Red Sox Need Major Shakeups to Reclaim Lead

The Boston Red Sox are stuck in a rut. The pitching is way below average. The hitting is strong but too many runners are left on base. The team’s leadership is lacking. John Farrell seems to be on auto pilot, but doesn’t see that the plane is rapidly descending. When I watch the Red Sox play, I see the inside of a grandfather clock. A clock that has a few busted gears. I honestly believe that with a little tweaking, the team could start running like clockwork again and knock the Orioles out of first place. But if that’s going to happen, the Red Sox need major shakeups in their leadership.

Let’s start with the obvious. John Farrell needs to go. Yes, some say it’s not entirely hisRed Sox Need Major Shakeups fault that the team is struggling. He’s the manager though, and has to take responsibility for what’s happening. After 2013, the team has finished dead last twice. The Red Sox will be lucky if they grab a Wild Card spot this season. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Tory Lovullo needs to take over the team. The Red Sox become much stronger when he took over as acting manager last year. If he did so well, and the Red Sox are slipping back into their annual slump, then what is Dombrowski waiting for? You don’t wait for a ship to slip half way under the water before dropping the lifeboats. The Red Sox are starting to slip under the water, so what’s taking so long to relinquish control to Lovullo?

If you’re going to ditch Farrell then pitching coach Carl Willis also has to go. I’m not sure what he’s telling pitchers on the mound when the Red Sox are down a few runs but it’s obviously not working at all.

Perhaps the biggest thing that frustrates me is the amount of runners the Red Sox leave on base. I’ve lost count of the amount of times the Red Sox had a chance to take the lead and completely blew it. I’m not talking about missing out on a grand slam. Those are hard as hell to hit. I’m talking about leaving runners on base with no outs and the bases loaded, or runners in scoring position. Earlier in the season other fans and I would get excited when this scenario presented itself because scoring at least one run seemed like a sure thing. But opposing pitchers under intense pressure have figured out how to keep the Red Sox from scoring. Is the team looking at the pitchers the opposing teams call in relief? Maybe the team should focus on the opposing relievers, if they’re not doing so already.

Red Sox Need Major Shakeups To Turn Pitching Around

Our offense in general is spectacular. Our outfield defense is also strong. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our pitching needs help, and that the hitters don’t do well under pressure. I think a lot of it has to do with confidence. I don’t see Farrell inspiring a lot of confidence, and neither does the rest of the coaching staff (minus Lovullo). Like I said in a previous article, maybe Dustin Pedrioa should become the player manager. He certainly has what it takes to light a fire under the team. The Red Sox need major shakeups, and ditching Farrell and Willis would be a great start.

Red Sox Pitching Must Be More Efficient

Red Sox Pitching

Everybody knows the Red Sox pitching has been awful this season. After all, the team has a collective 5.05 ERA, second only to the altitude-challenged Rockies for worst in the Majors. Such a lack of execution is very concerning. But, on a more nuanced level, the Red Sox also seem to be struggling with game-planning and strategic approach. Essentially, they just need to be more economical all around.

In many respects, Joe Kelly is the poster child for the Red Sox’ pitching inefficiency. His most recent outing, against the Blue Jays in Toronto, was a microcosm of what has, thus Red Sox Pitchingfar, been a very disappointing season. Erratic and frustrated, Kelly walked 7 batters and required 113 pitches to get through 5.2 innings. Similarly, against the Yankees five days earlier, he threw 97 pitches in a shortened, 4.2 inning effort.

Such inefficiency is highly unsustainable. When a starter requires 18 pitches, on average, to complete an inning, he isn’t going to stay around for long. Accordingly, the bullpen is forced to work more, which, in turn, presents its own problems of fatigue down the stretch.

Unfortunately, Joe is still a thrower, rather than a pitcher. Yes, he’s finally using his secondary stuff more this season, but, oftentimes, it’s more out of courtesy. At this point, Major League hitters are still content to let his breaking ball pass and, instead, sit on the fastball. As we know, even at 97 or 98 mph, hitters at this level will eventually time any heater if it’s not complimented by an adequate change of pace. Kelly has discovered that the hard way this year.

However, his results at least seem partly skewed by poor game-planning on the part of Red Sox coaches. In a general sense, Boston pitchers seem to lack a clear understanding as to the approach they’re supposed to be taking in games. We’ve seen starters shaking off their battery mate with more regularity this season, and also frequently getting crossed-up. Similarly, alarm bells rang when, during his 7-walk meltdown in Canada, Kelly lost at least two hitters on wild, 3-2 breaking balls. Obviously, a pitcher must vary his patterns, but you would expect Kelly to go with his best pitch in those situations. The fact that he didn’t perhaps illustrates some of the confusion and lack of guidance emanating from the Red Sox camp.

Of course, pitching coach Juan Nieves was fired amid such suggestions last week. Now, Carl Willis, his replacement, will be tasked with giving the Red Sox pitchers a more coherent frame of reference, and a clearer underlining strategy, when they take to the hill.

Red Sox Pitching

A major part of that will also be the continued development of catcher Blake Swihart into a competent pitch-caller and framer. The statistics may not suggest so, but watching Blake regularly, I believe he’s yet to adapt defensively. He’s struggled to get the borderline calls in favor of his pitcher and, as I mentioned earlier, has been crossed-up on more than one occasion. Of course, the guy is only 23 and barely a week into his Major League career. But, if the Sox want to solve their pitching conundrum, Swihart is going to have to learn fast.

Eventually, something has got to give. Either the Red Sox need to simply acquire more efficient pitchers with better command, or they need to put greater emphasis on the improvement of game-planning. Preferably, they would do both. But, whatever they choose, they must do so fast, before time runs out.