MLB Standings Watch: Joe Kelly losing grip on rotation spot


The past week included a series win over the Kansas City All-Stars, but it did little to change the outlook for the Boston Red Sox. They still managed only to split their last 6 games and have tallied the fewest victories in the division over the last 10 games, preventing them from making up any ground.

The pitching staff has shown some improvement from their early season struggles, but Boston still ranks last in the league with a 4.48 ERA. In order for the Red Sox to climb back into the division race they will need to put together a lengthy winning streak at some point, but that won’t happen with a gaping hole in the starting rotation.

Joe Kelly is that hole.

Kelly’s last disappointing outing inflated his ERA to 5.67, which ranks 51st out of 53 qualified starters in the league. He failed to make it through at least six innings for the eighth time this season, while giving up 5+ runs for the fifth time in 14 starts.

Manager John Farrell was non-committal regarding Kelly’s future in the rotation, but he did leave the door open for the team making a change in his role.

"“We haven’t had a chance to review all that,” said Farrell after Tuesday’s game. “But we’re certainly well aware of some of the up-and-down path it’s been for Joe to this point.”"

If Farrell hasn’t started reviewing Kelly’s role with this franchise, he better start doing it soon. Kelly’s fastball velocity is too tantalizing to give up on, but the 27-year old has struggled with his command and his secondary pitches remain a work in progress. Perhaps he could use some time in Pawtucket to work on his repertoire, or he could be moved to the bullpen where he could focus on becoming dominant with a couple of pitches rather than being mediocre with several.

Kelly’s career may still be salvageable, but he’s not doing himself or the Red Sox any favors by staying in the rotation right now. Boston would be better served giving enticing prospect Brian Johnson a shot. Promoting Eduardo Rodriguez worked out pretty well, and Johnson has been even better in Pawtucket than Rodriguez was, posting a 2.80 ERA in 13 starts.

Kelly is in danger of losing his spot in the rotation. The only question is how many more games will he lose for the Red Sox before they make a decision on what to do with him.

AL East Standings

(American League team gaining momentum)

Tampa Bay Rays: It’s time to start considering Chris Archer as a Cy Young candidate. The 26-year old is second in the league in wins with 9, in ERA at 2.10 and in pitching WAR with 3.6. He is also third with a 10.75 K/9 and fifth with a 5.13 K/BB ratio.

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This is turning into a three-man race for the top pitcher in the league, with Archer being joined by Oakland’s Sonny Gray and Houston’s Dallas Keuchel. If we were to open it up to reviewing the top five then Chicago’s Chris Sale has to be in the conversation, but it would be hard to pass on Jake Odorizzi for that final spot. The Rays’ young right-hander is currently sidelined by injury that has limited him to 12 starts this season and could cost him several more, but when healthy he has been right up there with Archer among the league’s elite.

Tampa Bay’s rotation has been ravaged by injuries, as Alex Cobb and Matt Moore have yet to take the mound this season and Drew Smyly has been limited to three starts. In their absence, Archer has become the staff ace and formed a dominant duo with Odorizzi that has helped unite one of the top rotations in baseball, with a league leading 3.33 ERA

(American League team that is struggling)

Cleveland Indians: Terry Francona‘s team has dropped its first two games against the Detroit Tigers to clinch their fifth series loss in their last six. They now sit 9 games back in the highly competitive AL Central division, all but eliminating them from postseason contention before we reach the All-Star break.

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Speaking of the All-Star Game, Jason Kipnis needs to be there. Cleveland’s second baseman leads the league in hitting with a .354 average and he has a league-leading 4.6 WAR. He may be the biggest no-brainer choice to start the game, unless of course you are from Kansas City and believe that the guy with the second-lowest OPS in the league is more deserving. Kipnis will make the squad anyway, but it will be a shame if he isn’t starting.

As great as Kipnis has been, he can’t do it alone. Cleveland ranks only 12th in the league with 280 runs scored and 9th with a .713 OPS, trailing the much maligned Red Sox offense in both categories.  Michael Brantley has played well, but hasn’t matched last year’s breakout campaign. His career-high 20 home runs last season are beginning to look like a clear outlier, as his power has evaporated.

Outside of their top two stars, Cleveland does’t have a single hitter that has received at least 150 at-bats hitting north of .240 this season.

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

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays (41-32)
AL Central: Kansas City Royals (40-28)
AL West: Houston Astros (42-31)
Wild Card: Minnesota Twins (38-33)
Wild Card: New York Yankees (38-33)