Who Boston's starters will be, how their bullpen should line up, and how important this staff is to the team's success.
There is not much doubt that the Red Sox have a higher chance of making the playoffs because of the 60 game season. Every team that is one of the league's "elite" clubs has a better chance. A team like Boston could easily catch fire, and one big win streak could cement yourself a place in the playoffs.
It is very hard to predict what will happen this season, and even more difficult to predict how the Red Sox will do. Even without Mookie Betts, they still have one of the best offenses in the league. Their pitching on the other hand has major question marks. Chris Sale is out for the year (at least) with Tommy John surgery, David Price has been traded away, and Rick Porcello is on to the Mets.
Eduardo Rodriguez, the safest bet and presumed ace of the team now has coronavirus to top it all off. Rodriguez pitched well last year (19-6 record, 3.81 ERA, with 213 K's), especially in the second half of the year when he was lights out, but he will not be able to start on opening day, and no one really knows when he will be back. Nathan Eovaldi, the team's second starter, has major question marks around him. In 2018, Eovaldi was stellar in the Red Sox World Series run, but 2019 was a different story. Last year he played in 23 games (starting 12), and had a 5.99 ERA. He also dealt with a lot of injuries.
If you thought there were doubts about the top two though, meet the Red Sox next three starters! Martin Perez and Collin McHugh look like they will fill in the three and four slots, while the fifth day will most likely be a bullpen day. McHugh has been in the bullpen for the Astros for a while (the last season he started consistently was 2016), but he has done well. He's no ace, but if he manages to stay healthy and consistent this whole season, he could be a decent starter.
To be honest, Perez has never really been a very good pitcher. He boasts a career ERA of 4.72, which seems to be rising every year. Overthemonster.com reported that "Pérez used a new arsenal to induce a ton of weak contact last year and might need just a couple of tweaks to have the results follow." So maybe there is some potential. As far as the bullpen day goes, there are a bunch of possible pitchers. I would say Darwinzon Hernandez, Ryan Weber, and Brian Johnson are the three most likely to get significant time in those games.
As you can see, the Red Sox rotation, right now, looks like a very big weakness. The thing is though, they don't need this group to be stellar, because of how good their offense is going to be. Last season, the Sox offense scored the fourth most runs, and while that may decrease a bit, they honestly just need an average season by their pitching staff to get them into the postseason. The problem last year was that Boston gave up the 20th most points in the MLB.
As bad as the Red Sox starters were last year, it really wasn't them that let the team down. The top five players in games started are below:
The Red Sox bullpen was abysmal last season, and honestly, Alex Cora didn't manage them all that well. Their save percentage was 52%. That is shockingly low, and only Baltimore had a lower percentage in the American League. They also had the second highest ODR in the AL, which measures how many times a relief pitcher pitches on little rest. In addition, the percentage of times a Red Sox reliever made it at least three outs was the worst in the AL.
Brandon Workman, by far their best reliever last season (1.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 13.1 K/9), wasn't given opportunities to close until late in the year, when he was un-hittable ending games. Now you can kind of see what I am talking about with Cora. If new manager Ron Roenicke can lock in Workman as the closer, and Matt Barnes as the set up man on day one, this bullpen will be a lot more successful.
Like I said before, this rotation really just needs to be average, and keep the Sox in games. If even one of the starters beyond Rodriguez emerges and has a good year, it could push Boston into the playoffs. Personally, I think Nathan Eovaldi might just be the most important player to this team, because of how much his pitching will dictate their season.
As always, feel free to let us know your opinion in the comments below!