Indians Closely Studied Red Sox Pitching

Like many Boston fans, I thought the Red Sox would steam roll over the Indians in Cleveland before coming back Boston to clinch the ALDS. Rick Porcello and David Price gave us little reason to think otherwise. Unfortunately, that plan fell through. Porcello gave up three home runs in the third inning of Game One for a 5-4 Tribe win. After allowing the Indians to blank the Sox 6-0, Price reinforced the “Can’t pitch in the postseason” stereotype in Game 2. Its clear the Indians studied Red Sox pitching very closely before the ALDS began.

Some people are surprised the Red Sox lost the first two games. I am too, but not for theStudied Red Sox Pitching same reasons. David Price doesn’t have a great post season record. He has a 2-8 record with a 5.54 ERA in the post season. Rick Porcello is 0-3 with a 5.66 ERA in post season play. So it’s no wonder they struggled, especially with a combined 2-11 post season record. That leaves few other options in the rotation though. Steven Wright isn’t available for the ALDS, but he is for the ALCS. Clay Buchholz has a 0-0 record with a 4.21 ERA in post season play. So how did the Indians learn so much about the Red Sox pitching staff? That’s easy. Terry Francona.

Francona managed the Red Sox from 2004 to 201, leading them to two World Series Championships. He managed David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Clay Buchholz. He knows their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it’s that knowledge that might very well guide the Cleveland Indians to victory. This situation is just one more reason why the Red Sox shouldn’t have let him go in 2011.

Indians Studied Red Sox Pitching, But That’s Not All They Studied

In addition to the pitching, many thought the entire team wasn’t ready for post season play. The team is enthusiastic but young. The stress and excitement is straining them. Some of they players couldn’t even legally drink a year ago. So of course they’re going to have a hard time in the playoffs. That’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.

Like the Chicago Cubs of last year, Red Sox are seeing a glimpse of that potential that makes them a fun team to watch. Also like the Cubs of last year, the Red Sox are struggling in the post season. If the Red Sox manage to beat back the Tribe this year and advance to the ALCS, then all the more power to them. I’ll be in the stands cheering my head off with everyone else. Regardless of this season, I honestly think that next year’s Red Sox team will play much better next year given all they’ve learned this year. They’ll have more experience, their pitchers will pitch better, and their hitters will know how to hit opposing pitchers better.

So even though the Indians studied Red Sox pitching well enough to gain an advantage over them this season, they’ll end this season with new knowledge that will make them a better team next year.

The Red Sox Rotation is Now a Strength

For almost three years, the Red Sox rotation has been a source of frustration. In 2014, Jon Lester was traded away, and Ben Cherington didn’t replace him. Boston lacked an ace for what felt like the longest time, until David Price was signed last winter. Under-performance early this season increased the worry among fans, but things have gradually clicked into place, giving the Red Sox a starting corps to be relied upon as October looms ahead.

A Resurgence for the Red Sox Rotation

In the past thirty days, the Red Sox rotation has pitched to a 3.19 ERA. Only two teams have a better mark in all of baseball: the Cubs and Rays. Boston is also fourth overall in FIP during that span, while a WHIP of 1.110 is the best any American League team can muster. Only the Blue Jays and Tigers have induced more soft contact in the past month among AL rivals, which suggests the Red Sox rotation has definitely turned a corner.

Red Sox rotation

Rick Porcello has emerged as the staff ace, as his 2.08 ERA in the past thirty days illustrates. But David Price has also improved greatly as the season has progressed. The big southpaw has a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts, and he appears to be peaking when it matters most. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has a 2.67 ERA in his last five starts; Drew Pomeranz is at 3.31 over his last six; and Clay Buchholz has even returned from the dead with a 2.70 mark in his last 16.2 innings pitched.

Once a Weakness, Now a Strength

Whichever way you dice it, the Red Sox rotation, so often maligned, is quietly becoming a strength. Aside from the numbers, this group just inspires more confidence than it ever has before. Porcello and Price are experienced guys who should handle the pennant race pressure. Rodriguez seems to have ironed out a few issues. And the Sox still have Steven Wright to return from his stint on the disabled list, to compliment Pomeranz and Buchholz, who are also doing just fine.

