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.

Is It Too Early To Call-Up Eduardo Rodriguez?

Eduardo Rodriguez

Justin Masterson goes 5 innings, Wade Milley goes 4 innings, Joe Kelly goes 5 innings. That has been a common theme for those Red Sox starters after the first month of the season. Masterson’s velocity is down and not getting ground balls the team thought he would be getting. Milley’s adjustment to the American League seems to be a big one, although in his last two starts he has kept the team in the game. Kelly continues to miss bats, but also can’t find the plate at times as shown this weekend in Toronto with seven walks on Saturday.

Is it time to start thinking about a change to the rotation? John Farrell seems to think not Eduardo Rodriguezjust yet, but how much more can he tolerate? Juan Nieves lost his job because of these starters inability to get out of jams and to find the plate. Maybe a new pitching coach will do the job at first, but they are who they are; obviously vastly under performing, but there is no ace on this staff.

Trading for Cole Hamels will not solve the pitching rotation problem as he is just one pitcher, and all five have had their troubles in the first month of the season. The minor leagues are stocked with almost ready arms, most notably Eduardo Rodriguez, but is it too early to bring him up?

In five starts with the PawSox this season, Rodriguez, just 22, is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA. In his most recent start this past weekend in Columbus he allowed 4 run in 5 innings of work walking 2 while striking out 7. Rodriguez had given up just 5 runs total in his previous four starts. Rodriguez only has 6 starts above AA making one for the PawSox last post-season. The Red Sox insisted the Orioles give up Rodriguez in the Andrew Miller trade last July, and so far it has worked out as Rodriguez was having a down year in the minors before coming to the Red Sox.

Only 6 starts above AA doesn’t sound like a pitcher who is ready to face the Yankees in Yankee Stadium or a powerful Blue Jays lineup but, he has shown the Red Sox something early on this season, being able to miss bats and keep runners off base. Would he be better than the bottom of the rotation starters the Sox have now? Maybe. Only time will tell if the patience of John Farrell runs thin and the team turns to more young players who are a part of the future and forced into the present.

Juan Nieves Fired, Edward Mujica DFA’d

Juan Nieves

The Boston Red Sox looked a little bit different Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays after a 3-6 homestand thanks to two moves the Red Sox announced Thursday.

The first move came of a little bit of a surprise as the team designated right-handed reliever Edward Mujica for assignment. The veteran had struggled with a blown save to go along with a 1-1 record and a 4.61 ERA so far this season. In 75 games with the Red Sox, Mujica owns a 4.06 ERA and just eight saves (all in the 2014 season.Juan Nieves

The 30-year-old was signed prior to the 2014 season for two years and $9.5 million, but he never lived up to his numbers with the St. Louis Cardinals the year before. He never really flourished in Boston and always seemed to give up those inopportune runs which made winnings games almost unattainable.

The team planned to make the move while in Toronto on Friday and Matt Barnes is likely going to be the bullpen arm the Red Sox need going forward. Barnes has appeared in 11 games for the Red Sox over the last two seasons and has allowed a total of four runs while striking out nine and walking two. This season he has struck out one and allowed two hits in two innings of work back on April 25.

In another pitching-related move, the team elected to let go of pitching coach Juan Nieves. The Red Sox rank second-to-last in the entire majors with a 4.86 ERA and are dead last in team ERA in the AL. The only team worse is the Colorado Rockies at 5.38.

With already 28 games in the books and a 13-15 record after a 9-5 start, Nieves showed that he did not have a handle on the pitching staff like he did when he was hired in 2013. The passive approach to pitching away to nearly every hitter was not the right approach as at least every pitcher in the starting staff has allowed four or more runs in a start at least once.

The list for pitching coach replacements is short, according to media reports after a John Farrell conference call on Thursday. The team is in the process of sorting everything out so, expect a new pitching coach sometime on the current 10-game road trip.