The Red Sox come into this weekend’s three game series against the Yankees at 12-10, one and a half games back in the AL East and three ahead of New York. They have been more or less carried by their offense in the early going, slashing .272/.334/.485 through their first 22 contests. A .269 TAv is good for ninth in the majors. Their pitching has continued to be a major weakness despite their big name acquisitions this winter, with a 4.43 ERA that ranks 23rd in all of baseball.
The 23-year-old Owens, who was called up to replace injured starter Joe Kelly, had a rough start to his 2016 campaign on Sunday against the Astros. He threw 86 pitches in 3 ⅓ innings, walking four and allowing three earned runs. Control has always been his Achilles heel; he’s averaged four free passes per nine as a professional.
Even at his best, Owens is not the most imposing opponent. His fastball sits 88-90 and is extremely hittable. His best pitch is an outstanding changeup. He’ll also mix in an occasional OK curveball. PECOTA projects a 4.57 DRA and 0.4 WARP in 74 ⅓ innings of work this year.
Porcello has been slightly less disappointing in his second season with the Red Sox. While the four-year $82.5 million extension he signed last season may not be a bargain, it no longer looks like a Sandoval-esque sunk cost. In fact, Boston has won all four of Porcello’s starts in April. The long ball is still an issue in the early going (five in 25 ⅔ IP). It’s worth noting that Jacoby Ellsbury has destroyed Porcello in the past. In 26 PAs he has 12 hits, 4 home runs, and two doubles. Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran also have strong career numbers vs. Porcello, while Mark Teixeira has slashed .182/.250/.182 in 24 PAs.
Porcello’s primary weapon is his 90 mph sinker, which he’s thrown 44.7% of the time in 2016 according to Pitch f/x. He also mixes in a four seamer, cutter, slider, and change. PECOTA foresees a modest rebound from last season’s disaster, with a 4.22 DRA and 1.4 WARP in 145 IP.
A 5.76 ERA probably wasn’t what most Sox fans were envisioning from their newly signed ace/savior, but the good news is that Price appears to have been the victim of some bad luck in the early going. All of his peripherals are right in line with career norms, and he’s leading the American League in strikeouts and Ks per nine.
For what it’s worth, he actually hasn’t been credited with a loss either, although he has had two very ugly starts, most recently allowing eight earned in 3 ⅔ innings on April 21 against Tampa Bay. He was dominant in his last outing, striking out 14 in 8 IP, but it was against the woeful Braves, so that should be taken with a grain of salt.
Still just 30 and coming off his best season since his 2012 Cy Young campaign, Price seems like an unlikely candidate for a sharp decline at this stage. PECOTA expects a 3.45 DRA and three WARP in 160 2/3 innings.
The Red Sox used their pen sparingly in their recent series against the Braves. David Price gave the team 8 strong innings against the Braves on Wednesday, with Pat Light pitching the ninth. Tommy Layne threw 23 pitches while Heath Hembree threw 15 in Thursday’s 5-3 loss. Everyone else looks to be rested and ready to go for Boston. They are currently carrying 8 relievers.
David Ortiz (.320 TAv) and Dustin Pedroia (.285 TAv) have turned in vintage performances in the early going. Ortiz looks like he could do this for another decade in he wanted to. For all the hype about the Red Sox talented youngsters, it’s the old guard that is still carrying the Sox offense thus far in 2016. Mookie Betts (.268 TAv) and Xander Bogaerts (.270 TAv) have been solid in the first month, but haven’t yet kicked it into high gear.
The biggest surprise of April has been Travis Shaw (.326 TAv), who replaced Pablo Sandoval at the hot corner out of spring training despite having only 59 professional starts at the position to his name coming into 2016. The unheralded former ninth-round pick has exceeded all expectations in his climb up the minor league ladder. While this level of production isn’t sustainable, it’s not out of the question that he develops into a solid regular.
Hanley Ramirez (.233 TAv) continues to struggle mightily at the plate, even after returning to the infield and reportedly turning over a new leaf with his work ethic. Brock Holt (.262 TAv) has been miscast as an everyday left fielder. Defensive specialists Jackie Bradley (.242 TAv) and Christian Vazquez (.207) round out the cast.
The Boston bench currently consists of veteran backup catcher Ryan Hanigan (.207 TAv), former Yankee Chris Young (.198 TAv) as the fourth outfielder, and utility infielder Josh Rutledge (.391 TAv in very limited time).
Lead photo: Tim Heitman / USA Today Sports