Game 5.

Hyun-jin Ryu has had a rough go of it since making the jump from the Korea Baseball Organization to the majors in 2013 after seven years with the Hanwha Eagles. After a strong freshman and sophomore season, Ryu missed all of 2015 due to shoulder surgery, and then all but one game of 2016 because of an elbow injury. A groin issue limited him to just 15 starts in 2018, but they were some of the best of his MLB career, as manager Dave Roberts tabbed "Monster" as the Game 1 starter in the NLDS against the Braves, in order to take some of the pressure off Clayton Kershaw given his spotty postseason history. This tactic worked so well that Roberts did not repeat it in the NLCS or the World Series, where Kershaw took the loss in Game 1 of both serieses.

I think I remember hearing somewhere that Dodgers players have won the most Rookie of the Year awards out of any team in the majors. It's possible that 23-year-old Walker Buehler could have added to that total, if this weren't a season that saw the debuts of two of the hottest hitting young outfielders in recent memory (Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto). As it stands, the player who held the #13 ranking in Baseball America's top 100 prospect list heading into 2018 followed up his eight-game cup of coffee in 2017 with a 137.1 innings of 2.62 ERA pitching, and a fantasy points-per-game total that equalled ace Clayton Kershaw. It's hard to remember, because it seems like 1,000 hours ago, but Buehler pitched a seven-inning gem last night, even though the game didn't end until 11 innings after he came out of the game.

If you look up "journeyman" in the dictionary, you'd likely to see a picture of the smiling face of 38-year-old lefty Rich Hill. Or maybe you'd see him beating the tar out of a cooler full of candy in the Dodgers dugout. Here's the abridged version of D. Mountain's career: he came up for four seasons as a starter with the Cubs in his mid-20's, then struggled so badly in his lone season with the Orioles that the Red Sox converted him to a reliever. After pitching to a 1.14 ERA in 40 games over three seasons with Boston, the Indians took a shot on him as a lefty specialist, but were rewarded with a 6.28 ERA in his 38.2 innings over 63 games. He spent the next year managing only 5.1 innings between the Angels and the Yankees, before once again revitalizing his career with the Red Sox, this time as a starter. Although he only managed four starts in his second go-round in Boston, the 1.55 ERA he put up earned him a major league deal with the A's for next season. He only stayed in Oakland for one injury-shortened half that year however, as he was traded to the Dodgers while on the DL for blister problems. Hill re-upped with Los Angeles for three more years starting in 2017, where he has performed fairly well, both in the regular season (3.30 ERA) and in the playoffs (3.27 ERA), and will now be responsible for pulling LA even in the World Series tonight.

As with Eduardo Rodriguez in the Red Sox version of this feature, I'm putting Alex Wood here with the starters, even though he has been used exclusively in relief during the 2018 postseason. After struggling to find a role in Atlanta's pitching staff over his first two years, the Braves traded Wood to the Dodgers as part of a complicated three-team blockbuster with the Marlins that also involved Hector Olivera, Mat Latos, and Bronson Arroyo's contract, among others. AWood peaked in 2017 with a league-leading .842 winning percentage (16-3) and an All-Star berth, and is arbitration eligible for the third and final time this offseason.

You could say that what Clayton Kershaw has been for the Dodgers' starting staff, Kenley Jansen has been for their bullpen, at least over much of the same timeframe. Since taking over as the closer in 2012 (following a 25-game cup of coffee in 2010, and a 2011 season that he spent setting up for Javy Guerra) Jansen has racked up 259 saves, to go with a 2.21 ERA and a rate of 13.2 strikeout-per-nine-innings, making the All-Star team in the last three consecutive years. While Kenleyfornia had a troubling medical scare involving his heart while pitching in the rarefied air of Coors Field this year, that hasn't stopped him from continuing his dominance in the postseason, where he carried a 1.85 ERA heading into the 2018 World Series... although the home run he allowed last night ballooned that figure all the way up to 1.97.

