Boston Red Sox starting rotation is back to being in elite form
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox starting pitchers have bounced back from their sluggish early-season performances to regain the elite form we expected from them.
Plenty of issues plagued the Boston Red Sox as they stumbled out of the gate this season but the starting rotation was the most troubling. A light spring schedule left pitchers unprepared for when games began to count, with dips in velocity and a lack of command resulting in the rotation getting knocked around in the opening weeks of the season. Fortunately, those pitching woes appear to be behind them now.
Red Sox starters have been in excellent form of late, producing a quality start in five of their last six games. This string of strong starts was highlighted by Rick Porcello‘s masterpiece against the Oakland A’s on Tuesday, an eight scoreless inning gem that stands as the best performance from this staff all season.
The turnaround by the rotation stretches back to the series in Tampa Bay when they swept the Rays in three games. Discounting a spot start by Hector Velazquez in the nightcap of a doubleheader, the Red Sox have played 10 games since making that trip to the Trop. The Red Sox are 7-3 and their starters own a 3.22 ERA and 11.2 K/9 during that stretch.
It’s only 10 games, yet that still represents one-third of the season at this early stage. What we’ve seen over this span is far more indicative of this rotation’s ability than the version that was still working out the kinks in early April.
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Expand the sample to 12 games, which would include Velazquez’ messy spot start as well as Nathan Eovaldi‘s six shutout innings in the Bronx. That was Nasty Nate’s last appearance prior to going on the injured list, creating the need to rely on Velazquez. Boston’s starters own a 3.12 ERA in those 12 games. The Rays and Yankees are the only American League teams with a lower ERA from their starting rotation in the last 14 days. The Red Sox lead the league with an 11.12 K/9, 3.38 xFIP, and 3.51 SIERA in that span, per FanGraphs.
We can’t pretend that this means all of Boston’s problems are solved. Eovaldi isn’t coming back anytime soon. Velazquez has yet to make it through four innings in any of his three opportunities to fill in as a starter. Chris Sale still thinks he sucks, at least by his lofty standards. We aren’t out of the woods yet but the rotation has made tremendous progress from the panic-inducing levels they were at two weeks ago.
Red Sox starters have pitched well enough to keep their team in the game nearly every time out over the last dozen games. They’d have a few more wins to show for it if their inconsistent offense came through more often but the lineup’s production trending upward feels inevitable with the talent they possess. We’re seeing signs of the bats heating up of late with 5+ runs in four of their last six games. Essentially the same lineup averaged a major league-leading 5.4 runs per game last year.
As well as their starting rotation has pitched lately, if they get anywhere near that level of offensive production, as they have over the past week, the Red Sox are going to start stringing together a lot of wins.