The Starting Rotation's Start

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So far, so good.

Sale, Price, Porcello and Velazquez turned in the best opening 4 game stretch for starting pitchers in franchise history, all letting up 1 run or less.

Yesterday's performance was huge with Pomeranz and Eduardo shelved and Brian Johnson subbing in today. Velazquez looked like a different guy. He's taken the curveball out and added a splitter, which he used for about 30% of his pitches. His slider looked much improved and overall he was getting guys to chase.

Though the offense has gotten it's share of criticism, outside of one nuclear inning, the pitching has been excellent to start the year.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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The SPs are going to be the key for us this season. We're not going to hit 300 HRs like that team to the south. We also don't have 4 closers in the pen. But if Sale is Sale, Price becomes Price again, Porcello gets closer to his 2016 performance, and Pom pitches like last year, with a little injury luck, this will be the best rotation in the AL. That can win the division.
 
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Having Erod, Wright, BJ, and Velazquez gives this team great depth in the rotation. Can’t afford an injury to Sale or Price but we can overcome a DL stint 3-5.
 

The Gray Eagle

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It's only 30 innings, but Velazquez for his career now is 4-1, 2.67 with 24 Ks and 8 walks. That includes his bad first start.

Even if he doesn't keep it up, he has already paid off hugely for the astoundingly low $30 K we paid for him.

He makes the minimum and can ride up and down the Pawtucket shuttle for the rest of this year and next. He won't qualify for arbitration until 2021 and is under team control until 2024. Pretty great to have this guy as a #7 or #8 starter.
 

LoweTek

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I went to a late Spring Training game at Steinbrenner Field, March 23rd. Brian Johnson started against what was the Yankees regular lineup including Judge-Stanton at 1-2. He combined with two relievers for a five hit shutout. He went a strong 4.2 facing the heart of the order twice, allowed no runs, just two hits and struck out five. Johnson was very good out there. He may not be considered a sub for very long if he pitches like he did that day.
 

SouthernBoSox

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Tampa Bay is going to field one of the worst offenses in the American league this year. Maybe the worst.

I'm encouraged, but still waiting for our good pitchers to face good hitters.
 

gedman211

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Tampa Bay is going to field one of the worst offenses in the American league this year. Maybe the worst.

I'm encouraged, but still waiting for our good pitchers to face good hitters.
Yeah I remember when everyone wore "He's the Ace" t-shirts, and everyone was an ace for exactly 1 start. After that, they became Justin Masterson..
 

EdRalphRomero

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So far, so good.

Yesterday's performance was huge with Pomeranz and Eduardo shelved and Brian Johnson subbing in today. Velazquez looked like a different guy. He's taken the curveball out and added a splitter, which he used for about 30% of his pitches. His slider looked much improved and overall he was getting guys to chase.
I am skeptical that he can succeed throwing his fastball up in the zone (the way that he did against the Rays) for more than a couple of starts. I would love to be wrong, but a guy that sits around 91 92 and is consistently up in the zone with his fastball usually ends poorly.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I am skeptical that he can succeed throwing his fastball up in the zone (the way that he did against the Rays) for more than a couple of starts. I would love to be wrong, but a guy that sits around 91 92 and is consistently up in the zone with his fastball usually ends poorly.
I don't think anyone will argue that Velazquez can or should be a full time big league starter, at least not for a contending team like Boston. But for an 8th starter riding the shuttle and not making more than a couple big league starts at a go, they could do a lot worse. He's only up now because three starters ahead of him on the depth chart are unavailable. Expectations for him should be low, and any success he has is a bonus and should be viewed that way.
 

EdRalphRomero

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I don't think anyone will argue that Velazquez can or should be a full time big league starter, at least not for a contending team like Boston. But for an 8th starter riding the shuttle and not making more than a couple big league starts at a go, they could do a lot worse. He's only up now because three starters ahead of him on the depth chart are unavailable. Expectations for him should be low, and any success he has is a bonus and should be viewed that way.
I agree with everything you said. For an 8th starter, he is a great asset.
 

