2023 Starting Rotation

chrisfont9

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A preconceived notion I (and many others, I'll wager) think that Nolan Ryan was a great pitcher, but he'd never be an inner circle Hall of Famer because he lost almost as many games as he won.

Looking at career Quality Starts, however, gives me a new perspective...
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_start#Career
481 QS out of 773 starts. Over 25 years that's an average of 30 starts and 19 QS per season.
 

Fishy1

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I will throw shit if this happens. The kid can pitch. Let him do it here. I don’t think I can watch three old men in Sale (he’s a whiny old shit now), Kluber (he’s hard to watch) and Paxton (I guess I won’t totally judge him yet, but expectations are “knee high to a grasshopper” level) take innings from a kid with elite potential. Especially when this team - fun as they are - will likely not be contending for much beyond a wild card spot, if that. They are fun, but I absolutely do not expect the bats of Duran, Verdugo, Vargas, and Wong/McGuire to carry as much weight as they will need to - consistently - behind Devers and Masa. There will come a time, probably soon, when the “bit players” stop hitting as well and we start missing Story and Duvall.
I'm not sure who Vargas is supposed to be, but I guess I get this sentiment - but also think we wouldn't miss Duvall forever either. He's famous for disappearing for very long stretches where he does absolutely nothing but strikeout.

Otoh, this lineup is incredibly deep even if one or two of those guys flame out. and Duran, Valdez, Casas, Wong - all of these guys are good to very good hitting prospects, most of whom have had a tough adjustment to the big leagues but have shown the ability to make adjustments themselves. Casas is the only one who really hasn't made a concerted adjustment, but a lot of his failure so far seems BABIP related. Verdugo has had a rough couple years as a Sox but seems poised for a breakout and has been a very good hitter in the big leagues before.

Hopefully Story will be back this year to replace the only really weak spot in the lineup, SS.

I also think the starting pitching will be better than it has been. I think it's more likely Pivetta or Houck gets bumped out to the bullpen for now than Bello, but I could be wrong. I sincerely doubt a pitching staff this talented - and it is talented! - continues to have an average ERA around 5.5.

I get the case for pessimism, but I also thought this team would be pretty good and am happy to think there's a lot to be hopeful for on this team.
 

BaseballJones

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Yes he was absolutely a unique pitcher and a freak of nature. But at his core he was fundamentally flawed. The ONLY way he knew how to pitch was to throw 100 MPH on every pitch, and if he walked 7 guys in a game then he'll lose and lose his way.

The baseball equivalent of Brett Favre in many ways.
It would be interesting to consider him as a candidate for the "if the fate of the planet hung on one baseball game, who would you want as your starting pitcher" question. Because clearly he had his struggles as you point out. But also....maybe more than anyone else in the history of the game, he had the potential to COMPLETELY shut you down. Dude threw 7 no-hitters, 12 one-hitters, 18 two-hitters, and had 61 career shutouts.
 

koufax32

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I think the story of this season will include how below average or spectacularly mediocre the rotation is. I’m not sure it’s reasonably possible or even worth trying to improve at this point. My question is more off-season focused. What can be done to improve this unit going into 2024?
I think we make sure Whitlock and Bello get as much run as they need. I hope Whitlock can stay in the rotation but we need to see if he’ll be reliable there. I think Houck’s best role is in the pen. I think Pivetta is best used as something that does not involve pitching for the Red Sox. Obviously no Kluber next season either. That’s a bunch of holes to fill.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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The three teams that have allowed more runs than the Sox are 40-79. They’ve given up 16 more runs (~0.43 runs par game) than the Angels, who are the next closest winning team in RA. Now, they are third in baseball in RS which is great but teams that give up 5.7 runs a game are usually not very good.
 

derekson

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It's difficult to see any upside in keeping Pivetta in the rotation. He's been a below average innings eater in the past, but he's been terrible in all but 1 start this year and hitters are hitting him HARD.

