Pitching is night and day for Red Sox starters Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez


Not everyone is a morning person. I can certainly be sympathetic of that, being one that dreads the daily wake up call of a blaring alarm clock and remains borderline dysfunctional prior to that first cup of coffee. Some of us don’t rise and shine, which is a group that may include a couple of young Boston Red Sox pitchers.

For whatever reason, Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez have struggled on the mound during day games. It’s actually mind-boggling how drastic their splits are, with the results literally being night and day.

Owens has been spectacular under the lights, posting a 1.74 ERA that ranks as the best in the league among starters with more than one night game appearance. Rodriguez is second on that list with a 1.90 ERA over 12 night starts. The pair of rookies have combined to go 9-3 in 17 starts during night games this season.

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As dominant as they have each been under the stars, they seemingly turn to stone in the light of day. Owens owns a brutal 10.66 ERA in the daytime, while Rodriguez isn’t much better with a 7.88 ERA.

What is the cause for these drastic splits? Does an early game throw off their pre-game routine, leaving them ill-prepared to take the mound during the day? Perhaps there is something with their delivery that is easier for opposing hitters to pick up during the day. Maybe they are secretly vampires that are weakened by the sun’s rays. Fine, so that last one is probably a long shot. The point is there are various reasons why these pitchers may be less effective during the day.

Let’s take Owens for example. His daytime numbers are ugly, but he’s only had 3 starts this season during the day. The lanky lefty has surrendered 3 runs or less in every start this season except for two. Those two poor outings both came during the day and saw Owens cough up 7 runs in each of them. That will certainly skew the numbers. In his only other daytime appearance, Owens limited the Detroit Tigers to 1 run over 5 innings to earn his first career win, so it’s not as if he’s incapable of performing well in a day game.

Rodriguez is a bit tougher to decipher given that he has a larger sample size of day games to analyze. He has had some success during the day, but all of his ugly outings have come in the daytime and he has yet to give up more than 3 earned runs in a night game.

After getting off to a good start by limiting the Minnesota Twins to a single run over 7 innings in his first daytime start, Rodriguez struggled in his next two under the sun. He was demolished for a career-high 9 earned runs by the Toronto Blue Jays on June 14, then gave up 6 more to the Baltimore Orioles on June 25. His next day start went much better, as he gave up only 1 run, but also lasted only 5 innings as the Houston Astros got him to pile up his pitch count quickly. Later that month Rodriguez failed to make it out of the second inning against the Los Angeles Angels, who torched him for 7 runs. Then on August 12 he was lit up for 8 runs by the Miami Marlins.

That’s four brutal outings in eight attempts during the day, plus another where he settled for a no-decision when the Astros knocked him out after only 5 innings. Is that enough of a sample size to consider this a troubling trend, or is it merely a sign of a young pitcher struggling against some pretty good offenses? Well, plus the Marlins. His last two outings during the day have turned out pretty well, as he has given up only 3 runs in 13 innings during those starts. Maybe he has finally figured out what had been causing him so much trouble during the day.

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As it turns outs, it’s not that unusual for pitchers that dominate at night to struggle during they day. Owens and Rodriguez have the lowest night ERAs in the league among starters, but take a look at the rest of that list. Chris Young, Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana make up the rest of the top-5 among pitchers with at least 5 appearances at night that have all come as a starter. Each of them has seen their ERA more than double during the day. Outside of those five you start to see names like Dallas Keuchel and David Price. Both of those guys have actually been even better during the day, but they are also among the best pitchers in baseball. Those guys rock any time, any place.

It may be merely a small-sample size coincidence, but giving that the pair of Red Sox rookies aren’t the only one this is happening to, it’s a trend that can’t simply be ignored.

Does this mean the Red Sox should start lining up their rotation to avoid starting either of them during the day? Probably not. We don’t know for sure if there are any legitimate reasons why they struggle more during the day, but if the Red Sox admit that it’s a problem then they risk creating a psychological issue in these impressionable young pitchers, the result of which could make them actually believe that they can’t perform during the day.

It’s an interesting trend to follow, but we still need more evidence to determine if there is anything to it. While there are reasons that could contribute to their daytime struggles, many of those concerns could work themselves out as they mature and gain experience at the big league level.

Owens and Rodriguez both have bright futures with this team, regardless of if they shine under the sun or under the soft glow of the moonlight.