All things considered, Boston is rounding into form at just the right time. The offense has been relentless all season, but it is now backed by a more consistent pitching staff. In general, the Sox seem to be grinding harder right now, and there is a newfound toughness to this team that has enabled it to win plenty of close games recently. That bodes well for the stretch run, which will feature plenty of games against division rivals such as Toronto and Baltimore.

Through all the hardship and uncertainty, here the Red Sox stand. It’s late August and they have a 71-54 record, good for a share of first place. Just thirty-seven games remain, and one last push is needed for a return to postseason play. For the first time in a long while, the Sox have a strong balance between offense, defense and pitching. Don’t look now, but this may be the most complete team in the American League.

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.

Will the Red Sox Pursue Jose Fernandez?

Let’s face it. The Red Sox pitching isn’t as bad as people think, but it needs work. The level of expectation placed on David Price wore him out. Price is among the league’s leaders in strikeouts and has racked up nine wins as of July 19th. His ERA over 4 and his seven losses, however, are more than people expected. Rick Porcello and Steven Wright are marching closer to becoming the team’s top two pitchers. If the Red Sox pursue Jose Fernandez, however, it would be the missing piece in the Red Sox rotation. The Red Sox Nation should pay attention to this potential move, especially since David Ortiz recently commented that this idea should become a reality.

Why Fernandez? There’s a few good reasons the Red Sox should pursue him. First, inRed Sox Pursue Jose Fernandez 3,685 starts, Miami Marlins’ pitchers have had only four games with 14 strikeouts. Fernandez, however, has pitched four games with 14 strikeouts in only 65 starts. Since his debut in 2013, Fernandez has accumulated a 33-13 win/loss record with a 2.44 ERA. Fernandez was Rookie of the Year in 2013 and is already a two-time All-Star. In four seasons, Fernandez has accumulated over 500 strikeouts. On top of all that, he’s one 23 years old. Fernandez hasn’t even entered the prime of his career yet. Put him in a rotation with Price, Porcello, Wright, and Eduardo Rodriguez, and you’d have a much stronger pitching staff.

Right now the best way for the Red Sox to pursue Fernandez is through a trade. The Red Sox minor league farm system is packed with both offensive and defensive talent. While I’d hate to see him go, Michael Kopech is a hot prospect in the Red Sox farm system. He can throw 105 MPH and has the potential to become an ace (If he can stay out of trouble). Yoan Moncada recently had his first multi-homer game with a total of seven in 21 games with AA Portland. He’s also a switch-hitter, a valuable skill any team would appreciate having. Offering both of these prospects to Miami would be a difficult deal to turn down.

Whatever happens, if the Red Sox pursue Jose Fernandez, they’d only be strengthening their own staff. Fernandez is a prime pitcher, and he’d make the team’s rotation a solid defensive powerhouse.

Sox Need Pitching Help

Coming into the season, most pundits predicted that the Red Sox lineup would produce enough runs to keep the team in contention, which it has. Most analysts also expected that Boston’s pitching staff, specifically the starting rotation, would be a problem, and in that regard they were also correct. Many anticipated Dave Dombrowski dealing prospects to upgrade their pitching at the deadline, which he seems likely to do. Because the Red Sox need pitching help, and they need it now.

With Boston fading fast, Dombrowski can’t afford to wait another month before bolstering the staffSox Need Pitching Help. The Red Sox are 9-14 in June with a minus-12 run differential. They’ve gone from three games up on the AL East at the start of June to four games out of first in under four weeks. Boston’s offense has cooled considerably, but that’s less worrisome because lineups typically rise and fall over the course of the season. Barring serious injuries, that lineup will be fine.

The same can not be said, however, of Boston’s pitching staff. The rotation has been a mess, particularly at the back end. David Price has not been up to snuff. Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz have bombed. Rick Porcello has been hot and cold. John Farrell has exhausted all his options for the last two rotation spots with middling results.

