Red Sox Should Focus on Bolstering Starting Rotation

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The Red Sox currently sit atop the AL East at 25-17, and they've done so behind some pretty impressive starting pitching.  Despite being without Chris Sale, Boston's starting rotation has held its own for the first month and a half of the 2021 season. 

Photo courtesy of: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports 

As a unit, Boston's starters rank first in the MLB in wins (18) and 12th in ERA (3.89).  They also rank 11th in strikeouts with 216 and have allowed the fewest home runs (16) in all of baseball despite being one of the rotations with the most games started (42). 

Although the starting pitching has been a joy to watch thus far, Chaim Bloom and the front office are going to need fortify the staff if this team truly has aspirations of making a postseason run. 

Photo courtesy of: Kathy Willens/AP Photo

With Sale on the 60-day IL, Nathan Eovaldi has served as the No. 1 starter, and he's done what most have expected out of him.  Through nine starts, Eovaldi has gone 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA.  He's fanned 47 hitters through 50 innings while featuring a fiery fastball that often sits in the high-90s. 

Eduardo Rodriguez has also been stellar, posting a 5-1 record through seven starts with a 4.15 ERA.  There were questions as to how Rodriguez would perform after he sat out 2020 due to heart inflammation that was caused by COVID-19, but he's seemingly settled in quickly here after the year off. 

The performances of Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards and Martin Perez were going to make or break this team, and so far that trio has exceeded a lot of fans' expectations.  Pivetta has yet to record a loss and has the best ERA (3.16) of any starter on the team.  Although he has struggled with control at times, Richards holds a sub-4.00 ERA and has allowed just six earned runs in his last 25 innings pitched.  Perez has also found a nice rhythm, allowing no more than two runs in his last five outings. 

Now, while it might be too early to even think about a postseason run, in typical Boston fashion, there are a lot of people out there who are already doing so.  Is it a bit optimistic?  Perhaps.  But in the same breath, it is pretty clear this team has some pretty serious potential.  The offense has been great more often than not, the bullpen has been much more reliable than it was in the past and of course, if it wasn't clear yet, the starting pitching has given this team a chance to win on a nightly basis through the first quarter of the season. 

If the Red Sox are going to claw their way back to the postseason, moves are going to need to be made by the deadline.   Boston does not have to go all out, but one right move could be the difference between a first-round exit and a memorable season. 

Photo courtesy of: Elise Amendola/AP

Regardless of if he is 100% or not, if he's available and good to go, Sale would be the clear-cut No. 1 starter in the postseason.  Depending on who has hot hand, Rodriguez and Eovaldi would scrap it out for the No. 2 spot and the colder of the two would get the nod for Game 3.   Then at this point, you're stuck with a toss-up. 

Do you go with a three-man starting rotation?  Mix in a fourth starter?  Keep things the same and go with a five?  Get crazy and add a sixth for a potential ALDS or ALCS?  A guy like Tanner Houck?  Who knows?  It's not really a question that needs to be answered right now. 

But just think about it.  How confident would you really feel seeing Pivetta, Richards or Perez taking the mound in a critical postseason game against the Athletics, White Sox or the Yankees?  Of course, if they have continued success you'd probably feel just fine, but can they maintain this high level of efficiency through 162 games? 

These guys are not historically known to be Cy Young-caliber pitchers.  Although Pivetta looks comfortable in Boston, he has a career ERA over 5.00 and his tenure with the Phillies was anything but memorable. 

Richards put together some great years with the Angels, but hasn't looked all that comfortable with the Red Sox for the most part.  As previously noted, he has shown glimpses of hope in his last few starts, though. 

Perez is 57-63 in his career with a 4.66 ERA and just one postseason start, which isn't atrocious, but at the same time, it's not the ideal stat line for a potential playoff starter. 

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So, one of three things is going to happen this season. 

In a perfect world, all five starters continue to be effective, Sale returns and the Red Sox make a serious playoff run.  Do they end up going all the way?  Maybe not, but at least fans have something to look forward to in October again. 

In the second scenario, three of the five starters (Pivetta, Richards, Perez) face minor setbacks, experience relatively subtle regressions and this team ends up as an early exit in the postseason, loses the Wild Card or just barely misses the playoffs. 

And finally, the last scenario features a disaster of monumental proportions where Boston finishes fourth or fifth in the AL East, completely misses playoffs and fans hit golf courses across the Commonwealth for the third year in a row with a couple buddies from the Class of '78 and a 6-pack of Sam Adams. 

Photo courtesy of: Michael Dwyer/AP

If you had to bet, the second scenario is the most likely one to happen with the roster as it stands.  It is pretty safe to say that the Red Sox have an offense that can get them to the postseason and a bullpen that features some really nice new pieces in Hirokazu Sawamura, Garrett Whitlock and Adam Ottavino that can hold a lead. 

Matt Barnes has also been electric and the relief pitching could be even deadlier if guys like Josh Taylor, Matt Andriese and Austin Brice can figure things out, or at least just be somewhat reliable.  With that being said, adding some bullpen support at the deadline might not be all that bad of an idea either.  As of right now, it's pretty hard to see Taylor or Brice knocking down their ballooning ERAs. 

This season is going to come down to the starting pitching.  If things continue trending in the right direction, Boston is a playoff team, and a good one at that.  If things head south, those playoff hopes go out the window.  You have to keep in mind that there are 120 games left to go.  A lot can go wrong in just under three quarters of an MLB season.  Adding another solid starter could increase the chances of this rotation maintaining success. 

So go out and add another piece.  Worst comes to worst and you end up with six really solid starting pitchers for your postseason rotation, and believe it or not, there's worse problems to have in October. 


Follow Nick on Twitter: @thenickgalle

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Red Sox Should Focus on Bolstering Starting Rotation
Red Sox Should Focus on Bolstering Starting Rotation
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