Red Sox Pitching Isn’t Quieting Desire For Cole Hamels Trade


Potential and results are two different things. The Boston Red Sox starting rotation, by potential, looked to be one of the best in baseball. Yet, by realistic expectation, based on the results from last season and the small sample size in 2015, the Red Sox pitchers look to be in trouble, already. The results are allowing baseball’s ‘experts’, the media, to rehash trade rumors, like bringing Cole Hamels to Boston.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently did an article about grading the conditions of some MLB teams. One of the teams was the Red Sox and their pitching staff, which he diagnoses as in real trouble:

"“So far, so bad. The offense was buoying the Red Sox, but the rotation’s 5.46 ERA was second worst in the majors — none of the starters had an ERA below 4.00. And in nine of the first 17 games, a Boston starter lasted fewer than six innings, straining a dubious bullpen, as well.” – Joel Sherman"

He believes that “Boston, with its deep farm system, projects as most likely to make an in-season play for a starter such as Hamels.”

Before delving into the world of kicking the Red Sox starters while they’re down, let’s look at Hamels, himself. In four starts, he has a record of 0-2, with a 3.75 ERA, allowing 17 hits, 10 earned runs, 7 home runs, and 12 walks. Hamels struck out 23 opposing batters in 24 innings of work. Not horrific, but not exactly lights out either. It’s also hard to judge anything on four starts, especially since Hamels’ Philadelphia Phillies are not a great team that is expected to win a ton of games.

Considering that the season has already started, you would think that if the Phillies wanted to get better immediately, their asking price for Hamels would come down from basically the moon, during the off-season. However, according to Drew Silva of NBC Sports, the top brass in Philadelphia continue to orbit outside the outer stratosphere:

"“Trust the larger sample size. And his remaining contract (four years, $94 million) is a bargain in a market where Max Scherzer can command a $210 million deal. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be hoping Hamels stays healthy and teams get more desperate. It’s imperative to the rebuild in Philly that the ace fetches a significant package of talent.” – Drew Silva"

Sounds very much like Amaro will eat this year, if he has to, in order to get a good return on Hamels. A significant package may only lie in Boston, with all of the Red Sox prospects continuing to improve and grow in the minor systems and with the major league club.

To be fair, each member of the Red Sox starting rotation should be addressed, individually, instead of as a team. Statistics can be very deceiving when you combine everyone into the same lumpy mass. Even one pitcher’s one bad game can skew the numbers, especially with it being only a few weeks into the season.

Apr 23, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Clay Buchholz has started four games, where only one was a nightmare. The second game, versus the New York Yankees, made Red Sox Nation throw up their hands in disgust, as he allowed 9 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks in only 3.1 innings. Yet, the first, third, and fourth games were all games that the Red Sox could win, with Buchholz lasting into the sixth and seventh innings. He blanked the Phillies in the season opener, he allowed 2 runs on 11 hits to the Baltimore Orioles, and he gave up only a run on 2 hits to the Tampa Bay Rays. Those three games, Buchholz threw 94, 102, and 104 pitches in 7.0, 6.0, and 6.0 innings, respectively. Whether you find those pitch counts high or not, the attitude that Buchholz is not acting like an ace can only be justified by one game’s results. Cut the man slack, please!

The same could be said for much of the rest of the rotation. Justin Masterson‘s 5.16 ERA is based much on his game against the Washington Nationals, where he only lasted 4.2 innings because he gave up 7 runs on 8 hits. The other three games, he allowed only 2, 1, and 3 runs in 6.0, 5.0, and 7.0 innings. Wade Miley only had one 7-run game against the Nationals, but only gave up 2 runs in his debut against the Yankees and blanked the Rays in 5.2 innings. Joe Kelly had his first rough outing only recently, against the Rays, giving up 5 runs in 5.0 innings; however, he excelled in New York and Baltimore, giving up only a run in the Bronx, after returning from the disabled list, and 2 runs in Maryland.

The only disappointment, if you want to call it that, has been the consistency of Rick Porcello, who was brought in from a trade with the Detroit Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes. Each of Porcello’s starts have seen him give up at least 3 runs, including the 8-run pounding he suffered on 12 hits from the Orioles. Yet, Porcello only gave up 3 runs to the Nationals because he lasted 8.0 innings. He only gave up 4 hits, which led to 2 runs in the fifth, a run in the seventh, and a run in the eighth inning.

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Looking at a team’s ERA at this point in the season is like looking at women across from the bar: you will never know how beautiful they are on the inside until you get to know them more. You can’t make snap judgments just on how they look at first sight. Look at what happened to Romeo. That seductress could make your life miserable and the average sweetheart could drive you wild for the rest of your days. The same should be said for pitchers: the ace can be a diva, asking for your wallet for mediocre results, while the lack of flashy strikeouts from gritty chuckers could consistently get groundball outs when you need them, putting you into the postseason.

The bullpen has been overworked because of the blowout games the starting rotation has allowed, but it’s not like they are blown out every night. People make mistakes. Let’s everyone just take a big breath and realize that the Boston Red Sox, after a few weeks, still sit at the top of the American League East standings. Well, it’s a three-way tie, but you get the idea.

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