Red Sox rotation, gaining steam or train wreck?

(Getty Images/Greg Fiume)
Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

There is just something that is not sitting quite right with this Red Sox rotation.

Are you getting that feeling too?

It is creeping up on you as some of the starts are well constructed and then they come back with a train wreck of a start requiring a hand full of relievers to try and put their fingers in the leaking dike to stop the flood of runs.

While the off season acquisitions were all meant to strengthen the offense to cover the expected average pitching, has that been enough to sustain the current rotation?

So far it has been the opponents that have helped the Red Sox, who as of April 21st have had a huge hand in helping the Red Sox win games. In the first 13 games of the season, the Red Sox have been the beneficiary of 18 unearned runs. That's more than a quarter of the overall runs (70) the Red Sox have scored this season. Just twice have opponents played a game without an error. That kind of gift giving can't be expected to continue all season.

We are in the middle of the fifth run through this rotation and time to take a closer look.

Let's face it, it wasn’t supposed to be this bad.

Individually there is not a single bright spot, unless you refer to health, though some might be rooting for an injury these days just to see someone from the minors get a shot.

Clay Buchholz

Just completed his 5th start and owns a 5.76 ERA over only 25 innings pitched. He has only gotten through 3 innings twice and was pounded for 15 runs in those two games. His last outing he was given a 4 run lead at Fenway in the second inning, with which he promptly went out and graciously gave up 5 runs to the Blue Jays before getting yanked.

He hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh inning since Opening Day in Philadelphia, when he worked seven shutout frames.

Worse that all of this is that he seemed to give up during the beating he took in New York, failing to take part in the game and back up throws to bases, multiple times as he stared out into nothing. He looked shell shocked.

He's our ace?

There are moments where he is stunning, so there is hope for this to be one gaining steam, but we would just like to see some consistency.

Rick Porcello

The $20 million a year man starting next season thanks to the extension he just signed should be given more time to evolve.

Currently at at 6.48 ERA over four starts and 25 innings pitched, he is better than Buchholz and has somewhat of a history of starting seasons like this.

As a rookie in 2009, he had a 6.23 ERA through four starts and finished the year at 3.96.

In 2010, it was 8.03 through April.

The righty allowed five runs in each of his first two turns in 2011.

He had a 6.45 ERA by the end of April in 2012.

Porcello’s ERA ballooned to 11.08 after four starts in 2013 and didn’t settle under 5 until July.

And last year, the best of his career, he had a 3.96 ERA by the start of May before landing at 3.43.

Note carefully Red Sox Nation, Porcello's never finished a year with an ERA over 4.92, not a great target but would look really good right now.

Unlike with Buchholz, however, Porcello cannot be defined by one bad outing this year. Thanks in part to the league-high six home runs he’s already allowed, the vet has been charged with at least four runs in three starts, he’s always permitted at least five base runners and, like Buchholz, has only pitched beyond the sixth once.

We have to assume he will be gaining steam sometime soon.

Justin Masterson

Masterson’s track-record is similar to that of Buchholz and has posted a 5.16 ERA over 22.2 innings.

He's given up three runs or fewer in three of his four outings and only pitched beyond the sixth just once – when he worked seven frames his last time out in a 5-4 loss to the Orioles.

That marked the first time a Red Sox starter had retired a batter in the seventh since Porcello's eight-inning, 9-4 win over the Nationals on April 13 nearly two full weeks ago.

This righty’s worst blemish came the very next day, as he was tagged for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings by the Nationals. So much for momentum.

This is looking more like a train wreck every day.

Wade Miley

Miley has been flat out Boston's most disappointing pitcher.

He was advertised as an innings-eater, pitching nearly 200 innings he averaged each of the last three seasons for Arizona, but he's given his new team just 15 2/3 innings in four starts.

He is on pace for a whopping 120 innings this season if he happens to reach 30 starts.

Incredibly, he's never gotten out of the sixth and twice failed to survive the third. We saw this again last Sunday in an 18-7 embarrassment against the Orioles, during which Miley surrendered seven runs in 2 1/3 frames.

The southpaw is walking a career-worst 6.3 batters per nine innings and, in all, just suffered through the worst month of his career.

Train wreck complete, so far.

But he has no illusions as to how he is pitching.

"I could really give two [expletives] what people think," Miley said (via WEEI). "I think the fans should get on my ass when I'm not pitching good. They should be on me. … I'm pitching like (expletive)."

Joe Kelly

Kelly was Monday's starter in the series-opener with the Blue Jays.

After posting a 2.13 ERA through two starts and a great five innings in Tampa his last time out on April 22, he imploded for four runs in the sixth without retiring a batter to result in an unfavorable five-inning, five-run, eight-hit evening.

In his case, opponents have simply made their base runners count. Kelly’s 1.02 WHIP, 6.6 hits per nine innings and 2.5 walks per nine are all career-bests.

He has been better than a No. 5 starter, but a far cry from even a No. 2.

This is a matter of gaining some steam and we have a valid member of the rotation.

Steven Wright

Wright made the team out of Spring Training and started one game. He is the winning starter in this rotation with a 3.60 ERA, owns a 1-0 record and was called up from Pawtucket this week again.

With his ability to eat innings you would think that the Red Sox might be able to use him at the very least to fill up that big hole between the third inning when most of the rotation has been failing. Granted it was the 19 inning marathon game with the Yankees, but he tossed 5 innings and can do that every day for you.

This leaves us at the bullpen, which has been sorely worked so far. The question is, has the bullpen helped the starters?

Not so much.

Relievers have allowed nine inherited runners to score, led by Craig Breslow's four. That ranks the Red Sox bullpen tied for ninth-most in the game. Let's face it, at this pace the bullpen will be a revolving door for Pawtucket pitchers and they will be burned out by the All Star break.

Something has to be done, be it from outside the organization or within.

The most desirable solution, of course, would be for the existing members of the rotation to develop some consistency. Of course they are not pitching poorly on purpose, but it would be nice to see a little more pride on the mound and fire in their characters. Who can watch a pitcher like Miley have a meltdown and then see him sitting stone faces int he dugout with little or no emotion?

Just today Miley was being quoted with tough language like, "I'm pitching like [expletive]," he said. "I'm not doing what I'm capable of doing. I'm not even close to where I want to be."

Maybe it is time for David Ortiz to give batting lessons on dugout phones to the starting pitchers?

To a man, Buchholz, Porcello, Masterson, Miley and Kelly are all better than their numbers have reflected.

Time to them to step up before this becomes a complete train wreck.

Post a comment or via twitter @erics_redsox with your thoughts.

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