If the Dodgers bullpen behind Jansen has been portrayed as a weakness for this club, it's due to largely unspectacular names like Pedro Baez serving as the primary setup options. That's no knock against Baez, with his career strikeout rate of nearly 10 per nine innings pitched, but he's not the type of shutdown arm that instills fear into opposing lineups when they see him warming up in the bullpen.

Well-traveled veteran Ryan Madson is the only member of this Dodgers pitching staff with a World Series ring in his career - two, in fact, as both his 2008 Phillies and 2015 Royals won championships. (Corner infielder David Freese holds that honor for the position player contingent.) The second of those two titles came after a stretch where Mad Dog was out of the majors for three years - after completing a three-year extension he signed with the Phillies, which he finished as the team's closer, Madson signed successive one-year deals with the Reds and the Angels, but didn't pitch for either club before latching on with the Royals on a minor league deal. His bounceback 2015 performance netted him a three-year deal with the A's, during the first of which he was the closer, and the second of which he was trade bait, in a deal that brought the A's their current (and far superior) closer. This year was the second in a row that Madson spent with two different teams, and he's evolved into Dave Roberts's "get out of trouble" guy during the World Series, despite the fact that he's allowed inherited runners to score both times he's been used in that role.

Normally I would put a starter-turned-reliever like Kenta Maeda in with the starting pitchers, but since his transition occurred well before the postseason started, he gets listed here with the rest of the bullpen. Maeda's embarrassingly cheap contract he signed prior to 2016 - on the heels of eight seasons pitching for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball - includes escalators based on games started, so I'm sure he and his representatives were less than thrilled when Maeken was bumped from the rotation this year. But it's hard to argue with his results compared to the performance of breakout rookie Walker Buehler, and baseball is a business after all.

Relative unknown Dylan Floro would not have made my database if I considered only his time with either the Reds or the Dodgers, but taking his combined work into account actually shows a very solid 2018 performance. Floro was actually drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, with whom he made his debut (a 12-game cup of coffee) in 2016, which he followed up with three games of long relief for the Cubs the following year, before having his first qualifying season this year. F Loro is not even arbitration eligible until 2021, so he could be a long-term piece for the Dodgers bullpen if the organization so chooses.

Scott Alexander broke onto the scene with the Royals in 2017 and was acquired by the Dodgers in the offseason, where he went through a bit of a sophomore slump. The lefty specialist had one appearance in the 2018 NLDS, before being left off the NLCS roster in favor of Julio Urias, and then subsequently being added back to the roster prior to the World Series, replacing rookie Caleb Ferguson. Scottie Boy did give up the lead in the earlier part of extra innings last night, but fortunately circumstances played out in such a way where he didn't have to take the loss.

The above-mentioned Julio Urias didn't pitch enough in 2018 to qualify for my database (minimum 40 innings pitched) due to a potentially career-threatening shoulder issue, but he returned for four shutout innings towards the end of the season, and has continued his dominance into the playoffs. With a healthy Urias joining exciting young options such as Buehler and Ferguson, this Los Angeles rotation promises to have some bright years in 2019 and beyond.

Friday, October 26, 2018

World Series 2018 Rosters - Red Sox Pitchers

As the Red Sox venture deep into enemy territory and try to continue with the boring, dull, methodical decimation of their opponents that you would expect from a team that won 108 games in the regular season, let's take a look at the pitching staff that got them there. This commentary was written during the travel day on Thursday, so it will reflect the results for the first two games of the World Series.

Is Chris Sale the best left-handed pitcher in the game right now? Not according to 2018 fantasy points, where that honor goes to breakout Rays ace Blake Snell (2,668 points / 86.1 points per game). Although it's conceivable that Sale would have surpassed his AL East rival had The Conductor not been bitten by the injury bug, which limited him to 27 starts and 158 innings - 22 IP fewer than Snell and a career-low since he became a full-time starter in 2012. (Sale spent his first two seasons coming out of the bullpen, including a 21-game cup of coffee in 2010 where he failed to reach the requisite 40 innings pitched to qualify for my database.) It's a different story over the course of his career, with seven consecutive All-Star appearances, six consecutive top-six finishes in the Cy-Young Award voting (2018 results have, of course, not yet been released), and the all-time career records in both strikeouts per nine innings pitched (10.862) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.309). He doesn't have a terribly successful track record in the postseason, as he only made his first playoff appearance last year after a trade to the perennially contending Red Sox, but hopefully this World Series doesn't end in a sweep and he'll have one more shot to prove his case.

