Sox Rotation '22- The Good, The Pretty Good, The Not-Bad, the Pretty Bad and the Ugly

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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No specific discussion thread for the rotation at this point surprisingly.
Not much time to lead anything this morning heading out the door, but so far it's been generally not good... but not surprisingly so. Without Sale and Paxton, the rotation leans on Eovaldi to be the ace.... which he simply should not ever be looked upon as IMO. While he can be great... he has never had a long track record to command $25M per season contracts or teams offering top minor league talent to acquire. So far though he's been pretty good.
Michael Wacha has been good. Surprisingly so thus far... but I can't trust it for long term.
Houck is pitching better than expected but needs to get deeper into games and should be bumped to the pen at some point to keep his innings down for the season.... not bad.
Rich Hill.... not surprisingly... has been pretty bad. I don't see a role for him on the team after either Sale or Paxton return.
Ugly. Yes.... Pivetta. I'm expecting this to turn around, hoping he's hitting some dead arm stretch. I was at least impressed that he seemed to figure something out yesterday in his last few innings after getting man-handled. Pivetta needs to stay in the rotation.

The Question. Whitlock. What if he dominates in his two upcoming likely starts? Should he stay there?

My long term guess is that we'll see Sale return in early June and Hill will be dropped to the pen and be given some opportunities there for old-style long relief and spot starts.
Paxton returns and Houck will go to the pen. Whitlock will return to the pen.
 

Ganthem

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I guess my number one questions is what are they doing with Houck. I have heard his third pitch is a work in progress and perhaps Cora and friends aren't confident in that pitch. That being said I think the time is now to see if he can get through the order a third time. It seems like the worst case scenario is that he can't go through the order a third time and the team knows they have to have a guy who can go two to three innings to piggy back him, but there is only one way to find out. The other consideration is that Houck and Whitlock both only pitched around 70 innings last year. I can't imagine the team wants them going beyond 120 innings this year. If that is the case, they need the Hills, Wachas, etc. to eat up some innings.
 

BaseballJones

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Eovaldi is solid. Not a true #1 (though he CAN pitch like one for sure), but solid. 3.68 era so far. Houck is solid. 3.21 era and is fine. Wacha has been a major surprise so far. He will come back to earth because obviously he can't keep THIS up (0.96 era). Hill's struggles are understandable - really one atrocious start right after his father died. He will improve. Pivetta is the one that has me worried. They need him to be much better than he's been.

They will be getting Sale and Paxton back, presumably. That should help immensely. But it will take a while and their performance isn't guaranteed to be good. Sale is no longer CHRIS SALE and it's likely he never will be again. That sucks. At this point they just need him to be a solid MLB level starter. I've always thought Paxton was pretty good and if he comes back healthy he should be very helpful.

So maybe by July the rotation will be: Eovaldi, Pivetta, Sale, Paxton, and whoever is best among Hill, Wacha, Whitlock, or Houck. The others go to the pen, which should strengthen that part of the pitching staff too.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I guess my number one questions is what are they doing with Houck. I have heard his third pitch is a work in progress and perhaps Cora and friends aren't confident in that pitch. That being said I think the time is now to see if he can get through the order a third time. It seems like the worst case scenario is that he can't go through the order a third time and the team knows they have to have a guy who can go two to three innings to piggy back him, but there is only one way to find out. The other consideration is that Houck and Whitlock both only pitched around 70 innings last year. I can't imagine the team wants them going beyond 120 innings this year. If that is the case, they need the Hills, Wachas, etc. to eat up some innings.
Houck only threw 69 big league innings, but he also threw another 21 for Worcester. His inning ceiling is probably a bit higher than Whitlock's. I suspect that's why he got the first crack at rotation duty over Whitlock.
 

