Column: Is it too soon for Red Sox fans to panic over pitching?

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Monday, April 25, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

2015 was a rough year to be a Boston Red Sox fan. The team finished 5th in the AL East, with their pitching rotation ending the season with a 4.31 ERA- the 25th worst in the league. Boston’s pitching was excruciating to watch.

This explains why Sox fans were so excited to hear about the signing of David Price in the offseason. We needed an ace starter, or even a mediocre one, and Price would be just that. Though many fans complained over the amount of money we had to shell out to get him, others ignored the price tag, remembering how painful our 2015 pitching had been.

Here we are 18 games into the regular season, and the Red Sox are holding down their 25th spot with a rotation ERA of 4.75-the highest in the American League. Our flashy starter Price holds a 7.06 ERA, second highest behind Joe Kelly with a 9.35. The Sox pitcher with the lowest ERA is Steven Wright with 1.40.

The remaining starters, Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello also have embarrassing ERA’s with 6.33 and 4.66 respectively. It’s April 26, with fewer than 20 games played so far. The question stands: is it too early to freak out?

Though I’m a big fan of statistics, numbers can sometimes be deceiving. Take David Price and his ERA for example. At first look, 7.06 is scary bad. That figure covers just four starts from Price, and averages two terrific games and two horrendous games. Breaking down his ERA by good and bad games, Price has a 2.76 with 19 strikeouts over two games, and a 14.2 with 13 strikeouts in the other two starts.

If anything, Price’s ERA is frightening because of his inconsistency. However, we need to remember that it’s only April. In 2014, Price had a 5.24 ERA over five starts with Tampa Bay, the same year he finished with 271 strikeouts and a 3.26 ERA. Am I worried about Price yet? Not at all, but if these numbers remain in early summer, I’ll be nervous.

Another factor in the Sox rocky start is injuries. Reliever Carson Smith and starter Eduardo Rodriguez are set to begin rehab next week. Smith is set to pitch in Pawtucket next Tuesday, and will likely make his return to Boston first. Rodriguez will take longer to return, as Boston will demand more innings from him than Smith. The 22-year-old starter injured his knee in preseason this year, and is set to start games in Portland on a five-day schedule before returning to Boston.

Rodriguez started 21 games last year, ending his season with a 3.85 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Both pitchers returns will be vital to the Red Sox pitching, as Rodriguez will likely replace one of the weaker starters, and Smith will add more depth to the exhausted bullpen.

Another problem with the starters is the reaction effect they’ve had on the bullpen. Their poor performances have caused the relievers to pitch 60 2/3 innings. The bullpen is being exhausted game after game, resulting in no fresh arms to rely on. Boston’s bullpen has covered the second most innings of a bullpen in the American League, right behind Oakland.

The pitching is not off to a hot start, but I’m confident it’ll get better, especially with injured players rehabbing and returning. With most of the focus on pitching, our offense has been vastly overlooked. David Ortiz has had three homeruns, and 14 RBI’s. Mookie Betts has homered four times, two of which came in back to back games.

In the 12-8 loss to the Rays last week, the Sox had five runs in the first, and had eight total runs on 15 hits. The loss was entirely due to pitching, and had nothing to do with offense.

As of April 26, I am not worried about the Red Sox 2016 season. I’ll remain calm (for now) and just pray we figure out how to pitch, to accompany our offense and end our two-year playoff drought.


Molly Burkhardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mary.burkhardt@uconn.edu.