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.

David Price’s return helps lead Sox in rout of Blue Jays

Don’t look now, but if the Red Sox continue to roll over teams like they did in a 12-2 victory over Toronto yesterday, the league better be on alert. After David Price’s return to form, and an offensive onslaught led by red-hot hitters Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, the Sox have clearly put that series loss against Houston behind them.

Price looks like his old self in his first start back from the IL

David Price’s return will bolster the rotation, which was thinning with Nathan Eovaldi David Price's returnweeks away from returning. In his first trip to the mound since May 2, the southpaw was strong. Price went five innings (67 pitches) and held Toronto to just two runs and three hits, striking out four. For Price, his latest effort just adds on to his pure dominance over Toronto in his career. This afternoon’s victory propelled him to a 13-1 record all-time at the Rogers Centre. That balloons to a 22-3 career record in games pitched against the Blue Jays, good for a 2.37 ERA.

You don’t mess with David if the Jays are in the opposing dugout.

Bogaerts and Devers go back-to-back, Chavis stays hot

Carrying the offensive load for Boston were Bogaerts and Devers, led by back-to-back bombs in the 9th inning. On the day, the young sluggers each drove in a trifecta of runs, with rookie Michael Chavis adding another moonshot and a pair of runs driven in. Chavis finished the afternoon with a mammoth .981 OPS through 26 career games. That would be the highest mark on the team (for position players) if it qualified. Adding to the barrage was Jackie Bradley Jr., who drilled a line drive over the left field fence for his first home run of the season. His homerless drought had led all the way back to the ALCS against Houston. That homer came in Game 4 off of Josh James to tie the game in the sixth inning, leading to an eventual Red Sox victory.

Today’s lashing continues a powerful stretch for the Sox. Over their last 18 games (since 4/29) they have smacked 34 homers and have averaged 6.84 runs per game. In that span, they lead the majors in OPS.

The bullpen combines with David Price’s return to completely shut down the Jays

After Price allowed a two-run home run to Luke Maile in the second, the Red Sox arms shut it down. That home run was the final hit surrendered by Boston pitching for the remainder of the game. After that home run, 22 of the 23 remaining batters were retired. Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, and Hector Velazquez combined to throw four scoreless innings, striking out six and walking just one. The bullpen continues to be a strong point, posting a sub-two ERA over its last 22 games, the second-best mark in MLB.

As the Red Sox continue to rebound from that ugly start, all sides of the ball appear to be clicking. If the Rays and Yankees continue to battle the injuries they have suffered with, it would not be out of the question for the Red Sox to be as good a challenger as anyone for the division title.

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.

Red Sox Sweep the Rays thanks to lifts from Moreland, others

You have tremendous foresight if you were expecting to see the Red Sox sweep the Rays after a weekend series in Tampa. With the tabloids barking for the real Red Sox to stand up, the World Champions were facing adversity really for the first time under Alex Cora. That might still be the case, as Boston still sits at just 9-13 AFTER a series sweep. But the Red Sox are finally showing real signs of shaking their funk.

The Red Sox sweep the Rays with a push from Mookie Betts

As has been the case since Betts showed MVP-ability in 2016, the team goes when he Red Sox Sweep the Raysgoes. When he struggles, so does the offense. It’s no secret Betts was scuffling entering play on Friday, going just 2 of 23 in his last seven games. That changed when he smacked a homer and a double to help lift the Sox over the Rays 6-4 to open the series. Case in point, as he went back-to-back with Mitch Moreland on home runs in the series opening victory. He continued that approach into the next two games. He added two more hits apiece in each contest. If the 2018 MVP continues to stay hot, then he very well might carry the Red Sox back to form.

The starting pitching continues to improve, and that starts with David Price

Price has arguably been the rotation’s most reliable thrower to this point in 2019. While the southpaw has tossed just one quality start so far, he has not allowed more than four runs in a start. Price has worked less than six innings only once too. Given the inconsistencies of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, Price’s outings have given the team a chance to win each time out. He was at his best versus Baltimore on 4/14 (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 7 K) but worked out of jams and held the Rays to two runs over five innings with 10 strikeouts on Sunday afternoon. With Eovaldi hitting the injured list, and Chris Sale still yet to truly put it together, Price’s importance cannot be overstated to the rotation’s long term success.

Martinez, Moreland, and Benintendi are all off to strong starts

As important as Betts’ oil is to grease the Red Sox’ engine, the team might be off to an even worse start if it weren’t for J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and, most notably, Moreland. Through Sunday, Moreland lead the team in homers (7) and RBI (14), and mashed most of those homers to either tie or give the Red Sox the lead. The former Texas Ranger homered again Sunday to pull the Sox within one. Martinez has been one of the best hitters in baseball, hitting .350 with a 1.004 OPS, including four homers and 11 RBI. He is also one of three players (Rafael Devers and Betts) to appear in every game so far. Benintendi crushed his first career grand slam on Saturday to give Boston an early lead. Coupled with his strong defense in the field, the Cincinnati native figures to continue to break out in 2019.

