Joe Kelly’s Importance To Red Sox Future
Today’s Mornin’ Chowda deals with a young man who was ‘dealing’ for the St. Louis Cardinals, before being traded to the Boston Red Sox, last season. Joe Kelly’s importance to the Red Sox’ future relies heavily on how he will handle the change to the AL East.
Every team wants an ace. Every manager would love to put a first-rate starting pitcher on the mound every night. The reality is that it is not possible. There are only so many aces in the MLB deck. What good managers and administrative brass can do for their clubs is find consistent pitchers who can keep your team in games until the offence can put up runs. That strategy was the formula for Boston’s success in 2013: starters could bleed runs as long as they outlasted the opposing pitchers. Get to their bullpen and let the bats loose.
Ian Browne of MLB.com reported manager John Farrell discussing what is important in a pitcher who may be brought into the fold. “I think you’re looking at pitchers that have stuff to be consistent, you look at the track record that they might personally have leading up to a point in time where they join our organization and our rotation,” said Farrell. “And I think given the number of conversations that have been had to date with individual players, or about individual players, those options exist.”
While the Red Sox look to add pitchers to their depleted rotation, one thing is for certain: Joe Kelly will be a part of the starting rotation in 2015. If Boston is going to have any success, Kelly will have to be consistent to help any pitcher brought in to carry the load.
The now 26-year-old from California debuted in 2012 for the Cardinals, who struck out 75 batters in 16 starts. In 2013, he became a staple in their rotation, with a record of 10-5 and a 2.69 ERA, striking out 79 batters in 102 innings pitched. Kelly showed the consistency to get hitters out, not allowing many walks or home runs, which is incredible to see out of a young rookie pitcher.
The Red Sox got to see that talent first-hand in the 2013 World Series. Kelly gave up only two hits and two earned runs, while striking out six Red Sox bashers in his first ever start in the biggest championship series in the world of baseball.
After starting 2014 at an even better pace, having an ERA of 0.59 in three starts, Kelly suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a number of weeks. On July 31, Kelly was traded with Allen Craig to the Red Sox for Corey Littrell, John Lackey, and cash. The Cardinals did not want to pass up gaining some minor-league talent and a veteran pitcher, who was playing even better than his championship year in Boston. However, they did pass up on possibly the future of their rotation.
Kelly is filthy… well, his pitches are, anyways. His arsenal of pitches makes batters have fits guessing what is coming next. His two-seam fastball reaches 94 m.p.h., and he is only getting stronger. What is great about his fastballs is that he only throws it 66% of the time (fangraphs.com). Too many young pitchers try to throw gas repeatedly, thinking the veterans are too old to catch up to it. What real batters do is just let it go past them, making the young stud prove that he can hit his spots in the strike zone. The youngster gets taken to school and either raises his walk totals or serves up fat pitches to hungry sluggers. Kelly’s slider, curveball, and changeup have so much movement that the hopes and dreams of drooling batters vanish as the ball disappears.
Once Kelly joined the Red Sox, he went 4-2 in 10 games, with a 4.11 ERA. He struck out 41 batters while adding 32 walks to his totals. Not exactly the same consistency he showed in the National League. However, there were a lot of factors to consider. He was put on a team that was losing a lot of games and was not scoring as many runs to bail out their previous pitchers either. Also, the American League East was full, as it is today, with big-time hitters, who approach the plate differently than in the NL Central. Pile that on with a nagging shoulder injury and you have a seriously difficult time to adjust for a young man who is now playing in a baseball market that demands perfection. A tall order for anyone. Now, with an offseason and a full spring training with the coaches in his future, Kelly should be expected to have an easier time making corrections here and there to his game when the 2015 season starts.
The earliest that Kelly can become a free agent is in 2019. He is a Red Sox pitcher for the foreseeable future. That investment general manager Ben Cherington made with that trade was meant to pay off by giving stability to the rotation, while he attempts to fill the ‘Lester-void’ left in Boston fans’ hearts. Joe Kelly does not need to be Jon Lester; he needs to be himself: a consistent, filthy pitcher, who keeps his team in the game.