As of July 18, the Boston Red Sox sit two games back of the first-place Baltimore Orioles. If you had told me back in April that at this point in the season the Sox’s ace was All-Star Steven Wright, their $217 million man was inconsistent, and they traded a top pitching prospect for Drew Pomeranz, I would have asked you if they were in last place once again.
But somehow, they’ve somewhat survived. The league’s best offense helps cover up the pitching woes that have plagued the Red Sox all year.
With Pomeranz, the Red Sox now have two of the top three ERA leaders in the American League. Pomeranz will have to prove himself in baseball’s best offensive division after pitching in the NL West and its pitcher-friendly environs. There are some very promising numbers so far this year for Pomeranz, especially his ability to dominate deep into games. He has allowed a .091 batting average on pitches 76-100 and has not allowed a home run. Hitters facing Pomeranz a third time through the lineup are batting just .104 with only three extra-base hits.
They have Rick Porcello who is fourth in the American League with regard to wins (11). Wins aren’t exactly the best stat to measure a pitchers performance, but he does have a 3.66 ERA to boast as well. Porcello was an unmitigated disaster in his first year with the Red Sox, but has pitched very well this year, especially for a mid-rotation arm. Porcello’s rich salary may always dog him when his performance is evaluated, but he is filling his role capably this year.
There’s a name missing from the list of good things in the Red Sox’s pitching staff and yes, it’s a notable one. Of course, I think you know that I’m referring to David Price.
And somehow, he’s the x-factor for the Olde Towne Team. That’s right: the $217 million “star” free agent will determine the team’s success from here on out.
Let me explain.
As the starting staff stands now, Wright and Pomeranz have ERAs sub-three while Porcello has an ERA of 3.66. Price has been better of late, as he has gone 6+ innings in 11 of his last 13 starts. But to leap-frog the Orioles, Price will need to lower his 4.34 ERA and not throw 106 pitches in 5.2 innings pitched as he did last night against the New York Yankees.
If Price were to pitch more like the ace that the Red Sox signed him to be, the team would have four legitimate starting pitchers and could rotate other guys though the fifth slot — go with the hot-hand, so to speak.
Dombrowski probably isn’t going to make another big move, so the pitching staff is pretty much set. With Wright, Pomeranz, and Porcello already producing, it’s going to come down to whether or not Price can get it together and command the staff the way the Red Sox paid him to do. At this point, they’re hoping that he can basically fill the role of a fourth starter. And so far, he hasn’t even been too great at doing that.
The second-half of the MLB season is about survival of the fittest. We know the Texas Rangers are hunters, as well as the Cleveland Indians and Orioles. With Price producing, the Red Sox will be hunters. If not, they’ll be the hunted.
It’s gut-check time for Price.