Can you believe that heading into the 2018 playoffs, David Price had made nine postseason starts and won none of them? He did pick up two wins pitching in relief, first in 2008 after a 14-game cup of coffee for the World Series runner up Rays (in the ALCS against Boston, ironically enough), and later in 2015 during Toronto's ALDS win over Texas. Consider his postseason demons exorcised, however, as Slam Dunkin Price came out on the winning end of a start once in each of the last two serieses: first in the decisive ALCS Game 5 against the Astros, and then in Wednesday's World Series Game 2 against the Dodgers. Unlike Sale, the well-traveled left hander does have a Cy Young Award to his name (in 2012 with the Rays, represented by the "^" symbol) to go along with six All-Star appearances and two midseason trades (both to playoff-bound teams, where he continued to rack up October ghosts). With four years left on the massive contract he signed prior to 2016, Price figures to be a fixture in the Red Sox rotation through at least 2022.

Like the previous two pitchers on this list, Nathan Eovaldi saw the majors before his first qualifying season: a six-start, four-relief-appearance cup of coffee in 2011 for his original team the Dodgers, where he put up 0.5 wins above replacement (Baseball Reference doesn't separate pitching WAR into two parts the way it does offensive and defense for position players). The very next year saw him sent to Miami in return for Hanley Ramirez, who was ironically cut loose by the Red Sox just months before they acquired Eovaldi from the Rays. He signed with Florida's other team prior to the 2017 season, even though it was already predetermined that he would miss that whole year and change recovering from Tommy John surgery due to an injury he incurred while pitching with the Yankees, a stint I'm sure Red Sox fans would like to ignore. However Evo pitched well enough upon his return in Tampa Bay that he netted a usable major league piece from the Red Sox at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. He then pitched well enough with Boston that he leapfrogged two of his incumbent rotation mates to start Game 3 of the ALDS against Houston, a role he will not reprise in the Fall Classic, as he came out of the bullpen in both Games 1 and 2.

Boston's Game 3 starter in the World Series will be 2016 Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, the only awards consideration he's received since finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2009, his first season in the majors. Porcello spent six up-and-down years pitching in Detroit, where he helped his team reach the playoffs in three consecutive years, centering on a World Series berth in 2012, although he also failed to pick up a postseason win until this year's ALDS Game 4 start against the Yankees. In the 2014-15 offseason, after his best season to that point, he was traded to the Red Sox in the Yoenis Cespedes deal, after which he signed an early-season 4-year extension, for which Boston was rewarded with that Cy Young season the next year. Up until today, the pitcher known as Veintidós (cuz of his uniform number, you see) has had as many starts as he had relief appearances in this year's postseason, but he's got Alex Cora's confidence as the series heads into Los Angeles.

I'm putting Eduardo Rodriguez here with the starters since that was his role for 23 of his 27 games in the regular season, but once October rolls around, he falls victim to the postseason tradition of using starting pitchers out of the bullpen. Although Rodriguez made his MLB debut in Boston, he was signed out of Venezuela by - and subsequently spent the majority of his development with - Baltimore, until he was traded straight up for left handed relief ace Andrew Miller in 2014. El Gualo was arbitration eligible in 2018 for the first time as a Super Two player, so he'll continue to be a reasonably-priced rotation piece for the next three seasons.

Craig Kimbrel burst on the MLB scene in 2010 with 21 games of 0.44 ERA pitching for the Braves and hasn't looked back. Starting with his Rookie of the Year season in 2011, Kimbrel led the league in saves four years in a row, making four All-Star teams in the process. This performance earned him an extension with the Braves prior to the 2014 season... but then also a trade to the Padres just one year later. Despite a 2.58 and 39 saves that season, Dirty Craig missed the All-Star game for the only time in his career; he made it back to the Midsummer Classic all three years following his second trade in one calendar year, this one to the Red Sox. As a free agent following the World Series, the active leader in saves will be setting his sights on a record setting contract.