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So far this season he has a 51.8 HardHit% after 45.6% last year. I'd rather see Houck and/or Whitlock get a chance to keep starting and see if they can be in the rotation for the future, plus they're probably both better bets to be productive in the rotation than Pivetta this season.
 

ookami7m

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From my seats behind the Sox dugout, Pivetta looked like he had no command on any of his breaking stuff and his fastball was just getting murdered once the Braves realized they could sit on it. The hanger that Olson hit to the moon not withstanding, none of the breaking stuff was in the zone.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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As one of Pivetta’s biggest backers I still think he should be starting but with Houck, Whitlock, Crawford and Winchowski his leash should be real short with one of those guys immediately ready to step in and go 4-5 innings…. For at least another 3-4 starts.
Last year at this time is when he seemingly turned it around and rattled off 5 great starts in a row.
 

The Gray Eagle

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ERA in the first inning up to 7.54 now. Amazingly bad for 37 games played. If this doesn't massively improve soon, this team will drop to the bottom of this hardcore division and stay there.

It's remarkable that they have a winning record so far, but it's obviously not sustainable unless the rotation improves dramatically.
As a whole, the starters are 13-15, 6.10, .832 OPS against, 122 OPS+ against, 37 HR allowed in 184 IP.

(Relievers as a whole: 8-1, 3.49, .667 OPS against, 97 OPS+ against, 12 HR allowed in 141 IP.)
 

JM3

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As one of Pivetta’s biggest backers I still think he should be starting but with Houck, Whitlock, Crawford and Winchowski his leash should be real short with one of those guys immediately ready to step in and go 4-5 innings…. For at least another 3-4 starts.
Last year at this time is when he seemingly turned it around and rattled off 5 great starts in a row.
As both Pivetta's biggest detractor & a Bloom apologist, I'm just going to shrug & hope we do the right thing.
 

SouthernBoSox

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It would be very difficult to justify starting Nick Pivetta over anyone in the major leagues at this point. There really isn’t anything there that would make you believe regression is around the corner.

He’s very bad and the stuff has gotten worse year over year and start over start.

64579
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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As both Pivetta's biggest detractor & a Bloom apologist, I'm just going to shrug & hope we do the right thing.
I definitely never thought he'd be better than league average.... but figured he'd be at least better than last year. Not looking like the case at this point. I'm still generally concerned about the general health of the staff and he's still the only guy who can likely avoid a DL stint and I don't think moving him into the pen and then starting would help him at all. I'd rather hope he can make it three innings and have one of the other long relief guys step in. He's got to at least start getting better... it can't get much worse....
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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I definitely never thought he'd be better than league average.... but figured he'd be at least better than last year. Not looking like the case at this point. I'm still generally concerned about the general health of the staff and he's still the only guy who can likely avoid a DL stint and I don't think moving him into the pen and then starting would help him at all. I'd rather hope he can make it three innings and have one of the other long relief guys step in. He's got to at least start getting better... it can't get much worse....
Remember when there was some talk of whether he'd make the All Star team last June or thereabouts? A good reminder that success in the majors can be very fleeting, and that a month or two of decent results don't necessarily indicate a breakthrough to a new level of sustained performance.
 

Rovin Romine

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I think the Pivetta criticisms are overblown. Yes, the results have been bad this year, but per Savant his pitches overall don't show much deviation from his two recent league average years. So he has the stuff still, to be Nick Pivetta. And at this point with the rotation, I'd take 2021 or 2022 Nick Pivetta holding one of the five spots.
 

Green Monster

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Trying to makes sense of this Paxton/Littell transaction. Wouldn't it make sense to have an extra bullpen arm for tonight incase Bello doesn't go very long? Then make room for Paxton prior to Friday's game or is this driven by a Paxton opt out?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Trying to makes sense of this Paxton/Littell transaction. Wouldn't it make sense to have an extra bullpen arm for tonight incase Bello doesn't go very long? Then make room for Paxton prior to Friday's game or is this driven by a Paxton opt out?
Littell wasn't likely going to be available tonight anyway, not after throwing 31 pitches in two innings last night. If they have a need to go six or seven pitchers deep into the bullpen, Paxton probably can be pressed into relief duty. Houck too (regular throwing day).
 

