Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz

Read Sox: The Rotation, the Defense, Player Meetings and the Draft

Welcome back to Read Sox. This week, amidst much panic in the Red Sox world, we examine the rotation, how the defense has hurt the rotation, John Farrell trying to rally around his veterans, and look at the Red Sox‘s history of success or suggested lack thereof in the first-year player draft.

Going Deep

Through Sunday’s games the Red Sox rotation has the worst ERA in the game at 5.05. 5.05! A lot has been written about the lack of an ace, and how the “He’s the ace” strategy has failed tremendously. Clay Buchholz is a capable front line starter, and Rick Porcello and Wade Miley are solid middle-of-the-rotation pitchers; despite what they have shown at times this season. But after that comes the trouble. Justin Masterson has lost too much velocity – his fastball is down almost 6 miles per hour from 2013 (when he was effective) – to have much faith in. While his DL stint was supposed to help, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal notes Masterson needed 50 pitches to get five outs in a rehab start with his velocity settling in at 87 mph. Then there is Joe Kelly, who is still trying to learn how to be a major league starter, but is doing it at the major league level which presents considerable problems. In his last start, Sunday against the Rangers, he adjusted his pitch selection, but the results were still not great.

The continued issues of Masterson and Kelly have pushed the Red Sox to keep Eduardo Rodriguez around for longer than was originally intended, well that and the fact that he was excellent in his major league debut. While I think we need to pump the brakes on anointing Rodriguez the savior after just one start, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe outlines how he was well worth the wait. Another interesting piece of this puzzle is the development of Brian Johnson, who has been stellar at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.60 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 10 starts, the last of which was a perfect six inning outing with nine strikeouts. Again, some caution is warranted before promoting Johnson and expecting him to fix what ails this team, as he has made only 30 starts above High-A.

Pitching itself is not entirely to blame for the ugly runs allowed total, as the Red Sox’ defense has been poor as well. Their 70.3% defensive efficiency ranks 19th in the league, although after park adjustments they are 26th. As mentioned above the rotation has posted a 5.05 ERA through Sunday, but their 4.13 FIP suggests they have been almost a run better; although that mark is still six percent worse than average. The 0.91 difference between the ERA and FIP for the rotation is the second highest difference in the game, falling behind only the Flying Francona’s of Cleveland, a team that has come to be known over the past couple of years for their miserable defense.

The Boston Globe‘s Alex Speier has more on the Red Sox’s defensive difficulties, with a focus on Hanley Ramirez’s adventures in left field. As an entire pitching staff the Red Sox rank in the lower third of the game in strikeout rate at 18.7%, which means they are relying on getting outs on balls in play more than most teams. Having a bunch of ground-ball pitchers (they currently rank 12th in ground-ball percentage), as was apparently the plan this offseason, is fine, but it requires the defense to convert the ground balls to outs. From‘s play index, below are the batted ball rates for the Red Sox staff, their rank in the game, and the corresponding BABIP allowed on those batted ball types, which can be taken as a rough approximation of defensive efficiency (rates ordered high-to-low).


Batted Ball Type



Ground balls

46.0 (12th)

.237 (20th)

Fly balls

35.1 (8th)

.092 (4th)

Line drives

19.0 (30th)

.642 (5th)

So it looks like the ground ball approach has been working well, fly balls have been a real problem, and while the team has allowed line drives at the lowest rate they have ended up as a hit at one of the highest rates. All told, you can add defense to the list of things the team needs to improve upon going forward.

Quick Hits

The blame for the Red Sox’s brutal performance through the first quarter of the season should be spread around evenly amongst the roster, coaches and front office. It is not the case that one or two people should be held primarily responsible: everything has been bad. But with that in mind’s John Tomase shines a spotlight on the role Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez have played in the mess in which the Red Sox currently find themselves.

While Farrell is still learning when, and when not to issue an intentional walk to an opposing hitter, it is hard to make a rational argument that he should be fired. The move would be symbolic of a level of panic that is simply not necessary at this point in the season. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal offers insight into why firing Farrell would be foolish, and Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe says it is not going to happen.

In the midst of this latest streak of poor performances, John Farrell sat down with a group of veteran players (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval) prior to Sunday’s game to discuss the important influential role they have on the core of young players. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald has more on the meeting and comments from the players involved.

The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is next week (June 8-10) and the Red Sox front office will be looking to add to an organization that has been ranked as one of the best in the game over the last few seasons by outlets like (2nd), Baseball America (2nd), ESPN (5th) and the group here at Baseball Prospectus (6th). Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes that despite the great accumulation of talent, the Red Sox have not developed a home-grown All-Star since Jacoby Ellsbury (2005 first-round pick). The article includes a good discussion of how the Red Sox continuously being in win-now mode has affected this odd fact.

Three Good Game Stories

Wade Miley pitched poorly again on Saturday in an 8-0 loss, but as’s Sean McAdam writes, the defense, notably Pablo Sandoval, Rusney Castillo, and Hanley Ramirez, was shaky behind the beleaguered starter, and Dustin Pedroia has had enough of the ugly effort.

The Red Sox had many chances in Sunday’s loss to the Rangers, and while they played better than the day before, it was another loss that Peter Abraham of the The Boston Globe suggests points to a scary truth about this team: they are not very good.

Before there was the doom and gloom of the Rangers series, there was the final game of last week’s Twins series, in which Rob Bradford of suggested that Dustin Pedroia was really the only player keeping the Red Sox competitive.

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