If Kimbrel does take his talents elsewhere in 2019, setup reliever Matt Barnes would likely be first in line to pick up saves in Boston. While his fantasy point totals lag far behind that of the regular closer (due to the inordinate value placed on saves), Barnes had a 2018 strikeout rate that compared favorably to Kimbrel's (14.0 to 13.9 K/9 IP) and they each put up an identical 3.10 K/BB percentage. Who knows if the Boston brass thinks that Barnacles has the intestinal fortitude necessary to lock up the ninth inning in high pressure situations, or if Dealin' Dave Dombrowski and Co. will try to pick up a more established arm in the offseason, but the underlying numbers are there.

Joe Kelly has had a roundabout career as far as his role is concerned. In his first two seasons with the Cardinals, he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, performing better as a reliever in his rookie year, but then flipping the script in his sophomore campaign. No sooner was he moved to the rotation full time, then he was shipped off to Boston in the John Lackey deal, where he continued as a starter for the next 1.5 seasons, with varying results. After spending the next year transitioning to the bullpen full time, Kelly peaked as a reliever in 2017, but his 100+ mph fastball still plays just fine in the postseason.

Yup, Heath Hembree is on Boston's World Series roster. He's even racked up three appearances so far this postseason, although none since Game 1 of the ALCS. Did you know that he came up with the Giants in 2013, then had two more non-qualifying seasons with the Red Sox after being involved in the Jake Peavy trade? Also it's fun that his ERA was exactly 4.20 in 2018. Yeah, blaze it, Heath!

Drew Pomeranz was added to the roster for the World Series, replacing embattled reliever Brandon Workman (he of the 45.00 ERA over the first two rounds), although his 2018 season as a swingman type pitcher was entirely forgettable. Once a big time prospect for the Indians with two stops on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list, Pomeranz didn't get his start in the majors until a trade to Colorado (for Ubaldo Jimenez) for a cup of coffee in 2011. But Big Smooth didn't truly break out until two more trades - first to the A's (for Brett Anderson) and then to the Padres (for Yonder Alonso) - where his 2.47 first half ERA earned him a trip to a contender in 2016 in a transaction that was steeped in controversy (due to his medical issues that were not properly disclosed by Padres GM A.J. Preller). After one and a half solid seasons in the rotation, the wheels fell off in 2018, but you could do worse when it comes to a second lefty specialist on a World Series roster.

To round things out, journeyman reliever Ryan Brasier didn't pitch enough to make his way onto my database (just shy of 34 innings), although he did put up a 1.60 ERA that translates to 462 points and 13.6 points per game. It's not uncommon for players to blossom into postseason heroes after just a brief showing in the majors (just ask David Price), but so far I wouldn't say that "solid relief work" has elevated him to "hero" status quite yet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

World Series 2018 Rosters - Dodgers Offense

Welcome back to the second installment of this sneak peak into my Fantasy Point By Player Database, featuring the visiting team in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers. While this is scheduled to go up prior to Game 2 of the Fall Classic, in which LA will be looking to even the series, most of the commentary was written prior to Game 1, so some of these storylines will have been advanced or altered a bit. The order of the players is based on the most common Dodgers lineups throughout the 2018 postseason so far.

Did you know that out of all the offensive stars on the 2017 Dodgers, Joc Pederson was the team's top fantasy scorer during last year's World Series? You would have known that if you saw the first and only part of my Fantasy Astrology World Series Recap from last offseason. Yung Joc's star has fallen a bit since his All-Star rookie season and his even stronger sophomore campaign, as he's been shifted from center field to left (he was worth more than one defensive win BELOW replacement level in an abbreviated 2017), and basically relegated to a platoon role (he's got a career .842 OPS against right-handed pitchers, but only .583 against lefties). However, you can't discount a return of the #Joctober excitement that came from three home runs in last year's Fall Classic.

