What to do with Drew?

Feb 6, 2018
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I was curious what SOSH would do if Drew Pomeranz continues to struggle and not give the team quality starts. When and would you replace him with Steven Wright in the rotation? Or do you stick with him throughout the summer and hope he “finds” it? He’s currently sporting a -.3 WAR and a 1.87 WHIP to go with his 6.75 ERA. Wright has a 0.3 WAR and has been great in 13 innings of relief. Shouldn’t take long to stretch him out if neeeded.
 

joe dokes

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From what I saw, I'd consider last night progress in the right direction. The HR in the first wasn't a bad pitch and the later runs were the by-product of a series of unfortunate events. What he gave them last night would be fine for their 5th best starter going forward.
 

uk_sox_fan

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I would give him a couple more starts and make the switch to Wright if he continues to struggle.
From what I saw, I'd consider last night progress in the right direction. The HR in the first wasn't a bad pitch and the later runs were the by-product of a series of unfortunate events. What he gave them last night would be fine for their 5th best starter going forward.
I'm with this line of thinking as well. With the team playing as well as they are there is little pressure for quick judgments. Another poster in the Starters thread mentioned the benefit of being able to pick when and where to use Wright (i.e. the right atmospheric conditions) that comes with him being a reliever as opposed to being locked into a rotation as a reliever. The potential benefit of Pomeranz 'figuring it out' and becoming an effective starter again are too great to close the door before the evidence to the contrary becomes overwhelming (as painful as that might be). I remain optimistic and, far more importantly, so too does Cora it would appear.
 

teddywingman

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Despite the fact that last night's start was not a disaster, it was not a step in the right direction either.

It was pointed out here and in the game thread that a couple of the runs came in on a series of unfortunate events... well guess what? When you have runners on base all damn game, something unfortunate might and probably will happen.

The homerun came on a pitch that was actually located exactly where it was meant to go, which didn't happen often last night. The problem is that when your fastball sits at 90 mph, good hitters can wait on that crap. He's not Greg Maddux hitting perfect locations, he's all over the place.

You can say he held the reigning champs to 4 runs over 5 innings, there weren't many hard hit balls, and he threw a lot of strikes. But Houston just got off the road and came in at 3:00 AM yesterday. I think they were a little off and last night's game was not bad luck for Pomeranz, but an example of his current ceiling.
 

shaggydog2000

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He's down about 2 mph on his fastball, and it hasn't been trending up. The trend is pretty flat, so it's not like he's building up strength. Something is most likely physically wrong with him. Maybe not in a showing up on an MRI way, but wrong enough to hamper him. Some pitchers go an entire season like this trying to pitch through something they know isn't going to be fixed with a surgery or a short rest. I'm sure it has something to do with the good season/bad season patterns we sometimes see from pitchers. If "dead arm" doesn't go away, what do you do with a guy who could be a valuable pitcher again? Is rest enough, how long, etc?
 

sean1562

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Is some of it the fact that it is a contract year? Maybe he is hoping it will all just click? They should be straight with him and dl him if he needs it. At this point, is a Pom that goes on the dl for a month or so and comes back successfully the kind of guy who rejects a qo?
 

Mugsy's Jock

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Part of the equation in removing Drew from the rotation would probably be putting Wright in...and I love what Wright brings in the bullpen. Available (nearly) every day, can be a long man early or a long man late when games go to extras. Makes it a lot easier to give Kelly and Barnes and Hembree days off when they need them, which in turn makes them available for the 9th when Kimbrel needs a day off, or there’s a save situation that’s merely DEFCON-5 (like the ones against Toronto last week).

I’d run Drew out there again. And if he does get demoted, I’d like to see Velazquez get first shot.
 

Cesar Crespo

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I doubt it's a real possibility, but they could move Pom to the bullpen, be it temporary or not. It doesn't have to be a trip to the DL.

He does well when he keeps the ball in the park and struggles mightily when he doesn't. Given how many base runners he allows, that's not too shocking. I'd guess a lot of his HRA aren't of the solo variety. Can anyone actually fact check this or tell me where I can?
 

grimshaw

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I doubt it's a real possibility, but they could move Pom to the bullpen, be it temporary or not. It doesn't have to be a trip to the DL.