Ganthem

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Houck only threw 69 big league innings, but he also threw another 21 for Worcester. His inning ceiling is probably a bit higher than Whitlock's. I suspect that's why he got the first crack at rotation duty over Whitlock.
I am embarrassed that I didn't check his minor league innings. I knew he got innings in the minors last year, so I am not sure why I didn't check. So then Houck could be good for 120 to 150?
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Wacha with another B+ performance! I’ll take it man…. Out of all the new pitchers Bloom brought in, I was least bullish on him
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Wacha with another B+ performance! I’ll take it man…. Out of all the new pitchers Bloom brought in, I was least bullish on him
Again... another very good performance from Wacha. Totally unexpected from him. Of course this time last year the rotation was being held together by tons of luck and shockingly good performances by Perez and Richards before they plummeted back to earth. Should we expect the same from Wacha at some point soon?
I don't know if I'm an optimist but I still think this rotation can hold it together long enough for Paxton and Sale to return and improve the entire team. The offense will be better no matter, without any changes or trades or even promotions from AAA- but likely will happen if Dalbec can't improve soon.
But by the beginning of June we should expect to see Sale return. Who should go to the bullpen or just get bumped? I'm bullish on Pivetta and think he should stick so I'm for dropping Hill. I love the guy but don't see much that he offers the team as anything other than a placeholder.
When Paxton comes up, Houck has to go to the pen and that will definitely create a formidable weapon there.

Eovaldi, Sale, Paxton, Pivetta, and Wacha is potentially a great rotation.
 

sean1562

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I see people post that they don't really expect anything from Chris Sale this season but he is a half year younger than Paxton, has a worse career and recent injury history than Sale, and Sale has always been significantly better than him when he is healthy. What do we realistically expect from them both? If Sale can look like what he was like last season that is definitely useful. Paxton hasn't been healthy since 2019 when he was 30 years old.

IDK if this team is really all that better with him in the rotation rather than Houck or Whitlock. He is set to return in late August/September, right? At that point, I wouldn't be surprised if both Whitlock and Houck are being shut down due to innings limitations. Connor Seabold and Kutter Crawford are 26 years old, this seems like a make or break season for both of those guys. Maybe Winckowski can be a useful bulk relief guy?
 

BaseballJones

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I expect both of them to return sometime in July. I will never expect Chris Sale to be CHRIS SALE again, but last year he came back to post a 3.16 era, 1.34 whip, and 11.0 k/9 over 42.2 innings. I would expect a mid 3's era, a whip around 1.20, and a k/9 over 10.0. In other words, a good, effective MLB starter, but no longer a dominant ace. But that's ok - this team needs good, effective MLB starters.

For Paxton, up until 2020, he posted a career line of 3.50 era, 1.21 whip, and 9.9 k/9. Coming off a major injury, I don't expect that, but I would expect him to post a high 3's era, a whip of something like 1.30, and a k/9 rate of about 9.0. In other words, another good, effective MLB starter, but not an ace.

Still, if I'm right - and obviously I could be WAY wrong - it would be like adding two quality left-handed starters. And it would give them a potential rotation of Eovaldi, Sale, Whitlock, Paxton, and Pivetta. Hill and Wacha either to the bullpen or get traded. It would increase their depth considerably and make the rotation a real strength instead of something being held together by duct tape and bailing wire. Every day they'd be trotting out a legit, solid MLB starter, with the added bonus of maybe Whitlock by then being that dominant ace they sure could use.

The bullpen would then have Wacha, Hill, Houck, Robles, Diekman, Davis, Strahm, Brasier, Sawamura, and Barnes. Lots of options. And Wacha's velocity would play up in the pen most likely.

So that would help a lot. Of course, neither Sale nor Paxton could rebound and be any good at all, if they even make it to the field this year. So who the heck knows.
 

chrisfont9

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Again... another very good performance from Wacha. Totally unexpected from him. Of course this time last year the rotation was being held together by tons of luck and shockingly good performances by Perez and Richards before they plummeted back to earth. Should we expect the same from Wacha at some point soon?
I don't know if I'm an optimist but I still think this rotation can hold it together long enough for Paxton and Sale to return and improve the entire team. The offense will be better no matter, without any changes or trades or even promotions from AAA- but likely will happen if Dalbec can't improve soon.
But by the beginning of June we should expect to see Sale return. Who should go to the bullpen or just get bumped? I'm bullish on Pivetta and think he should stick so I'm for dropping Hill. I love the guy but don't see much that he offers the team as anything other than a placeholder.
When Paxton comes up, Houck has to go to the pen and that will definitely create a formidable weapon there.