Rather than continue with the Dodgers' projected starting lineup - because with all manager Dave Roberts's roster machinations, any projections are futile - I'd like to jump to Pederson's leadoff/left field platoon mate Chris Taylor. Taylor had three years in the big leagues before his first qualifying season (at least 200 plate appearances) where he mostly served as a little-used utility piece with the Mariners. But last year's breakout performance saw him qualify at three different positions (center field, left field, and second base), hit 21 homers with an .850 OPS, and take home NLCS co-MVP honors against the Cubs. CT3 spent the majority of his 2018 season at shortstop, filling in for the injured Corey Seager (until reinforcements arrived on the trade market), but in the playoffs he's shuttled between LF and 2B, mostly against left handed pitchers.

We've heard so much about Justin Turner's historic level of excellence when it comes to clutch hitting in the playoffs, that it's easy to forget his unremarkable start as a utility infielder for the Mets. Well, actually he had a cup of coffee with the Orioles before the season where he was picked off waivers by New York NL, but he spent most of his minor league development in the Reds farm system. It wasn't until he signed with Los Angeles as a free agent that he really took off with the bat and the glove and turned himself into a legit postseason hero. A series of injuries has kept RedTurn2 from putting up the full season fantasy point totals that he truly deserves, but he does have an All-Star appearance (in 2017) and two top-10 MVP voting finishes (2016 and '17) to his credit, in addition to sharing NLCS co-MVP honors with Taylor last year.

What doesn't appear on this database is the two years Max Muncy spent with the Oakland Athletics (2014-15), where he hit .195 across an average of 120 plate appearances per year. After being released and spending 2017 in the Dodgers' minor league system, he inexplicably broke out with 35 home runs and a .973 OPS this year. The left handed hitting Muncy has been aggressively platooned over the course of the postseason, despite putting up an .891 OPS in 119 PA against lefties this year... but who can fathom the strategic mind of Dave Roberts?

Starting at first base against left handed pitchers is celebrated postseason veteran David Freese, although he spent most of 2018 acting as a platoon partner at third base for Colin Moran in Pittsburgh. Freese took home both NLCS and World Series MVP honors during the Cardinals' championship season in 2011, and he returned to the playoffs in the three subsequent years - two with St. Louis and one following his trade to the Angels. His usage in the 2018 NLCS has been brief and curious (i.e. being substituted out after hitting a home run and a double and driving in two runs), but his veteran leadership is a plus, whether on the field or in the dugout.

Another midseason acquisition, Manny Machado to the Dodgers was a widely anticipated transaction, given both the early season-ending elbow injury to starting shortstop Corey Seager and Machado's insistence (and the Orioles' acquiescence) on moving from third base this season. In fact, very few people were surprised when news broke during the All-Star break (where Manny was enjoying his fourth trip to the Midsummer Classic) that he would be on his way to Los Angeles to finish the season. While El Ministro's defense at shortstop is questionable at best, he improved since coming to LA (1.2 defense-only-WAR with LAD, compared to -1.2 dWAR with BAL), along with continuing his career-best pace, in both fantasy points and offense-only-WAR. A lot has been made of Machado's quirky (some would say "dirty") style of play, and how that might impact his impending trip to free agency, but for the next week, his focus will (should) be solely on securing a championship in his third trip to the postseason.

Cody Bellinger followed up his Rookie of the Year showing in 2017 with an NLCS MVP award this year, thanks mostly to two key hits (a game-winner in the 13th inning of Game 4 and a go-ahead two-run shot in Game 7). While Codylove is primarily a first baseman, he can also play a pretty decent center field due to his athleticism, which in turn allowed the Dodgers to get Max Muncy's bat into the lineup with more regularity... at least against right handed pitchers. On a fun sidenote, Cody's father Clay Bellinger had a brief career as a utility player for the Yankees (from 1999 thru 2001) and the Angels (in 2002), which means that every MLB team on which a Bellinger played has reached the World Series (h/t to the official MLB Instagram account for that factoid).

