The Red Sox pitching is in an ever-lasting slump. Alex Cora has finally said that changes are on the horizon. What could the changes look like for the Sox?
It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox pitching staff has been up and down this season. An area that was expected to be a key strength has been an area of main concern. Key starters haven’t lasted as long as anticipated and relievers are overworked. Performances, for the most part, are lacking.
We’re already in August baseball, only having made a few changes before the trade deadline. Nothing is impossible, but it’s time to start to really worry. Up until this point, the Red Sox have essentially gone with the same rotation plan. Alex Cora has confirmed that we might see some changes soon.
"“We’ve just got to be creative. As far as where the schedule is, right now, it’s tough to be that creative. We still have one more round of starts for everybody then the off days will come because of interleague. We might get creative at that time. As of now, we’re going to stick to our plan right now and see where it takes us.”"
What do we know? The Red Sox are in a slump. And that’s putting it nicely. Over 116 games, the starters have an accumulated a 5.08 ERA, and a 9.50 ERA over the last 10-games, giving up an average of 3.2 home runs per nine innings. It’s clear that what the Sox have been doing just hasn’t been working.
The current 5-man rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Andrew Cashner needs to be changed up. Price has now been placed on the 10-day injured list with a wrist injury. So we’ll definitely see a change to his place in the rotation. What potential options do the Red Sox have?
Cora said that he didn’t have any plans of using an opener. But with the recent injury to Price, this might offer the best quick solution possible. Moving either Hernandez or Nathan Eovaldi back to their original roles as starters.
Eovaldi made 4 starts in 2019 before getting injured and he’s played in 11 games in total this season. He has a 6.59 ERA this season, an alarming increase from his 3.81 ERA in 2018. His WHIP is now 1.674, an increase from 1.126 WHIP in 2018. What does this tell us?
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We know Eovaldi was injured this season and has battled to come back. For his return, he was moved to the bullpen, a move that takes time for the adjustment. But it also tells me that maybe, just maybe Eovaldi isn’t being played in the correct position based on his strengths. He’s playing as a reliever because of team need.
Cora mentioned that piggybacking is an option that we might see. Piggybacking is pairing a starter with a reliever who’s able to go the stretch (or with a starter moved to a reliever role). Essentially meaning that we would see two pitchers splitting the time of the game.
In 2013, Houston Astros manager Jeff Luhnow explained the reasoning for using a piggyback system. The system relieves the amount of use of the bullpen, it helps to split the workload evenly so that pitchers are not getting overworked or more susceptible to injuries. In a Bleacher Report article, he stated,
"“Pitchers who pitch well get the same amount of innings as they would get in a five-man rotation. The starter will go five innings or 75 pitchers, whichever comes first. The second starter will go four innings or 60 pitches, whichever comes first.”"
One of the big issues right now is the length of time that the starters are lasting. Using the piggyback method might be the best answer to help spread things out. It also provides a different way for the struggling pitchers to re-learn how to achieve that longevity.
Another option, although slightly out there, is for the Red Sox to follow in the footsteps of the Tampa Bay Rays. They could start pitchers with the anticipation that each will only last 1-2 innings. This would allow for less work over the same amount of time. Pitchers would then be able to bring all of the fire that they have, with less concern for decreases in velocity.
It’s a method that has worked for the Rays. Partly because of injuries and the team was forced to adapt. The Rays are currently in second place in the AL East. They have a younger pitching squash with an average age of 27.7. The team ERA is 3.55 with a 1.168 WHIP.
It’s time for the Red Sox to make some changes. I’d like to see Eovaldi back in the starting rotation. With all of the current issues of the pitching staff, now is the time to make some changes, try a few out of the box solutions. If the Red Sox don’t act quickly, the season won’t have any sliver of hope.