SouthernBoSox

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I am skeptical that he can succeed throwing his fastball up in the zone (the way that he did against the Rays) for more than a couple of starts. I would love to be wrong, but a guy that sits around 91 92 and is consistently up in the zone with his fastball usually ends poorly.
I'd argue that in today's game pitchers who have the ability to control elevated fastballs with a low secondary pitch are more valuable than pitchers who live down in the zone. That a discussion for a different thread though.
 

EdRalphRomero

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I'd argue that in today's game pitchers who have the ability to control elevated fastballs with a low secondary pitch are more valuable than pitchers who live down in the zone. That a discussion for a different thread though.
For what it is worth, I would love to read that argument. It sounds interesting.
 

RIrooter09

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For what it is worth, I would love to read that argument. It sounds interesting.
With the advent of the launch angle revolution, batters are more focused on putting balls in the air (and are thus tailoring their swings to match). It's much harder to elevate a high fastball than it is a low one.
 

PaulinMyrBch

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Is Johnson the 4? Meaning Hector gets shuttled first when Drew, Erod, or Wright hit the roster?
 
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Rasputin

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Johnson's out of options, isn't he? So no shuttle for him.
Yeah, Johnson's going to the bullpen, as is Wright. Pomeranz and Rodriguez to the rotation. Velazquez, Walden, and Poyner to Pawtucket.

I'd like to keep a second lefty but that means losing one of Wright, Kelly, or Hembree and I dislike all those options. They could trade one of the three but only Kelly is making enough to be worth the salary savings.
 

grimshaw

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I'd argue that in today's game pitchers who have the ability to control elevated fastballs with a low secondary pitch are more valuable than pitchers who live down in the zone. That a discussion for a different thread though.
I can't find it, but did read a fangraphs article that last year's Red Sox pitching staff had the highest elevated fastball percentage and seemed to do it by design for just that reason.
 

phenweigh

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I can't find it, but did read a fangraphs article that last year's Red Sox pitching staff had the highest elevated fastball percentage and seemed to do it by design for just that reason.
Interesting, given that Porcello went from Cy Young winner to home runs allowed winner. Maybe general pitching strategies aren't a good idea and strategy should be tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of individual pitchers?
 

phenweigh

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Eck and Lyons on pre-game talking about the Sox starters success is due to high fastballs against hitters trying to go yard with launch angle.
 

joe dokes

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I think Porcello had the right idea with high fastballs as put-away pitches last year. He often just didn't get them high enough.
 

Mighty Joe Young

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I think Porcello had the right idea with high fastballs as put-away pitches last year. He often just didn't get them high enough.
I first noticed him doing that in his CY season - much more so that in his dreadful first year with the Sox. You don't really need a 95 heater if you can consistently live at the top of the zone. It reminded me of that Oriole starter - Tillman ? - who always gave the Sox hitters fits with his mediocre FB. Always at the top , or slightly above the zone. A whole game worth of "why can't they hit this shit?"
 

iddoc

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Years ago (late 1980s I believe) Elias performed a study which purported to show that flyball hitters performed better against groundball pitchers, and vice versa, to an extent comparable to the left-right platoon split.
 

Deathofthebambino

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Tonight makes 6 consecutive starts to open the season in which the SP's have not given up more than a run. The franchise record before this season was 3. What is the MLB record?
 

BaseballJones

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Tonight makes 6 consecutive starts to open the season in which the SP's have not given up more than a run. The franchise record before this season was 3. What is the MLB record?
Only Price has gone 7 innings though. But still. Basically they're running 2017 Pomeranz out there every day. Which gives them an advantage but puts a lot of stress on the bullpen. Thankful for these off days coming up here - the pen will need them.
 

NoXInNixon

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Don't starters generally go less deep in games in April? So far in all of baseball only 20 starts have been 7 or more innings.
 

BaseballJones

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Don't starters generally go less deep in games in April? So far in all of baseball only 20 starts have been 7 or more innings.
I think that's generally true and it's clear that Cora is taking it easy with the starters. Sale could have gone another inning and maybe finished at 110 pitches. Price only threw 70-something pitches in his first start. By May I expect these guys throwing 90-105 pitches per start.