He does well when he keeps the ball in the park and struggles mightily when he doesn't. Given how many base runners he allows, that's not too shocking. I'd guess a lot of his HRA aren't of the solo variety. Can anyone actually fact check this or tell me where I can?
Checking his game logs - he has given up two 2-run homers and the rest are solo.
 

geoduck no quahog

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The way I see it - he's one of the best 5th pitchers in the league (which isn't saying much). Many back-of-the-rotation guys are young and have a potential upside, but Pomeranz also has potential upside - the likelihood that he can turn the corner versus the corner turning against him. It's a 1 year risk.

Thing is, I'm skeptical that Wright is able to maintain a high level, simply because he;'s a knuckleballer (which in and of itself has built in downside - walks, meatballs, passed balls, stolen bases, consistency issues, weather conditions, etc.)

If it's strictly an either/or (it isn't) I'd stick with the body of work that indicates Pomeranz can improve rather than the hope that Wright can out-pitch him as a starter. I also think that if Pomeranz had an identifiable injury issue - the team would DL him and insert Wright or Valazquez.

Speaking of which - what happens when/if Thornburg and Carson return to the bullpen? If that happens, Johnson and one of Valazquez/Wright are gone, yes?
 

mfried

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Wright is a former all-star who is pitching close to his all-star year.
 

Rovin Romine

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I would give him a couple more starts and make the switch to Wright if he continues to struggle.
The same. Drew's a FA, so demoting him might sour him on resigning with the team, if that's what the Sox wanted. OTOH, he's going into the mega FA class. (So if he has a crappy year and no great long term offer, he might be better off with a one year contract anyway.)

I think it's likely best to just ignore all that and pitch him on his merits. If he's pitching like the #6 man, he's the #6 man. What I wouldn't ignore is Wright.
 

aksoxfan

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Part of the equation in removing Drew from the rotation would probably be putting Wright in...and I love what Wright brings in the bullpen. Available (nearly) every day, can be a long man early or a long man late when games go to extras. Makes it a lot easier to give Kelly and Barnes and Hembree days off when they need them, which in turn makes them available for the 9th when Kimbrel needs a day off, or there’s a save situation that’s merely DEFCON-5 (like the ones against Toronto last week).

I’d run Drew out there again. And if he does get demoted, I’d like to see Velazquez get first shot.
This plan I endorse.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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There are two components to the discussion. People tend to focus on the question whether Wright will be any good as a starter. But to decide whether a move is warranted, you also need to ask how Pom would be as a reliever. The question is this: Is Wright as starter and Pom as reliever > Pom as starter and Wright as reliever.

In the end, it’s about run prevention. And outs are outs. In the last five days, Wright has pitched 8 scoreless innings, which is about the most you could hope he would pitch as a starter. If he’s effectively getting 20 outs every 5 days, does it matter that much? At that point, you have to ask whether you get anything out of Pom as a reliever. It’s an unknown. He apparently takes a while to warm up and he hasn’t been a bullpen guy since 2015, when he was ok not great.

He’s also streaky, and we’ve seen that good Pom is very good. The highest upside move is clearly to hope Pom comes around and leave Wright in the bullpen so long as he’s effective.

