Red Sox Starters Among League Worst

Red Sox Starters

It is hard to find a silver lining after an 18-7 loss in Baltimore on Sunday, but if there was one it was the Red Sox were heading back to the friendly confines of home, in Fenway Park on Monday to start a series with the Blue Jays. The weekend series in Baltimore saw the Sox pitching staff hit new lows in terms of innings and the bullpen added to the misery.

The Sox seemingly have no starter on the staff right now who you could consider a “stopper” , or a pitcher who you know will stop a losing skid. Sox fans have to wonder—Red Sox Starterswho and when will a pitcher step up, or even be called up? Rick Porcello has been the best in my opinion as he has given the bullpen the most help, going deep into games, but also has a dub thrown in there as well. Joe Kelly has flashed that he could be lights out, but his meltdown in Tampa Bay where he walked in a run with the bases loaded showed he is still a work in progress.

Clay Buccholz everyone knows about, and has known about for the past seven years. He is capable of being great, but he needs everything to go right if he is going to be that guy. Justin Masterson is back for his second stint with the team and his role is the eat innings. He has yet to receive a loss on the year, but has left games where the offense has picked him up after giving up leads.

Wade Miley deserves his own category. In four starts, he has yet to finish six innings and in two starts he did not get out of the third. Very taxing on the bullpen and the offense when your starter can’t get out of his own way. Miley, acquired this off-season, will likely have a long leash before he is removed from the rotation. Fans soon may cringe when they see Miley listed as the starter that night.

Red Sox fans wanted an ace this off-season and as Spring Training ended without one, the question remained—who will step up in the rotation? So far you can say no starter has stepped up, yet John Farrell and Ben Cherington say it is too early to panic about the rotation. With your starters ERA being 30th in the league with 30 teams, one has to wonder how long before management starts to panic.

When and if panic sets in what happens? Brian Johnson was just named International League Pitcher of the Week for the PawSox in AAA, and he seems deserving of the first man to get the call if an injury or a starters turn is skipped. Matt Barnes pitched out of the bullpen this weekend and was sent down after going two innings on Saturday. The plan with Barnes on if he will remain a starter in the minor leagues or not is unknown.

Of course Cole Hamels does remain a Philadelphia Phillie and likely will until Ruben Amaro is satisfied with an offer for his ace. Betts and Swihart remain off the table, but the Red Sox may feel obliged to get creative with an offer if the rotation continues to struggle.

Red Sox starters have yet to string together a series of starts where you feel confident in them. How long will it be before John Farrell and Ben Cherington are forced to make a move?

Anthony Ranaudo Makes Texas Debut

Anthony Ranaudo

During the off season, in the wake of all the acquisitions to this years pitching staff, general manager Ben Cherington made the move to trade away 25-year-old Anthony Ranaudo to the Texas Rangers. Boston acquired left-handed specialist, Robbie Ross Jr. in return from Texas.

The Ranaudo trade to Texas caught a lot of Boston fans by surprise. Anthony Ranaudo ranked in Anthony Ranaudothe top-three of pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization and seemed to be on the rise. Ranaudo was outstanding in 2014 while pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox, posting a 14-4 record to compliment a 2.61 ERA en route to International Pitcher of the Year honors. Ranaudo also had a nasty curveball—winning best curve ball in the Boston Red Sox organization for two straight years. Ranaudo got some brief time with the MLB club down the stretch, going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA in seven starts.

Ranaudo’s brief struggles in the show weren’t necessarily the reason he was dealt, but more or so the reason of where does he fit in? Boston was able to bring in veteran starters, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley in the offseason leaving no room for Ranaudo in the rotation. Boston also has top-tier prospects named Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Matt Barnes knocking on the door so, in the big scheme of things, Ranaudo didn’t have a spot; Boston had a need for a left-handed reliever.

Ranaudo made his first start for a depleted Ranger rotation on Wednesday as he was opposed by Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels. He would only go 1.2 innings in this one, allowing six hits, six runs to go with a 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

After a relatively smooth first inning, Ranaudo struggled heavily in the second. David Freese’s single to center lead to a Chris Iannetta walk, followed by a walk soon after- making it bases loaded with one-out. Angels second baseman, Johnny Giavotella, would deliver the big blower with a liner to left field scoring two and it would just get worse from there. Los Angeles was able to tack on four more runs off of Ranaudo en route to a 10-2 win.

