Analyzing the Red Sox Rotation


2019 was an unfortunate season for Red Sox starting pitching.  Injuries to Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi contributed to a staff ERA of 4.95 (good for 20th best among MLB rotations).  This offseason, the team has seen Rick Porcello depart in free agency and David Price traded to the Dodgers with Mookie Betts.  With two slots to fill, Chaim Bloom and company have added starter Martin Perez as well as a slew of bullpen options that leads many to believe the team could use a bullpen day in place of a fifth starter.  The rotation will certainly be the most intriguing part of 2020 for Boston, so let's dive into what we should expect in the coming season.

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Chris Sale

We all know Chris Sale is a Top 5 starter in baseball when healthy, but man is that elbow scary.  Sale spent a good chunk of the 2019 season sidelined with an elbow injury and threw only 147.1 innings, his second straight year missing time after 3 consecutive 200+ IP campaigns from 2015-2017.

All signs point to a healthy elbow at the start of this spring training, but Sale will be missing time to start the year as he recovers from pneumonia.  Upon return, I expect that killer slider to be working for Sale and for him to return to dominance.  Many will say the poor 4.40 ERA is due to reduced fastball velocity.  However, Sale still posted an incredible 13.3 K/9 and metrics such as FIP and SIERA show he was pitching much better than surface stats show.  Even if the reduced velocity continues for his fastball, the breaking and offspeed stuff is too good for Sale to be down long. 

Eduardo Rodriguez
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Eddy is a bit of an enigma.  Inconsistency and injury have held him back from a true breakout, but last season was exactly what you want out of Eduardo.  Posting a career high 203.1 IP and a 3.81 ERA was easily enough to be called our best starter of 2019.  The past injuries to his knee scare me, but Eduardo proved me wrong last year and could do so again.  We should look for improved command of the fastball and a better cutter from ERod this season if he is to take another step forward.

Nate Eovaldi 

Another 2018 star who had elbow issues in 2019, Eovaldi looked fairly good in his first outing this spring.  His control was iffy, but I'm glad to see he missed below the zone rather than up.  Even more important, the velocity he's so notorious for is still there.  Eovaldi needs his cutter to return to form, and should see improvements from last year in the rest of his repertoire if he can use that to keep batters off balance.  Best case should be a repeat of 2018, but I'm realistically expecting an ERA somewhere around a 3.90-4.10 and a solid K rate.

Martin Perez

I'm personally not a fan of this signing, but I'll have to trust our staff to extract the best out of Perez.  The 28 year old posted a 5.12 ERA and has a career 4.72. Perez started using a cutter and enjoyed a 2.95 ERA through his first 58 IP in '19, but obviously came back to earth.  We should look for pitching coach Dave Bush to try dialing in on what went right during that span and hopefully making some of it repeatable.  A 4.50 ERA would honestly be exceeding my expectations for Perez because of his career 1.486 WHIP, but crazier breakouts have happened.

The 5 Spot

I don't believe the Sox have the pieces to pull off a bullpen day, but they may have no other choices.  The options that could prevent this are pretty much down to Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, who both struggled mightily last season.  A trade would be best for success in 2020, maybe for someone like Joe Musgrove (PIT), Spencer Turnbull (DET), or Jakob Junis (KC).  My feelings out of the way, Bloom has had a knack for finding cheap talent throughout his career and it is entirely possible that his many bullpen signings (Matt Hall, Austin Brice, and Jeffrey Springs to name a few) could make the team and give hope to the possibility of a bullpen day without it meaning 10 runs for the opposing team.

The Rotation as a Whole
This is an incredibly talented but concerning staff, mainly due to injuries and the lack of a 5th starter.  If healthy for most of the season, being a top 12 staff is attainable and being top 15 should be definite.  Bloom will need to keep adding depth as he has thus far, and our pitchers will need to make some adjustments, but this rotation should not be holding the offense back the same way it did in 2019.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Analyzing the Red Sox Rotation
Analyzing the Red Sox Rotation
Boston Sports Syndicate
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