Shockingly Poor Start For The Red Sox

Not what you expected to happen, right? The Sox played four meaningful games in March, one last night, and now it’s April 2nd. The team lost 3 of 4 in Seattle and were shut out last night in Oakland. To say the least, 2019 has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

The starting pitching has been horrific. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez,shockingly poor start Rick Porcello, and David Price have now all pitched. The results are ugly: 26 earned runs and eleven home runs allowed in 21 innings. The bullpen has not been much better. The club’s eight relievers have all been used, and in 20 innings, have surrendered 20 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 home runs, and eight walks. Matt Barnes has collected the team’s lone save.

In regards to hitting, reigning MVP Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, who bat one-and-two in the lineup, both have on-base percentages (OBP) of .250. Only Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez own an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) over .800. In comparison to other teams, Boston ranks in the top-5 in all hitting categories, but in the bottom-5 in most pitching ranks.

Now that we know all of that, we must address the key question, which is: what is going on with the Red Sox and why have they come out “flat” after winning the World Series last year?

Pitching is the problem

The starting pitching, besides Price’s performance last night, have not given the offense a chance to get going. 7 runs were allowed in the first 3 innings of game-1, 3 runs through two innings in game-2, 2 runs in the first inning of game-3, and 9 runs through 3 innings of game-4.

In 2018, the Red Sox were the only team that qualified for the postseason to have four hitters (with at least 500 plate appearances) record an OPS of at least .830: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, and Bogaerts. First baseman Steve Pearce, who played in just 50 regular season games with the team down the stretch, recorded a .901 OPS. One could attribute Betts’s .598 OPS, Benintendi’s .375 OPS, and Pearce’s absence (calf injury) to the poor start for the Red Sox.

Also in 2018, Boston was the only team (postseason eligible) to have a player save more than 40 games with a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) less than 1.00. That player? Craig Kimbrel – he is not back with the club this year. Kimbrel’s presence in the bullpen could factor in nicely moving forward and take some pressure off relievers.

Poor attitude

One factor to the shockingly poor start for the Red Sox that cannot be measured by statistics is their attitude. Their leader, manager Alex Cora, was asked during postgame if there was any concern following the team’s loss last night.

“Not really. It’s five games. When you go through stretches like this, it (stinks) that it’s early in the season, but yeah, we have to pick it up.”

Cora’s nonchalant demeanor is not changing the way the team is approaching games. The top of the lineup needs to get going. Cora announced today on MLB Network that Betts will move back to the leadoff spot. The starting pitching now starts its second turn. So far this season, Sox pitchers have allowed the most runs in the American League. They rank second-to-last in earned run average (ERA) and batting average against (BAA). In addition, Boston is the only AL team to not record a quality start.

Tonight’s first pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET. We’ll see if things start to change this evening in what has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

I’m Losing My Patience With David Price

On December 7, 2015, the Boston Red Sox inked David Price to a seven-year, $217 million dollar contract. And Red Sox Nation rejoiced, myself included. Was it justified? Of course it was. Price, a 3-time All-Star, and 2012 Cy Young Award recipient was one of the best starting pitchers on the free agent market at the time. Zack Greinke was the other, and recently hired general manager Dave Dombrowski had his sights set on bringing an ace to his new ballclub.

He did just that. Boston’s new GM, notorious for flashy transactions, signed the 29-year-David Priceold southpaw to the most lucrative deal for a starting pitcher in MLB history. David Price’s extravagant contract, with a $31 million annual salary, was also the largest deal in franchise history and seemed to fill Boston’s vacancy at Ace for years to come.

At the time, rolling out the Brinks truck for Price made sense. A lot of sense. The Sox were on the heels of two straight last-place finishes in the AL East, and the recent acquisitions of Dombrowski and closer Craig Kimbrel marked a new era of baseball in Beantown.

Now fast forward three years. Price, now 32 and in the third year of his contract, missed his last start after getting diagnosed with what the team called “a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome”. It wasn’t just any start though. It was game two in a road series against the Yankees with the division lead, and the MLB’s best record, at stake. And it wasn’t just any diagnosis either. There is significant speculation that it may be related to excessive time spent playing video games, namely Fortnite.

Price has since said that the setback is unrelated to his gaming habits and that he will stop playing Fortnite in the clubhouse. Manager Alex Cora showed his support by downplaying the notion as well, and they are likely correct from a medical standpoint. However, the speculation alone is frustrating enough. Video games should not be in conversations about $217 million dollar pitchers missing starts against division rivals.

David Price is a Repeat Offender

Now, if this was the first or even second blemish on Price’s tenure, it would be a different story. But that is far from the case. The tingling sensation in Price’s hands, which led to his recent diagnosis, also forced him out of a game in April. Which, coincidence or not, was also against the New York Yankees.

And we all know about his conflict with Red Sox broadcaster Dennis Eckersley last season, where he cursed at the Hall of Fame pitcher and refused to apologize in the aftermath. Price went on to go 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 2017 and finished the season in a relief role. He has started 2018 with a 2-4 record and a 5.11 ERA in seven starts. He threw a limited bullpen on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s start. Cora is hopeful that Price will be ready for his next scheduled start on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

David Price keeps finding ways to make headlines, but not for the right reasons. Frustration is growing towards Boston’s controversial pitcher, and patience is shrinking. It’s time for Price to start making headlines on the field and regain the form that the Red Sox paid $217 million dollars for.