The season is more than halfway over now, so it’s no longer ridiculous to talk about the postseason. That being said, we still have a ways to go, so while I’m allowing myself to be anxious, I’m also trying to pace my crazy.
But as usual, the writing is on the wall in a big way for the Red Sox. As dominant as their starting rotation has been lately, they still do not have a single starter with a proven playoff record. Their ace, and AL Pitcher of the Month for June, Chris Sale, tanked against the Astros last fall, and again when he faced them last month. It seems that the Astros are to Chris Sale what the Yankees are to David Price. Meanwhile, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright are both on the DL again. In short: it’s not good.
Not to bum y’all out, but allow me to break it down, starter by starter:
Boston’s ace is dominant, to say the least. But unfortunately, he came to Boston having never played in a postseason before. That’s obviously not his fault; unlike LeBron James, a pitcher can’t singlehandedly carry the White Sox to the playoffs. But it meant that once again, Boston was shelling out big bucks for someone untested in the time of year that means the most.
Sale’s postseason debut came against the now-champion Houston Astros, and they took his lunch money and then some. In two ALDS appearances over 9.2 innings, he struck out 12 but gave up 9 runs (4 of them homers) on 13 hits, most of them to MVP Jose Altuve. It definitely didn’t help that the Red Sox bats were virtually silent through 3/4 of the games, but it’s not like Sale held down the fort at all.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident, as Sale crumbled against the Astros in their rematch earlier this season, too. He gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and only struck out 6 over 6 innings. The Astros remain one of the top teams in the league, and a postseason reappearance seems all but guaranteed. Congrats to them, bad news for us since our best starter seems to pitch his worst against them.
This guy really grinds my gears, but it wasn’t until last night’s 11-1 loss to the Yankees that I dove into his stats and found out what a disaster Price really is. To quote myself: “David Price’s career ERA vs. Yanks as a Red Sox is now 8.43 ER with 44 earned runs – 13 of them homers – given up over 47 innings. He’s 2-6 against them, but 0-5 with a 10.44 ERA in five starts at Yankee Stadium.”
The Sox and Yankees have been within 2.5 games of each other atop the division since the start of May, and that probably won’t change any time soon. Price’s postseason record speaks volumes for itself in the worst way. In 2013, he gave up 2 homers to David Ortiz as a Tampa Bay Ray. Over 7 ALDS appearances, Price has a 5.30 ERA with 32 earned runs, 9 of them homers. He’s been to the postseason eight times, but his teams have only made it past the ALDS twice.
It doesn’t matter if Price can throw a complete game against a team like the Orioles, because when it really counts, he goes completely down the toilet, and he’ll take the Sox with him.
The pendulum swings hard with this guy, who has gone from terrible to Cy Young winner to league leader in losses over his last three seasons. This year, he’s been pretty great, going 9-3 with a 3.60 ERA, striking out 99 over 105 innings.
His postseason track record is another story. In eight series over five postseasons with the Tigers and Red Sox, he’s 0-3 with a 5.47 ERA. Interestingly enough, Ricky’s Cy Young season in 2016 also saw him give up 3 home runs on 6 hits to the Cleveland Indians in his one playoff game start, in which he lasted just 4.1 innings. He didn’t fare much better last year, pitching another 4 innings in a losing game to the Astros.
You’re never really sure what you’re going to get from Porcello during a regular season game or a season overall, but his postseason record pretty much speaks for itself.
Like Chris Sale, ERod has only ever seen a postseason with the Red Sox. But he pitched zero innings in the 2017 flop, so it really doesn’t even count.
Pomeranz has been injured for most of the season, but I’ll talk about him anyway. He was put on the 10-Day DL a month ago but has yet to return. He’s supposedly beginning a rehab assignment in Pawtucket this week.
PomPom pitched poorly in two losing playoff games, one in each of the Sox’s last two ALDS attempts. Pomeranz lasted 3.2 innings or less in each appearance, but gave up a combined 6 earned runs on 9 hits. He allowed one homer in his 2016 appearance, two in his 2017 game, walked three, and only struck out 8 overall.
With an injury derailing his season, it’s uncertain he’ll even be available to start in the postseason, though it doesn’t matter because a) we have to get there first, and b) would we even want him to?
Knuckleballers are notoriously unreliable, and Wright is no exception. His last start against the Mariners saw Seattle taking a 4-0 lead in the first, and the Red Sox having to overcome a 9-run lead to eventually win 14-10.
Wright won a ring with the Sox in 2013, but didn’t pitch at all during the postseason. He was an All-Star in 2016, but his season was cut short, and he went on the DL in August, missing the postseason due to a shoulder injury. He was injured again in 2017, having season-ending knee surgery in early May. Like his teammate and surgery buddy Dustin Pedroia, Wright is back on the DL again now due to more problems with the same knee.
Dave Dombrowski is optimistic that Wright will be back before the All-Star break, but we’ll have to wait and see how MLB’s only active knuckleballer progresses as the season goes on.
Brian Johnson & Hector Velazquez
Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez are two pitchers the Sox are lucky to have in their arsenal, because each has been able to start games, come in as relievers, and even close, as we saw Velazquez do on Saturday night to help Chris Sale get a shutout win against the Yankees.
Neither Johnson nor Velazquez have ever seen a postseason, but considering some of the failures on this list, that may not actually be a bad thing. Johnson had a complete shutout game against the Mariners in May 2017, and he’s been starting again since Wright went back on the DL.
Velazquez was signed out of the Mexican League by the Red Sox prior to the start of the 2017 season, and has become a very reliable pitcher this season. He’s also untested in the postseason, but currently has a 2.77 ERA and a 6-0 record on the season. He’s also one of the only pitcher who doesn’t give me massive anxiety whenever I see him take the mound, and that’s really saying something.
This isn’t an optimistic picture I’ve painted, but it’s realistic. There isn’t a single pitcher on this list who has either experience or success. Dave Dombrowski, do with that what you will.
Photo: Boston Sports Extra