A Mendoza Line for Boston Red Sox pitchers
The Mendoza Line is the baseball gift for miserable hitting thanks to the efforts of a light-hitting shortstop Mario Mendoza. The line was created as a clubhouse joke by several teammates and quickly passed into mainstream baseball to anoint ineptness with the stick. Mendoza played nine seasons and four were under the Mendoza Line of a .200 batting average. Mendoza did manage to finish with a career .215 average in 686 games.
This season the Boston Red Sox have two entries in their quest for supplying candidates for the Mendoza Line – Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. Both have struggled and Benintendi is now out of action recovering from an injury. Both should get above the line of infamy, but what about the pitchers? Do they have a Mendoza Line? Where do you arbitrarily start?
Historically there are some ugly seasons for pitchers who have qualified for the Earned Run Title – either 154 or 162 innings pitched. John Lackey (6.69) is one for his 2011 season, but Lackey was pitching with a blown-out arm. Maybe the Mark Portugal Line or Skip Lockwood Line, or possibly the Mike Brown Line? All had forgettable moments in Red Sox history. But what about the present?
The Red Sox recently executed a trade for right-hander Dylan Covey who has a career 6.56 ERA in 256.2 innings, but they are spaced over four seasons. Just where should the line in the sand be drawn? I would use an arbitrary figure of 5.00 ERA. Just above that and you are in the race. I will avoid a 4.50 ERA that is linked to Quality Start.
Is it too early to condemn the staff? I do believe this may be the worst Red Sox staff I have ever seen and we certainly have some early candidates for pitching infamy. No one will have close to the innings necessary – even with the truncated season – to “measure up” to the standards, but that is based on the revolving door policy.
The “star” or “Ace” of the rotation is high priced Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi is now at a 5.93 ERA after being torched – as the entire staff has – by the New York Yankees. Eovaldi is certainly on track to an excruciating – for him and the fans – of heading toward 6.00. Maybe my arbitrary number should be 6.00 or 7.00? Eovaldi may actually bag enough innings to qualify.
Ryan Weber – a failure in three other organizations – pitched his way out of Boston, but now is back. Weber was impressive in his last appearance with six innings of one-run ball that lowered his ERA to 6.75. Zack Godley has made three starts and has an 8.16 ERA with “stuff” that mystifies no one with a bat. Rookie Kyle Hart was demolished in his two innings so his 22.50 ERA. Austin Brice is another multiple organization castoff and a career 5.09 ERA is certainly telling.
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The Red Sox have some solid veterans who are making a concerted effort to be above the Pitching Mendoza Line of 5.00 ERA. Matt Barnes is now at 6.75, Marcus Walden at 11.57, and Ryan Brasier at 10.50. Then there is Jeffrey Springs and Matt Hall who both are at 15.43 ERA who I doubt will be back. All have been influenced by that nasty inning complex such as Walden giving up six earned runs without getting an out, but this malaise is not limited to a choice few, but the entire staff. A real team effort!
The numbers (hopefully) will drop, but the trend is clear regarding this staff – they have nothing. The whole staff has a 6.10 ERA! In the American League, they are first in runs allowed (133), second in walks (89), first in hits allowed (213), last with a -0.5 fWAR, and just look at that .340 BABIP! At least the Mariners have a “better” xFIP that Boston’s 4.86. At least the bullpen is at a 0.1 fWAR or 14th place.
This can’t deteriorate much further and one would expect some of those tragic numbers to eventually get lower, but a crevice has been dug that will need more than an extension ladder to extricate individuals and the staff. When the season is done if that list has not seen any significant departures from 5.00 ERA then 2021 may just see a repeat.