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Red Sox Starting Pitching On A Roll






In this week’s BSoT Red Sox Column to be Named Later, I take a look at the Red Sox starting pitching and analyze their contributions to the team.  I also highlight an unheralded role player whose performance so far this year may surprise you.  And, as always, I see who is trending up, who’s trending down, and take a quick look at the week ahead for the Boston Red Sox.


Photo courtesy of NESN.com














Starting Pitching

The Red Sox offense has received most of the attention in the first half of the 2018, and with good reason.  The Red Sox currently rank second in the MLB in batting average, home runs, and runs scored.  But while the offense gets all the glory, the pitching staff, primarily the starting pitching, has performed exceptionally, and is equally deserving of credit for the team’s impressive start.

Red Sox starters rank near the top of the league in several major offensive categories, including strikeouts (457, 2nd behind only Houston), and strikeouts per 9 innings (9.69, 3rd).  Red Sox starters also rank seventh in WHIP (1.20), and eighth in ERA (3.62).

The Red Sox have received quality starts (minimum 6 innings pitched, allowed 3 ER or less) in over half of their games in 2018, tied for third in the MLB.  While a quality start is not necessarily indicative of a quality pitcher, given it translates to a potential 4.50 ERA, the total number of quality starts in this instance represents the consistency of the starting pitchers.

The starting pitching numbers are even more impressive in the month of June.  In 16 games this month, including the spot start by Jalen Beeks, Red Sox starters rank first in the MLB in innings pitched (99.1) and WHIP (1.15), and fourth in ERA (2.90).  In that same span, Red Sox starters have pitched into the sixth in every start but Beeks’, has logged at least six innings in all but three starts, and have notched 11 quality starts.

The surprising leader of the staff in June has been the resurrected Steven Wright, who returned to the starting rotation after Drew Pomeranz landed on the disabled list.  Wright finally allowed an earned run in his third start Saturday in Seattle, ending up on the down side of a 1-0 loss.  In Wright’s three starts since returning to the starting rotation, he has made it to the seventh inning in all three starts.

Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello have also logged at least six innings in each of their three starts in June, and each has allowed two or less earned runs in two of their three starts.  Even Eduardo Rodriguez, who has had difficulties getting out of the sixth inning, has pitched a total of 17 1/3 innings in June and has allowed only five earned runs.

Starters pitching into the middle innings was far from noteworthy as little as five years ago in the major leagues.  But more recently, with the explosion of power arms in the bullpen, managers are less apt to stick with their starters and do not hesitate to go to the bullpen.  The Red Sox starter’s ability to consistently get into the fifth inning has limited exposure and overuse of a bullpen which lacks quality depth.

Brock Star

Pop Quiz – what Red Sox player currently ranks third on the team in batting average behind Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez?  Andrew Benintendi? Xander Bogaerts?  Good answers, but it should come as a surprise that the player currently ranked third in batting average and is the only other player batting above .300 on the team is none other than super utility player Brock Holt.

Granted, Holt does not have enough at bats to qualify to be ranked with the league leaders.  But he has been far from a bench player over recent weeks.  

Remember when the debate at the end of Spring Training centered around who would be the odd man out in the battle for the Red Sox last two roster spots between Holt, Blake Swihart, and Deven Marrero?  Swihart’s strong spring and Marrero’s flashy glove had most people calling for Holt to be sent back to Pawtucket, as he was the only player with options remaining.

Instead, Holt made the club and Marrero was traded to Arizona for a bucket of balls and case of Double Bubble.  So far, this appears to have been the right move.  As usual, the numbers tell the story.

Player
G
AB
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
AVG
Holt
42
120
36
9
1
1
16
.300
Marrero
46
75
12
1
1
0
6
.160

Holt has not been spectacular, but he has helped to stabilize a Red Sox lineup which has gone virtually the entire season without Dustin Pedroia and has also seen extended absences from both Bogaerts and Betts.  In the true spirit of Ben Zobrist, Holt has played 18 games at second, 11 at short, nine in right field, two in left, and one at first base.  Holt knows his role, and his value to the team has been clear in 2018.

Who’s Trending Up

Xander Bogaerts found his power bat in Seattle, homering in three of the four games.  Over the past week, Bogaerts knocked in seven runs and posted a lofty 1.005 OPS.

Rafael Devers bounced back somewhat from recent struggles at the plate.  Devers has batted .290 on the trip, with a pair of homers and six RBI.

Finally, Andrew Benintendi has continued his hot hitting during the recent road trip to Baltimore and Seattle, posting a slash line of .364/.500/.964.

Who’s Trending Down

Mitch Moreland has hit a bit of a skid of late, and his numbers continued to drop over the past week.  Moreland has batted only .136 on the trip with no extra base hits and seven strikeouts.  Similarly, Eduardo Nunez has also failed to register an extra base hit since leaving Fenway, and his average for the week has remained below the Mendoza line at .182.

Finally, Mookie Betts has had a less than spectacular return to the lineup after missing more than two weeks with an abdominal injury.  Betts batted only .200 since his return in the first game of the trip in Baltimore, but in true Betts fashion, managed to homer in Camden Yards.  Sadly, the homer was Betts’ only RBI for the week.

A Look Ahead

The Sox close their trip with a visit to Minnesota and three games against the Twins before returning home Thursday for a rematch with the Mariners, who have now slipped to second place in the AL West thanks to a weekend split with the Sox.  The Red Sox have their big three starters of Sale, Price and Porcello lined up over the next three days in the Minneapolis.  The Red Sox are 5-2 since embarking on the three city, cross-country tour, and need only one more win to clinch a winning road trip.  Upon returning home, the Red Sox are scheduled to face Mariners left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who held the Sox to only two hits and no runs over 7 2/3 inning on Saturday.

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 

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