Green Monster

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Littell wasn't likely going to be available tonight anyway, not after throwing 31 pitches in two innings last night. If they have a need to go six or seven pitchers deep into the bullpen, Paxton probably can be pressed into relief duty. Houck too (regular throwing day).
Ya, I agree with Littrell availability. Would have thought a bullpen arm for a 1-game call up and then shifting to Paxton. Not sure what activating a starter 2 days prior to his start actually does, unless as you suggest, Houck is getting moved to the pen and it just hasn't been made public yet.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Paxton’s rehab stint was over, wasn’t it? Don’t think they could wait. Of course, they could have started him tonight and pushed everyone back a day.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Ya, I agree with Littrell availability. Would have thought a bullpen arm for a 1-game call up and then shifting to Paxton. Not sure what activating a starter 2 days prior to his start actually does, unless as you suggest, Houck is getting moved to the pen and it just hasn't been made public yet.
Typically they only do that sort of get-a-fresh-arm-up-for-a-day maneuver when the whole bullpen has been taxed. As it is, they've got four guys who have had at least three days off (Martin, Winckowski, Schreiber, Jansen), one who's had two days off (Bleier), and another who only threw 8 pitches last night so should be ready to go (Brasier). Six relievers should be enough to get by tonight, especially if Bello can go 5+.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Paxton’s rehab stint was over, wasn’t it? Don’t think they could wait. Of course, they could have started him tonight and pushed everyone back a day.
End of a rehab assignment doesn't require immediate activation. He was "returned" from the rehab assignment on Monday. I think the move today is to give Littell a jump start on his next job. Or they think they can slip him through waivers and maybe outright him to Worcester if he goes today instead of Friday.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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End of a rehab assignment doesn't require immediate activation. He was "returned" from the rehab assignment on Monday. I think the move today is to give Littell a jump start on his next job. Or they think they can slip him through waivers and maybe outright him to Worcester if he goes today instead of Friday.
The team has made it very clear, though, that they were activating Paxton two days prior to his start. If they didn’t have to, where’s the logic there?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The team has made it very clear, though, that they were activating Paxton two days prior to his start. If they didn’t have to, where’s the logic there?
Like I said, perhaps the "logic" has nothing to do with Paxton but with Littell. They knew he was going to be the one to go, so rather than have him sit through a game they know he won't get into anyway, they started the process of moving him off the roster sooner rather than later. The alternative to adding Paxton is flying (most likely) Justin Garza to Atlanta to sit in the bullpen for a game he probably won't get into only to turn around and send him back to Rochester to re-join the WooSox. Not a lot to gain doing that, and not a lot to lose activating Paxton now.
 

JM3

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I think the Pivetta criticisms are overblown. Yes, the results have been bad this year, but per Savant his pitches overall don't show much deviation from his two recent league average years. So he has the stuff still, to be Nick Pivetta. And at this point with the rotation, I'd take 2021 or 2022 Nick Pivetta holding one of the five spots.
His pitches were awful last year, too, & the baseline Savant #s indicated that he was lucky to have the results he did last year (which was significantly worse than league average...4.56 ERA compared to 3.96 for the league).

I suppose '21 Pivetta could be a 5th starter, even though he had the same results as '22 Pivetta (career best 4.51 ERA), his pitching was significantly better.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Like I said, perhaps the "logic" has nothing to do with Paxton but with Littell. They knew he was going to be the one to go, so rather than have him sit through a game they know he won't get into anyway, they started the process of moving him off the roster sooner rather than later. The alternative to adding Paxton is flying (most likely) Justin Garza to Atlanta to sit in the bullpen for a game he probably won't get into only to turn around and send him back to Rochester to re-join the WooSox. Not a lot to gain doing that, and not a lot to lose activating Paxton now.
Sure, but they made it clear several days ago that they were activating Paxton in Atlanta, even though he wouldn’t pitch in that series…well before they knew that Littell wouldn’t be available. No big deal either way, obviously. Maybe they just want Paxton to get settled in for a day or two, it’s been a while for him.
 

