Red Sox Preview: Rotation
As the Major League Baseball season gets underway today, let's take a look at the Boston Red Sox' Opening Day Roster. First up, a look at the Starting rotation.
- David Price LHP
- Clay Buchholz RHP
- Joe Kelly RHP
- Rick Porcello RHP
- Steven Wright RHP
First things first, the Red Sox rotation last year was bad. If you really look at the team from last season, though they finished under .500 and in dead last in the AL East, if they had that one ace-type pitcher they easily could have been in the thick of things down the stretch. With that in mind, the front office reached into their hefty pockets and pulled out a king's ransom to sign Price, who is that ace pitcher. Price will anchor this staff and give them some much needed dependability every fifth day. He'll also probably give them somewhere between 15-20 wins which any team would sign up for. While the lefty has struggled in the postseason, posting a 2-7 record and 5.12 ERA over six playoff trips, he may be just what this team needs to get back to meaningful October baseball. If they get there, you just hope he figures it out. With a guy like Price, you should like your chances.
Clay Buchholz is maybe the most important guy not named David Price in this Boston rotation. The key thing for Buchholz this year is to figure out how to pitch a full season and stay healthy. Buccholz has been an injury problem in the past and that has hurt his ability to be consistent. Never having reach the 200 inning plateau in his career, the right-hander has had an up and down tenure in Boston. He's struggled to put together quality seasons back to back and to see that just look at his last three years, which have modeled a modified movie title. In 2013 he was good with a 12-1 record and 1.74 ERA. In 2014 he was bad posting a 5.34 ERA and 8-11 record. Finally, things were occasionally ugly at times in 2015, as he put up a 7-7 record with a 3.26 ERA. The Sox don't need the '13 Buchholz to win, but they can't have the '14 Buchholz trotting out to the mound every fifth day. He'll have to find a balance between his 2013 year and last season to be the guy that can most help this rotation. In the spring, he wasn't dominant with a 3.86 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 14 innings of work. For now, we can chalk it up to getting his work in but, he'll need better outings during the season to help Boston win games.
The middle of the rotation is filled by two guys who are both coming off really bad seasons. Both Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello scuffled out of the gate in their first full seasons with the Sox, as part of last season's shaky rotation. Porcello allowed opposing batter to hit at a .287 clip in '15, while also surrendering the most home runs he's allowed in a single season with 25 big flies. Add those stats in with a 4.92 ERA and a 9-15 record and it doesn't get much worse than that. Things weren't really any better this spring for the righty, as he rocked a 9.77 ERA, giving up 29 hits and 17 earned runs in 15.2 innings. As for Kelly, he's got electric stuff but might be in the wrong role. With a fastball that sits in the upper 90's and a legitimate breaking pitch, it's in some ways surprising that his career ERA is just slightly under 4.00. There's a large school of thought that Kelly may be better suited for a bullpen role either as a late inning guy that can dial it up and max out for one inning here and there or as a guy who, due to his starting experience, could be a guy that gets you more than three outs if you need it. While he starts in the rotation this year, another season with an ERA close to 5.00 could force manager John Farrell to make a move. The good news for Farrell is that in 24 spring innings, Kelly was pretty good, posting a 2.63 ERA.
The rotation rounds out now, with knuckle ball pitcher Steven Wright in the fifth spot. Wright got nine starts last year and was okay posting a 5-4 record and 4.09 ERA. With a knuckle baller, it's hard to know what you'll get every start but he pitched well enough in spring to earn a spot in the rotation and its just as hard for hitters to square up and hit the knuckle ball as it is to make it dance up to the plate successfully.
Overall Outlook- There's no doubt that the Sox strengthened the top of the rotation and have a true ace in Price, but the guys behind him are so unpredictable and inconsistent that if the 2016 team falters like the club from '15, all signs will probably point back to this starting unit. The good news for Boston is they will get Eduardo Rodriguez back at some point this season. He flashed signs of dominance last season and could step into the rotation and give the team a boost and a second quality guy behind Price.