As noted by others and by Cora himself, he thinks Wright has a chance to be more effective in the bullpen because the contrast is difficult for hitters. Also, there are considerable reasons to think that Wright is much better suited to be a reliever. Looking at game logs over the last couple of years, in any given inning Wright either has it or he doesn’t. When he doesn't have it, he gives up many runs and is not capable of getting three outs and has to come out. It can happen pretty much any time. He virtually never just has a one-run inning. A typical Wright box score is 0 0 0 0 3 (leaves game). When it goes it goes and there’s really no telling when it will happen. Sometimes it’s early, sometimes it’s late. Sometimes he avoids it all game. But it’s pretty rare that he loses it and you don’t have to take him out. Very occasionally, he will limit the damage or someone will swing and miss and take him off the hook and he comes out fine the next inning. But usually, when he stinks he has to be pulled and the inning before isn’t really that indicative. When it happens in the first or second inning and he’s starting, it’s a problem. We’ve also seen that he is possibly susceptible to weather issues. Again, this presents so much more pressure on the bullpen when the starter can’t go. These issues are ameliorated out of the bullpen. There’s less need to stick with a reliever. You can pull him quicker. If Wright starts to lose the knuckler in the sixth inning as a reliever, it's fine -- just get him out and let him pitch tomorrow. When it happens in the second inning, you are tempted to let him ride it out and if he can't your bullpen is screwed. Plus, that's all you get out of him for five days to keep him in line for his next start. Last, since he really doesn’t have a perceptible split, you can bring him in for long relief in pretty much any game – whether he comes in for Sale against an all righty lineup or for Porcello against a lefty-heavy lineup won’t really matter. You’re ok pitching him 2 or 3 innings either way.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Speaking of which - what happens when/if Thornburg and Carson return to the bullpen? If that happens, Johnson and one of Valazquez/Wright are gone, yes?
I have zero expectations of either of these guys contributing this year. If one of them should return we can worry about that then, but as they say, these things have a way of working themselves out.
 
Feb 6, 2018
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The next couple of starts will be telling. I think they will deal with a mediocre Drew but if he gets pummeled in his next two outings I think Alex will have to make a switch.
 
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Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I'm fine with him for another 3 or 4 more starts... but with Valazquez replacing him, not Wright. I think he works better as a spot starter and long inning relief... extra innings go to guy....

I do think last night was a baby step in the right direction and I have some confidence he'll get straightened out a little more each start. I'm sure as hell not expecting him to look like how he did last year but somewhere around a 3.85 ERA from here on out is reasonable
 

Savin Hillbilly

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He's down about 2 mph on his fastball, and it hasn't been trending up. The trend is pretty flat, so it's not like he's building up strength.
This needs an asterisk. According to Brooks, his average FB velocity last night was 91.1, which may not sound thrilling but is easily his best so far this year--and it's gone up, albeit incrementally until now, in each of his last three starts since a nadir of 88.97 at Toronto two weeks ago.

One thing I noticed on the Brooks graphs: there's a noticeable gap in both horizontal and vertical release point between his cutter and everything else--it's like he drops down more to throw the cutter. Is this normal, and could it constitute tipping? (He throws the cutter less than 10 times a game on average, so it's probably not that big a deal, but it does kind of jump out.)
 

shaggydog2000

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This needs an asterisk. According to Brooks, his average FB velocity last night was 91.1, which may not sound thrilling but is easily his best so far this year--and it's gone up, albeit incrementally until now, in each of his last three starts since a nadir of 88.97 at Toronto two weeks ago.

One thing I noticed on the Brooks graphs: there's a noticeable gap in both horizontal and vertical release point between his cutter and everything else--it's like he drops down more to throw the cutter. Is this normal, and could it constitute tipping? (He throws the cutter less than 10 times a game on average, so it's probably not that big a deal, but it does kind of jump out.)
Good info. I was looking at fangraphs, and the overall velocity looked pretty flat over the year. Looking at the Brooks data he was in the 91-92.5 mph range for most of last year. If he is building back up into that range I would be comfortable with continuing to let him start and figure things out in the 5th starter slot. He is too good when he is right to not give him that chance.
 

EricFeczko

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Good info. I was looking at fangraphs, and the overall velocity looked pretty flat over the year. Looking at the Brooks data he was in the 91-92.5 mph range for most of last year. If he is building back up into that range I would be comfortable with continuing to let him start and figure things out in the 5th starter slot. He is too good when he is right to not give him that chance.
Frankly, we can afford to keep him there if needed. FWIW, it's not like Sonny Gray, the Bieber/Plutko/Tomlin Cleveland experiment, or Felix Hernandez have pitched much better.

