The 2016 Red Sox have a borderline historic offense, with the trio of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz having already laid a pretty solid foundation for potential MVP campaigns. If Jackie Bradley Jr. gets hot again and starts mashing the ball all over the park like he did through the month of May he’ll be a fourth.
The offense ranks first in the A.L. in essentially every category worth a damn, highlighted by runs (342), hits (610), total bases (1015), OBP (.355), slugging (.482) and OPS (.837), and they lead each category by a pretty decent margin over the teams in second.
Yet the problem we’ve seen bubble right under the surface that’s in danger of exploding in their faces is the shaky and inconsistent pitching staff, and that’s the rotation and bullpen combined.
In the A.L. the Sox staff ranks 11th in team ERA (4.30), 7th in opposing OBP (.318) and sixth in WHIP (1.29). In front of them in nearly every statistic are teams Boston is chasing for a playoff spot come October and the last thing they want to do is fall behind in the division (they’re currently two back of the Orioles) and finish in second place to set-up the Wild Card play-in game, which at the moment would see Felix Hernandez and Seattle come to Fenway for the do-or-die game.
David Price has been good not great through his first 13 games in a Sox uni. First the good, he owns a 7-3 record to go with nine quality starts and 91 strikeouts. The bad is that he has a 4.63 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, numbers that rank him 32nd and 17th in the American League among qualified starters, respectively. Price went toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner out in San Francisco on Wednesday and only gave up three hits in eight innings of work, the only problem was that two of those hits were homers. 98.5 The Sports Hubs’ Tony Massarotti gets on everyone’s nerves but he had a pretty decent point the day after in saying that the Sox are paying Price $31 million to win games 2-1, not lose them.
After Price, the rotation has question marks all over. After a hot start, Rick Porcello has come back down to earth with a 2-2 record and three no-decisions in his last seven starts to go along with a 5.02 ERA. John Farrell is rolling with a four-man rotation until at least June 18, which keeps the relegated Clay Buchholz in the bullpen. Joe Kelly got his keister booted to Pawtucket after a terrible outing in Baltimore last week when he surrendered seven runs in just 2.1 innings. Eduardo Rodriquez looked good in his first start of the season last week against the O’s, going six and surrendering two runs on six hits while striking out three.
The most reliable man through three months has been Steven Wright, which is both a great story and incredibly concerning. Wright’s 2.29 ERA is third-best in the American League., while his three complete games have him tied with Chicago’s Chris Sale for most in the A.L. Yet in a perfect world Wright is the third or fourth man in the rotation giving Boston someone to lean on through a regular turn, not as the defacto no. 2 because everyone else can’t be relied upon.
And this is all without touching on the bullpen. We’ll really start to see the effects of losing Carson Smith the deeper we get into the season when the innings begin to rack up. The duo of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can’t be used up too much early in the season at the risk of seeing them breakdown in August and September, although the rest of the unit has been pretty steady. The best thing about it has been closer Craig Kimbrel, who’s now given up just six hits and one earned run in 14.1 innings of work dating back to April 25.
Where there’s seemingly no end in sight to the kind of production the offense can put up, the pitching staff is a lot less assuring. The team will need to hope and pray that Price continues to improve and grows into a dominating no. 1, while they’ll need Rick Porcello to find even ground and settle as a dependable option. However long Steven Wright can do his thing is gravy, and the real wild card in all of this is Rodriguez. He’ll need a couple more starts to get back into the groove after missing so much time, yet if he can replicate what he did last year it’ll be a huge boost to the staff.
But again, those are all big ifs, and they’re ones that we could all look back on in three months and circle as the main reasons why the 2016 Red Sox were cut short of postseason success.
Follow Mark Burke on Twitter @m_burke42
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