Today marks the official day that the Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers are to report to spring training. A good sign for the 2015 season is how early many of the players have already done so. Many position players and pitchers have already descended onto Fort Myers, Florida, making their presence known at the training facility at Jet Blue Park.
Boston Herald reporter Adam Kurkjian gives a breakdown of all of the roster moves made in the offseason, while headlining the article with a picture of “starting pitchers Wade Miley, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and Brandon Workman [walking] out of the clubhouse” yesterday.
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Red Sox Nation should be excited about the pitching staff, in particular, because it is a telling sign that they are taking this spring training seriously. Everyone wants to eliminate the nightmares of last season, including the new acquisitions and, especially, the returning Red Sox. The starting rotation will likely be Buchholz, Porcello,Joe Kelly
, Miley, andJustin Masterson
, while Workman,Steven Wright
, and a number of veterans and young pitchers from the minor leagues will battle for spots in the bullpen.Koji Uehara
, no doubt, is locked up as the Red Sox closer.
One of the pitchers most likely to impact that change is Wade Miley. “In his last three full seasons, he pitched 1942⁄3, 2022⁄3 and 2011⁄3 innings. That kind of durability has been lacking in recent years and can only help a staff that had just one starter — Clay Buchholz with 1701⁄3 — eclipse the 150 innings-pitched mark a year ago” (Kurkjian). Miley has spent his career, since 2008, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and will still have to adjust to playing in the American League if Boston wishes to have success.
However, that adjustment should not be too difficult with Miley’s skillset and experience. FanGraphs.com marks his ability to get more groundballs than any other result (51%). Keeping the ball low, while pitching about 1000 more strikes than balls, will keep opposing batters off the scoreboard in a place like Fenway Park, where 1 072 runs made the cathedral of Boston fifth in most runs scored in 2014, according to ESPN. Not that home runs are flying over the Green Monster regularly, but less flyballs that reach the treacherous outfield dimensions, the better.
Combine Miley’s steady keel and accuracy with his five-pitch arsenal, and you have a great addition to the starting rotation. Both his four-seam fastball and his two-seamer reach 91 mph, which is may or may not be overpowering hitters, but they are disguised with his mixing of an 85 mph slider, an 82 mph changeup, and a filthy-looking curveball (FanGraphs.com). There is a lot of speed coming to the plate at different rates to throw lineups into mental fits. Considering these pitches are hitting the strikezone consistently, Miley should have batters struggling on choosing a pitch to hit. Last season’s 183 strikeouts to 75 walks is testament to that potential.
With all hittable pitchers, the 28-year-old native of Louisiana will bleed runs. Last season, Miley recorded a 4.34 ERA, on a bad team with numerous injuries. He will bleed runs; however, with a healthy defense, especially in the infield, there should not be a problem for Miley to keep the Red Sox hopes alive in games. Manager John Farrell is known to employ the batting strategy to take as many pitches as possible to wear the opposition’s starter down in the pitch count and get into the bullpen early. That strategy can often put teams behind to start the game, needing a comeback in the latter innings. If your starter can last most of the game, and the other team sets a journeyman on the mound in the sixth or seventh inning, you would have the advantage.
Having a strong, experienced, wily Miley should stabilize the middle of the starting rotation, giving Buchholz and Porcello more days off, while giving Kelly and Masterson a chance to show the successful skills that they have proven on past teams. If the Red Sox want a five-man rotation, especially since they never picked up a true ace pitcher, they need Miley to have a significant impact, so that every arm is well rested and nobody needs to pitch a day or two early.
Having the pitchers come early to spring training is evidence that they know how important their preparations are to changing the culture or stigma around the starting rotation. Sign all of the offensive players you want, but this pitching staff must come through, or else a plethora of runs will be scored and fans may place a bounty of hate on them as scapegoats. Regardless of rumors, there is no Cole Hamels or any other ace in Fort Myers, at the moment; it is either this rotation or ruin for the Red Sox.