If I'm DD, and I'm looking at a bullpen piece, I might consider shopping him around to see if anyone sniffs, but I wouldn't be looking to demote him.
 

chrisfont9

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He's down about 2 mph on his fastball, and it hasn't been trending up. The trend is pretty flat, so it's not like he's building up strength. Something is most likely physically wrong with him. Maybe not in a showing up on an MRI way, but wrong enough to hamper him. Some pitchers go an entire season like this trying to pitch through something they know isn't going to be fixed with a surgery or a short rest. I'm sure it has something to do with the good season/bad season patterns we sometimes see from pitchers. If "dead arm" doesn't go away, what do you do with a guy who could be a valuable pitcher again? Is rest enough, how long, etc?
Per Pitch FX his FB velo was up close to 2mph last night from previous starts (2mph from TOR start, 1.3mph from last outing).
https://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=11426&position=P&type=18
 
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What about a phantom DL stint combined with a Beeks call-up? They're pitching on the same day and Beeks might be lightning in a bottle.
 

joe dokes

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Good info. I was looking at fangraphs, and the overall velocity looked pretty flat over the year. Looking at the Brooks data he was in the 91-92.5 mph range for most of last year. If he is building back up into that range I would be comfortable with continuing to let him start and figure things out in the 5th starter slot. He is too good when he is right to not give him that chance.
Absolutely.
He has said repeatedly that its mechanical issues causing the velocity drop. If he's managed to get on top of that, then other good should follow.
 

Sox Puppet

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Right ... without the added velocity, nothing really distinguishes Pom from Brian Johnson. Both are two-pitch lefties ("fast"ball and good curve) who have to throw a ton of pitches to get guys out.
 

nvalvo

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Another possibility: He's lined up with Jalen Beeks...

But I think I would stick with him for 3-4 more starts. I think the issue is mechanical — this has happened before — and if he can get it locked in, the upside is a good 2-3 starter. If not, well...

Right ... without the added velocity, nothing really distinguishes Pom from Brian Johnson. Both are two-pitch lefties ("fast"ball and good curve) who have to throw a ton of pitches to get guys out.
He also throws a cutter (~10%) and an occasional changeup (~2-5%). You're of course correct that his general game plan is about the contrast between four-seamer and curveball.
 

luckysox

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I thought he looked much better against Houston. he broke off a few very nasty curves, and he was much closer to getting that 93mph fastball just up enough for it to seem and therefore be unhittable after a nasty curve. He's close. I'd put money on a 6ip, 2 run, 9k start in the next 2 weeks.
 

lapa

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Without quoting a whole book dennyboylesballs post was excellent and is hard to really argue against
 

sean1562

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If he "recovers" after some time off, does he reject a QO? There is no chance he is getting a massive deal, can't see more than 60 mil for him. Do we take that chance, if he does seem to turn it around?
 

oumbi

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There are two components to the discussion. People tend to focus on the question whether Wright will be any good as a starter. But to decide whether a move is warranted, you also need to ask how Pom would be as a reliever. The question is this: Is Wright as starter and Pom as reliever > Pom as starter and Wright as reliever.

In the end, it’s about run prevention. And outs are outs. In the last five days, Wright has pitched 8 scoreless innings, which is about the most you could hope he would pitch as a starter. If he’s effectively getting 20 outs every 5 days, does it matter that much? At that point, you have to ask whether you get anything out of Pom as a reliever. It’s an unknown. He apparently takes a while to warm up and he hasn’t been a bullpen guy since 2015, when he was ok not great.

He’s also streaky, and we’ve seen that good Pom is very good. The highest upside move is clearly to hope Pom comes around and leave Wright in the bullpen so long as he’s effective...
You may be well be correct about Wright in the bull pen, but isn't the generally accepted mantra on pitchers that starters are more valuable than relievers? But stopping there is a bit of a superficial response given your good post above.

More to my point, your post points that outs are outs, and there is where I quibble with you. For example, by the time Pom is pulled out in most games, he has already given up 4 to 5 runs. That is an "expensive" set of outs he provided and it puts the team in a hole early on. If the Sox were to have Wright start and he does what he has been doing, then the sox are not as likely to be behind when Wright is done pitching. Those outs by Wright not only are outs, they are outs that kept the Sox from trailing early on.

After that, if Pom comes in to relieve Wright (or any other starter) and looks shaky, he can be pulled quickly and another reliever brought in. But as a starter, it is harder to pull Pom after 1 or 2 innings. The damage Pom has caused thus far this season seems as if it would be easier to contain if he and Wright switched roles.

If you want to argue that giving Pom more starts is worth it because if he turns it around and returns to his career averages the Sox have another good starter, I can see your point. But then the question is how long a rope should Cora give him?
 

