Red Sox: Too many question marks will keep Boston from the playoffs

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Manager Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox addresses the media during a press conference during a spring training team workout on February 21, 2021 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Manager Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox addresses the media during a press conference during a spring training team workout on February 21, 2021 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox playoff hopes will sink on poor pitching

There are three reasons why the Boston Red Sox will not win the American League East: The New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays. The fabled Beast of the East of a bygone era is being resurrected. At least the Baltimore Orioles will prevent the Red Sox from enjoying the basement.

Everything revolves around that little bump in the middle of the diamond, according to that noted baseball philosopher Earl Weaver. The Red Sox pitching collective managed a -0.1 fWAR for the 37% season with Chaim Bloom employing a revolving door approach. Many arrived and many failed.

In an act of desperation, Boston re-signed Martin Peréz – I am sure his agent had to sift through multiple offers. Peréz can generally be located wallowing around in the metric statistical sub-basement and has for several seasons. I doubt anyone would consider Peréz the linchpin of the staff but certainly would claim that honor for Eduardo Rodríguez.

E-Rod sat out 2020 the victim of COVID-19 resulting in a heart condition. The unfortunate news is Rodriguez is dealing with a tired arm.  The 13.2 innings of spring training have the lefty gassed.

If there is a glimmer of positive, it’s that Tanner Houck has been called back from Triple-A purgatory. Houck was undeniably impressive in his three-game stint in 2020. The issue with Houck can be demonstrated in a small sample from spring training: A 9.3 BB/9 and 8.4 K/9.

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The Red Sox mound hopes are resting rather tenuously on the arms of Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Richards. A miracle for the manager Alex Cora would be getting 50 starts out of the duo. The next in the bag – a rather large bag – of question marks is Nick Pivetta. Pivetta found that long-promised magic for two late-season starts. This spring, Pivetta has apparently reverted to his Philadelphia days.

The Red Sox bullpen could qualify for a FEMA handout. This is a category V bullpen. Matt Barnes will close – maybe.  Adam Ottavino could close – maybe. Possibly Hirokazu Sawamura will end up getting shuffled out for the ninth? Little has changed from a -0.5 fWAR to convince me that there are trusty arms in the ‘pen. The hope springs eternal is Matt Andriese and a possible Rule 5 steal in Garrett Whitlock.

That is the bad news or I should say the very, very bad news, but the lineup will be a show. I’ve got Bobby Dalbec down for 200 whiffs, 35 home runs, and a possible Rookie of The Year. And the strong boy can handle it and third or first.

The rest of the infield is solid at least with the stick.  Rafael Devers will not win any Gold Gloves but will impress those who drool over Statcast numbers.  Xander Bogaerts is just about a guarantee slash of 30/100/.300. Second base has Marwin Gonzalez or Enrique Hernández or Christian Arroyo. Maybe Michael Chavis can catch an Uber from WooSox Headquarters and add another layer to second? Or first?  Or third? Or the outfield?

Reggie Jackson used to be the straw that stirred the drink and that is J.D. Martinez. J.D can match Reginald with the bat and (thankfully) not the mouth. I fully expect Martinez to return to his run production glory. A bad year without video is now expunged.

The Killer Bees have departed and the outfield has some interesting talent waiting in the wings. Flashy Jarren Duran may finally work his way into the lineup.  If Hunter Renfroe tacks on a whiff inspired 0-for-17, Duran may get a quick call. Otherwise, the top dog in the outfield is Alex Verdugo. Verdugo is Mike Greenwell with better defense.

Franchy Cordero has failed in San Diego and failed in Kansas City.  Now the lefty hitter with prodigious power has worked his way to the east. Maybe this will be a David Ortiz type of steal? Otherwise, the outfield will have Gonzalez and Hernandez filling in where needed.

Christian Vázquez is a catcher with exceptional defensive talent who can also hit. A surprising/shocking 23 home runs in 2019 and seven last season. And backup Kevin Plawecki hitting .341? The depth is the usual veteran and this year it is Chris Herrmann who will enjoy picturesque Worcester until needed.

The Red Sox defense is where the holes are and the major component of defense is pitching. With Chris Sale gone for possibly half a season that is a bite. The rest of the rotation and bullpen have to be pristine in health and performance for this team to succeed and that is order not likely to be filled. And the defensive glovework is just ordinary and Devers could be a potential sieve at third base.

The offense will make it fun at Fenway Park. Jeter Downs, Jay Groome, Connor Seabold, and the behemoth Triston Casas may all arrive. There will be an opportunity for younger players as Cora will not be hesitant for building towards 2022 and 2023.

Next. Five things we learned from spring training. dark

This is a team in a tough division where getting to the .500 mark may be difficult. They may pack in playoff opes by the All-Star break, but the promised land of playoffs could be just a year away. Expect a fourth-place finish.