Baseball is a streaky sport. Teams go hot and cold during their 162 game roller coaster ride. In the early stages of 2016, the Red Sox skyrocketed toward first place in the AL East. The offense was explosive. Xander Bogarts and Jackie Bradley Jr. both delivered impressive hitting streaks that captivated Sox fans. At the end of May, they were battling Baltimore for first with a record of 32-20.
Just like the season prior, pitching is/was still the prominent concern. The offense has carried the team through poor outings by their pitching staff too many times. In hockey, a consistently good goaltender determines success much like strong pitching brings teams to the top in baseball.
Remember the theory that Red Sox just need to be decent in wide-open American League? Not buying it anymore. pic.twitter.com/sMdrRKdZ6b
— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) June 27, 2016
In June, we’ve finally seen the pitching woes catch up to the Sox. A team that once looked like contenders is now struggling to remain in contention.
The Sox have posted a 9-15 record this month. Opposing teams have outscored them 22-0 in the first inning in the past 15 games. The team’s pitching has failed drastically recently. They have fallen just as quickly as they rose. The trend is certainly not their friend.
Baseball features 162 games for a reason. The durability and focus of a team is tested over a very long summer of twists and turns. Unfortunately for the Sox some of their most important depth players have fallen due to injury.
— NESN (@NESN) June 28, 2016
Brock Holt was an all-star in 2015 and hasn’t played since May due to a concussion. Holt is considered to be one of the strongest utility men in all of baseball. Ryan Hanigan strained his neck and hasn’t played since June 5. Blake Swihart injured his ankle the same day and has also been unavailable since. Josh Rutledge is battling through patellar tendinitis and hasn’t appeared since June 17. Chris Young rounded first on June 23 and barely limped to the bag after damaging his hamstring.
The mounting injuries have begun to expose the Red Sox rotation. At some point in 2016, it was bound to happen. Offense can’t carry the Sox through the entire season. Eventually there will be pivotal injuries that require strong pitching from the rotation.
Red Sox have lost 7.5 games in AL East standings this month by going 9-15 thanks to a rotation that's 5-10 with 5.39 ERA. @RedSox
— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) June 28, 2016
The Sox have encountered a perfect storm of issues that are hampering their efforts to win games. Three vital positional players are unavailable to play, leading to increased stress on an already struggling pitching staff. A starting rotation that has only seen consistent production from about three pitchers. The bullpen has also struggled to perform up to their expectations.
It will be up to John Farrell and clubhouse leaders to take charge and carry this team through emotionally challenging times like this. In Eduardo Rodriguez’s extraordinarily terrible outing Monday evening, Dustin Pedroia took charge.
Dustin Pedroia with some choice words for Eduardo Rodriguez in midst of another meltdown. https://t.co/8STRgXfPeA
— John Tomase (@jtomase) June 28, 2016
It’s not often you see a player ripped on the field by his teammate publicly like Rodriguez was this past evening. It’s clearly evident that his coach and teammates are puzzled by his inability to perform. After the game, Pedroia commented on the mound visit.
“What did I say to Eddie? Do you honestly think I’m going to tell you that?” Pedroia said. “I was talking to him about baseball. I talk to all my teammates, every day. That’s about it.”
It doesn't get much more bleak for the Red Sox rotation when you can make the argument that Buchholz is not the greatest liability.
— Austin Eich (@Eich_AJ) June 27, 2016
The Red Sox can’t count on their starting pitching to deliver. It’s becoming more and more evident that frustration is boiling over. Farrell commented on the team’s struggles and E-Rod’s outing in his post-game interview.
“Well, not getting into the mentality of it, the bottom line is he’s capable of more, we’re capable of more, we need to get better, and we had a chance to share that here after the game tonight,” Farrell said. “You know what, we collectively have to get better. To continue to fall behind as much as we are of late, we’re more talented than that. We have the capability of executing pitches at a higher rate. We can’t continue to expect our offense to climb out of holes, as we’ve been. We’ve got to set the tone and lead the way from the mound more than we are.”
