A look at Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens’ rookie season


It was more than a year ago that Andrew Miller was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez, and Henry Owens‘ name was brought up in rumors about a deal that could bring a proven ace to Boston. Those days are long gone, and both rookie pitchers are about to end their freshman season at the Major Leagues.

It seems that the Red Sox are about to have their third last-place season in the last four years, but at least we can be hopeful about the future thanks to rookies like Owens, Rodriguez, Betts and Bogaerts.  However, where do the rookie pitchers actually rank? Are they really that good even though both have an ERA over or close to 4.00? Since they have been sort of inconsistent, some Red Sox fans can make the case about them being “over-hyped” or whatever you want to call it, but let’s take a close look at their numbers and what history call us about them.

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At the time Rodriguez made his Major League debut, he was ranked as the Red Sox no. 4 prospect, with a 4-3 record and a 2.98 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket. He got called up on May 27th and was scheduled to make his debut the next day against the Texas Rangers, who at the time were a team that had won 7 of their last 8 games; but the rookie did not disappoint. Rodríguez pitched for 7 2/3 innings, struck out 7 and only gave up 3 hits without allowing a single run. His start was the longest for a Red Sox pitcher making his Major League debut since Billy Rohr‘s shutout against the Yankees in 1967.

Rodriguez continued to impress in his next two starts with only allowing one run in 13 innings, but he eventually succumbed and gave up 9 runs in his fourth start. Since that point he has been called a “hot and cold” pitcher for most of the season, but it’s completely unfair to label him like that in his rookie season. Actually Rodriguez has similar numbers to one of Boston’s most successful pitchers and 2007 ALCS MVP, Josh Beckett.

Beckett’s first full season at the Major Leagues was on 2002 with the Florida Marlins when he was 22 years old. He ended 2002 with a 6-7 record and a 4.10 ERA on 107.2 innings pitched. Even though his numbers in 2002 weren’t stellar, he was named the Opening Day starter in 2003 and lead the Florida Marlins to a World Series title, where he was named the MVP. If we compare his numbers in 2002 to the one Rodriguez is having right now, we are going to find a lot of similar patterns. Rodriguez is now through 109.2 innings, with a 9-6 record and a 3.94 ERA. As Beckett in 2002, Rodriguez is also 22 years old. This doesn’t mean that Rodriguez is going to have a similar career to Beckett, but this shows that the Red Sox rookie’s talent is there and it isn’t going anywhere.

Sep 16, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens (60) throws a pitch in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

On the other hand, Owens made his Major League debut a little later than Rodríguez but this one was completely different. Owens faced the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 4th, and even though he struggled on the first when he allowed a run on two singles and 34 pitches, he quickly settled in by retiring 12 batters in a row. His start was pretty decent for a rookie debut with 5.0 IP and 3 ER on five hits, but the Red Sox bullpen couldn’t keep up with him. The bullpen imploded and gave up 10 more runs to the Yankees, and Owens’ night was completely overshadowed. Fans and media attention were now directed at the bullpen and not towards Owens’ decent debut, but he gained the attention back in his next start when he only allowed one run in 5.0 IP. Now Owens has a 3-2 record on a 4.33 ERA and 43.2 IP, and his numbers right now remind me of another Red Sox rookie who sadly ended his first season at the Major Leagues thanks to a lymphoma diagnosis.

Jon Lester made his debut on June 2006 but as I mentioned before, his season came to an end on August thanks to a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After Lester had a succesful treatment against his lymphoma, the 23-year old pitcher came back to the Red Sox rotation on July 2007 and helped the team win their second World Series in three years. His numbers in 2007 were not as great as his accomplishments that year may indicate, but he was pretty decent as well. Lester’s stats of the 2007 season are widely similar to the ones Owens is posting right now, since he had ended that season with a 4-0 record on a 4.54 ERA and 63.0 IP. Owens has the same age as Lester did back in 2007.

Even though most of this numbers are odd coincidences, I think it is fair to say that Rodríguez and Owens can be impressive and key contributors for the Red Sox in years to come. I am not saying that the Red Sox rookies are going to follow similar paths to the ones Beckett and Lester had, but the fact that their numbers are similar is a sign of good things to come.  Let’s just hope that if Dombroswki decides not to trade them, they can find their consistency and be crucial and talented pitchers for the Red Sox. The team sure needs a couple of those.

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