Say goodbye to Rich Hill, Red Sox Nation.
The media jumped on the news that the former Boston Red Sox pitcher is going to take his talents to the Oakland Athletics:
Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported earlier that there would be a deal for Hill this week, but that the club name was in question. “Hill was signed by the Red Sox after trying out in his hometown of Milton. He would go on to start for the Independent League Long Island Ducks, where the 11-year big leaguer experienced success as a starter after moving to the third base side of the pitching rubber, while also altering his arm angle.”
Bradford also noted that “the most Hill has ever made in one season is $1 million, when he inked a minor-league deal with the Indians in 2013.”
It’s a good signing for Oakland, but what does it mean for the Red Sox?
Let’s be honest about Hill’s 2015: it was a small sample size, however successful. He appeared in four games, each of them were starts. He went 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA, walking only five batters while striking out 36. Two of the five earned runs he allowed were home runs. In 29 innings, Hill gave up 14 hits and plunked two hitters. His best start was the complete-game shutout of the Baltimore Orioles on September 25th in Fenway Park. He only suffered two hits and one walk while striking out 10 batters.
Before the adjustments that he made on the mound, Hill had not won a major league game in two years. He won a total of seven games before this season, dating back to 2008.
Not to say that his recent accomplishments are anything to sneeze at, and it’s not like the Red Sox couldn’t use another starting pitcher. However, the limited amount of games suggests that Hill could have finally figured out his game or the other teams are due to do the same to him.
Eduardo Rodriguez also had an excellent start to his career in Boston, going 3-0 with a 0.44 ERA in his first four starts in 2015. The wake-up call came in his fifth start, when the Toronto Blue Jays lit the rookie up for nine runs in under five innings of work. Rodriguez became streaky, going 10-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 21 total starts. That’s still very successful, especially for a rookie pitcher, but it proves that you never can guarantee anything on the mound.
According to FanGraphs.com, Hill’s arsenal includes a 90-mph fastball, a 78-mph slider that you almost never see, a good curve that he uses just under 42% of the time, and an 84-mph changeup that he uses sparingly.
With a pitch selection like that, an opposing batter facing Hill knows that he’s either going to see a fastball or curveball, which means Hill’s location better be perfect. In 2015, in those four games, his location seemed pretty spot-on. Good for Hill. That doesn’t mean that his new arm angle would fool the great hitters in the American League East division for much longer.
Hill has a fresh start in a new division, facing batters whom haven’t seen much of him yet. It seems like Hill should have some more of that autumn success that he found in Boston. Yet, that $6 million that the Red Sox would have had to pay, if not more, to keep Hill may be better off being used for some other free agent signing. It would have been nice to keep Hill, as he gave some hope to the starting rotation, but would he have been good enough to be an ace? The jury’s been out for years on Hill, already. If he does become an ace, it would be more along the lines of a miracle than just an adjustment.