The 2023 Boston Red Sox are one of the best roller coasters in sports.
The club looked dreadful during a four-game losing skid at Tropicana Field, and with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on the horizon, I was ready to start getting excited about the 2024 campaign.
Fast Forward to Tuesday morning, and the Sox are on the doorstep of .500 after a somewhat decisive series win against the Halos.
This weekend left me with more questions than answers but furthered plenty of storylines I get to sink my teeth into.
One quality start, but the same old problems
The Red Sox pitching staff has been a headache.
Tanner Houck has been the brightest glimmer of hope, an increasingly lowering bar. His slider/sinker combo has serious potential and is in the league's upper echelon at generating swings and misses. It's also significant to note that the team has won all three of his starts. The glaring problem? He can't pitch past the fifth inning.
Since last July, Nick Pivetta has been consistently unreliable. He's getting hit and hit hard. Pivetta is in the bottom 3% of the majors in barrel%, paired with a steadily decreasing chase rate. On Saturday, he couldn't even throw a strike and is a few bad starts away from the team, and the fanbase losing complete faith in him.
Yet, the story of the weekend came on Sunday, and as if a gift from the heavens, Garrett Whitlock took the bump and delivered the club's first quality start of the season. It was seven glorious innings and reminded everyone watching what good pitching looks like.
It's dreadful watching the Red Sox pitch, even when they're winning these slugfests. This team cannot survive if the bullpen is forced to throw four frames a night.
Justin Turner, welcome to Boston
Justin Turner is single-handily trying to restore Chaim Bloom's credibility with his play this past week.
Turner excels at putting balls in play and swinging through the strike zone. He's been rewarded for this consistency and is finding his groove at the plate.
He hit his first homer on Sunday, clearing the Monster and providing the only two runs the side needed in a quiet day for the rest of the team's bats.
This offense can be a well-oiled machine if Turner can provide insurance behind Rafael Devers until Adam Duvall returns. It's hard to justify being so reliant on a 38-year-old, but if Justin Verlander can win a Cy Young at 39, maybe father time is just getting a bit soft.
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Mastaka Yoshia is still adjusting to MLB
When watching the World Baseball Classic, I was talking myself into a Red Sox playoff push led by the "Macho Man," Masataka Yoshida. Nearly three weeks into the season, some doubt he will even last the length of his five-year contract.
Yoshida has the worst launch angle among qualified hitters in the sport, which passes the eye test. He has struggled to get under big-league fastballs and routinely drives the ball into the dirt.
His exit velocity is also worse than the league average, and when you start to piece all his stats together, it starts to paint a startling picture.
With the game on the line yesterday, he faced four 97 mph heaters and eventually popped up to sink Boston's comeback bid.
Simply put, his bat looks slow. It's still too early into his career in the States to fairly judge his performance, but the team was surely hoping for a more encouraging start.
Kenley Jansen has high-end closer potential for Red Sox
Kenley Jansen has been far more consistent than many onlookers will give him credit for.
After an impressive season with the Atlanta Braves, Jansen felt like an under-the-radar signing for the Sox.
In the last few years, it felt like Alex Cora was having open tryouts at closer. At his worst, Jansen was a player with prior success in high-leverage situations.
Right now, at its best, it gives the team an identity at the back end of the bullpen and someone reliable to close games for the first time since Craig Kimbrel in 2018.
Jansen continued his sparkling start to his age-35 season, picking up two more saves and continuing his scoreless innings streak.
His cutter looks as lively as ever, and if he continues, he can be a pivotal piece if the club ends up stringing together consecutive series wins in the coming weeks.