The Red Sox have under performed this year. It’s been a frustrating first half of 2019. What makes this frustrating is that this same group minus Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly won 108 regular season games and rolled through the playoffs on their way to a World Series title a year ago. Third place in the AL East isn’t where you want to be after the All Star break. The Red Sox are in the hunt to play in the Wild Card game but Wild Card teams are a long shot to win the ALDS never mind the World Series.
The Red Sox offense is something no pitcher wants to face. It’s a good lineup and a deep one. Rafael Devers is second in the AL in batting average at .322 after a subpar 2018, Xander Bogaerts is one of two players with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs in the American League (Mike Trout is the other). Mookie Betts leads all of baseball in runs scored and has been hot since the All-Star break. Michael Chavis is an AL Rookie of the Year candidate and JD Martinez is having another productive season. The Red Sox should be in position to be competing for another World Series ring. Unfortunately, this pitching staff hasn’t been half of what they were in 2018. What’s wrong?
Both Chris Sale and Rick Porcello are having career worst seasons. Those are two leaders in the pitching staff who simply aren’t doing what they need to do to help the team win. It’s tough to watch.
Chris Sale just signed a five-year $145M extension in March. He’s a great pitcher. One of the best in the game. The most exciting pitcher to watch the Red Sox have had since Pedro Martinez. Yet I wasn’t 100% sold on this extension. His first two years with Red Sox have been phenomenal but filled with shoulder injuries/fatigue. Chris Sale in his thirties will more than likely continue to have those problems. Maybe I’m still bitter that the Sox didn’t extend my childhood favorite pitcher Jon Lester because they expected him to decline in his thirties (he clearly didn’t) and they are giving Sale the contract Lester deserved back in 2014. But hey Chris Sale deserves to get paid. He’s a Red Sox legend. He led the pitching staff to a World Series and recorded the final out of the World Series for the most dominant Red Sox team ever. I hope I’m proven wrong. I love Chris Sale but his ERA this season is 4.27 and he’s THE guy for the Red Sox rotation. If the Red Sox want to be a serious contender this season Chris Sale needs to be better in the second half. Sale can be the difference between the team playing baseball or golf in October.
I love Rick Porcello. He’s the gutsiest pitcher the Red Sox have had since John Lackey. He’s not the most talented guy on the staff but he eats innings. He gives you innings and saves the bullpen from working extra. You know your getting a quality start more often than not with Porcello on the bump. It’s hard to go 6-7 innings when you’re allowing more than 5 runs a game. I think Porcello is an absolute beast. I love the guy. He’s actually been my favorite starter on the Red Sox over the last 4 seasons. Unfortunately I think he’s pitched too poorly so far in 2019 to be able to return to the Sox when his contract expires after this season. The tough part is that I know Rick will bounce back in 2020. he is too good not to but the Red Sox have too many guys they need to pay.
Nathan Eovaldi is another beast that got PAID this off-season. He was given four-years, $66M. After an incredible 2018 playoffs he put himself in position to get a good contract. He can’t stay healthy though. Two Tommy John surgeries and elbow injury that has sidelined him since April is very unfortunate for a pitcher as talented as Nasty Nate.
That never gets old. Brian Johnson has been out for about a month now so he can’t fill the shoes of Eovaldi or eat some innings to give other relievers a rest. Guys like Hector Velazquez, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Smith and Ryan Weber have spot started in his place. Those guys aren’t MLB starting pitchers though. It’s tough to have a spot start every fifth day. It’s also taxing on the bullpen. The acquisition of Andrew Cashner should help solidify the back end of the rotation. He’s an experienced solid back end of the rotation starter who can eat innings. Could even be a cheaper alternative than Porcello for 2020.
It’s been a disaster 2019 for the Red Sox bullpen for everyone not named Brandon Workman. Poor Brandon Workman – guy is nearing 50 appearances in July. He’s been nails this season. Unfortunately guys like Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Tyler Thornburg have not. They were the candidates to fill the closer position at the start of the year. Thornburg and Brasier pitched themselves off the 25 man roster.
What made this so unfortunate was that Brasier worked his way back to the big leagues from Japan and Tyler Thornburg was once an elite reliever. Matt Barnes has an ERA of nearly 4.50 as one of the key pieces of the Red Sox bullpen. Steven Wright was also supposed to help but the last time he was a dependable pitcher I couldn’t even grow facial hair. It’s been a dark year for the Red Sox bullpen. There is some hope though. Nathan Eovaldi is close to returning as the Red Sox much needed closer. Hopefully he can be a major factor in the bullpen for the remainder of 2019. Maybe he can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen with his starting experience. He could certainly be a fantastic reliever and maybe that’s where he can finally put it all together and take the pressure of guys like Barnes and Workman.
Hopefully the Red Sox pitchers can figure it out but if I’m Dave Dombrowsi I try to add to the bullpen by the trade deadline to fix the teams biggest weakness.