Red Sox Starting Rotation Is Not Fixed

Apr 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox starting rotation has had the luxury of the team’s bats protecting their pitchers. However, the home opener was an eye-opener.

Michael Silverman of The Boston Herald commented on a few things that he has seen so far in the 2016 season, even though it is still very early. His words on the starting pitchers are very clear: “the depth of the rotation was and remains the chief concern on this team. Shockingly short outings from Clay Buchholz (four innings) and Joe Kelly (three) were mollified somewhat by yesterday’s 62⁄3-inning stint by Steven Wright. [David] Price and Rick Porcello each went six innings apiece, but the tone was set: There is a great deal of room to improve.”

It’s not so much the fact that the starters had some bad outings thus far as it is the vibe from them. David Price is allowed to have runs scored on him, because he is known for his consistency of domination in the regular season. Yet, on the Red Sox, seeing Price give up a lead in any fashion starts to feel like a letdown. The 30-year-old from Tennessee had a 2.45 ERA last season, playing for the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays, and has pitched well to earn five All-Star appearances; however, no time in his career has Price, or any other starting pitcher for that matter, ever had an ERA of zero for a season.

Why tell you the obvious? After watching Buchholz and Kelly start 2016 much like they did in 2015, Price giving up five earned runs in five innings was demoralizing. After watching Porcello allow two home runs to the same batter in Toronto, on two sliders that looked more like straight fastballs that corkscrewed to the catcher down the middle of the plate, Price having a 1-0 record and a 5.73 ERA in two starts is just not enough. After seeing all the money spent on the first four pitchers and then realizing that the Red Sox have Steven Wright, their knuckleball fifth starter, sitting at the top of the list as their best pitcher to start the season campaign can be hard to digest for some of Red Sox Nation.

Wright is supposed to be the one allowed to bleed runs, not the others. It’s the nature of Wright’s position. He is supposed to be the one giving up hits and runs, but slowly so that the team can catch up late in ball games and pull out victories. Instead, the Red Sox did that on Friday and Saturday, with no help from the other starters, while Wright took the loss after giving up only one earned run in just under seven innings.

Price, on the other hand, was supposed to be the saviour. He was the one who was going to dominate over opposing teams’ lineups, wasn’t he? He was the one who was going to completely shut down the opposition and put the Red Sox on cruise control into the winner’s circle every night, right?

It’s baseball, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a game where a batter is considered good if he fails less than 75% of the time. Price is going to give up runs sometimes. He may even lose a few games. That’s right, he’s not perfect all of the time. However, with this Red Sox starting rotation, fans are wishing that he would be.

The 2015 Red Sox starting pitchers were ranked 24th in all of Major League Baseball in ERA (4.39), giving up the sixth most earned runs (462). They still earned 59 victories, 13th overall, because of the massive run support that they got from the batters. Currently, the hitters are doing their job again, hitting .281 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs, good enough for ninth place in terms of offensive production. The starting pitching, however, is ranked the fourth worst in the majors with a 7.04 ERA and third worst by allowing 24 runs in seven games.

Price is just a man, even though he is a great pitcher. There are going to be runs scored off of him. There also will be nights when he shuts a team completely out. Either way, the Red Sox are getting what they paid for: a good pitcher who plays once every five games. The real issue is the rest of the rotation. If Wright ends up being the second, or first, best pitcher on the team, so be it. It won’t likely matter though if the other more expensive pitchers don’t find a way to be more successful early. If they continue to dig themselves into a hole that the bats can’t get them out of quickly, having Price won’t be enough for the Red Sox to climb out of the division basement that they found themselves in last season.