Like him or not, it's hard to argue that Yasiel Puig is not one of the most eminently watchable players in MLB right now. Whether it's bat flips, bat licks, or bat breaking-over-his-knees, the high-octane Cuban always plays with his emotions on full display. This has not always worked in the Wild Horse's favor, as his MLB performance has been about as uneven as his temperament, with flashes of brilliance mixed in with prolonged slumps and even a brief demotion to the minor leagues in 2016, which put his future with the Dodgers in doubt. But with two more years left on his contract and some big numbers in the 2018 postseason so far, it appears as though the Dodgers still view Puig as their friend for the foreseeable future.

Versatility has been the calling card of Enrique "Kiké" Hernandez since he first made it to the big leagues in 2014, a year he split between the Astros and the Marlins before his first qualifying season with the Dodgers in '15. In fact, Hernandez has appeared at every position except catcher in his career, including a third of an inning on the mound... in which he gave up two walks and a three-run homer, but it's the thought that counts. In 2018, the fan-favorite Kiké added power hitting to his resumé, with 21 homers, solidifying him as one of the few players to be immune from Dave Roberts' frantic platooning, as he's started all but two of LA's playoff games this year.

For the last two years (and for two cups of coffee before that), Austin Barnes has served the Dodgers strictly in the role of backup catcher... until the playoffs start. I don't know what happens to Yasmani Grandal when the calendar flips to October, but despite very solid regular season numbers (see below), he just can't seem to put things together on the game's biggest stage. Not that Barnes lights the world on fire with his own production, but he's been anointed the catcher of choice for roughly 1 and 2/3's postseasons now.

A prodigal longtime Dodger stalwart, Matt Kemp returned to his former team almost by accident this offseason. The homegrown Oklahoman left after nine seasons (eight qualifying) with the Dodgers, which included two All-Star berths (2011 and 2012), two Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo years (2009 and 2011), and a near MVP award (that great 2011 season). Matt then spent three years split almost 60/40 with the Padres and the Braves, before returning to Los Angeles in a contract-restructuring trade (a very different type of roster machination than the ones Dave Roberts is responsible for). After having to win a spot in Spring Training, all Kemp did was make his third All-Star team and slug 21 homers, before suffering a second-half dropoff that has kept him out of the starting lineup for most of the postseason.

The second, and less impactful, half of the Los Angeles's middle infield makeover came in the form of Brian Dozier from the Twins, formerly one of the game's top power hitting second baseman. The timing wasn't great, as he put up his worst oWAR total since becoming a regular in 2013 and has been relegated mostly to a bench role against lefties, he has seen his fair share of pinch hitting appearances, and his veteran leadership is surely much appreciated, especially with Chase Utley off the roster.

Yasmani Grandal had a strange path to the majors, as reflected in his "Developed" status line: CIN*/sdp. The capitals in Cincinnati's abbreviation means that he got the majority of his minor league development in the Reds organization, but the "*" means that he never saw the majors with them. San Diego has no asterisk (i.e. he made his debut with that team), but the Padres are in lowercase, indicating that Grandal didn't need as much seasoning with his acquired team. Who knows if this has anything to do with the reasons why the Yazmanian Devil seems to struggle so much in the playoffs, but it's food for thought nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

World Series 2018 Rosters - Red Sox Offense

Those of you who follow this blog will notice that I haven't been posting at all throughout the MLB playoffs. That's not just because I'm trying to be more emotionally detached this postseason (at least on social media), but also because I've been busy plugging the end-of-season stats into my various baseball databases. (I've also been cutting away at my Batman: Return to Arkham City Let's Play, which I might start releasing after the World Series, but that's a different story.)

