Red Sox Problems Start And End With Bullpen Depth

We are 54 games into the 2019 season and the Red Sox problems still seem to cling to the team like mosquitoes on sweat. The reigning champs own a 29-25 record. They are 6.5 games behind the Yankees and Tampa Bay sits in between them and New York in the division.

The team’s starting rotation is strong. Chris Sale and David Price combine for one of thered sox problems best one-two punches in the American League (AL). Rick Porcello is as consistent and reliable as starters get, as he has strung together 10 seasons of at least 27 starts. The Red Sox are still awaiting the return of Nathan Eovaldi from the Injured List. The 29-year-old averaged 8.2 strikeouts per 9 innings (SO/9) last season between Tampa Bay and Boston, which was a personal career-best. Eduardo Rodriguez rounds out the rotation. The Venezuelan southpaw has been a two-faced hurler in 2019. Of his 11 starts, he has 5 quality starts and four starts of allowing at least 5 earned runs.

Only Sale, Porcello, and Rodriguez have pitched all of their scheduled starts this year. Price has missed three and Eovaldi pitched just four starts before undergoing surgery on his right elbow (loose bodies; expected to embark on a rehab assignment within the next week or two). Hector Velazquez has filled in by starting seven games. His longest outing in 2019 is five innings. Two other starts have been made by Red Sox pitchers. Ryan Weber turned in a quality start last week and Josh Smith allowed four earned runs in 3.1 innings of work on May 6.

We have arrived at the core of the Red Sox problems: bullpen depth. Boston has five valuable relief pitchers: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Marcus Walden, Heath Hembree, and Brandon Workman. The five of them have compiled averages of a 2.34 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 11.4 SO/9.

The Houston Astros’ bullpen ranks second in the AL in fewest runs allowed per game with 3.55. Their five best arms include Roberto Osuna, Josh James, Ryan Pressly, Will Harris, and Hector Rondon. Compared to the Red Sox, these relievers averages are 2.13 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 9.8 SO/9.

These numbers may look similar and they are. The discrepancies may seem minimal, they are. However, two key AL bullpen statistics, that jump off the page, is where the Red Sox bullpen diverts from appearing well-built to becoming a sour situation.

The first stat is runs allowed per game. The top-five AL teams, in this department, are Tampa Bay (3.18), Houston (3.55), Minnesota (3.94), Cleveland (4.08), and New York (4.09). Oakland ranks sixth at 4.25 and Boston seventh, allowing 4.61 runs.

Tampa Bay’s elite bullpen, along with their trio of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow, has carried them to a .627 win percentage this year. In terms of hitting, the Rays are scoring 4.59 runs per game, which ranks ninth in the AL. In comparison, their 4.59 runs smudges them in between the Angels and Royals. Both of these teams own a win percentage below .454. The Red Sox have scored 5.35 runs/game, which ranks fourth in the AL.

The second key bullpen statistic is inherited score percentage (IS%). This calculation shows the percentage of runners (on base) who subsequently scored when a pitcher entered a game. The league average is quantified at 32%. Four of the five teams that rank above the 32 percent threshold have losing records. The one outlier is the Red Sox, who stand four games above .500 and have allowed 35% of their inherited runners to score.

Red Sox Problems: The Big Question

Despite the numbers, some may still ask, if the club has five valuable bullpen arms, then why is the bullpen a problem? Shouldn’t five be enough? Well, five is a good number. But in this market, it is imperative for a sports team to have all of their flaws covered. This boils down to a scary question: would you trust this bunch in the playoffs with games on the line?

The risk this poses has been proven regrettable in the past. The odds of bullpens being taxed in October is high, due the physical/mental strain of starting pitchers in big games. This means that pitchers, who I have failed to mention until now, will make appearances, and these pitchers have question marks. Do guys by the likes of Brian Johnson, Travis Lakins, Darwinzon Hernandez, Colten Brewer, Tyler Thornburg, Erasmo Ramirez, and Bobby Poyner frighten you? These are the names that round out the remaining compiled innings this year for the Red Sox.

It is likely that President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski acquires an extra arm at the July 31 trade deadline. However, how sure are we of Dombrowski bringing in a valuable arm as opposed to another reliever that gets added to the list of guys that are hard to trust? Dombrowski has had the window to bring back former closer Craig Kimbrel for seven months now. Kimbrel, to me, slots in as a valuable arm.

