The Red Sox Are Completely Falling Apart
Prior to Opening Day, many prognosticators—this one included—pointed out the Red Sox’s ample flaws. They’ve all percolated to the top over the last four weeks, setting the stage for a potentially dismal summer.
At the start of this month, the Red Sox had the best record in the American League and a two-game lead in the division. They’ve fallen back six and a half games in the standings since and are now just clinging to an evaporating half-game lead in the wild card after this prolonged swoon.
The Red Sox’s miserable June reached a new nadir Monday with their 13-7 loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Rays. Young left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who was once championed as the possible savior of this rotten rotation, surrendered nine runs in two and two-third innings. He’ll now take his ghastly 8.59 ERA back to the minor leagues, leaving the Red Sox with just four starting pitchers at the moment. Maybe Dustin Pedroia could take the hill, considering his outburst Monday was the most life the Red Sox have seen on the pitcher’s mound this entire road trip.
From 1913 until Thursday, the Red Sox never had a starter give up 10 hits while going less than three innings. That’s now happened twice over the last four days, where Boston has been outscored 11-0 in the first frame.
Despite handing $217 million to David Price—the most money ever spent on a pitcher, just as a reminder—the Red Sox’s rotation isn’t faring any better this year than it did in 2015. Their ERA is currently 4.82, and at this time last summer it was 4.83. They finished that season out at a depressing 78-84.
Though Price and his 4.68 ERA shoulder a lot of the blame for that, he was turning it around prior to his blow up in Texas Friday night. The biggest culprit is the fact that you need five starters on a major league baseball team, and the Red Sox only appear to have three. Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Henry Owens, Sean O’Sullivan and Roenis Elias, who have all started games at the bottom of Boston’s rotation this season, have posted an average ERA of 8.65.
This incompetence didn’t matter in May, when Red Sox hitters were tattooing the baseball. But predictably, the offense has cooled so far in June, and the team is 9-15 this month as a result. The power outage was most notable against the White Sox last week, where Boston only mustered two runs in losses Monday and Tuesday.
Fans applauded the benching of Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo at the start of April, but are now seeing the ramifications of having $167.5 million worth of players contribute nothing. Sandoval’s absence, which will last the entirety of the season due to the shoulder surgery he underwent last month, has forced Travis Shaw into a starting role. After a torrid start at third base, Shaw is hitting .208 with one home run since May 24. Castillo’s incompetence propelled the Red Sox to place him on waivers last week, and now they’re starting Bryce Brentz in left field. Up to this point, the most notable thing about Brentz’s baseball career is that he shot himself in the leg at Spring Training three years ago.
Due to injuries that have sidelined Brock Holt, Blake Swihart and Chris Young, the Red Sox’s bench now consists of backup catcher Sandy Leon and four rookies. The bullpen isn’t much deeper, with Carson Smith’s forearm injury thrusting the overused Junichi Tazawa and 41-year-old Koji Uehara into action on nearly a nightly basis.
Manager John Farrell doesn’t have many enticing options at his disposal, though it’s debatable whether that makes much of a difference. The so-called pitching guru is once again watching his starting rotation collapse and doesn’t seem to have any answers. Farrell helped develop Jon Lester into an ace last decade while he was pitching coach, but since then, he’s failed to correct a single troubled hurler—from Buchholz to Kelly.
Nobody will ever be able to strip Farrell of his 2013 championship, but that season is the outlier of his career. His record as a manager is 344-380 when 2013 is excluded. In addition to trying to improve his roster, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski must determine whether Farrell should remain in the dugout going forward.
Despite spending north of $200 million on payroll this year—the most in franchise history—the Red Sox’s flaws are starting to outnumber the bright spots. May was fun, but the rest of the season is shaping up to be painful.