I Tweeted out excerpts from two of these documents before the wild card games/first round (a snapshot of each team's current active roster) and before the championship serieses (a summary of each team over the course of the season). But for the World Series, I'm breaking out some info from my most ambitious baseball list yet: a database consisting year-by-year fantasy points for every player from the year 2000 to the present (minimum 200 PA or 40 IP in a season). So starting with the lineup of the home team Red Sox, here's the performance history of every player who might appear in the 2018 World Series:

Mookie Betts burst onto the scene as a 21-year-old center fielder, having been blocked at his natural position of second base by a certain franchise cornerstone named Dustin Pedroia. He barely cracked the 200 plate appearance cutoff that year (he actually had fewer than 200 at-bats), yet he contributed nearly two wins with his bat alone in just 52 games as a rookie (as shown in the oWAR column on the right, which stands for "offensive Wins Above Replacement," a subset of Baseball Reference's proprietary stat for measuring a player's effectiveness, taking into account everything but fielding). Betts's star has only risen from there, to the point where he's the presumptive AL MVP favorite in his fifth MLB season, a 30-30 campaign in which he won a batting title, led the league in overall WAR (10.9), and appeared in his third consecutive All-Star Game.

Andrew Benintendi played significantly more than Betts in his rookie-qualifying year, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting to the hated rival Yankees' right fielder Aaron Judge in 2017. But it's also important to note that Benny had a 34 game (extended) cup of coffee the prior year, where he put up an .835 OPS over 118 PA. He improved his contact game year over year, raising his batting average nearly 20 points while maintaining almost the exact same walk and strikeout totals, while also showing enough defensive ability to qualify in center field this year.

J.D. Martinez is one of the most compelling rags to riches story of our baseball generation. After playing at net below replacement level with his original team, the Astros unceremoniously cut him loose before what would have been his fourth season. But Houston didn't take into account the fact that Martinez had spent the offseason overhauling his swing with a pair of hitting gurus, which immediately paid dividends for the Tigers when they picked him up off the scrap heap during Spring Training in 2014. JDM ended up helping his new team reach the playoffs in his first year with Detroit (they were swept by the Orioles in the first round) and making the All-Star team the next year - along with winning a Silver Slugger award. In 2017, in a typical last-year-before-free-agency scenario, Martinez found himself dealt to a contender for the stretch run, where he hit an amazing 29 home runs in 62 games with the Diamondbacks, helping them get past the Rockies in the NL Wild Card game, before falling victim to another division series sweep, this time at the hands of the Dodges. His free agent deal with the Red Sox was one of the most widely anticipated transactions of the offseason, and so far it's worked out for both team and player. While "Flaco" has settled in as Boston's primary DH, he hasn't exactly hung up his glove, qualifying at both corner outfield spots, providing versatility to fantasy owners everywhere.

Xander Bogaerts had his first qualifying season in the same year (and at the same age) as Mookie Betts, solidifying the Red Sox's offensive core for years to come. Signed out of the noted baseball hotbed of Aruba, Bogaerts actually already has a World Series ring, by virtue of his 18 game cup of coffee during Boston's championship 2013 season. After winning a silver slugger award in 2015, thanks to a .320 average, but with only seven home runs, "X" unlocked his power potential the next year, smacking 21 homers en route to another silver slugger and his first (and so far, only) All-Star appearance. After a down 2017, "Bogey" returned to his 20-homer pop in his role of cleanup hitter for baseball's winningest team in 2018.

Although his first qualifying season came in 2014, at the age of 31, Steve Pearce had been bouncing around the league since 2007, when he broke in with the Pirates. Pearce's breakout 21-homer season helped the Orioles win a division title, where he then helped eliminate his current teammate J.D. Martinez's Tigers, before losing to the eventual World Champion Royals in the ALCS. His next three seasons were fairly similar in terms of fantasy points, but wildly varying in terms of wins above replacement, which shows that I don't fully understand the inner workings of the WAR system. Maybe his bump in 2016 had to do with his trade between Baltimore and Toronto for some reason? Pearce was actually the most impactful first baseman moved during this season, although only finds himself in the Sox's playoff starting lineup due to a hamstring injury to Mitch Moreland.

