Now that the 2015 season is in the books, the BoSox Injection staff will hand out their final report cards, grading the performances of each member of the Boston Red Sox roster based on their expectations entering the season.
2015 Quick Stats: 4.82 ERA, 25 starts, 10 wins, 6 losses, 134.1 innings, 110 strikeouts
A tale of two pitchers. It was the worst of times; it was the best of times. That’s the best way to start any recap on Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Joe Kelly and his 2015 season.
Forget the trade from the St. Louis Cardinals. Forget that John Lackey went the other way for him. Forget the disappointing 2014. Forget the injuries. This October ended the roller coaster that was Kelly’s full season with the Red Sox.
After winning a spot in the starting rotation, Kelly pitched a gem in his first game in Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees. He pitched seven innings and allowed only a single run on one hit, two walks, and eight strikeouts.
Kelly didn’t win another game for the Red Sox until June.
In fact, Kelly had a 6.53 ERA in the month of May, going 1-4 in his first 10 starts of the year. After a few stints in the minors, either because of injury or to recover a sense of his skills, it seemed that if Kelly was even going to come back that it would be out of the bullpen. His fastball was clocked at just under 96 mph, according to FanGraphs.com, making many experts to believe that he was more suited to be a reliever, even a closer.
However, after his sixth loss in Houston against the playoff-bound Astros, Kelly’s mental game seemed unfit for any pitching position. If he gave up a run early, it seemed that Kelly would try to strike out the rest of the team, allowing a breakdown of his skills to surface as the game continued. Whether a starter or a reliever, a pitcher cannot feel the footsteps of opposing batters coming.
Fortunately for Kelly and the Red Sox, the tide had turned after that game.
Sep 15, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Joe Kelly (56) at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The 27-year-old righty from California didn’t lose another start for the rest of the season. He won all six of his starts in the month of August, posting a 2.68 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 37 innings. His dominance continued in September, with only a right shoulder injury sidelining him in Baltimore after 2.1 innings. Kelly was placed on the shelf, left there to heal for next season, as the Red Sox were in no position to challenge for the playoffs.
The key to Kelly’s success seemed to be his willingness to trust in the defence. He continued, game after game, to earn groundball outs to help him escape tough innings. In the first half of the season, Kelly tried forcing the issue at the plate to strike out his opponents, often with terrible, horrific results. After a 2-5 record before the All-Star Game, Kelly kept the ball low to draw out groundouts for an 8-1 record, making his 2015 end with hope for a successful 2016.
Kelly’s shoulder should heal well enough to hop back onto the mound next season as well as how he ended this one. The only thing that could stop him is himself. If he tries to do too much by striking out the side, Kelly will need to change his name to Hyde. If Kelly sticks to his new strategy and keeps mentally tough, his best Dr. Jekyll impression will be just what Red Sox Nation ordered.
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