Obviously Ranaudo wasn’t as prepared for this start as he would have liked to have been. It’s also obvious that he still needs some work down in the minor leagues before he can come up and make that impact the Rangers need him to make.

Justin Masterson Progressing Well as Opening Day Nears

Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson is hoping for a bounce back season with the Red Sox, after going 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA for the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals in 2014.

Although he has been shaky at times, Masterson has looked good overall this spring, going 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA and .250 opponent batting average in 18 innings over five games.

The 30-year old Kingston, Jamaica native delivered what was arguably his best outing of the spring so far on Monday, pitching 5 2/3 innings while allowing just one Justin Mastersonunearned run.

According to Masterson, part of his effectiveness is due to having a clean bill of health.

“It was a combination of feeling good and feeling strong and, for the most part, hitting my spots,” Masterson told MLB.com. “It is definitely moving in the right direction. I was able to make a few adjustments.”

“I feel great. At this time last year, if we were going into the fourth or fifth inning, I’d be giving up at least a couple of homers out there,” Masterson continued. “The first couple would be good, and after that, not so much.”

Boston’s newly stacked offense has also seemed to have an effect on Masterson’s level of comfort while on the mound.

“What I’m really excited about is, you’re going to have a different guy who I feel is just going to go on hot streaks for a while. You’ll have a week of this guy, a week of that guy and when they all come together, I’m going to sit there and just watch. Put my feet back and say, ‘This is awesome’,” shared Masterson in the same  interview.

The Red Sox signed Masterson in December to a one-year, $9.5 million contract, returning him to the team that originally drafted him in 2006. With many questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, the Red Sox should have a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the return of his health.

Why the Red Sox Need an Ace

need an ace

The Red Sox’ lack of a discernible ace has been one of the most hotly-discussed issues this spring. Whilst some fans have shown considerable frustration, a disproportionate amount have tried to glorify what is, essentially, the messy result of blowing negotiations with Jon Lester, crediting the front office for concocting a genius master plan that somehow wound up with Clay Buchholz likely taking the mound on Opening Day. Ultimately, if the Red Sox are serious about making, never mind lasting deep into, the postseason, I believe they need an ace. Right now, they don’t have one, which is a major problem.

John Farrell doesn’t see it that way. The manager has typically been very vocal in need an acebranding his rotation ‘underrated’ and expressing pleasure at his new found ability to send a proven Major League starter to the mound every day. Similarly, the media has, by and large, defended the Sox’ decision not to acquire an ace, pointing to the recent success of the ace-less Orioles and reminding people that none of the past 26 Cy Young Award winners have led their team to a World Series championship in the same year.

I understand that view. I respect that view. I just do not agree. Yes, specialized, hard-throwing bullpens and depleted offenses have diminished the need for elite starting pitching, but that need hasn’t entirely disappeared. In my opinion, every team still needs that one reliable warrior; that one defiant horse; that one true stopper anchoring the rotation. Right now, the Red Sox simply don’t have that guy.

With a 4.30 career ERA and a 1.359 career WHIP, Rick Porcello is the quintessential third or fourth starter. Wade Miley will eat innings, but his 4.34 ERA and 1.401 WHIP last year are less than inspiring. As for Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson? Well, nobody truly knows what to expect. They could be great; they could be horrible. There’s no way to tell.

What we do know is that none of those guys will overwhelm a rival lineup; none of them will throw the ball past opposing batters with consistent regularity; and none of them are likely to have an ERA below 3.00. In short, none of those guys is an ace befitting the Boston Red Sox.

I know we live in a highly analytical age, where an opinion unsubstantiated by sabermetric proof is scoffed at by the masses, but, quite frankly, I still believe there is a lot of value in the tangible, human, element of the game. Without doubt, there is value in having at least one starting pitcher everybody else is petrified of; one pitcher who opposing teams hope to avoid when they roll into town for a four-game series. Every great Red Sox team has had that scary warrior, that fire-breathing ace, from Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, to Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and, most recently, Lester. Essentially, this current crop just isn’t in the same class, which is a sad departure from tradition.

All of the aforementioned legends were extremely adept at stopping regular season losing streaks, and each wrote a brilliant legacy in the postseason, when the value of an ace becomes truly apparent. We saw it last October, when Madison Bumgarner, a thoroughbred leader, put the Giants on his back and carried them to a third World Series title in five years. After watching such an incredible display, every baseball fan asked “who can do that for us?” With the season less than two weeks away, the Red Sox are still to provide an answer.