Eovaldi, Sale, Paxton, Pivetta, and Wacha is potentially a great rotation.
Wacha looked alternately very lucky and filthy. Some games those middle-middle pitches will get launched and the fly balls will carry better. But when his command is on, the stuff is real.
 

bosox188

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Cotillo reporting that Whitlock will be starting Wednesday's game:



Some news: Garrett Whitlock will start for the Red Sox on Wednesday. Tanner Houck will remain in the bullpen for now. Cora not committing to Whitlock in the rotation long-term. Taking it one turn at a time.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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So now we get 3-4 innings from Whitlock to begin every 5th game? I’m not sure I understand this, at all. The teams best pitcher isn’t throwing any high leverage innings.
 

chawson

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So now we get 3-4 innings from Whitlock to begin every 5th game? I’m not sure I understand this, at all. The teams best pitcher isn’t throwing any high leverage innings.
It is weird. Whitlock will eventually get stretched out deeper into ballgames. Maybe this signals his role heading into next season, which is his most valuable fit.

Here’s a theory: Bloom may be open to trading Houck.

Let’s assume that Bloom had foreseen the Houck vaccination issue, and that swapping him with Whitlock as Hill’s handcuff after the Toronto series was the deliberate plan all along. Opening the year with Houck in the rotation gave him three more chances to show potential trading partners that he could be a major league starter. He handled them well — two great starts against the Twins and Jays and an understandably so-so one against the Yanks after a short spring. This signals to other teams that we like him as a starter — we just put him to the pen for practical reasons.

The Sox don’t want to trade Houck because he’s unvaccinated, for obvious reasons of optics. But we have evidence that they ascribe some substantial on-field value to a player’s vaccination status, because it was a sticking point in the Story negotiations. Since Covid may be an issue for years (and a strong majority of Canadians approve of vaccine mandates), wouldn’t an unvaccinated starting pitcher be more valuable in any division other than the one with a Canadian rival going forward? Certainly we can’t rearrange the rotation for every Toronto series potentially through 2027. Opening the season this way gives him a chance to show that he’s a capable starting pitcher (and not just a MIRP, which was the lingering question about him) while giving Bloom a kind of plausible deniability, or at least a counter narrative, that he’s traded because he’s unvaccinated.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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I mean, maybe…but the teams biggest need is young, controllable, high upside major league ready pitching. Which is basically Houck.
 

Ganthem

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I think that Whitlock is going to go deeper into games as his pitch count increases. His last outing he was not as economical with his pitches, so even though he went to around sixty, he only got three innings if I am remembering it right. It would not surprise me if his next start he gets to around 80 and possibly four or five innings. Even if Whitlock is money in the rotation, I don't think he will stay there all year. He only pitched around sixty innings last year, which means he might be allowed to get up to around 100 innings this year. In order to be able to use him in September, he is going to have to eventually step out of the rotation. Houck is also limited in his innings, though he will probably be allowed to get up to 120 or so. Even if the return of Sale and Paxton allow the Sox to put Whitlock and Houck in the pen, eventually someone is going to go down with injury or be ineffective. At that point they don't want to be stopped from putting Houck or Whitlock in the rotation. Right now it is Houck's turn to pitch out of the bullpen.

As for trading Houck, I am not really sure that is on the table. If they are truly convinced he can't go through the order a third time, but another time thinks he can then that other time might be willing to overpay and at that point you have to at least consider it. Realistically, I think in 2023 we see a rotation of Sale, Paxton, Whitlock, Houck, Evoldi/FA/Trade. As for his vaccination status, I wonder how he will fill about getting vaccinated if the Sox want to extend him and throw millions upon millions of dollars.
 

chawson

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I mean, maybe…but the teams biggest need is young, controllable, high upside major league ready pitching. Which is basically Houck.
The team’s biggest need going forward is good, not cheap. Any package we’d trade Houck for would be good.

In July, the rotation would be Sale, Eovaldi, Paxton, Whitlock, Pivetta, Hill, Wacha
In 2023, the rotation options would be Sale, Paxton, Whitlock, Pivetta, Bello, Walter, Groome, Seabold

…plus whatever a Houck trade would bring back.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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Is it within the realm of reasonable conjecture to suggest that vaccination status may also affect the price tag for, or interest in, a player as a trade chip? Any AL team with playoff aspirations is likely going to have to face Toronto in Toronto at some point in a meaningful game after the deadline. Said would-be contender is likely not going to want to pay the same for a guy who might be automatically unavailable for a key series then they would for someone who has no restrictions built in.

An unvaccinated player in the AL would almost have to be traded to an NL team (or non-contender) by default, which could make swinging the best deal possible even more difficult. I'm sure the other 29 teams would love an arm like his, but about 13 of them would have to sideline him a 2-3 times a year due to his personal choice, which you would think makes him less desirable/valuable.
 

chawson

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Is it within the realm of reasonable conjecture to suggest that vaccination status may also affect the price tag for, or interest in, a player as a trade chip? Any AL team with playoff aspirations is likely going to have to face Toronto in Toronto at some point in a meaningful game after the deadline. Said would-be contender is likely not going to want to pay the same for a guy who might be automatically unavailable for a key series then they would for someone who has no restrictions built in.

