Breaking Down the Red Sox Rotation

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While Spring Training 2.0 is taking place, BSS will be going back over the Red Sox roster and filling you in on each position group.  Today we’ll be looking at each rotation spot. 

Photo courtesy of masslive.com

1. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, #57

ERod has recently tested positive for Coronavirus and will likely miss opening day, but he should be back with the team in the near future if his recovery goes as scheduled.  It will be great to see him return as he has given us a lot to be excited about!  In 2019, Eduardo Rodriguez put forth what was clearly his best season yet.  

The now 27 year old posted a 3.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 24.8 strikeout % in a career high 203.1 innings pitched, which shattered his previous high of 137.1.  The lefty fixed his biggest issue by finally eating lots of innings and going deeper into games.  In fact, ERod only made a start of 6+ innings 9 times in 2018 (39% of his starts) and none of these lasted 7+ innings. In 2019, he made 21 appearances of 6+ innings (62% of starts) with 9 of these lasting 7+ innings.  This was a huge step towards ace status for Eduardo and must continue if the Sox are going to contend. 

Another positive improvement is the 9.8% increase in ground balls (48.5% of balls in play were ground balls which puts him 1.5% away from being a “ground ball pitcher”), which could coincide with Eduardo’s increased changeup and sinker usage (he has brought slider usage all the way down to 4.3% of pitches).  It will be interesting to see what new pitching coach Dave Bush has planned for Rodriguez and his pitch selections this season.  I expect something very similar to 2019 but perhaps with another increase in sinkers.  

My 2020 prediction: 3.85 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, a 25.3 K%, and a 8.6 BB%. 

2. RHP Nathan Eovaldi, #17

Things went about as wrong as they could for Eovaldi in 2019.  He suffered on and off injuries and posted a 5.99 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in the 67.2 innings he was able to pitch.  A slight increase in K% was really the only positive takeaway for Eovaldi.  So what went wrong?  For starters, his stuff just wasn’t as good.  Hitters swung at 53.8% of Eovaldi’s pitches in 2018 but only 43.9% in 2019.  This huge decline no doubt led to Eovaldi throwing a lot more pitches and walking batters nearly 12% of the time (a 7.2% higher walk rate than in 2018).  

To single out one pitch, Nate’s cutter was absolutely crushed last season, and he in turn threw it much less than in previous years.  He will have to be effective with more than just the heater and curve if he’s going to thrive once again.  

My 2020 prediction: 4.32 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 24.0 K%, 8.2 BB%. 


Photo courtesy of bostonglobe.com

3. LHP Martin Perez, #54

While I’m not so sure Perez will be worth the $6 million contract he signed for, there are certainly a lot of positives to keep in mind.  In 2019, Perez improved his ERA and WHIP by forcing more swing and misses and getting hitters to swing at non-strikes much more often.  According to Statcast, he was also excellent at keeping hitters from barreling pitches and hitting the ball hard.  The source of these improvements as has been traced back to one huge change in the repertoire: Perez went from throwing 0 cutters in 2018 to throwing cutters more than any other pitch (nearly 1 of every 3 pitches was a cutter). 

One last plus with Perez is that he is durable.  Martin threw at least 165 innings in 3 of the last 4 years.  

Now let’s get into the very obvious con to this signing.  All of his improvements still resulted in a 5.12 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 2019.  Perez has had 3 consecutive bad seasons in terms of his ERA.  This is the most interesting signing of the offseason in my opinion and I cannot wait to see what Dave Bush has planned for Martin’s pitch usage, especially with that new cutter. 

My 2020 prediction: 4.90 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 19.1 K%, 8.8 BB%. 

4. RHP Ryan Weber, #65

Weber is a tough pitcher to evaluate.  The results have not been good: his 2019 consisted of 78 IP with a 4.50 ERA in AAA and 40.2 IP with a 5.09 ERA in the majors.  Ryan has not had any impressive MLB seasons but does have a couple excellent years in the minors.  He relies heavily on sinkers and curveballs, although neither pitch was amazingly effective in 2019.  The curve yielded the best results with opposing hitters achieving a .244 BA against it and hitting 0 HRs off of it.  Weber has some potential if he can be better with his sinker and mix his repertoire up a bit to keep batters from getting comfortable. 

My Prediction: 5.10 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 17.2 K%, 5.5 BB%. 

The 5th Spot

This slot will certainly see lots of experimentation.  Brian Johnson could see action here either as a starter or an opener for a bullpen day, which is another possibility for this slot.  Bullpen days would be a very interesting experiment because the Sox bullpen doesn’t seem to be incredibly deep right now.  Other possibilities include recently signed Collin McHugh and possible free agent signings.  The Sox have been linked to Aaron Sanchez, who we saw often during his time as a Blue Jay, and Zack Godley, who was recently let go by Detroit.  Reports are strongly suggesting the team is nearing a deal with Godley, who primarily relies on curveballs, fastballs, and a cutter.  He has not been very good since his strong 3.37 ERA season in 2017.  

I don’t expect this to be a productive spot for Boston this year, but in such a short season anything is possible!  The best bet for success would likely be a healthy McHugh returning to his 2018 form (1.99 ERA, .99 WHIP). 

Overall, the rotation will likely be a rollercoaster ride this year, but there is still a lot to be excited about and many of these guys will be fun to watch. 



Follow Evan on Twitter @EBolligerSports

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Breaking Down the Red Sox Rotation
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