Reverend

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You may be well be correct about Wright in the bull pen, but isn't the generally accepted mantra on pitchers that starters are more valuable than relievers? But stopping there is a bit of a superficial response given your good post above.

More to my point, your post points that outs are outs, and there is where I quibble with you. For example, by the time Pom is pulled out in most games, he has already given up 4 to 5 runs. That is an "expensive" set of outs he provided and it puts the team in a hole early on. If the Sox were to have Wright start and he does what he has been doing, then the sox are not as likely to be behind when Wright is done pitching. Those outs by Wright not only are outs, they are outs that kept the Sox from trailing early on.

After that, if Pom comes in to relieve Wright (or any other starter) and looks shaky, he can be pulled quickly and another reliever brought in. But as a starter, it is harder to pull Pom after 1 or 2 innings. The damage Pom has caused thus far this season seems as if it would be easier to contain if he and Wright switched roles.

If you want to argue that giving Pom more starts is worth it because if he turns it around and returns to his career averages the Sox have another good starter, I can see your point. But then the question is how long a rope should Cora give him?
I like the way you are approaching it--and the way @DennyDoyle'sBoil was for that matter--and I think you may have hit on a key area where, as per DDB's post, Wright could be an exception that proves the rule.

Specifically because, as a knuckleballer, he can work more often in relief than a regular guy. So, all things being equal, his value in providing not just more but more frequent innings and on short rest could provide extra value for him as a reliever than a starter, ceteris paribus.

I suppose that same ability provides the ability for an emergency start too, but how valuable is that from a fifth starter?

Thoughts?
 

chawson

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I like the way you are approaching it--and the way @DennyDoyle'sBoil was for that matter--and I think you may have hit on a key area where, as per DDB's post, Wright could be an exception that proves the rule.

Specifically because, as a knuckleballer, he can work more often in relief than a regular guy. So, all things being equal, his value in providing not just more but more frequent innings and on short rest could provide extra value for him as a reliever than a starter, ceteris paribus.

I suppose that same ability provides the ability for an emergency start too, but how valuable is that from a fifth starter?

Thoughts?
I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but do you know if it’s ever been proven at the major league level?

I can’t think of any knuckleball relievers besides Wright in 2015. FWIW, he was less effective than he was as a starter.
 

Plympton91

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I would have switched Pomeranz and Wright two Pomeranz starts ago. Pom is pitching terribly and Wright is pitching great. This shouldn’t be hard or delayed any longer.
 

nvalvo

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If he "recovers" after some time off, does he reject a QO? There is no chance he is getting a massive deal, can't see more than 60 mil for him. Do we take that chance, if he does seem to turn it around?
In such a scenario, depending on what the scare quotes mean, I would very likely offer him a QO.

Pomeranz has ace upside. He showed it for 100 IP in San Diego, and then again by posting a sub-3 ERA in a 25 start stretch in 2017.

(That run was to end the season after a rough 7-8 start stretch at the beginning of the season, FWIW.)
 

teddywingman

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I'm interested in the assumption that Wright could be used more frequently in relief than a regular pitcher. The axiom that knuckle ballers don't throw hard anyway may not apply with Wright.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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You may be well be correct about Wright in the bull pen, but isn't the generally accepted mantra on pitchers that starters are more valuable than relievers? But stopping there is a bit of a superficial response given your good post above.

More to my point, your post points that outs are outs, and there is where I quibble with you. For example, by the time Pom is pulled out in most games, he has already given up 4 to 5 runs. That is an "expensive" set of outs he provided and it puts the team in a hole early on. If the Sox were to have Wright start and he does what he has been doing, then the sox are not as likely to be behind when Wright is done pitching. Those outs by Wright not only are outs, they are outs that kept the Sox from trailing early on.

After that, if Pom comes in to relieve Wright (or any other starter) and looks shaky, he can be pulled quickly and another reliever brought in. But as a starter, it is harder to pull Pom after 1 or 2 innings. The damage Pom has caused thus far this season seems as if it would be easier to contain if he and Wright switched roles.