LogansDad

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Yeah, I have moved from "being healthy is a useful attribute in a starting pitcher" to " the less I see of Pivetta the better". I don't expect the team to just cut bait with him, though, since he is the aforementioned healthy and "cost controlled" for another year. The unfortunate thing is that he is all but untradeable now, too.

Pivetta is looking more and more like something I was dead wrong on this offseason.
 

simplicio

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His last 3 games have been pretty consistent. Getting over his fingernail trouble and getting the extra inning from him was great. Some long at bats in the first but then he got more efficient, and did a really nice job getting out of 2 on no outs in the third. He got Ks with all four pitches.

Would love to see him getting through 7, and stop giving up a home run every game. But he's feeling like a solid mid rotation arm or even a 2 right now, with room for growth. I'm excited.
 

chrisfont9

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Yeah, I have moved from "being healthy is a useful attribute in a starting pitcher" to " the less I see of Pivetta the better". I don't expect the team to just cut bait with him, though, since he is the aforementioned healthy and "cost controlled" for another year. The unfortunate thing is that he is all but untradeable now, too.

Pivetta is looking more and more like something I was dead wrong on this offseason.
Pivetta is tricky to assess, IMO. He has a real bulldog mentality, I think, which has at times allowed him to outpitch his arm talent. He's not a guy you want to give up on too quickly. But right now he's definitely not one of the five best starting options. Maybe he forces Cora to demote him and then pivots to accepting a bullpen role, where he can be pretty good. But there's a decent chance he can't make the transition and forces his way out when his value is at its lowest.
 

joe dokes

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I wonder if eventually they trade one of these starters? I know never enough pitching, but Chaim seems to like moving pieces.
I think they keep him, and like struggling starters of days gone by -- especially when there's an in-house replacement -- they'll give him low-leverage spots to try to get right. In all likelihood, he'll be needed again at some point.
 

chrisfont9

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I think they keep him, and like struggling starters of days gone by -- especially when there's an in-house replacement -- they'll give him low-leverage spots to try to get right. In all likelihood, he'll be needed again at some point.
I suspect they will listen to offers for Pivetta but the return will probably be too low to justify moving him. Also this:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=pivetni01&t=p&year=2022

Look at those box scores in May and June of last year. He was *sensational* over a pretty decent length of time. In that complete game he two-hit the Astros! His insistence on being a starter isn't coming from nowhere.
 

JM3

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I suspect they will listen to offers for Pivetta but the return will probably be too low to justify moving him. Also this:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=pivetni01&t=p&year=2022

Look at those box scores in May and June of last year. He was *sensational* over a pretty decent length of time. In that complete game he two-hit the Astros! His insistence on being a starter isn't coming from nowhere.
On the flip side...

View: https://twitter.com/IanMBrowne/status/1656105400780062720
 

chawson

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Pivetta would almost certainly prefer a trade over a bullpen demotion this close to free agency.

If it's true that the pitch clock increases injury risk, then Pivetta 2023 is still probably worth rostering to someone. If we're still a contender, it doesn't make sense that he's here. He's the eighth-best starter on the staff with everyone healthy.

We also definitely don't need his 2024 season. Not so much because of his ability, but because we're looking to add another big cluster of prospects to the 40-man this winter (including Drohan, who may be better than Pivetta right now) and could use the roster spot.
 