Through 54 games last season, the Red Sox were 37-17, good for first in the AL East. Now, a year later, they find themselves in a much different place. The continued production of their bats will count. The health of the starting pitching will be key. But, the performances of the rest of the club’s pitching will be the end game to whether the Red Sox can make a push for a second-straight title.

Red Sox Journal: Sox won 5 of 7 in the last week

A week ago today, the Sox defeated the Oakland A’s in the second of a three-game series at Fenway Park. Rick Porcello had his best outing of the season. He pitched 8 shutout innings and allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks. The Sox won the game, 5-1.

A day later, on a rare Wednesday afternoon game, Boston was gunning for their first homesox won sweep of the season. Hector Velazquez started and pitched 2 innings of one-run ball. Marcus Walden, who has pitched exceptionally well after starting 2019 at Triple-A, pitched in relief and hurled 3 scoreless innings. Andrew Benintendi broke the game open in the sixth inning when he scored two runners on a bloop single to center field. Final score: Boston 7, Oakland 3.

On Thursday, the team sent second baseman Dustin Pedroia on a rehab assignment to Double-A Portland. The veteran has since played in three games for the Sea Dogs. He has recorded 3 hits and 1 RBI.

Also on Thursday, the Sox were in search for a season-high fourth straight victory. But, mistakes in the ninth inning by third baseman Rafael Devers and closer Ryan Brasier resulted in a White Sox win on a walk-off home run.

Boston responded by winning the final three games of the series in impressive fashion. After the game 1 loss, they outscored Chicago 30-to-5. By the end of the weekend, the Red Sox had captured their third three-game winning streak of the season.

In-season Acquisitions

The team made several other transactions last week. On Friday, they added infielder Cody Asche to their 40-man roster. Pedrioa played in two games over the weekend in Double-A Portland.  Asche most recently played at the Triple-A level for the Sugar Land Skeeters of Sugar Land, Texas. His last major league appearance came in 2017 with the White Sox.

On Saturday, Boston placed shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin on the 10-day Injured List (left knee sprain). The team recalled Eduardo Nunez from Pawtucket. Since being activated, Nunez has started two of three games.

Also on Saturday, first baseman Joey Curletta was added to the 40-man roster after being claimed off waivers from Seattle. The 25-year-old has no major league experience, but was named the 2018 Texas League Player of the Year (Double-A) after posting 23 home runs and 94 RBI in 129 games. Curletta was assigned to the Paw Sox roster.

Yesterday, before opening up a three-game series in Baltimore, the Red Sox placed starting pitcher David Price on the 10-day Injured List due to elbow tendinitis on his pitching arm. Price had been the team’s most consistent starting pitcher this season (1-2, 3.75 ERA, 1.14 WHIP). Right-handed pitcher Ryan Weber filled the roster spot after being called up. Weber pitched 4 scoreless innings last night in relief for starter Josh Smith.

After losing last night in Baltimore 4-1, the Sox will send Hector Velazquez to the mound tonight. Chris Sale will pitch the series finale on Wednesday.

April Awards: Hitters, Pitchers, Fielders

April has come and gone. The Sox finished the month on a strong note – two wins at home against the Athletics. Their overall record is 13-17, good for 7 games back in the AL East. After some fast starts (Mitch Moreland: 10 extra base hits in first 14 games) and slow starts (Rick Porcello: 11.12 ERA through first 3 starts) to the season, the team heads into May with some optimism, as they look to capture their second sweep of the season today. The following are April awards for Red Sox players:

Player of the Month: Mookie Betts

  • Betts has batted second in the lineup for most of the season. He leads Red Soxapril awards hitters in at-bats, runs, walks, on-base percentage, and OPS. He has also been very efficient in the field, as he leads all Boston outfielders with 5 assists. He has permitted zero errors in mostly right field and some center field. After batting as low as the Mendoza-line through the season’s first three weeks, Betts has turned things around. He batted .452 in the final 11 games of April.

