A Look At The Red Sox Pitching
For a team with serious starting pitching problems, the Boston Red Sox haven't lost the affections of the betting markets. They're the 5-4 favorite to win a hotly contested AL East race they aren't even leading at this writing. The Red Sox are the 4-1 favorite to win the American League pennant. Only the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants are better-regarded in the market.
The combination of baseball's best offense and a national fan base that backs its team at the betting window will do that. But those who bet baseball to make a profit, not simply support their favorite team, have to ask serious questions about whether the Boston rotation can survive the long hot summer.
Boston is fine at the top, with David Price anchoring the rotation. Even with a poor start to the season, Price has still lowered his ERA to 4.63 and has found his groove in the last several starts. We don't have any concerns there. It's the other four days that are concerning. Consider...
- Clay Bucholz was expected to be the #2 starter. After a 6.24 ERA in ten starts, Bucholz was banished to the bullpen. The odds are he'll get another chance as a starter, but that leads to another problem - he's notoriously fragile.
- Rick Porcello has been competent, posting a 4.04 ERA in twelve starts. The problems here are current form - in his last three starts he's giving up 12 runs in 18.2 innings - along with how much is being asked of him. Porcello's numbers are fine for a #3 or #4 starter, a role he filled capably on division championship teams in Detroit. They're less acceptable for a #2, which is what he may have to be in Boston. This is underscored by the fact Porcello has only completed seven innings of work three times this season.
- Joe Kelly has been on and off the disabled list. When he pitches he's just been off - an 8.46 ERA in six starts. A strong finish to the 2015 season gave the Red Sox' hope that Kelly had finally harnessed his enormous talent. But he's struggled with command and relying too much on his fastball. Perhaps getting healthy will be the difference.
- Eduardo Rodriguez is the key source of hope for the future. The talented lefthander was Boston's best pitcher in 2015, but he began this year on the disabled list. The first couple starts have been up and down, with an ERA of 5.40. The Red Sox have to hope that what they saw from him last year was the real deal and that he can get settled into this season and find that form again.
- Finally we come to the rotation's unlikely hero and it's Steven Wright. The veteran knuckleballer, no guarantee to even make the team in spring training, has the best ERA in the American League at 2.09. With Price's early struggles and all the other inconsistencies documented above, it's Wright that has kept the Red Sox on the heels of the Orioles in the AL East.
To a large extent though, that's the problem. Do you want to bet favorite's prices on a 31-year-old knuckleballer with no previous record of accomplishment to pitch at a Cy Young-level all season? Because if some of the other Red Sox' starters don't step it up, that's exactly what's going to have to happen.
We're not as down on Boston as this article might make it seem. When you can hit and you have David Price, you're going to stay in contention. We're happy to target them for play night-to-night in the right spots. We're glad to think of them as one of several teams that can reach the World Series in a wide-open American League. But the favorite? We'll pass on that.
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