Red Sox pitchers haven’t started a season this poorly since 1901

Red Sox pitchers haven’t started a season this poorly since 1901.

The Boston Red Sox pitching staff is off to a brutal start, the likes of which the franchise hasn’t seen since their inaugural season.

Founded in 1901 as the Boston Americans, the club’s American League debut got off to a rocky start. Boston dropped four of their first five games while surrendering 8+ runs in each of the losses and a total of 50 runs in that five-game span.

Flash forward nearly a dozen decades and we find this year’s pitching staff making every effort to match that level of futility. After a promising Opening Day victory, the Red Sox lost their next four games while giving up at least seven runs in each.

This marks the second time in franchise history that Boston has allowed 7+ runs in four of their first five games, joining the 1901 Americans.

While this team has matched the 1-4 record to begin this season, we can take some small solace in Red Sox pitchers allowing only 31 runs, well short of the total surrendered by the 1901 club in their first five games. The horrific stretch only got worse in 1901, as the Americans would lose two of their next three while allowing 35 more runs in those three games. This year’s Red Sox pitching staff (probably) won’t give up quite that many over the next three days in New York.

The comparisons likely end there. The pitching staff recovered in 1901 to allow the fewest runs per game (4.4) in the league. Boston finished second in the league with a 79-57 record, four games short of the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox but easily enough to qualify for the postseason under today’s format.

The rough patch to open the season turned out to be merely a blip on the radar from an otherwise strong rotation led by Cy Young, who pitched a staggering 371 1/3 innings that year while posting a league-leading 1.62 ERA.

This year’s rotation is led by… Nathan Eovaldi. Maybe they will eventually get Eduardo Rodriguez back. That’s a decent 1-2 punch if they both reach their potential but neither is a future Hall of Fame pitcher who will one day have an award named after them. The rest of Boston’s rotation is filled by a collection of No. 5 starters, openers, and fringe options who wouldn’t be on a major league roster if it weren’t for injuries and roster expansion.

The season turned around quickly for the Americans in 1901, proving that we shouldn’t overreact to a poor start with such a small sample size. However, there’s little reason to believe a similar recovery is in store for this year’s rotation. Not unless E-Rod is able to return soon…. along with Chris Sale… and Cy Young.

Despite their dismal start that includes allowing 7+ runs in four consecutive games, the Red Sox surprisingly don’t have the league’s worst pitching staff so far this year. Three AL teams have allowed more runs per game than the 6.2 RA/G that Boston has been charged with.

That figure will undoubtedly drop as the sample size expands but not as much as the Red Sox need it to plummet. The talent, or lack thereof, currently available to the Red Sox simply isn’t good enough to improve significantly.

The worst performance by a pitching  staff in franchise history belongs to the 1932 Red Sox who produced a collective 5.02 ERA on their way to losing a franchise-record 111 games. This was one year before the team was purchased by Tom Yawkey, who immediately began buying talent to improve the team.

This year’s Red Sox pitching staff currently has a 6.00 ERA. It’s only five games but in a shortened 60-game season, there isn’t much time to recover.

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The 1901 club still has the dishonor of the worst five-game pitching performance to open a season but this year’s Red Sox are in danger of being the worst pitching staff in franchise history by the end of the season.

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