With none of the young Red Sox starters proving ready to contribute, Dombrowski must seek pitching help outside the organization. Several big-names will likely be available, including Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran, but would require bundles of prospects to acquire. Boston must stabilize its rotation, however, and it’s worth trading a few kids now to avoid relying on Sean O’Sullivan and Henry Owens down the stretch.

The bullpen could also use reinforcements, as reliable options for high leverage situations are lacking. There’s Craig Kimbrel, obviously, and Junichi Tazawa, but that’s pretty much it. Carson Smith’s done for the year and Koji Uehara is finally showing his age. Boston needs another power arm to strengthen the bridge to Kimbrel. Relievers are always plentiful near the deadline, so acquiring one shouldn’t be too difficult.

So even though the trade deadline is still more than a month away, Boston shouldn’t wait. The Red Sox need pitching help now. If they wait, it might be too late.

Red Sox Quarterly Review

If you can believe it, we’re already a quarter of the way through the baseball season. That means there’s still a lot of games left to be played, but there’s also a considerable amount already in the books–enough to draw somewhat meaningful conclusions from. With that in mind, it’s time for the Red Sox quarterly review.

Red Sox Quarterly Review: Mostly Good…

A great lineup can carry a team all the way to the championship, so it’s encouraging that people are already ranking Boston’s offense among the best of all-time (and that’s despite a disappointing start from Mookie Betts and next to nothing from Christian Vazquez)Red Sox Quarterly Review. The Sox currently lead the MLB in just about every hitting category under the sun, and after taking a quick look around the diamond it’s not hard to see why. Hanley Ramirez is productive again after injuries sabotaged his season last year, and Dustin Pedroia is hitting as well as he ever has. Xander Bogaerts continues to grow offensively, Travis Shaw has been a revelation at third, and Brock Holt is off to one of his patented hot starts in left.

Given all that firepower, it’s surprising that Boston’s two best hitters have been a 40-year-old DH and the team’s number-nine hitter. The former, David Ortiz, is having one of the best seasons ever for a player his age, making his decision to retire after this year look incredibly premature. Perhaps his wisdom is rubbing off on Jackie Bradley, Jr., who has finally learned how to hit at age 26, which is around the same age Ortiz emerged as a dominant force. Bradley’s hitting just as well as Ortiz, and while his breakout may not be sustainable, he doesn’t have to hit anywhere near this good to be valuable thanks to his stellar defense in center.

Boston’s also benefited from similarly unexpected breakthroughs in the  rotation. Knuckleballer Steven Wright has been the team’s best pitcher thus far, something nobody saw coming from  a 31-year-old with 11 career starts under his belt before this year. He’s had help from Rick Porcello, who remembered how to throw his sinker after over-relying on his fastball last year and is pitching like the number-two Ben Cherington signed him to be.

As expected, the bullpen’s been dynamite with Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel nailing down games. Just wait until Carson Smith gets back in the swing of things.

…But Some Bad

With Boston leading baseball in every conceivable offensive metric and mere percentage points out of first in the AL East, there’s not a whole lot of bad in this Red Sox quarterly review. But the Red Sox haven’t been perfect, otherwise they’d be 41-0 and I’d be writing about Joe Kelly’s Cy Young chances. But I’m not, because Kelly has been hurt and terrible. Clay Buchholz has also been terrible, but at least he’s not hurt (yet).

Boston’s biggest concern has to be its $31 million ace, who hasn’t pitched like one this year. David Price has been erratic, capable of overpowering opponents with his electric stuff but also struggling against weak lineups. His peripherals suggest he’s going to be fine, but the fact remains that he has not provided a good return on investment so far.

Neither has Boston’s $17 million third baseman, who won’t be manning the hot corner anytime soon after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in early May. Pablo Sandoval’s contract is looking like a sunk cost, but so did John Lackey’s before he righted the ship.

Red Sox Quarterly Review Grade: A

With a prolific offense, solid rotation and shutdown bullpen, Boston looks like postseason contenders.