If you expected to read the headline “Red Sox Sweep the Rays” on Monday, you also see why the team has gotten back on track. If the Sox want to keep winning, it is going to take more than what they have received so far from the roster. But a three-game sweep of the first-place Rays is a good starting point. They can now look forward to the upcoming home stand with three straight wins under their belt.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Sox Salvage One Victory In Arizona

The Red Sox weekend wrap-up began Friday night in the desert with the opening contest of a three-game set against the Diamondbacks. Rick Porcello started his second game of the season. Porcello, after allowing 4 earned runs against Seattle in his first start two Sundays ago, got shelled again. He gave up 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings. What was encouraging to see, however, was the right-hander’s emotions when he returned to the dugout following the bottom half of the 4th inning. A camera showed him throw a Gatorade cooler against the dugout wall. It was nice to see some nerve from Boston’s lousy start to the season. Porcello, now in his eleventh season, has never accumulated an ERA above 4.92, nor a WHIP above 1.53.

Porcello was relieved with two outs in the 5th by Brian Johnson. Johnson, like Porcello,weekend wrap went on to allow 7 earned runs himself, including a grand slam, in just 1.1 innings. When the left-hander finally exited the game after the 6th, the score was 14-1 Arizona.

The Red Sox ended up scoring seven runs in the final two innings. The game was still far out of hand, though. Final score: D-backs 15, Sox 8.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Sox lose a tight one in second game of series

Saturday’s game was another loss, but this time much closer, 5-4. The Red Sox scored first for the third consecutive game. They put up three runs in the top of the 2nd inning. One of those runs was knocked in by pitcher David Price, which was his first career RBI. The Sox could not hold the lead, however. The D-backs responded promptly in the inning’s bottom half with four runs off Price to take the lead.

The game’s next run was not scored until the 7th inning when Mookie Betts drove in Jackie Bradley Jr. with a sacrifice fly to right field. Arizona 4, Boston 4.

The D-backs had a runner on second base, Eduardo Escobar, with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then Nick Ahmen hit a grounder under Moreland’s glove at first. Escobar came around third base and headed home for the winning run, only to be thrown out by Betts on a one-hopper. Carson Kelly was up next and socked a liner down the left field line that scored Ahmed easily from second. No throw. Final score: Arizona 5, Boston 4.

After losing Saturday’s game, the Red Sox fell to 2-8, which tied the franchise’s worst start through the first ten games.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Boston bullpen captures the team’s first shutout

Manager Alex Cora elected to start reliever Hector Velazquez in the series finale yesterday. The decision proved to be a good one. The right-hander pitched 3 innings and allowed no runs on one hit. The final six innings were handled by Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier. Just two hits and one walk were permitted. Walden and Barners each pitched two innings. Brasier earned his second save of the season.

Mookie Betts was given the day to rest. Mitch Moreland supplied the team its only run of the game. He sent a ball over the fence in the 7th inning for a solo shot. It was Moreland’s third homer of the campaign.

The Sox have their first break of the young season today. They get back to it tomorrow afternoon in the team’s home opener against the Blue Jays.

Huge Win For The Red Sox: Opportunity To Split Series Today

What a huge win for the Red Sox last night! Although the team remains in last place in the AL East, the victory snapped their four game losing streak. With the 6-3 victory over Oakland, Boston improved to 2-5 on the season.

The Sox won the game in the 9th inning when Mookie Betts doubled off the third baseHuge win bag. Two runners scored. Andrew Benintendi, next up, scored Betts with a stand up triple. Boston entered the bottom half of the inning with a 3-run lead and handed the ball to Ryan Brasier, who closed the door and gave the Sox their much needed second win of the season.

The game started slowly, as the first 3.5 innings were quite uneventful – one run was scored by the A’s in the 2nd on an infield RBI single by catcher Nick Hundley.

The A’s scored again in the fourth when Ramon Laureano sent a Nathan Eovaldi curveball into orbit. The home run traveled 438 feet, well beyond the center field fence. Other than the Laureano home run and lack of command, 4 walks allowed, Eovaldi pitched decently. He was pulled after five innings. He accumulated 96 pitches, but just 51 strikes.

Swihart, on his 27th birthday, goes 3-for-4 in huge win for the Red Sox

Boston had tallied just one hit before Blake Swihart put them on the board with a solo shot in the fifth. Oakland’s lead was cut to two.

Sox tie it up

Clutch hitting and superb pitching out of the bullpen is what fueled last night’s huge win for the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, Betts led off with a walk. Two batters later, Rafael Devers grounded the ball to A’s second baseman Jurickson Profar for a potential double play. But, Profar overthrew shortstop Marcus Semien. The ball had to be chased down by third baseman Matt Chapman and Betts was able to then advance to third without a throw. Both Betts and Devers were safe.

J.D. Martinez walked on five pitches to load the bases and Mitch Moreland came to the plate. A’s manager Bob Melvin replaced starter Marco Estrada with left-hander Ryan Buchter. Moreland jumped on the first pitch and doubled down the right field line. Two runs scored and the game was tied.

Red Sox relievers Colten Brewer and Matt Barnes pitched the following three innings (6, 7, and 8). They recorded a combined four strikeouts, all of which A’s hitters went down swinging.

After the game, manager Alex Cora’s energy was uplifting. While speaking to reporters, he said, “When we pitch, we have a chance to win the game … The energy was better today, the whole day … We need to start playing clean baseball, better baseball.”

Red Sox activate Pearce ahead of today’s game

Steve Pearce will have a chance to make his 2019 debut now that he was activated off the Injured List today. Sam Travis was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The series finale is today. After trailing in the each of the first three games, Boston has somehow found a way to win two of the four games. Eduardo Rodriguez takes the mound in an important second start for the southpaw. He is opposed by fellow left-hander Brett Anderson. First pitch is at 3:37 PM/ET this afternoon. Enjoy the day game Sox fans!