An unvaccinated player in the AL would almost have to be traded to an NL team (or non-contender) by default, which could make swinging the best deal possible even more difficult. I'm sure the other 29 teams would love an arm like his, but about 13 of them would have to sideline him a 2-3 times a year due to his personal choice, which you would think makes him less desirable/valuable.
Fair point. I’m thinking a team like Cincinnati or Oakland, who have the two best SP trade chips available (Mahle, Montas), or whomever, would calculate the considerably more remote odds of facing Toronto in the postseason accordingly.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The Sox don’t want to trade Houck because he’s unvaccinated, for obvious reasons of optics. But we have evidence that they ascribe some substantial on-field value to a player’s vaccination status, because it was a sticking point in the Story negotiations. Since Covid may be an issue for years (and a strong majority of Canadians approve of vaccine mandates), wouldn’t an unvaccinated starting pitcher be more valuable in any division other than the one with a Canadian rival going forward? Certainly we can’t rearrange the rotation for every Toronto series potentially through 2027. Opening the season this way gives him a chance to show that he’s a capable starting pitcher (and not just a MIRP, which was the lingering question about him) while giving Bloom a kind of plausible deniability, or at least a counter narrative, that he’s traded because he’s unvaccinated.
It's an interesting theory, but isn't the plan to balance the schedules next year so only two trips to Toronto for AL East teams instead of three? So the detriment is going to be lessened for the AL East and increased for others as all the AL and half the NL will make a Toronto trip. Not sure the downside of having an unvaxxed pitcher is worth the trade off of not having a good, young, inexpensive pitcher under team control for a few more years. Also for a starting pitcher, it's much easier to work around one or two series than it is for a position player (which is likely why it was a sticking point for Story). All they have to do is line up the pitcher for the last start before a Toronto trip and they don't have to skip a beat.

So I think regardless of what Canada may do in the future, this is likely to be a short-lived concern.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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I think it’s a relatively insignificant detail, and can’t imagine it’s a consideration for future years at all, when the schedules are balanced. Who knows how long the Canada vaccine rule will even be in effect. Moving Houck because of it would be extremely short-sighted. They could have easily worked around his unavailability for that series in away that didn’t hurt the teams chances in a whole bunch of games, not sure why they didn’t. The insistence to keep Whitlock and Houck to long stints which makes them unavailable for 2/3 of games is hurting the team more than him not getting dosed did.
 

Rovin Romine

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They could have easily worked around his unavailability for that series in away that didn’t hurt the teams chances in a whole bunch of games, not sure why they didn’t. The insistence to keep Whitlock and Houck to long stints which makes them unavailable for 2/3 of games is hurting the team more than him not getting dosed did.
Yes. I am sort of boggled that they didn't call up a AAA starter and use Whitlock over multiple games.

As ot the broader issue, the Sox may like Houck and Whitlock as starters next year, with Paxton and Sale, plus a FA and maybe Seabold or another MiL pitcher for depth.

But one does need a bullpen for 2022. Which. . .oddly enough, they sort of have.

By ERA+ we only have the followng pitchers who are performing below league average:
Diekman
Barnes
Valdez
Pivetta
Crawford

Everyone else is above average and Whitlock is the Abovest. The outcomes have been situationally poor in terms of wins/losses, but there are many good outings in there.
 

BaseballJones

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Eovaldi's starts this season:

5.0 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 7 k, ND, Sox lose 6-5 in 11
5.0 ip, 4 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 6 k, W, Sox win 9-7
4.2 ip, 7 h, 1 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 6 k, ND, Sox win 2-1
7.0 ip, 5 h, 2 r, 2 er, 0 bb, 5 k, ND, Sox lose 6-2
7.0 ip, 3 h, 0 r, 0 er, 0 bb, 8 k, ND, Sox lose 2-1 in 10
5.0 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 3 er, 3 bb, 4 k, L, Sox lose 4-2

So in Eovaldi's six starts:

- He's given up 3 or fewer runs in all 6.
- The Sox have averaged 3.5 runs per game of offense.
- His ERA is 2.94.
- His WHIP is 1.07.
- His K/9 is 9.6.
- He's averaging 5.2 ip per start.
- He's averaging 90 pitches per start.
- He's allowed 11 runs in 6 games in 33.2 ip (0.33 runs per inning).
- The Sox' bullpen has allowed 15 runs in 6 games in 20.1 ip (0.74 runs per inning).

