The Boston Red Sox had the 4th best ERA in the majors last season, but they have the potential to be even better in 2018.
At just a 3.70 ERA, only the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Indians were better in 2017. While that ERA includes the bullpen, the starting rotation was hard at work last season, with 88 quality starts. That ranked 2nd in the MLB behind only 99 from the Washington Nationals.
So, is it realistic to expect an even better performance in 2018? Actually, yes.
Boston, with a healthy David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez, could somehow find a way to drop that ERA below the 3.50 line. While Price returned late last season and pitched out of the bullpen, it will be huge for the Red Sox to get him back on the hill as a starter. Eduardo Rodriguez may also finally be fully healthy after dealing with a nagging knee injury over the last two seasons. There play could go a long way towards the Red Sox becoming a dominant team in the American League.
The key for Red Sox fans watching ERod is patience. If fully healthy by the end of April when he is expected to return, he can be a difference maker. Last season, Rodriguez started 24 games for Boston with a 4.19 ERA and a1.282 WHIP. That was the lowest WHIP of his career, but it’s not a far stretch to believe he can lower that ERA to under 4.00 in 2018. When healthy in 2015, he had that number down to 3.85. Rodriguez has the “stuff” to succeed on a consistent basis in the AL East, he just needs to remain healthy.
Then, there is David Price. He was lights out at the tail end of last season in the bullpen, but he’s a sure-fire starting pitcher eager to show what he can do. Boston fans got a sour taste in the mouth in 2016 when Price had a rough start in his first 6 games. Since then though, he has found his rhythm and been a Cy Young-caliber pitcher for the Sox. Fans just have not been able to get over that first impression. Price is looking to bounce back after pitching just 74.2 innings last season, compared to his league-leading 230.0 in 2016. His dealings with the media aside, Price is one of the best pitchers in baseball. What’s even better, is that he’s no longer viewed as the ace in Boston. That should take a lot of pressure off of him so that he can relax and just go out their and pitch every five days. 2018 has the potential to be a career year for David, and it would not surprise me if he is in the running for the AL Cy Young late in the season.
There is yet another question mark in the Red Sox rotation, but Rick Porcello can’t be as awful as he was in 2017. Last year, he had a 4.65 ERA, a 1.397 WHIP, and he gave up 38 home runs. That was a nightmare season for Pretty Ricky following his Cy Young Award the season before. It’s just not plausible to think that Porcello will go 11-17 again. He will bounce back, it’s just a question of how much.
Those expecting a 2016-type season from Porcello may be disappointed in 2018 since those were career numbers he routinely does not come close to. He usually has an ERA over 4.30, but 4.65 just seems too high. Look for him to fall somewhere between 4.30 and 4.45. Those are realistic goals for him, especially if he finds a way to drop those home run numbers. If Porcello finds a way to limit opponents to 20 long balls this season, the numbers will follow.
Surprisingly, Drew Pomeranz is in the conversation for the most consistent Red Sox pitcher. In 2017, it seemed like a certainty that he would get the team into a position to win. In his first full season in Boston, Pomeranz pitched a career-high 173.2 innings with a 3.32 ERA. Through ’16 and ’17 he’s been extremely consistent, and he will find a way to earn a win when he takes the mound. It’s not always pretty, but he finds a way to get the outs. As the third or fourth man in the Red Sox rotation, there’s not a ton of pressure on him and he just simply goes out to play baseball. Pomeranz should maintain about a 3.32 ERA once again in 2018, and if the other players in the rotation step it up, this Boston group will be among the league’s best.
Oh, and of course, there is ace Chris Sale. Not much needs to be said about him as he finished second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2018. The key for the Red Sox will be to manage his playing time though. Alex Cora is taking over as the manager and he likely has a different philosophy as to how long Sale should remain in regular season ball games. It was clear down the stretch in 2017 that he had lost some of his stuff, and Boston will want to make sure that doesn’t happen again as they make a postseason run.
2018 Red Sox Rotation Predictions
Chris Sale: 210 IP/2.99 ERA/1.050 WHIP/285 SO
David Price: 225 IP/3.21 ERA/1.100 WHIP/220 SO
Rick Porcello: 215 IP/4.35 ERA/1.310 WHIP/197 SO
Drew Pomeranz: 180 IP/3.32 ERA/1.325 WHIP/180 SO
Eduardo Rodriguez: 160 IP/3.70 ERA/1.250 WHIP/175 SO
The point here is that although the Yankees and Astros have amazing and intimidating lineups, the Red Sox have the pitchers to go toe-to-toe with those beasts. If the pitchers really up their game in 2018, there may be no stopping these Boston Red Sox.
While these predictions may be overly optimistic, they may not be too far off when all is said and done. The Red Sox pitchers have the ability to go deep into ballgames, and if they do, Boston may quickly become World Series favorites.