MLB Standings Watch: Boston Red Sox pitching showing improvement


Coming off of a relatively successful West Coast road trip in which they were victorious in 4 of their last 7 games, the Boston Red Sox (18-20) have started to make up ground in the AL East. Boston currently sits in third place in the division, 3.5 games behind the New York Yankees.

This past week has shown promising signs for the much maligned Red Sox pitching staff. In the latest turn through the rotation, each of the Red Sox starters have surrendered two runs or less. In the last 5 games the rotation has compiled 32.2 innings and given up only 6 earned runs for a sparkling 1.65 ERA. It’s a small sample size, but it’s also a reason for optimism that this pitching staff is starting to turn things around.

Now if only the offense would follow suit. Boston has scored a league low 38 runs in 16 games this month for a meager average of 2.3 runs per game. The team is flirting with the Mendoza Line with a collective .206 average and they are also last in the league with a .610 OPS this month. The Red Sox have only hit 12 home runs all month. For comparison’s sake, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has blasted 9 homers on his own so far in May.

The Red Sox struggles seem to be cyclical. When they are hitting, they can’t pitch. When they are pitching well, they can’t hit. This team is still loaded with enough talent to be a contender, but only if they can get both to click at the same time.

AL East Standings
(A look at the division standings, as of Monday morning)

(American League team gaining momentum)

Los Angeles Angels: While the Houston Astros still have the league’s best record and the largest division lead in the majors, the Angels are starting to close the gap by winning 5 of their last 6 games. You can never count out a team that employs Mike Trout, who continues to produce at an elite level with a 2.2 WAR that ranks third in the league. Yet despite the reigning MVP getting the results we expect from him, it’s actually the pitching staff carrying the team through this resurgence.

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The Angels lead the league by a wide margin with a 2.69 ERA this month. They have three members of their rotation with an ERA of 2.63 or less this season, and that group doesn’t even include Jared Weaver, who is supposed to be the veteran anchor of the staff.

Garrett Richards has continued the breakout performance that he started last year, before his season was cut short in late August by knee surgery to repair a torn left patellar tendon. His recovery prevented him from participating in spring training and delayed his start to the season by a couple of weeks. He made his season debut on April 19 and has not allowed more than 3 runs in a game so far, including 5 straight quality starts. Richards is 4th in the league with a 2.29 ERA and 10th among starters with a 1.2 WAR.

(American League team that is struggling)

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays are an example of how great pitching beats great hitting. Toronto leads the majors with 200 runs scored, but is also dead last in the AL with a 4.78 team ERA.

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How bad is the Blue Jays starting rotation? Mark Buehrle leads the qualified starters on this staff with a 5.36 ERA. In fairness, Aaron Sanchez has posted a decent 4.26 ERA in 7 starts, but he doesn’t quite have enough innings to qualify yet. Daniel Norris (3.86 ERA) had been the team’s best starter this season, but the 22-year old was demoted to Triple-A after only 5 starts. Marco Estrada took his place in the rotation, but after pitching lights out as a reliever in April, he has posted a 5.52 ERA in three starts this month and has failed to go beyond 5 innings in any of them.

The Jays offense will be fine, led by newcomers Josh Donaldson (.307/.379/.527), Russell Martin (.284/.375/.527) and Rookie of the Year candidate Devon Travis (.271/.336/.504). Jose Reyes could return from the disabled list soon to strengthen the top of the lineup and you have to assume Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will start hitting eventually, right?

This is a lineup that no team wants to face. Unfortunately, their pitching staff is producing as if they were facing this league leading lineup every night.

Playoff Outlook
(Division leaders and teams holding a Wild Card spot in the American League)

AL East: New York Yankees (22-17)
AL Central: Kansas City Royals (24-14)
AL West: Houston Astros (25-13)
Wild Card: Detroit Tigers (23-15)
Wild Card: Minnesota Twins (21-17)