LogansDad

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Sure, of course, but given his age, cost and year of control you want to make sure before cutting bait. He has something in him maybe?
Cross posting from the pitcher value thread, but TLDR: No, I really don't think he does. And I was a big supporter of keeping him over the winter.
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Stemming off from talking about Pivetta, and looking a little deeper into the value of "being available" I am trying to work out a way to determine if being available really is a valuable skillset if you stink. I took all of the pitcher starts from 2022 and threw them in a table this afternoon and gave them points based off of their performance. I know we talked about Quality Starts above, and I kind of understand why people shy away from it, but I also kind of understand what it is getting at, too. In a league where teams generally average between 4 and 5 runs a game (yes, there are outliers), I think a pitcher who can go 6 innings and let up 3 runs is, at the least, giving his team a chance to win. Game score is fun and all, but I wanted to look at actual run results, because a 15K game that a pitcher lets up 5 runs could still be a decent game score.

I feel like 3 earned runs is a good baseline, and, since it is 2023, 5 innings pitched is a decent break even point as well, so what I did was award pitchers a single point for each inning they pitched beyond the 5th (with a bonus point for a complete game, or 9 innings+). They also received 1 point for each earned run less than 3 that they allowed, 0 points if they allowed 3 runs, and -1 point if they allowed 4 or more earned runs. I counted all games in which a pitcher allowed 4 runs or more in the same basket, because at some point you are just setting your team up to lose, and you shouldn't really be punished more. I also only spent like 10 minutes coming up with this, so it is something of a rough sketch of how I want to look at it. Oh, I also subtracted a third of a point for each unearned run they allowed. I know they don't get "charged" to the pitcher, but they do tend to hold at least some responsibility for it, unless the unearned run is a solo home run off of Jose Canseco's head.

I assigned the points value based on their IP in each start and their runs allowed. I also looked at total games with 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4+ runs allowed, and a percentage of games with 4+ runs allowed.

As someone who was strongly aboard the "Pivetta has value because he pitches 32+ games a year", I kind of put this together to specifically look at him. What I found was:

Justin Verlander and Sandy Alcantara were simply incredible last year.

Nick Pivetta, frankly, stinks. Even with his really great 6 week run, of 123 starters with 20 or more games started, he ranked 61st in total points achieved, which seems mediocre, but he also had 33 starts and since it is kind of a counting stat that makes it more bad, and when I switch to 25+ starts, he is 55th out of 85. Still pretty mediocre, but you can live with mediocre from your #5 starter.

Where issues begin to form, though, is that 38 of his 46 points of value came in that one stretch from May 1st until June 29th. Outside of that, he was simply awful. Overall, he had a 33% blowup percentage (more than 4 runs allowed), which was 99th out of 123, a nearly 10% rate of going less than 4 innings (67th out of 123) and only a 51% rate of going more than 5 innings (84th).

Basically, if you only have 5 (or less) available starting pitchers, sure you could do worse than Pivetta. But, really, you aren't going to find a way to make it that much worse.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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I’d wait to see what we have in Paxton before dumping Pivetta. Winckowski and Crawford seem pretty valuable in the roles they are in. Pivetta and Kluber have both been pretty bad, but there’s no one in Worcester who looks ready. So until you are confident in Paxton / Whitlock, why make a move? Pivetta’s lack of interest in relieving seems completely irrelevant to me.
 

LogansDad

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I’d wait to see what we have in Paxton before dumping Pivetta. Winckowski and Crawford seem pretty valuable in the roles they are in. Pivetta and Kluber have both been pretty bad, but there’s no one in Worcester who looks ready. So until you are confident in Paxton / Whitlock, why make a move? Pivetta’s lack of interest in relieving seems completely irrelevant to me.
I agree with this, and also think that of the currently available players he probably needs to be in the rotation. Once/if Whitlock comes back, and assuming Paxton isn't worst pitcher on the planet bad, I think they need to find something to do with him. I don't think he will be deserving of a spot next year, with Mata and Drohan both maybe able to push him for innings already, so I would be interested to see if they can move him for a lotto ticket prospect at least.
 

