Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
You probably have a strong opinion about Drew Pomeranz. He was the apple of Dave Dombrowski’s eye for most of the first half of last season, with good reason. While in San Diego he pitched like, say, a top-5 draft pick. The Sox needed pitching, had prospects to spare and made a move, sending highly-touted youngin’ Anderson Espinoza out west in a straight-up swap. Not long after that, word got out that the Padres had not disclosed some injury issues Pomeranz had – specifically in his elbow – and despite reportedly being allowed the call takebacks on the trade, the Sox moved forward. Pomeranz then was very meh for most of his time in Boston, flashing occasional brilliance that was too often sandwiched between games where he got crushed.
What went right in 2016
Pomeranz, and the Padres for that matter, benefited from a well-timed run of dominance to start off 2016. In San Diego, he threw 102 innings with stats that included a 2.47 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 84 cFIP. He was generating a good amount of soft contact; his 20.5 Soft% was in the top-30 of all qualified starters and his 8.8 HR/FB% was the best of his career. Petco, man. His strikeouts were up, with his K% rising from 23 to 28 percent and his K/9 going from 8.6 to 10.1. Interestingly enough, while he was a Padre, Pomeranz’s splits were actually a smidge better on the road:
– 2016 as a Padre, on the road: 54 IPs, 2.32 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, 28.2 K%, 11.1 BB%.
– 2016 as a Padre, at home: 47.2 IPs, 2.64 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, 27.7 K%, 8.7 BB%.
It’s splitting hairs, but it’s splitting interesting hairs!
What went wrong in 2016
He got traded to the AL East. That’s not entirely fair – there were warning signs that Pomeranz was probably headed for a rough second half. Padre Pomeranz got to 100 innings for the first time in his career. The only other time he got even close to 100 innings was in 2012, when he pitched 96 ugly innings in Colorado. His .240 BABIP in San Diego wasn’t sustainable either. Poor Drew. Pomeranz’s stats are fun because half the time he’s been in the majors, he’s pitched in traditionally awful pitchers parks (Coors, Fenway) while the other half has been spent in the spacious confines of San Diego and Oakland.
As was well documented, what plagued Pomeranz the most in Boston was the home run ball. After moving to the east coast, that 8.8% HR/FB skyrocketed to 19.7%. Fenway is a notorious nightmare for lefties, but that’s too high a jump to blame on park factors alone. Pomeranz just got hit harder. His Hard% went from 28 percent to 36 percent and his LD% rose three percent while his FB% remained virtually the same. People were putting the ball in the air against him at the same rate, the only difference being that in Boston he was a) no longer in San Diego (analysis!) and b) getting hit harder.
What to expect in 2017
The Red Sox are in a tricky position with Pomeranz. Naturally, they’re going to start him off in the rotation. The team clearly wants to give him a chance on a full offseason of rest as well as a spring under their training program. He has the potential to be a valuable mid-rotation starter and the team is surely aware of the optics of letting go of Espinoza go for someone who they gave 13 starts before sending into middle relief purgatory.
With that said, is that such a horrible idea? The team already has Chris Sale, David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez, all who throw the baseball using their left hand. The team has come out and said they don’t care about stacking lefties, which I’d speculate is just not a true statement at all. The bullpen’s power arms – Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Matt Barnes, Tyler Thornburg and, fine, Joe Kelly – are all righties. If you look for lefties you’ll find names like Fernando Abad, Brian Johnson, and Henry Owens. The list of trustworthy lefties in the Red Sox current bullpen is as follows:
Robbie Ross Jr.
Additionally, taking a look at the two’s career splits vs. lefties will show you that Pomeranz might be a much better option.
– Ross Jr. career vs lefties: 124.2 IPs, 3.97 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.31 WHIP, 21.4 K%, 8.5 BB%.
– Pomeranz career vs lefties: 123.1 IPs, 2.19 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 26.8 K%, 8.6 BB%
So why not put Pomeranz there? That way there’s a more balanced rotation with three lefties (Sale, Price, Rodriguez) and two righties (Porcello, Wright). We’ve already considered the option that Ross may be miscast as the go-to lefty in the bullpen, anyways. My guess is that the Red Sox know this and that before the season is over, you see Pomeranz come out of the bullpen as the go-to lefty-specialist who can also start a game or two if injuries impact the regular starting five.
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