I know, I know: this is the very unpopular opinion. All day on Twitter I've been reading hundreds of tweets saying how scared we should all be and how in trouble the Red Sox are after John Farrell came out and announced the first two starters and hinted at who the third and fifth starters would be.
Here are the starters who Farrell announced and hinted at today:
With the rotation of Price, Buchholz, Kelly, Porcello, and Wright, I have to be honest on this one: I'm really not that scared.
Price came in second in the American League Cy Young voting just last year and pitches amazing at Fenway Park. Don't forget that he also just signed a $217 million deal to be the team's ace. His Spring Training wasn't lights out like Craig Kimbrel's was, but he did only have a 3.00 ERA and it was only this spring. Him being the number one starter is fully justified.
The issue with most Red Sox fans comes with the next four. And look, I understand why. But there's so much potential with this rotation that I can't help but be more optimistic than pessimistic on this one.
(March 15, 2016 - Source: Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)
With Buchholz as the number 2 starter, the clear cause for concern is his injury track record. Yes, he's fragile. But that doesn't mean that when he's on the field he won't pitch well. Last year, his ERA was a 3.26. In 2013, he went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA, which brought him to the All Star game. In 2012, he went 11-8. His best season was 2010 when he went 17-7 with an ERA of 2.33. As long as Buchholz is on the field, there's an extremely good chance he at least pitches adequately. Will he be a Cy Young candidate? I mean, he has been in the past so hey, why not 2016?
When Farrell spoke about the rotation today, he hinted that because of Kelly's great spring (aside from today), he would be the number 3 starter. Despite being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and having a horrible start in 2015, Kelly had a tremendous rebound in the second half. Post-All Star break, he was 8-1 with a 3.77 ERA. In August, he went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA. His Spring Training numbers were almost just as impressive: 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA. Kelly is showing a lot of potential and arguably had the best Spring Training out of the entire starting staff. He deserves this number 3 spot, and I have a lot of optimism here.
Rick Porcello as the number 4 starter is the only 1 of the 5 who does scare me just a little bit. Last season, he signed a 4 yr/$82.5 million extension: arguably the worst and stupidest contract on the team. He went 9-15 last year with a 4.92 ERA. In Spring Training this year, he went 0-2 with a 9.77 ERA and gave up way too many home runs. There's no denying that those types of numbers are bad and should scare Sox fans.
But I'm here to tell you not so fast.
In 2014, he actually had a pretty good season: he went 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA. He's still very young and adjusting to a new, huge market like Boston can be very tough for some and lead to a rough first year (like Porcello). But, this is his second year and he's been here for over a year now. He's much more comfortable and this easily could be the campaign in which he continues his improvement from the 2014 season.
And remember: he's only the number 4 starter. So if he struggles early, the Sox can easily slot in Roenis Elias if he pitches well enough, or Eduardo Rodriguez when he gets healthy. And if his command gets better in Pawtucket, don't forget about Henry Owens.
When it comes to the number 5 spot, Farrell said today that it would most likely go to Wright who like Kelly, has had a tremendous spring, going 1-2 with a 2.66 ERA. Last year he was 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA. Wright is your typical number 5 starter, in that well, he's a knuckleballer, and he can eat up innings and give his team the chance to win every night that he's on the rubber. He's not going to put up Cy Young Award-type numbers, but he's going to be "your average number 5 starter", which is fine.
The optimism toward the Red Sox' starting rotation shouldn't just come from the players in it, but also from the other rotations around the AL East.
The Toronto Blue Jays have the same type of rotation constructed as the Sox do: Marcus Stroman as the number 1 (a soon-to-be ace), Marco Estrada who's a solid number 2, and then a whole lot of average.
The New York Yankees' number 1 starter just came off of elbow surgery (Masahiro Tanaka). Their projected number 5 starter just got out of rehab (CC Sabathia). Michael Pineda is average at best and Nathan Eovaldi at first glance had a great season last year going 14-3. But after taking a closer look, you'll notice he got a ton of run support considering his ERA was a 4.20.
(Sept. 30, 2015 - Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America)
The Baltimore Orioles have 4 projected starting pitchers who had ERAs over 4.00 last season.
The Tampa Bay Rays have the only starting staff in the East who I worry about them really dominating. But, they do have some injury concerns. Chris Archer had an amazing 2015 and will most likely only get better. And then a full year for Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, and Matt Moore can only spell trouble for opposing hitters.
Luckily the Rays have almost no offense.
Overall, with the potential this starting staff has for the Red Sox, and the lack of pitching in the rest of their division, I'm pretty optimistic about what this group can do, especially with the addition of Price and his impact on the rest of the group.
So yes that's correct: I'm standing here and proclaiming that 2016 will not be a "year to fear" for the Red Sox starting pitchers.