The Red Sox rotation has a combined 13.20 ERA on their current road trip. Scoring runs isn’t the team’s issue. The Sox offense posted seven runs in their defeat Monday night.
David Price (2 1/3 IP, 12 H, 6 ER) & Eduardo Rodriguez (2 2/3 IP, 11 H, 9 ER) both had rough starts in last 4 days pic.twitter.com/q5zvpQynRS
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 28, 2016
What Farrell needs is a sense of urgency and leadership from the senior members of the pitching staff. Their $217 million ace David Price certainly hasn’t fit his bill so far this season. Price has posted a 4.68 ERA in 16 games. Halfway through 2016, Price hasn’t come close to delivering as expected.
Stephen Wright has powered through a heavy workload, allowing only 39 runs over 103 innings. His ERA is an impressive 2.18. Without the unforeseen dominance of Wright, this team would be in much deeper trouble. His season has drawn comparison to the rise of Red Sox great Tim Wakefield in 1995.
The Red Sox got 3 starting pitchers with a 5.00+ ERA. Stephen Wright is the ace of our staff. What is life.
— Jacob (@NESportsFanSD) June 2, 2016
Rick Porcello has been one of the stronger pitchers for the Sox this season; that’s not saying much. His ERA is 3.92 but the team is 8-2 when he is on the mound. Porcello’s most important contribution has been his availability, avoiding injury thus far.
Joe Kelly strained his groin and has yet to return. He dealt with shoulder injuries early on in the season and struggled in the majority of his starts when he returned. His ERA is an astronomic 8.46.
For the majority of 2016, the Red Sox have gone without a consistent five man rotation. Outside of Wright, Price, and Porcello there has been nothing short of an unmitigated pitching disaster. Clay Buchholz has proved time and time again that he simply cannot deliver. Rodriguez hasn’t been able to carry over any of his improvement in 2015. The two have combined for an ERA of 6.15.
The rotation’s struggle forced Farrell to try out new starters in his without success. Henry Owens took the mound in three games posting an ERA of 5.11. Sean O’Sullivan started two and posted an ERA of 7.94. Roenis Elias appeared in one game and was sent back down to Pawtucket with a 15.88 ERA to boot.
The injuries and pitching struggle have started to take a tremendous toll on the clubhouse. After Monday night’s debacle, Farrell held a team meeting and ripped the Sox.
— NESN (@NESN) June 28, 2016
Pedroia understands what the players need focus on. “You play a lot of games so the main thing that we’ve always gone about here is that it shouldn’t change how you act day to day,” Pedroia said. “You should pride yourself on showing up and trying to win every single day. Sometimes you’re going to get your ass kicked, but then you’re going to show up the next day and try and give it right back. That’s it.”
Times like this is what makes winning so special!! We will get through this…this is the time we need your support the most! #unity
— David Price (@DAVIDprice24) June 28, 2016
The players need to ride out this storm or they will quickly find themselves adrift in the AL East standings. When Price arrived, many raved about his leadership on and off the field. Sox fans have certainly not seen a sense of command on the field, and perhaps younger arms are not receiving enough veteran guidance off-field either. It is undeniable that the Sox will need to trade for veteran arms at the deadline.
At first glance, the season appears to be spiraling out of control. Despite all of their current deficiencies and struggles, the Sox are only 4.5 games out of first place in the AL East. The Red Sox are at a crossroads. If Farrell and the players take a turn for the worst, Torey Lovullo may find himself take as team manager before 2016 comes to an end.
The Sox are a team with plenty of young talent, and a core that will compete for years to come. GM Dave Dombroski needs to be wary of giving up too much for pitching at the deadline. They will undoubtedly need to move an important prospect or strong major league player to address their current needs. Dombroski needs to exercise patience and wait a move that is best for the Red Sox now and in the future. With the pieces they have there is no reason the Sox shouldn’t contend for at least a wild card berth.