Best starting pitcher: David Price

  • This April award was easy to hand to Price, not because Price’s stuff has been dominant, but because everyone else’s hasn’t been great. Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez have ERAs above six. Rick Porcello’s ERA is above five-and-a-half. Nathan Eovaldi made four starts (6.00 ERA) before going under the knife. Price owns an ERA of 3.60 and a WHIP of 1.07. He finished April with two quality starts.

Best reliever: Ryan Brasier

  • The Red Sox started the season without a firm understanding of their team’s closer. Brasier has become their guy. Six saves in seven opportunities is good for 5th in the American League. His 1.32 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and .188 batting average against are all elite numbers. Matt Barners, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman have all been stellar as well, but Brasier takes the cake here.

Best hitter: J.D. Martinez

  • Martinez, who is batting .312 on the season, edges out Betts by a hair. The former leads the team in batting average and hits (34), and is third in on-base and slugging. Martinez led the led in hits, home runs, and RBI last year. I expect him to do the same this season.

Best fielder: Christian Vázquez

  • The April award could have gone to Betts, or Mitch Moreland, or Xander Bogaerts. Vázquez’s presence behind the dish has been extremely valuable, with the unexpected departure of Blake Swihart and easing-in of Sandy León. Vázquez has caught 5 base runners stealing, which ranks 3rd in the AL. However, more spectacularly, his zero errors ranks first in the AL.

Best rookie: Michael Chavis

  • Of all the April awards, this was an easy one – not just because Chavis is the only Red Sox rookie to receive regular looks this year. His numbers are terrific. His batting average is above .300, on-base above .400, and OPS above 1.000. He has earned an everyday role at second base, and has even seen time at first and third. His bat is for power (3 home runs), and he seems to feel comfortable with his glove while lined up at several infield positions.

Sox Have Yet To Win A Series At Fenway

The Red Sox began a 10-game home stand last Monday. Their record is 2-4 through six games and two rainouts. In their two wins, they scored 18 total runs. But in their four losses, they plated just 9 runs. They now sit six games below .500, at 11-17. That’s good for 7.5 games behind Tampa Bay in the division. After two losses this weekend and three series’ splits in April, the Sox have yet to win a series at Fenway this season.

Chris Sale started yesterday. He pitched 7 innings and threw 111 pitches while facing 27Sox Have Yet batters, all of which were season bests. He took the loss though to drop to 0-5 on the season. Even worse, the Red Sox have lost all six of his starts. Michael Chavis has 3 home runs since making his major league debut on April 20. He has made seven consecutive starts at second base, which is not his natural position. Chavis also made a key error yesterday in the ninth inning when Rays outfielder Guillermo Heredia hit a ground ball to shortstop. Xander Bogaerts flipped to Chavis at second and the rookie’s throw sailed over Mitch Moreland’s head at first base. Avisail Garcia scored on the play to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to three runs.

J.D. Martinez did not play in the two games against the Rays over the weekend due to back spasms. Martinez leads the team with a .340 batting average, 33 hits, and a 1.052 OPS. His presence in the lineup could have proved to be valuable against a divisional opponent, considering the Sox lost by just 4 combined runs over the weekend.

Sox have yet to get results from bottom-third of lineup

Steve Pearce was the team’s DH against the Rays, instead of Martinez, and went 0-7 with one walk and a pair of strikeouts. Pearce’s 2019 batting average shrunk to minuscule .103. His teammate, Jackie Bradley Jr., went 1-for-5 in the series with two walks. His batting average stands at .150. Both Pearce and Bradley Jr., who hit towards the bottom of the lineup, are hurting their team at the plate.

What really hurt the Red Sox yesterday was Chris Sale allowing a 2-run homer in the first inning. It put a vulnerable team in a hole early. David Price, in Saturday’s game, also allowed a home run in the first inning.

Boston’s offense was most to blame against the Rays. They put together zero multi-run innings in both games. Rays starters Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow each threw quality starts and Tampa Bay’s bullpen allowed just one run through 5.1 innings.

The Red Sox have yet to put together a win-streak of more than three games this season. Their winning percentage at Fenway Park sits at 42 percent. To put things into perspective, the 2012 and ’14 Red Sox finished with home records of 42 percent. We all know how those seasons turned out.