I want Cora to let him go a little longer, but he's been pitching like a true #1 starter, yet the Sox are just 2-4 in his six games, and both the offense and bullpen have really, really let him down. He easily could be 6-0 with just a modicum of good play from the offense and the bullpen.
 

BaseballJones

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As of this morning, here's the Sox' rotation...

Eovaldi: 3.41 era, 1.09 whip, 9.5 k/9
Pivetta: 3.50 era, 1.10 whip, 8.5 k/9
Whitlock: 3.02 era, 1.09 whip, 8.9 k/9
Wacha: 2.43 era, 1.01 whip, 6.0 k/9
Hill: 4.85 era, 1.28 whip, 6.7 k/9

Meanwhile, in the minors, we have this guy now in AAA:

Bello (AA): 1.60 era, 0.83 whip, 11.2 k/9
Bello (AAA): 3.63 era, 1.25 whip, 13.7 k/9

He could be pushing for a spot on the MLB roster soon, unless they decide to not start his clock for another year. And hopefully Sale and Paxton continue to see their rehabs progress. We are two months into the season now. They've treaded water - barely - and it would be great to get either of these guys back to replace Hill.

I gotta be honest though....I'm still not a huge believer in Wacha. Feels like he's doing it with smoke and mirrors. Not a lot of strikeouts. Not missing tons of bats. He's been fantastic and I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. But to me he feels like someone that would be an excellent trade candidate - someone who sees his gaudy numbers and thinks he can really help them out. Might be able to fetch something pretty nice for him. But who knows - obviously if he keeps performing like this, he's worth a lot to THIS club.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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As of this morning, here's the Sox' rotation...

Eovaldi: 3.41 era, 1.09 whip, 9.5 k/9
Pivetta: 3.50 era, 1.10 whip, 8.5 k/9
Whitlock: 3.02 era, 1.09 whip, 8.9 k/9
Wacha: 2.43 era, 1.01 whip, 6.0 k/9
Hill: 4.85 era, 1.28 whip, 6.7 k/9

Meanwhile, in the minors, we have this guy now in AAA:

Bello (AA): 1.60 era, 0.83 whip, 11.2 k/9
Bello (AAA): 3.63 era, 1.25 whip, 13.7 k/9

He could be pushing for a spot on the MLB roster soon, unless they decide to not start his clock for another year. And hopefully Sale and Paxton continue to see their rehabs progress. We are two months into the season now. They've treaded water - barely - and it would be great to get either of these guys back to replace Hill.

I gotta be honest though....I'm still not a huge believer in Wacha. Feels like he's doing it with smoke and mirrors. Not a lot of strikeouts. Not missing tons of bats. He's been fantastic and I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. But to me he feels like someone that would be an excellent trade candidate - someone who sees his gaudy numbers and thinks he can really help them out. Might be able to fetch something pretty nice for him. But who knows - obviously if he keeps performing like this, he's worth a lot to THIS club.
I don't have the time to look it up, but last year at this point both Richardson and Perez were looking impressive but had significant warning signs and red flags. Wacha seems like a guy at least that could be moved to the pen. But assuming Sale returns, he should "couple" with Rich Hill for a while and then IF Paxton returns, then I would move Whitlock back to the pen (especially for preservation of his arm) and just keep Wacha as the 5th starter. Even if he does regress, he'll still be a decent 5th starter.
 

simplicio

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I don't have the time to look it up, but last year at this point both Richardson and Perez were looking impressive but had significant warning signs and red flags. Wacha seems like a guy at least that could be moved to the pen. But assuming Sale returns, he should "couple" with Rich Hill for a while and then IF Paxton returns, then I would move Whitlock back to the pen (especially for preservation of his arm) and just keep Wacha as the 5th starter. Even if he does regress, he'll still be a decent 5th starter.
Can't remember about Perez, but at this point last year Richardson was also still on the sticky stuff.
 

nvalvo

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Question from the analytically impaired: Is that low BABIP baked in to the FIP#?
Not exactly, but sort of. They are kind of inverse of one another, in that BABIP is (like it says on the tin) based only on balls in play, while FIP is based on everything except balls in play.

