5 key injuries that doomed the Boston Red Sox 2022 season
Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale
The Sox stockpiled pitching depth last winter but they mostly shopped in the bargain bin. They struck gold with Michael Wacha and have received acceptable production from Rich Hill at the back of the rotation. Though both spent time on the IL this year, too, other roster decisions deserve real scrutiny.
One thing the Sox didn’t do is seek a frontline starter, and the reason they didn’t break the bank for an ace is that they felt they already had one in Chris Sale.
Of course, there was concern about relying on a pitcher who had made only nine starts over the previous two years. Those nine starts were impressive though, as Sale went 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA and 11.0 K/9. He was on the shelf for a very long time but it was all due to one injury, which he proved he had successfully returned from. Even though he wasn’t exactly vintage Sale, the idea going into last year’s offseason was that as he got further removed from Tommy John surgery, he’d get closer to returning to peak form.
But when pitchers arrived for spring training, it was revealed that Sale was dealing with a rib injury that would delay his season debut. By that point, the crop of desirable free-agent starting pitchers had been picked clean.
It was a frustrating setback but it also wasn’t a doomsday scenario yet. The expectation also shouldn’t have been for Sale to return to being a 200+ inning workhorse this year anyway, so missing a month or so would help keep his innings total in check.
Unfortunately, the timeline for his recovery kept getting pushed back. While we had hoped for a late-May or early-June debut, Sale wouldn’t make his first start of the season until July 12. In his second start, Sale was drilled by a line drive that fractured a finger. While recovering from that injury, Sale fell off his bike while riding around the city, suffering a wrist injury that required season-ending surgery.
Sale was once considered to be a durable pitcher but it’s been one setback after another since his Tommy John. Is there any player in baseball more snake-bitten than Sale? Many will call him injury-prone at this point but the reality is that it has been a series of unfortunate accidents.
The Red Sox rotation has been ravaged by injuries this season. Nick Pivetta is the only starter on the Opening Day roster who hasn’t spent time on the IL. There was a stretch earlier this year where Boston was relying on four rookies in their rotation, none of whom they planned on using this season. Nathan Eovaldi, who claimed the mantle of staff ace last season when he finished fourth on the AL Cy Young ballot, has made only 18 starts this season. Wacha has been the team’s best starter this year but he’s been on the IL twice.
Red Sox starting pitchers rank 22nd in the majors with a 4.43 ERA and they are 19th with 8.3 fWAR. It’s a wonder that they aren’t closer to the bottom considering that their best pitchers have missed so much time.
Injuries have taken a toll on this pitching staff but none more so than losing Sale for nearly the entire season. He was supposed to be the stopper at the top of the rotation. The anchor of the staff. Having a pitcher of his caliber leading the rotation for a full season drastically changes their outlook. His absence had a trickle-down effect that derailed this team. Prospects were called up before they were ready for the majors. Middle of the rotation arms were thrust into the ace role. A thin bullpen was overworked when the rotation struggled to eat enough innings.
The Red Sox were doomed by an overwhelming amount of injuries but a case can be made that none were more damaging than the three different ailments that plagued Sale.