In the meanwhile...it's making the bullpen work very hard. It would be lovely if their starters could leave after five or six..... with a 5-run lead instead of it being tied or a nail-biter. But they're winning so I guess I can't complain!
 

joe dokes

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Only Price has gone 7 innings though. But still. Basically they're running 2017 Pomeranz out there every day. Which gives them an advantage but puts a lot of stress on the bullpen. Thankful for these off days coming up here - the pen will need them.

Three scheduled offdays in 6 calendar days with 4 straight games either followed by or preceded by an offday, might be baked into Cora's decision making about the starters' innings during the first week. I think the lack of offense and the extra inning game might have taxed the pen more than envisioned, but in a sense, it was like an extra week to ramp up, and gave Cora a look at the whole bullpen in real games. I dont know if the last part was part of the plan, but it can't hurt.
 

shaggydog2000

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Only Price has gone 7 innings though. But still. Basically they're running 2017 Pomeranz out there every day. Which gives them an advantage but puts a lot of stress on the bullpen. Thankful for these off days coming up here - the pen will need them.
The AL average for innings/start was ~5.5 last year. It was 5.7 in March/April. Pomeranz average a bit over 5.5 innings in 2016-2017. So just about average. So far this season, the Sox starters are averaging 5.83 innings per start, and the league is averaging 5.5 per start. Just to give you actual numbers. So that you can properly adjust expectations for modern baseball.
 

simplicio

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The AL average for innings/start was ~5.5 last year. It was 5.7 in March/April. Pomeranz average a bit over 5.5 innings in 2016-2017. So just about average. So far this season, the Sox starters are averaging 5.83 innings per start, and the league is averaging 5.5 per start. Just to give you actual numbers. So that you can properly adjust expectations for modern baseball.
I'm willing to bet the Sox starters are below average innings in a pool of starters giving up less than 2 runs, however.
 

uk_sox_fan

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It's an age-old debate (or actually one that keeps cropping up in the last few years only) but with Velazquez and Johnson showing competency and ERod, Pomeranz and Wright all returning sometime this month is it time to debate the merits of a 6-man rotation again? The club is determined to keep its front-line starters fresh for October baseball and it seems like having depth of 8 quality starters would give a good chance of being able to maintain a 6-man for most, if not all, of the season.
 

Buzzkill Pauley

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No. Competency is not greatness. I want no part of either Velazquez or Johnson or Wright taking starts away from Sale.

I am not averse to any of them being given at least a chance or two to take Hold opportunities away from Barnes or Kelly, however.
 

joe dokes

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No. Competency is not greatness. I want no part of either Velazquez or Johnson or Wright taking starts away from Sale.

I am not averse to any of them being given at least a chance or two to take Hold opportunities away from Barnes or Kelly, however.
I agree as a season-long strategy. But in reading between some of Cora's lines, I could see him giving one of them a start if there's been a particularly nasty run of high-effort starts in the middle of a long run without days off, just to get each starter an extra day one time through the rotation during the dog days. That might not be a bad idea.
 

Saints Rest

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I agree as a season-long strategy. But in reading between some of Cora's lines, I could see him giving one of them a start if there's been a particularly nasty run of high-effort starts in the middle of a long run without days off, just to get each starter an extra day one time through the rotation during the dog days. That might not be a bad idea.
Velasquez having options will help in this. Otherwise, it may be, if both Wright and Johnson stick in the pen, that we get an occasional bullpen start with those two pegged for the first 6 innings.
 

BaseballJones

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Sale: 11.0 ip, 6 h, 1 r, 1 er, 3 bb, 15 k, 0.82 era, 0.82 whip, 12.3 k/9

And zero wins.

Baseball is so weird.
 

tonyarmasjr

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Bullpen usage has also been spread around. Barnes has 4 appearances (though most likely would've had last night off if it were a 9 inning game), Walden has 2, and everybody else has 3. Kelly's thrown the most pitches (77), not surprising since his command sucks, followed by Hembree and Barnes. Hembree has thrown 4.1 innings (due in part to being the last man standing last night), and Walden and Poyner have thrown 3.1 and 2.2 innings. So, 10.1 of the bullpen's 22 IP have gone to the bottom three arms in the pecking order - two of whom we don't expect to be seeing again a month from now.