That said, a guy outperforming his FIP by as much as Wacha is is very likely to be doing so on the basis of a low BABIP and a high strand rate — and Wacha has both, at .198 (league average is .286 this year) and 81.9% (league average is 71.8%).
 

soxhop411

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Some more absurd stats
View: https://twitter.com/bostonsportsinf/status/1534030258348990465

Red Sox

Starting pitchers - last 6 games

39.2 IP - 0.23 ERA - 0.60 WHIP
4 BB - 29 K
Red Sox starting pitchers have a 0.23 ERA in their last 6 games (39.2 IP, 1 ER). That is the franchise’s lowest mark over any 6-game span since earned runs were first tracked in the AL in 1913. Boston’s previous low was 0.37 in 1916 (August 21-26).

h/t @EliasSports
View: https://twitter.com/SoxNotes/status/1534030883203735552

In the last 40 seasons, Red Sox starters have had 10 CGSHOs in 9-inning 1-0 wins. Add Wacha tonight.


View: https://twitter.com/GilliganChris/status/1534027258951761920
 
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He's done it, and brought his ERA under 2 with a very on-brand 6K/1BB in 9 IP performance. His season FIP is down to 3.76, so even that's pretty solid. That said these numbers are way out of line for his career and you can count me in with the crowd that doesn't expect it to last. Hopefully he can keep it going as long as possible!
 
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He's done it, and brought his ERA under 2 with a very on-brand 6K/1BB in 9 IP performance. His season FIP is down to 3.76, so even that's pretty solid. That said these numbers are way out of line for his career and you can count me in with the crowd that doesn't expect it to last. Hopefully he can keep it going as long as possible!
I don’t think a 1.99 ERA will last but it’s possible Wacha can have a career year. He’s obviously found something late in his career. What a gem signing by Bloom.
 

lurker42

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View: https://twitter.com/alexspeier/status/1534023879227760640



Sale, Brian Johnson, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello
I went with the 4 guys I remembered being workhorse starters for that team...and my memory failed me spectacularly.

I got the first and fourth names on your list. The third would've been my next guess (almost went with him instead of the guy with 137.1 IP).

I didn't guess the guy with 173.2 IP because (a) I forgot how well he pitched that year, because (b) I forgot he was on that team at all.

But #2 on your list...I saw that name and thought: wait, wasn't that the guy who was the #3 starter behind Johnson and Schilling on the '01 D'backs?? Was he really still hanging around for the '17 Sox???
Nope...different junkballing lefty with a similar name, 8 years younger.
 

BaseballJones

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I have just spent a little time going through every game this season, parsing out the starting pitching. Here's what we see.

First 29 games (10-19)
- Starters averaged 4.2 innings per game (51.9% of the game)
- Relievers averaged 4.1 innings per game (48.1% of the game)
- Starters ERA: 3.28
- Relievers ERA: 4.38
- # times a starter went 6+ innings: 4 (13.8% of those 29 games)
- # times a starter went 7+ innings: 1 (3.4% of those 29 games)
- # times a starter went 9 innings: 0 (0.0% of those 29 games)

Last 26 games (18-8)
- Starters averaged 5.1 innings per game (59.2% of the game)
- Relievers averaged 3.2 innings per game (40.8% of the game)
- Starters ERA: 3.68
- Relievers ERA: 3.48
- # times a starter went 6+ innings: 14 (53.8% of those 26 games)
- # times a starter went 7+ innings: 5 (19.2% of those 26 games)
- # times a starter went 9 innings: 3 (11.5% of those games)

So interestingly, the starters weren't necessarily more effective, as the starters' ERA as a group went UP from 3.28 to 3.68. But they were being allowed to pitch longer into games, by an average of 2/3 of an inning per game. Moreover, outside of a few absolute disasters by starters, they consistently went deeper into games. In fact, over their last 26 games, they have had almost as many complete games (3) as the team had starters go 6+ innings (4) in the first 29 games. Just 13.8% of their starts went 6 or more innings over their first 29, but in their last 26, 53.8% - a majority - of their starts have gone 6+ innings.

All while posting a worse overall starters' ERA.