If you want to argue that giving Pom more starts is worth it because if he turns it around and returns to his career averages the Sox have another good starter, I can see your point. But then the question is how long a rope should Cora give him?
I think the discussion is a good one but let me just respond to what I was getting at at with the outs are outs.

If Wright isn’t getting those bullpen outs, someone else has to. And, if we are talking about keeping Pom on the team, he is presumably going to pitch a few innings every five days. So, if you move Wright to starter you hopefully are preventing more runs than if you keep Pom in there but are you netting out positively with the bullpen innings that Pom now pitches?
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I like the way you are approaching it--and the way @DennyDoyle'sBoil was for that matter--and I think you may have hit on a key area where, as per DDB's post, Wright could be an exception that proves the rule.

Specifically because, as a knuckleballer, he can work more often in relief than a regular guy. So, all things being equal, his value in providing not just more but more frequent innings and on short rest could provide extra value for him as a reliever than a starter, ceteris paribus.

I suppose that same ability provides the ability for an emergency start too, but how valuable is that from a fifth starter?

Thoughts?
Right, I think this is the question. Then you add on to it that when he’s a starter he will only work every five days unless they get real unconventional. So, if he has a bad outing — as he sometimes does — and just doesn’t have the knuckler working in the second inning, that’s it. You got 2 innings out of 45 for those five days. If it’s not the playoffs they aren’t going to let him pitch from the bullpen between starts even if he could. But if he has a bad inning in relief, so what? Pitch him the next day.

We will have to get more data on his bullpen usage. The 8 scoreless in five days might have been small sample cherry picking. He’s now gone two days without pitching and Cora doesn’t seem to be interested in using him close and late with leads where he has been using Hembree, Barnes and Kelly. If he stays in the bullpen, I might give him some of those innings.

If it gets to the point where he is only really getting innings when Pom does his 3.2 inning start, then, yeah, they probably should be flipped.
 

MikeM

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If he "recovers" after some time off, does he reject a QO? There is no chance he is getting a massive deal, can't see more than 60 mil for him. Do we take that chance, if he does seem to turn it around?
I think a lot of that might depend on what exactly that recovery entails, and how the Sox are feeling in the moment about the other guys around him as a whole.

Probably a better question to ask though once it becomes more clear we are going to end up eating a 2nd tier LT hit this year, and what we can or can't do in the process of trying to avoid a second consecutive one.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I'm interested in the assumption that Wright could be used more frequently in relief than a regular pitcher. The axiom that knuckle ballers don't throw hard anyway may not apply with Wright.
I think the notion that any knuckleballer can pitch more or more often is a bit of a myth. I think it is entirely dependent on the pitcher rather than the pitch itself. And it's still a repetitive motion that will wear the muscles and joints down whether the pitch is 95mph or 65mph.

I don't think throwing the knuckler means a guy can throw every day where a traditional fastball pitcher can not. Maybe the knuckler recovers a little quicker, but not drastically so. Like maybe a knuckleball throwing starter going 90-100 pitches could be fully rested and ready to go in four days rather than the five normally taken, but I don't see where he could start today and relieve two days later, or as a full time reliever throw 20 today and 30 tomorrow and 25 the day after with less or no ill effects than the average reliever (and we know managers hate using relievers back-to-back-to-back).

As to Wright being used close and late, there is the control factor that can come in to play, especially when it comes to inherited runners. The knuckler is more susceptible to wild pitches and passed balls. He's best used in clean situations and since he can go multiple innings at a time (and they want to keep him that way), bridging the gap between a short start and the back end of the pen is the best deployment for him.
 

sean1562

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2,790
Also, Steven Wright is with the org until 2021, at least. Would be nice to see if he can actually carry a starters load, and be even a 4-5 guy. Would help us plan "long term" and see what our needs are moving forward.

Best case scenario, right now is Drew rebounds to end the season with a 3.75-4.00 ERA(which would be pretty difficult considering his bad start), accept a QO, and we go into next year with a rotation of Sale/Price/Porcello/Erod/Pom. But I feel like Pom will be one of the guys who rejects a QO regardless, to get a little more financial stability. I think the only way Pom is on this team next year is if he does just well enough to be worth a QO flyer, which I would extend if he ends the year even with solid rate stats.

Man that 2020 offseason is going to be interesting/scary