I'm fine with them using up the bullets Walden and Poyner have in their limited time up, if it means the other guys are being handled a little more carefully. Hopefully, we can see a little more of them in the near future, but I don't know that this usage would change too much even if the games weren't as tight as they have been. It'd be nice to find out if Poyner is a guy who could actually stick. Walden's certainly the mop-up guy, but I doubt we'd see him going more than 2 innings at a time. He's not quite a swing/long man - more of just a not very good pitcher. It's really a bit of a patchwork effort out of the bullpen early on, considering the number of close games, shortened starts, and not having a full stable of quality arms. Minus 1 inning, they've done a pretty good job. Once the starters are healthy and ramped up, and there's a true long man in the pen, it should be easier to manage the "important" arms at the back end. And, by then, Cora hopefully has an idea of exactly who those guys are.
 

Buzzkill Pauley

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I agree as a season-long strategy. But in reading between some of Cora's lines, I could see him giving one of them a start if there's been a particularly nasty run of high-effort starts in the middle of a long run without days off, just to get each starter an extra day one time through the rotation during the dog days. That might not be a bad idea.
Keeping either of Wright or Johnson stretched out for this would be trickier than pegging each to go 2-3 IP once a week on either mop-up or garbage-time duties, if only because neither of them has minor league options remaining.

Given that consideration, allowing every starter more opportunities to leave after 5 IP than trying to maximize overall innings might be more advisable than skipping a start here or there. And if the alternative is a Dodger-like dead-arm DL for two turns through the rotation, so be it.
 

oumbi

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Yeah, Johnson's going to the bullpen, as is Wright. Pomeranz and Rodriguez to the rotation. Velazquez, Walden, and Poyner to Pawtucket.

I'd like to keep a second lefty but that means losing one of Wright, Kelly, or Hembree and I dislike all those options. They could trade one of the three but only Kelly is making enough to be worth the salary savings.
If you have this sentiment because you think a lefty would help more against left handed hitters than Wright, here is some potentially good news.

Wrights split LHB versus RHB shows he does better against left handed hitters for his career.

Versus LHB PA = 553, S/W 2.17, OPS .673, tOPS+ 88
Versus RHB PA = 672, S/W 2.22, OPS .752, tOPS+ 109
 

oumbi

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Sale: 11.0 ip, 6 h, 1 r, 1 er, 3 bb, 15 k, 0.82 era, 0.82 whip, 12.3 k/9

And zero wins.

Baseball is so weird.
True, but perhaps especially for Sale. Last year in his first five starts his ERA was 1.19 and his record stood at 1 win and 2 losses.
 

uk_sox_fan

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No. Competency is not greatness. I want no part of either Velazquez or Johnson or Wright taking starts away from Sale.

I am not averse to any of them being given at least a chance or two to take Hold opportunities away from Barnes or Kelly, however.
The issue is trying to maximise the chances of greatness in October and whether you can afford to give up a win or two during the regular season and still make the playoffs in order to enjoy that benefit. Last year Sale made 32 starts, making it convenient to analyse his season by quarters:

Starts 1-8:
Rec 4-2 (Sox 6-2), 7.3 IP/GS, 2.15 ERA, .160/.216/.240/.456 slash-line against, 72 aGS, +1.85 WPA

Starts 9-16:
Rec 6-1 (Sox 6-2), 6.9 IP/GS, 3.44 ERA, .237/.264/.384/.648 slash-line against, 60 aGS, +0.52 WPA

Starts 17-24:
Rec 4-1 (Sox 6-2), 6.8 IP/GS, 1.98 ERA, .174/.224/.294/.518 slash-line against, 71 aGS, +1.66 WPA

Starts 25-32:
Rec 3-4 (Sox 4-4), 5.7 IP/GS, 4.30 ERA, .264/.320/.489/.809 slash-line against, 54 aGS, -0.34 WPA

In 2016 his WPA by quarter went +2.11, +0.83, -0.30, -0.20
In 2015 it was +0.09, +1.83, +0.53, -0.26

The last time he finished the season with a positive WPA over his final 8 starts was 2014 (+0.74), but that was the year that he missed 5 weeks in mid-Apr to late-May and made only 26 starts.

So you say you don't want to take starts away from Sale, but what if doing so would increase the chances that Sale is 'Super Sale' when we need him to be most?
 
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