It seems like Cora is simply allowing his starters to pitch deeper into games, even if they are posting worse overall ERAs. And as a result (or at least as a correlation...which is not necessarily causation), the bullpen ERA has dropped significantly, from 4.38 down to 3.48. This is old school baseball - letting your starter go as deep as possible, giving your bullpen fewer innings to throw, keeping arms fresh, and improving the quality of their performance as a group. Obviously it has helped that the offense has gotten on track in terms of winning games, but look at last night. Wacha is pitching well, but he had had other games where he had pitched very well but was removed far earlier:

- Apr 17 (5.0 ip, 1 h, 0 r)
- Apr 27 (6.0 ip, 4 h, 1 r)
- May 3 (5.2 ip, 3 h, 0 r)
- May 31 (5.2 ip, 3 h, 1 r)

But last night, clinging to a 1-0 lead, he let Wacha finish the game.

Anyway, for those of us who have been clamoring for Cora to let his starters go deeper into games, this is a very welcome sight, and it's producing good results.
 
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Red(s)HawksFan

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 23, 2009
16,721
Maine
I have just spent a little time going through every game this season, parsing out the starting pitching. Here's what we see.

First 29 games (10-19)
- Starters averaged 4.2 innings per game (51.9% of the game)
- Relievers averaged 4.1 innings per game (48.1% of the game)
- Starters ERA: 3.28
- Relievers ERA: 4.38
- # times a starter went 6+ innings: 4 (13.8% of those 29 games)
- # times a starter went 7+ innings: 1 (3.4% of those 29 games)
- # times a starter went 9 innings: 0 (0.0% of those 29 games)

Last 26 games (18-8)
- Starters averaged 5.1 innings per game (59.2% of the game)
- Relievers averaged 3.2 innings per game (40.8% of the game)
- Starters ERA: 3.68
- Relievers ERA: 3.48
- # times a starter went 6+ innings: 14 (53.8% of those 26 games)
- # times a starter went 7+ innings: 5 (19.2% of those 26 games)
- # times a starter went 9 innings: 3 (11.5% of those games)

So interestingly, the starters weren't necessarily more effective, as the starters' ERA as a group went UP from 3.28 to 3.68. But they were being allowed to pitch longer into games, by an average of 2/3 of an inning per game. Moreover, outside of a few absolute disasters by starters, they consistently went deeper into games. In fact, over their last 26 games, they have had almost as many complete games (3) as the team had starters go 6+ innings (4) in the first 29 games. Just 13.8% of their starts went 6 or more innings over their first 29, but in their last 26, 53.8% - a majority - of their starts have gone 6+ innings.

All while posting a worse overall starters' ERA.

It seems like Cora is simply allowing his starters to pitch deeper into games, even if they are posting worse overall ERAs. And as a result (or at least as a correlation...which is not necessarily causation), the bullpen ERA has dropped significantly, from 4.38 down to 3.48. This is old school baseball - letting your starter go as deep as possible, giving your bullpen fewer innings to throw, keeping arms fresh, and improving the quality of their performance as a group. Obviously it has helped that the offense has gotten on track in terms of winning games, but look at last night. Wacha is pitching well, but he had had other games where he had pitched very well but was removed far earlier:

- Apr 17 (5.0 ip, 1 h, 0 r)
- Apr 27 (6.0 ip, 4 h, 1 r)
- May 3 (5.2 ip, 3 h, 0 r)
- May 31 (5.2 ip, 3 h, 1 r)

But last night, clinging to a 1-0 lead, he let Wacha finish the game.

Anyway, for those of us who have been clamoring for Cora to let his starters go deeper into games, this is a very welcome sight, and it's producing good results.
Great data. What this indicates to me is that the shorter outings and quicker hooks early in the year weren't necessarily a strategy based on fear of letting pitchers face orders a third time so much as simply letting the starters ramp up to more normal pitch count levels after a hyper-abbreviated spring training. Now everyone is more or less up to speed and things are taking on a more "normal" (call it pre-pandemic because that year threw off a lot of things) look.

Even those Wacha starts you highlight fit into it. Three starts during the spring training-ish ramp up period where he got an earlier hook, plus his first start back from the IL where they're obviously going to be cautious with him.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
17,521
I'd have to dig through the data more, but I don't think it's a function of letting pitchers ramp up to their normal pitch count. Wacha's previous outing was on May 31, which was his 3rd start since coming back from the IL. He went 5.2 innings, allowing just 3 hits, 0 walks, and 1 r (0 er). He was at 72 pitches, despite having thrown 88 the previous start. Long story short...he was basically cruising. Pulled after 72 pitches. Last night his performance was a virtual carbon copy - 3 h, 1 walk, 0 er - but was allowed to throw 105 pitches.

