The bullpen has been the focal point when discussing the 2019 Red Sox blemishes and it’s clearly been for good reason. Despite some brief success from those who we didn’t expect such as Marcus Walden, overall, the anticipation for a late-inning meltdown when the team is clinging to a small lead is palpable amongst the fanbase.
But the team’s inconsistency since the start of the season doesn’t only stem from a weak, well, Dave Dombrowski style bullpen. The offense appears to be working on all cylinders again with Mookie Betts beginning to heat up while those who have performed all year continue to produce. So in the grand scheme of things, don’t change a thing about what they’re doing because they’re essentially the sole reason why you weren’t completely embarrassed during your trip to London which did nothing but strip the club of two home games against their main division rivals.
When your bullpen has been as poor as theirs has been, especially as of late, you need the key members of your rotation to step up and eat up innings. And that’s something that the 2019 Red Sox have lacked from some guys that they need to rely on.
Beginning with Rick Porcello, if you had told me that this pitcher had won the Cy Young award in 2016, I would have thought you were lying.
We’ve seen two separate sides from the team’s third man in the rotation, depending on how you look at it. Porcello relies so heavily on his sinker and one thing that has been a detriment to his game is the newfound launch angle. With the way that baseballs–that are definitely not juiced and you shouldn’t ask the MLB about–are flying out of the ballpark at record rates, his sinkerball which is thrown not to get strikeouts, but to get groundouts instead just doesn’t work the way that it used to.
Even so, he’s seen success this season and has thrown games which could have convinced you that he might be beginning a little streak of his own. Taking it back to four starts ago where he faced off with one of the best hitting teams in baseball in the Minnesota Twins, Porcello was lights out throwing seven innings of shutout baseball.
Again, in a season where the bullpen is so putrid, this is the kind of stuff that they need if they want a chance at still potentially, somehow, winning the division–which is a long shot.
But his three starts after his brilliant one against Minnesota paint a more realistic picture of how his season has been. Five runs against Toronto and six runs each against Detroit and New York. Is it worth reminding you that his six runs given up to New York in London came with him being yanked during the first inning after only being able to obtain one out?
Porcello, while again showing some mild success at separate points as we approach the all-star break, overall has been wildly inconsistent. Although, the team’s offensive prowess did put a bandaid on his most recent outing against the lowly Detroit Tigers.
Porcello’s current stat line reads a 6-7 record, a 5.33 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP and an opponents’ batting average of .275.
But Porcello hasn’t been the only issue. Chris Sale, the team’s ace who they’ve recently invested in with a lucrative five-year extension, has also been a drastically different pitcher compared to what we’ve seen during his first two seasons with the team. And his lack of consistent success is in a way worse than Porcello’s even though he’s seen better results. That’s because now that he’s been labeled as one of the league’s premier pitchers who any club would have paid top dollar to land had he hit the free agent market, you paid him to be the best pitcher on your staff next to David Price. And unfortunately, since that extension was signed, the results have been lackluster.
Things started out rocky this year for Sale. On March 28th, opening day for the 2019 campaign, Sale got his doors blown off against a team who we now know, well, stinks in the Seattle Mariners. He was tagged for seven earned runs and lasted just three innings before being pulled.
And aside from some stretches where we’ve uttered the words, “Chris Sale’s back”, the lefty has truthfully been incredibly underwhelming compared to what’s expected.
From about his fifth start through most of May, it appeared as though he shook off the offseason or World Series hangover rust. But even so, he’s yet to see success against the current kings of the AL East, the Yankees and has had many, many more games of poor performances than what we’ve become accustomed to since he was dealt to the team following the 2016 season.
He’s had injury concerns, mostly at the end of each season where his shoulder appears to wear down. And after the 2018 all-star break, it was evident that he wasn’t the same pitcher that we had watched prior to the Summer Classic following left shoulder inflammation which appeared to hinder him for a majority of the second half.
Regardless of the injury history, he was signed to his newfound contract extension with the obvious idea in mind that he’d continue to reign his dominance upon the league.
You don’t have to look too far back for his un-Sale like starts. Over his two most recent outings, he’s allowed 10 earned runs to the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, bringing his ERA up to 4.04.
His season’s been drastically up and down to the point where you really can’t predict what you’re going to be seeing during his time on the mound. Could you see a quality start of six innings and two earned runs against one of the league’s powerhouses in the Houston Astros as he did on May 24th? Absolutely. But could you also get the Sale who gets massacred by the 34-57 Toronto Blue Jays? Yupp.
To reiterate, his ERA as of now sits at 4.04 with a WHIP of 1.07 and an opponents’ batting average of .222. At this time last year? His ERA sat at 2.36 with a 0.89 WHIP and an opponents’ batting average of .181.
The fact of the matter is this. There is only so much that the offense can do for this team. They can steal you win after win and keep you at least within screaming distance of the playoff hunt. But they can’t carry you forever. There needs to be times when the starting pitching and bullpen holds a tight lead and manages the game on more of a defensive aspect.
The starting pitching, on paper, should be dominant. And if it wasn’t for David Price having himself a phenomenal season–while he simultaneously stays out of the sights of the media–the Red Sox starting rotation would also be pretty putrid from top to bottom, at least in regards to consistency.
It’s been littered with inconsistent efforts and with a team who is as relentless as New York leading the division along with a talented team in Tampa Bay sandwiched in between yourself and first place, it has to be better.
And that better play needs to come from those who you can expect it out of. Because sure, could you expect ups and downs from someone like Eduardo Rodriguez? If you don’t, you should because that’s been his story since we’ve come to know him.
But if this team is going to have a shred of success, especially in the second half following the all-star break when you begin to see who the true contenders really are, guys like Chris Sale and Rick Porcello need to step up and be a bandaid for this unpredictable fire the Red Sox call a bullpen.
Chris Sale and Rick Porcello are two names that simply need to succeed as the year rolls on. Because if they don’t, you can expect the Red Sox to be headed on some early vacations while the Yankees and Astros play well into October.