Offseason Review: Did the Red Sox Do Enough?

red sox offseason

In signing two of the top free agent position players and revamping a depleted starting rotation, the Red Sox undoubtedly made progress this offseason. Yet, deep down, questions still remain as to whether they improved enough, and whether management could’ve done even more to upgrade a messy roster and steer Boston back to the postseason.

In analyzing the winter work of Ben Cherington, it’s important to remember the thorough incompetence of the baseline roster he sought to improve. As you are probably all too aware, the 2014 Red Sox were awful, ranking 18th in runs, 24th in slugging, 23rd in ERA and 22nd in WHIP. At 71-91, they finished dead last in the AL East, 25 games behind the runaway Orioles. Only three teams American League teams compiled a worse record.

Offseason Review

Accordingly, in seeking a swift rebuild, Cherington was at an immediate disadvantage, with the Red Sox basically trying to win a race after giving a head start to all their closest opponents. They would have to work incredibly hard just to get back in the conversation.

Thus, no time was wasted, as Boston committed a combined $192.5 million to Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and Justin Masterson, before acquiring Rick Porcello and Wade Miley via trade, dealing from surplus to add quality.

The success of this approach, and, by extension, the degree to which the Sox will improve in 2015, rests largely on the ability of those five new arrivals to significantly outperform their predecessors. The probability of that happening is relatively high, with the collective 2014 WAR of the incoming players sitting at 11.5, compared to the awful 3 WAR accumulated by the forebears in the same position, namely Yoenis Cespedes, Will Middlebrooks, Brock Holt, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby de La Rosa and Allen Webster.

Theoretically, the net increase of 8.5 WAR should help the Sox back above the .500 threshold, but, at this point, it’s difficult to foresee a quantum leap back into the 90-win range required to secure a wildcard, let alone the 95-win plateau typically needed to clinch the AL East.

Of course, we’ve seen this team march from worse starting points to loftier destinations, most recently in 2013, but, this time round, there seems to be far more uncertainty and far less magic surrounding the team. As Opening Day approaches, there are still so many landscape-altering factors to be determined, all with potentially major affects on the baseline win-loss record. Will the new superstars meet their expectations? At what point do the Sox abandon their no-ace strategy and pursue elite, frontline starting pitching? What impact will the new hitting coach have? Is the clubhouse culture compatible with another worst-to-first turnaround?

At this point, we just don’t know. This Sox team is harder to define and quantify than most in recent memory. In all likelihood, it’ll be better than the 2014 incarnation, but to what extent? Ultimately, that will only be discovered once this perplexing blend of players jogs onto the diamond in competitive action. Nobody knows what to expect, which, after all, is why 162 actual games are required to capture a definitive answer.

Don’t Forget About Quintin Berry

quintin berry

As Spring Training approaches, the Boston Red Sox already appear to have a major problem—way too many outfielders and a suspect, at best, starting rotation. Questions lurk around the five guys who will be starting on a regular basis in Boston. Where is the ace? How long before they tank? Why did they pay Justin Masterson $9.5 million? What about the outfield?
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The Red Sox have a plethora of outfielders—too many in fact. It is clear that one outfielder in particular (likely Allen Craig) will have to be dealt as the team condenses down to 25 men in April for Opening Day, but it is unclear what Boston will receive in return as they seem to have their heart set on going into the year with a hand-picked rotation.

Even when an outfielder is dealt, the team will still have plenty of depth at the position. Not only will they have three guys on the bench who can play all three positions (including Brock Holt), but they will also have talent down in Pawtucket.
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quintin berryThe three starting outfielders projected for the Paw Sox this season are Jackie Bradley Jr., Bryce Brentz and Quintin Berry. While Bradley is an excellent defender, Brentz is a powerful hitter who clobbers lefties and Berry is a serious stolen base threat; the team’s three viable call-up options and Boston will have choices depending on the scenario.

Back in 2013, Berry, who is a perfect 25-for-25 in MLB stolen base attempts from 2012-2014, helped the Boston Red Sox win a World Series as a pinch runner on the post-season roster. Despite only being used once the rosters expanded, he found his way onto the playoff roster as the team no longer needed to carry five starting pitchers.

Currently, Berry is not on the 40-man roster and has no options remaining. If the team does in fact turn to his services—they will need to do so wisely. If they need to call him up and send him back down, they are out of luck and he will be exposed to the waiver wire where someone will surely bite.
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September will roll around eventually and if Boston finds themselves in a similar situation as they were in back in 2013, do not be surprised to see his number called once again—whatever it may be.