SouthernBoSox

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I’d wait to see what we have in Paxton before dumping Pivetta. Winckowski and Crawford seem pretty valuable in the roles they are in. Pivetta and Kluber have both been pretty bad, but there’s no one in Worcester who looks ready. So until you are confident in Paxton / Whitlock, why make a move? Pivetta’s lack of interest in relieving seems completely irrelevant to me.
This is exactly why they are waiting to move him to the pen. There is a real chance Paxton is a nothing, in which case you just keep trotting out Pivetta.

However, Pivetta is bad. Very bad. I think it’s obvious both Kutcher and Houck are better and both seemed destined for the pen right now.

I see very little if any downside in letting him go if his attitude warrants it.
 

Benj4ever

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One of those 3 runs was Houck getting pulled at 74 pitches with a runner on and Bleier immediately giving up a moonshot to Schwarber.

He looked okay, got into some trouble in the fourth but limited the damage somewhat. He continues to not be the strikeout guy we saw in 2021 though.

The fact that they did pull him at a lowish pitch count could mean they're thinking long relief too. He's also already at 37 IP on the year, and it's been four years since he went over 100 in a season.
I read that Cora pulled him because he didn't trust him. Why he would trust Bleier, though, is a mystery. And yes, the inherited runner that scored had singled, so that's much more on Bleier than it is on Houck. So, yes, Houck did have a good outing. It just looks worse on paper because of Cora's mismanagement.
 

Benj4ever

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I'm not sure who Vargas is supposed to be, but I guess I get this sentiment - but also think we wouldn't miss Duvall forever either. He's famous for disappearing for very long stretches where he does absolutely nothing but strikeout.

Otoh, this lineup is incredibly deep even if one or two of those guys flame out. and Duran, Valdez, Casas, Wong - all of these guys are good to very good hitting prospects, most of whom have had a tough adjustment to the big leagues but have shown the ability to make adjustments themselves. Casas is the only one who really hasn't made a concerted adjustment, but a lot of his failure so far seems BABIP related. Verdugo has had a rough couple years as a Sox but seems poised for a breakout and has been a very good hitter in the big leagues before.

Hopefully Story will be back this year to replace the only really weak spot in the lineup, SS.
you
I also think the starting pitching will be better than it has been. I think it's more likely Pivetta or Houck gets bumped out to the bullpen for now than Bello, but I could be wrong. I sincerely doubt a pitching staff this talented - and it is talented! - continues to have an average ERA around 5.5.

I get the case for pessimism, but I also thought this team would be pretty good and am happy to think there's a lot to be hopeful for on this team.
I don't agree on Casas not making adjustments. His swing looks much different this year than last. He young and struggling with the learning curve. Just give him time. He has the tools to succeed at this level.
 

JM3

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Sure, of course, but given his age, cost and year of control you want to make sure before cutting bait. He has something in him maybe?
I mean...I was already pretty sure he was bad this off season & I wasted wayyyyyyyy too much time arguing about it.

Next year under contract we have Sale/Bello/Whitlock/Houck/Winckowski/Crawford, plus guys like Drohan/Mata/Murphy/Walter may be ready.

Plus you have the budget to go out & get a top of the rotation guy if you want to.

I want to strive for better than running out a JAG every 5th day to throw 5 mediocre innings. Pivetta was a great acquisition by the Red Sox (getting him & pre-injury Seabold for 2 months of 2 mediocre relievers is wow). But he's never developed into a good pitcher & all his underlying stuff has only gotten worse over the last 2 years & I don't see him making a magical, sustainable leap at his age.

His problem is people hit the ball hard af against him at an alarming rate. How does one simply overcome that?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Well, I have my fingers crossed for Friday. Management/Cora and all have decided he's ready. Paxton in his head probably thinks he's ready.
His last two starts for Worcester:
4/30 vs Scranton - 5.1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 90 pitches
5/5 vs Buffalo - 5.0 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 5 BB, 4 K, 96 pitches

Why in the world would anyone have a doubt that he's ready?