Biggest 180s: Red Sox pitching staff goes from postseason strength to major weakness

Sam Cohn
August 08, 2019 - 1:05 pm

It was never a major concern in 2018 of who was on the mound for the Boston Red Sox. Each guy that donned a Sox uniform and stared down an opposing batter gave fans a lot more hope than stress. Just one year later, the defending World Series Champs can’t start games, can’t close games, and can’t pitch well anywhere in the middle consistently.

Granted, the clubhouse lost a few big names with Joe Kelly headed to Los Angeles, Craig Kimbrel now playing for the Chicago Cubs, and Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow injury forcing him to miss a significant portion of Boston’s season. However, the numbers have deteriorated. 

The ‘18 pitching staff earned a 3.75 ERA during the regular season. Just one year later the same rotation has a 4.81 ERA with 42 games to go. 

The 2018 star-studded pitching rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez was dominant late in the summer on their way to the playoffs. 

Sale dominated night-in and night-out tying a career high win percentage of .750. Price’s confidence was at an all-time high with a new number, a new outlook on life, and 16 wins against his 7 losses. Porcello, Eovaldi, and Rodriguez all contributed major productivity to one of the most dominant pitching rotations in baseball. 

Boston’s 2018 starting rotation had five guys and Porcello was the only one with an ERA above 4.00. This year’s same group without Eovaldi, who was moved to the bullpen after returning from injury, doesn’t have a guy below that mark. In layman's terms, they’re giving up a lot of runs early in games.

In 2019, the starting pitching rotation was roughly the same but you wouldn’t think so by just looking at the numbers.

The bullpen has also been a major weak point for Boston this year. Brandon Workman has been stellar with a 1.87 ERA, Marcus Walden (3.30) has generally been fine, and Darwinzon Hernandez has been solid since getting called up, but everyone else has struggled. Matt Barnes started the season strong but now has a 4.70 ERA, Ryan Brasier and Colten Brewer both struggled enough to warrant demotions to Pawtucket, Tyler Thornburg never panned out and wound up getting released, and the likes of Hector Velazquez, Ryan Weber, Josh Smith, Brian Johnson and Mike Shawaryn have not proven to be solutions.

It's become a constant concern of who is on the mound this season and the front office’s unwillingness to make a move at the trade deadline may indicate their lack of confidence in a late-season surge for a wild card spot in the playoffs. The Red Sox pitchers have done a complete 180-degree turnaround from a fierce World Series-winning staff to a disastrous follow-up that may very well cost the team a playoff spot.

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