Boston Red Sox pitching woes foreshadow repeated failure

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 27, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 27, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox pitching problems persist, which will once again lead to a disappointing season when 2020 comes to an end.

With Chris Sale out for the season, David Price and Rick Porcello let go, and the bullpen exactly as dismal as 2019, 2020’s 60 games will not be kind to the Boston Red Sox.

Sale is out for the season, recovering Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in March.

Price was part of the Mookie Betts trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Porcello signed with the New York Mets.

In 2019, the Boston Red Sox’ bullpen recorded a terrible 4.40 Earned Run Average, allowed opponents to record an astonishing 0.305 batting average against them, walked the most batters in the league at 605, recorded the second-most blown saves in the league at 31, and recorded the second-worst save percentage at 51.563%.

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Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez will be returning which poses a bright spot for the team, but without a capable bullpen, Boston is placing a lot of pressure on their offense to score tons of runs.

This request is not entirely ridiculous for Boston’s power-hitting squad. In 2018, J.D. Martinez won an unprecedented two Silver Sluggers, in 2019, Xander Bogaerts finished fifth in voting for the Most Valuable Player, and Rafael Devers finished 12th in the same M.V.P. race.

An impressive set of records backed the team, but that did not help them win anything. They missed the second Wild Card spot by an unforgiving 12 games, leaving a barely floating 84 and 78 record.

Their offense, though star-studded, was not enough to provide for their weak pitching staff, which has only lost value this year.

Five pitchers are listed in the Red Sox’ rotation by their depth chart; Rodriguez, Eovaldi, the injured Sale, and two new faces. These two—righty Ryan Weber and lefty Martín Pérez—have a combined 168 starts between them, with 56 wins, 65 losses, and 47 no-decisions, forming a winning percentage of 46.281%, which is not exactly stellar.

Weber is the only returning member of this new cast as he appeared in 18 games for Boston in 2019, starting three. He recorded a career-best two wins and a career-worst four losses. With a career-worst 1.377 average of walks and hits per innings pitched, he recorded an uninspiring 5.09 E.R.A., raising his career E.R.A. to 5.04. He probably will work out of the bullpen, but that still does not lend a great deal of good credit to him.

Pérez serves a career 53-56 record, but he earned a positive winning percentage in 2019 at 58.824% with ten wins and seven losses, his best record in seven years. His E.R.A. was not so positive, though, as he recorded an uneasy 5.12 E.R.A. in 165.1 innings. While he struck out a career-best 135 batters, he walked an astonishing 67 batters, surrendered a career-worst 23 home runs, and dealt a shaky 1.518 W.H.I.P.

It is not unusual for a team to make the playoffs with only two great starting pitchers, but the teams that usually accomplish that feat tend to boast an almost unhittable bullpen. Additionally, one of the Red Sox’ two currently healthy great starting pitchers is the injury-prone Eovaldi.

In the 18-inning epic Game Three of the 2018 World Series, Eovaldi heroically saved the arms of Boston’s bullpen by pitching six innings of relief on two days’ rest. Unfortunately, Eovaldi’s historic performance took a toll on his arm and he coasted through the 2019 season, cycling through the injured list. He made only 23 appearances through 67.2 innings pitched with 12 starts.

In 2019, he recorded an abysmal 5.99 E.R.A., a career-worst 1.581 W.H.I.P., and surrendered 16 home runs, averaging a home run once roughly every 4.1 innings.

Returning strong after enduring essential abuse to the pitching arm has never been easy.

Sandy Koufax’s gracefully violent windup strained the ligaments in his elbow, forcing him to undergo heavy pregame medical treatments and unruly postgame healing. This constant stress and pain prompted his early retirement.

In the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser hurled a remarkable 18.0 innings, bailing out Los Angeles in several dangerous scenarios. His next year would be his last stellar season, though he still could not meet his remarkable 1988 statistics. After his unbelievable sacrificial performance in the World Series, he never pitched the same.

In the 2014 World Series, the San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner threw an unparalleled 21.0 innings, allowing only one earned run, and shutting down the opposing Kansas City Royals in several key spots throughout the seven-game classic. Since nearly throwing out his arm, his E.R.A. has only risen and his innings pitched has mainly decreased.

Eovaldi’s path is showing an unfortunate similarity to these greats, so he looks as if he may be joining a group full of martyrs—a headstart on a potentially career-ending decline.

E-Rod, on the other hand, looks to be the Great Red (Sox) Hope. Robbed of a 20-win season by the abhorrently counterproductive 2019 Boston bullpen, Rodriguez boasted a 19-6 record with a career-best 3.81 E.R.A (25th in baseball), 1.328 W.H.I.P., and a career-high 213 strikeouts (20th in baseball).

Rodriguez could be a star on the rise, but one consistently good starting pitcher is not exactly sublime, especially with an incapable bullpen.

The Red Sox do not even have a set closer, nor did they have one in 2019.

Every single pitcher currently listed as being a part of the Red Sox’ bullpen is a returning player from last year’s screwup squad, except for new face, right-handed Austin Brice, who has zero career saves in zero career save attempts.

In 2019, seven Boston pitchers recorded at least one save, but the main work was split between Matt Barnes with four saves, Ryan Brasier with seven saves, and Brandon Workman with 16 saves.

By contrast, 12 Boston pitchers recorded at least one blown save with four pitchers dropping at least four save opportunities. The main stretch of disasters included four blown saves by Brasier, six by Workman, and eight by Barnes.

Finding a closer for Boston was essentially a string of auditions for a lead role where none of the actors could remember the theatre’s address.

Additionally, the Boston coaching staff is in the middle of an overhaul. 2019 manager Alex Cora parted ways with the team and was replaced by Ron Roenicke, after Roenicke’s promotion from bench coach to interim manager, Jerry Narron was added as the new bench coach, and pitching coach Dana LeVangie was reassigned to be a scout, promptly being replaced by Dave Bush.

With a crippled pitching staff and an unfamiliar team of mentors, 2020 does not look bright for the team that dominated Major League Baseball just two years ago in 2018 when the Red Sox finished the regular season at 108-54 and won the franchise’s ninth World Series Championship.

In light of new general manager Chaim Blum’s propensity for cutting expensive weight, the Red Sox might be in for a rebuild. With the success of team leaders Bogaerts and Martinez, young stars like Devers and Andrew Benintendi, and new pitching phenom Rodriguez, the cast for a rebuild is nicely set.

Sale has had arm and back problems for years and Eovaldi is no different, but the two still hold great trade value. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and catcher Christian Vasquez continue to improve and the addition of Alex Verdugo introduces another great glove tied to a solid bat, which poses impressive trade value, as well.

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When the dust settles on the 2020 season and management considers how to deal with the disaster that the inability of the pitching staff will have brought this year, baseball’s sights might settle on an extremely different Boston Red Sox in 2021 and beyond.