The Red Sox Have Some Big Pitching Issues for 2022

A penny for the thoughts of any Red Sox fan when they read the news of Eduardo “E-Rod” Rodriquez’s departure this week. The pitcher is off to the Detroit Tigers, who offered Rodriquez a $77-million deal that the Red Sox seemed unwilling to match. E-Rod divided opinion among some fans, given his inconsistency, but he was a fine servant and a former 19-game winner.

But it leaves a hole in the Sox’ rotation that looks difficult to fill, especially given the assumption that the organization isn’t going to hunt down a starting pitcher for a bigger contract than $77 million. The irony is, as one reporter put it, Rodriquez is exactly the sort of player the Sox would be looking if he was pitching for someone else. At the time of writing, the Sox have three starters – Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and Nick Pivetta. And if FSG is penny-pinching, the consensus is that the Sox might simply move some of the relievers (Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock) into the starting rotation. Although, we should add that Houck did start several games in 2021.

Role of the starting pitcher has changed

And yet, there’s a problem with that. Over 100 years ago, Leon Cadore (Brooklyn Robins) and Joseph Oeschger (Boston Braves) pitched from start to finish across 26 innings to complete the longest baseball game in MLB history. Things have obviously changed since then, but it’s the rate of change in recent years that is startling.

As it was put here: It took 71 years for the average innings pitched by a starter to go from 7 to 6, but just 25 years to go from 6 to 5. The average of five innings is now fairly standard in MLB. Basically, we are talking about the decline of the starting pitcher as an “innings eater”. And that puts more pressure on the bullpen.

The point, then, is that the Red Sox don’t have the arms to fill the starting rotation if you believe in the principle of needing a strong starting rotation and a strong bullpen capable of gobbling up those innings once the starting pitcher is hooked. The former used to be more important than the latter, but the balance is changing.

FSG interested in acquiring NHL franchise

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Sox get aggressive in the offseason with trades and free agency. But the consensus is that they won’t be too ambitious. The organization is already near the luxury tax threshold, and even if FSG is said to be interested in taking over the Pittsburgh Penguins, few feel they will splash the cash on players.

All of this is doubly disappointing given the Red Sox surprisingly great 2021 season. Nobody really expected them to go to the postseason, but they dispatched both the Yankees and Rays with aplomb on their way to the ALCS. They lost the pennant to a superior team in the Astros, but there was enough there to say that the Red Sox could build for 2022.

Sportsbooks, who seem to have bought into the idea that the Sox aren’t buyers this offseason, don’t agree, though. They see (according to the odds, anyway) a team standing still at best. Unless something surprising happens, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.