Boston starts a three-game set against the Athletics tonight to finish off the home stand. Eduardo Rodriguez toes the rubber this evening, followed by Rick Porcello tomorrow and Hector Velázquez on Wednesday.

Champs Playing Themselves Into Unfamiliar Territory

Off to their worst 25-game start since 1996, seeing the champs playing themselves into unfamiliar territory is a little more than concerning. As we know, the Red Sox have won 4 World Series championships in the last 15 years. From 1967-’82, the Sox put together 16 consecutive winning seasons, and 14 more from 1998-2011, Since the inauguration of the AL East in 1969, Boston has won the division in three consecutive seasons just once. That accomplishment came to fruition last year in 2018, as the team won AL East titles from 2016-’18. Plain and simple, the Red Sox don’t like losing.

Since 1967, which is regarded as the “Impossible Dream Team” season of the franchise,champs playing Boston’s longest stretch of consecutive losing seasons is just 3, from 1992-’94. In ’92, they went 73-89. A year later, 80-82, and 54-61 in ’94 (the lockout shortened the 1994 season to 115 games). In 2012, after the team changed managers from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine, the team finished in last place with a 69-93 record. Through Boston’s first 25 games that season, they had 11 wins, which is one more than this year’s 10.

In 2014, a year removed from winning their 8th World Series, the Sox finished last again with a 71-91 record. The following season resulted in consecutive last place finishes in the AL East (78-84). It was the first time the Sox finished in last place in consecutive seasons in the history of the AL East.

So, can they still turn it around?

I believe they can salvage a 90-win season, but it’ll be tough. In 2010 and ’11, they started 11-14 each year. They missed the playoffs, but not by much. They reached 89 wins in ’10 and 90 wins in ’11. The Sox had a chance to make the postseason on the last day of the season in 2011, but a loss to the then last place Orioles had them ousted.

The Sox swept the Rays on the road last weekend and came home to play the Tigers on Monday, which began a 10-game home stand. Monday’s game was washed out by rain. Boston responded, discouragingly, with back-to-back losses in Tuesday’s double header. They won last night in impressive fashion, 11-4. The series finale is tonight. I believe if they win tonight, and split the series, it would be a huge win.

Champs Playing A Tough Schedule In May

They begin a tough 3-game set with Tampa Bay on Friday, where they will have to face Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow on the mound, again. April has clearly been a lost month for the Sox. They begin May with one game at home against the A’s. They will have to face Seattle, Colorado, Houston twice, the Indians, and the Yankees all in May. Things do not get any easier.

Should the Boston Red Sox consider trading star players?

The 2019 Boston Red Sox have gotten off to a rough start to begin the season. The Red Sox are currently 10-15 through its first 25 games. This number isn’t ideal especially when you are the defending World Series champion. The Red Sox are currently six games behind first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. Although it is only 25 games into the season, the concern for this year’s team seemingly increases with every loss. The 2019 Red Sox have shown that with every step they have taken forward, they take two steps back. If the Red Sox continue to struggle in the fashion they have, it may be time to trade their stars.

Why should the 2019 Boston Red Sox consider trading their star players?

The main reason why the Red Sox should consider trading their star players is because ofRed Sox consider the value in which they carry in terms of prospects. As it currently stands, the Red Sox farm system ranks 24th in the Major Leagues. Red Sox 3B prospect Michael Chavis was called up to the big leagues on Saturday, hitting a double in his first Major League at-bat vs Tampa Bay Rays. If the Red Sox are hoping to contend at a championship level for years to come, they are going to need to make a deal in which helps the farm system, similar to what the Yankees did in 2016.

Who should the Red Sox consider trading at the deadline?

If the Red Sox continue to struggle they should consider trading Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Jackie Bradley Jr.

It sounds crazy, but think about this: Betts has two years left on his current contract, he will become a free agent in 2021. Martinez can opt out of his deal at the end of the season as part of his contract agreement. Bradley Jr. signed a one year deal with the club before the season began, so he can become a free agent at season’s end. If the Red Sox fall out of playoff contention by July 31st, they should consider moving all three players. The type of return the Sox can receive in return could potentially boost the farm system on the fly.

It would be difficult to see the Red Sox consider making such an extreme move. If the Sox do not improve and turn their season around by the trade deadline, this must be heavily considered. Only time will tell.