Speaking of injuries, Rafael Devers only took over as the starter at the hot corner after utility player Eduardo Nunez aggravated his ankle, but he was a hot hitter in the ALCS... just like he was in last year's ALDS loss against Houston. The Dominican Republic native still has some issues in his game to work out (especially defensively and strikeout percentagely), but given that he's only 21 years old, some more development time is to be expected.

I mentioned Dustin Pedroia before as the catalyst for Mookie Betts's shift to the outfield, and his injured status this year was directly responsible for the acquisition of Ian Kinsler from the Angels - just half a season after he was acquired from the Tigers. The veteran has a long history of solid play at the keystone, with just one game at a position other than second base in his 13-year career, and a much more solid defensive reputation than his one Gold Glove (in 2016) would suggest. He's made four All-Star teams in alternating years from 2008 thru 2014, the first three with Texas, and the last after being traded to Detroit, and he's been to the World Series twice before (with the Rangers in 2010 and 2011). Incidentally he also played in that Detroit/Baltimore ALDS along with J.D. Martinez and Steve Pearce.

It's well documented that the Red Sox got some of the worst production league wide from their catchers, which is one half the fault of the recently-extended Christian Vazquez. While his offensive production is unremarkable at best, his line from the database gives me an excuse to talk about some of my notation. The # signal means that the player missed the entire season (whether due to injury or otherwise), while the ^ means that the player did not have enough plate appearances to qualify. For obvious reasons, these symbols only appear if a player has had qualifying seasons before and after.

A well-deserved ALCS MVP award followed a solid season for the Red Sox number nine hitter Jackie Bradley Jr., who along with Betts, Bogaerts, and Benintendi makes up a New England version of the Killer B's. After a breakout campaign in 2016, complete with 26 home runs and an All-Star appearance, JBJ has settled into a two-win player with his bat, which is pretty impressive considering his stellar defensive reputation (although the metrics appear to be somewhat mixed on his work in 2018).

Moving on to the bench (or in this case, a starter with an ill-timed injury), Mitch Moreland has had a mostly unremarkable career as a not-quite-slugging first baseman. The Red Sox liked his left-handed bat enough to sign him to successive short-term free agent contracts, and his presence on the roster made veteran Hanley Ramirez expendable at the start of the year. In terms of postseason experience, Mitchy Two Bags went to the same World Serieses as Ian Kinsler with the Rangers, but he was also around for the Texas's successive ALDS losses to Toronto in 2015 and '16. We'll see how much his balky hamstring allows him to play in this year's Fall Classic.

Eduardo Nunez got his start backing up Derek Jeter in the Bronx, and then briefly took over for the captain before heading to Minnesota as a bench piece. The Twins sold high on Nunez, trading him to the Giants partway through his only All-Star season in 2016, where he couldn't keep San Francisco from falling to the eventual World Champion Cubs in the division series. Following a 2017 trade to Boston, "Nuni" served as the Red Sox's primary second baseman (with some time at third) given the injury troubles of Dustin Pedroia.

The second half of Boston's Pedroia-less second base picture this year, Brock Holt has mostly made his bones as a super-utility player, with proficiency all over the diamond - he's played at every position but pitcher and catcher in his seven year career (including two cups of coffee before his first qualifying season). Both his fantasy point production and his oWAR totals have trended in the wrong direction since his All-Star 2015 season, but he's still a valuable and versatile bench piece.

It took four non-qualifying seasons (the first three with the Nationals) before Sandy Leon broke onto the scene with an .845 OPS in 78 games for the 2016 Red Sox. That number then dropped to .644 the following year, then .511 the year after that (this year), and his point totals and oWAR dropped accordingly. He's been on the bench more often than not after taking the brunt of the timeshare during the regular season.

UPDATE: I didn't initially include an entry on backup catcher/outfielder Blake Swihart, because it seems as though the Red Sox made it to the postseason almost in spite of Swihart's presence on the roster than because of it, based on how little playing time he got over the course of the year. In fact, Swi only has one postseason plate appearance to his credit - a strikeout in the ALDS - but since he's on the active roster, I wanted to say a word about him, but it's still unclear whether he'll survive the offseason roster crunch.