Red Sox pitching: Drafting and development mystery

May 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Henry Owens (60) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
May 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Henry Owens (60) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox pitching is sub-standard and just what is the issue? Is it evaluation? Drafting? Development? In ten years no one significant has surfaced.

Jerry Seinfeld could certainly open up his routine with: “Say…..just what is it with Red Sox pitching?” That would Segway into a few minutes of comedy patter, but with the Red Sox, the comedy is on the field, as the staff is deteriorating with each game and inept collective or personal performance. Hopefully the magic will return in the second half.

The acquisition of someone to lead the charge – David Price – is fast becoming a fiscal and performance disaster, as Price is not an ace as promised, but a pitcher whose post game apparently is just a continual loop on taking (thankfully) ownership of another John Wasdin like presentation.

I ignored all recommendations from my therapist and decided to check out the latest “numbers’ on FanGraphs as they relate to the Red Sox. My concern was that after the latest disaster of 21 runs the Red Sox would be at the bottom rung, but I was surprised or is it shocked that several teams have also under-performed.

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The BB/9 is 3.39 and that is 13th in the American League, but the BABIP is .299 and sixth – not bad. Home runs seem to leave at an alarming rate, but the team is still seventh with a 1.23 HR/9. The more traditional ERA is 4.48 for 10th place and xFIP a tad better placing the staff in seventh at 4.30. Even the exotic WAR is 6.3. So the numbers show a team that is 9th or tenth overall depending on what you are looking at.

When you break it down by June you certainly see the degrading factor that explains – at least partially – a record of 10-16 for the month. What the big picture does not show is the incredible inconsistency that members of the staff have demonstrated. There is absolutely no one that can instill a level of confidence – rotation or bullpen – that their entry into the game indicates it is time to relax. None – even Steven Wright.

How did this happen? What conditions have caused such a malfunction of the most important ingredient on the diamond? Why do dependable arms simply go astray when they reach Boston? Why do far too many just reach a plateau and then stall? Why is throwing strikes apparently related to getting STD? What in the world is going on with development and drafting?

For the last ten years, the Red Sox have developed little in their system that has contributed to the pitching portion of the baseball equation. The position players are now dotted with farm talent that is All-Stars and has (hopefully) a long Boston career, but the pitching continues to be baseball spam.

Looking back to 2005 you see names like Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz all rated high – often 1-2-3 on the prospect lists for being serious MLB contributors and they all did. Others, such as Anibal Sanchez brought in talent when they were shipped elsewhere to perform with success.

The last ten years have seen one after another simply not reach potential. Some, such as Nick Hagadone, Justin Masterson, and Casey Kelly were shipped elsewhere, but the ones that remained never seem to live up to what one would expect. Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens and on it goes. Some show a glimpse of promise and then fade.

The scouting directors for the last 15 years have all been rather well respected and moved on to other teams as they advanced. David Chadd to the Tigers, Jason McLeod to (no surprise) the Cubs, Amiel Sawdaye moved up recently in the Red Sox food chain. Maybe it is development within the system? Don’t know and – like gravity – I know it exists, but not why it exists.

Coaching is a merry-go-round in the minors and majors and the Red Sox are no exception as coaches constantly move about. Is it actually worth the extra expense to get well-respected coaching talent, pay them MLB rates and have them do the grunt work? Would they?

Next: Red Sox Prospect Watch

I am sure the Red Sox have attempted to build a consistent system-wide philosophy regarding pitching, but the results clearly show it is not working as planned. Is it simply a period of ill-fortune or something systematic? I don’t know but what I do know is the results on pitching development show something is amiss.

The Red Sox appointed Brian Bannister as their Director of Pitching Analysis and Development. Maybe this will help? Only time will tell.