The most pitches Rich Hill has thrown in a game was 94 way back on May 14. Pivetta has thrown 100+ in 3 of his last 4 starts, but in start 3 he threw 95 and the next start threw 98. Eovaldi threw 101 in his second start of the season (just 5 innings), then threw 95 in his next outing.

So I like how you're thinking, but I don't think you're quite right.
 
Jul 16, 2005
43
Wacha has been, overall, getting lucky with his results: his xERA is 3.83, his FIP 3.76 and his xFIP 4.27. But these are better numbers than he's had in years, so there is real improvement there.
[/QUOTE
He's definitely been lucky, but Wacha has also changed his pitching mix. He's using his cutter half as often as in previous years, and has been primarily relying on his four-seamer, sinker and changeup. He's allowed only 30 hits in roughly 50 innings, which is nuts for a guy who's given up more than a hit an inning virtually every year of his career. But we'll take it.
 

joe dokes

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
24,168
Great data. What this indicates to me is that the shorter outings and quicker hooks early in the year weren't necessarily a strategy based on fear of letting pitchers face orders a third time so much as simply letting the starters ramp up to more normal pitch count levels after a hyper-abbreviated spring training. Now everyone is more or less up to speed and things are taking on a more "normal" (call it pre-pandemic because that year threw off a lot of things) look.

Even those Wacha starts you highlight fit into it. Three starts during the spring training-ish ramp up period where he got an earlier hook, plus his first start back from the IL where they're obviously going to be cautious with him.
I had thought at the time that it was short-ST related. The "3 times through" thing may be real, but I think Cora has more discretion about it than it originally appeared.
 

chawson

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
2,772
Wacha has been, overall, getting lucky with his results: his xERA is 3.83, his FIP 3.76 and his xFIP 4.27. But these are better numbers than he's had in years, so there is real improvement there.
I'm curious if Wacha was tweaked in a way similar to how Pivetta was. Both have very high pop-up rates this year -- Pivetta's 19.4% IFFB leads baseball -- while strikeouts are relatively down. Slightly different repertoires, but both have had extremely effective fastballs that aren't thrown especially hard.

If I had to guess, their success might have something to do with their vertical release points. Both are listed in the top 10 in MLB, meaning they release the ball closer to the plate than just about anyone. Makes sense, Pivetta is 6'5" and Wacha is 6'6".

What's interesting is that Pivetta's and Wacha's vertical release points have fluctuated over the years, though they've always been as tall.

Pivetta
2017 - 6.05 ft.
2018 - 6.12
2019 - 6.23
2020 - 6.50
2021 - 6.58
2022 - 6.66 (6th in MLB among qualified starters)

Wacha
2017 - 6.53 ft.
2018 - 6.61
2019 - 6.60
2020 - 6.25
2021 - 6.46
2022 - 6.60 (8th in MLB)

A 7-foot vertical release point is "elite" as these things go. That's about where Jordan Montgomery is, which helps explain his success with otherwise middling velocity. I don't think vertical release point is the only thing at play with Wacha and Pivetta, but it seems to correlate with their success, and to some degree with their pop-up rates. Maybe tall pitchers are interesting to Bloom?
 
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Sin Duda

Member
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Jul 16, 2005
246
(B)Austin Texas
Thanks Chawson. Pedro used to say that he kept the ball on his fingers longer. I wonder if it was actually a later/longer release position. That data on Pivetta is crazy: 6.05' all the way up to 6.66' - that's 7.3 inches difference! (insert inappropriately crude joke here)
 

nvalvo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
19,582
Rogers Park
Very interesting stuff in this thread about starter usage patterns — was Cora's quick hook in April aimed to safely build up the starters' endurance, or was it a (perhaps undue) fear of the times through the order penalty? One variable that we might also add is that the offense sucked in April, leading to a ton of close games that might have made the TTOP feel more pressing.

Now that the offense is hitting closer to our expectations (i.e. they've rocketed up the offensive rankings from bottom five to top five), this buys a bit more leeway for the starters in the middle innings. This was not a factor in last night's gem from Wacha — a 1-0 game! — but, say, in Pivetta's starts. He's started going deeper into games not only because his command has been better, but also because the run support he's gotten has been superlative. And maybe pitching with a lead has helped him to trust his stuff in the zone more — if you're up by seven runs, no one cares about the occasional solo shot.