The second week of Boston Red Sox baseball quickly applied the brakes of some zealous Sox fans who forecasted 100 wins after a nice opening week for Boston.
While the team won a sloppy, wet Marathon Monday early start game Monday, it has had a mixed week.
The Sox took two of three from the visiting Washington Nationals and split a four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles, but there were concerning points throughout.
First there is the ongoing debacle with on-again-off-again ace Clay Buchholz. Against Baltimore, he allowed two runs over six innings of work – pretty good stuff from what management hoped would be a number-one guy heading into the season. But Buchholz allowed 11 hits. He pitched around it with seven strikeouts, but Buchholz gave up 10 runs in the Yankees game from two weeks ago while allowing fewer hits and only issuing one more walk. The varying Buchholz results make him unreliable, and the Buster Olney report that he “quit” and scouts hated his body language during the Yankees game is even more cause for worry.
The worry extends beyond Buchholz and to the rest of the rotation. As of Monday, Boston owns Major League Baseball’s worst starting pitcher Earned Run Average (6.24) – nearly a half-run higher than the second-place Milwaukee Brewers.
The pitchers aren’t going deep into games, either. The 66.1 innings hurled by starters is good for 10th-worst among all team’s starters; the Sox hold the same rank for walks allowed (24).
There are positives, though.
Boston sits around the middle of the pack when it comes to batting average against (.262) which, when combined with the gaudy runs figure, means that luck may just be against Sox starting pitching at the moment.
Another positive is that, even with the pitching struggles, Boston went 4-3 on the week. The team raked, scoring seven or more runs in five of the seven games.
If Boston built a team to be mediocre on the mound and dominant offensively to out-slug teams when a starter isn’t “on” then it appears the strategy might work.
The team is tied (with Toronto) for the highest-scoring offense in the Majors (70 runs) and is drawing walks at a higher rate than anyone else in the league. The team has drawn 61 walks on the year – nine more than the second-place Tampa Bay Rays. Though the pop hasn’t been in the Sox lineup – smack-dab in the middle of the league in average, on-base, on-base plus slugging, home-runs, total bases – they’ve still managed to score. That’s a positive for the team moving forward.
Surprising contributions have also come from Justin Masterson (2-0) which was regarded by some (myself included) as the worst acquisition of free agency. Yes, Masterson gave up seven runs to Washington over 4.2 innings, but he pitched well against Baltimore Monday, surrendering just one run on three hits over five innings.
It seems as if every Red Sox pitcher is “OK. Not great, pretty inconsistent,” but it seems as if Masterson has some upside.
We’ll have to wait and see.