Going into the 2015 season, the way it looked for Boston and New York was this:
- Boston's above-average hitting would balance out their average pitching and keep them as a favorite for winning the AL East.
- New York had too many question marks in their rotation and too many years on their players to compete.
The Sox are a game out of first at 10-9. They got their asses handed to them Sunday night in an 18-7 shellacking by the Orioles.
And their starting pitching, in a word, sucks.
Some want to immediately start throwing blame on Rick Porcello. At 1-2, and after signing that big pre-season deal, he is an easy target.
But the truth is that he hasn't been horrible. Outside of that bad April 19 start (5 innings, 12 hits, 8 earned runs) he hasn't pitched badly. Except in one area; home runs.
Porcello has surrendered six home runs so far, most for a pitcher in the AL. He averages between 16-18 a year, so he is far ahead of his usual pace. So this could be an anomaly. Or it could be adapting to a new catcher and a new park. But more than anything else, this is why Porcello has a 6.48 ERA.
The rest of the rotation has been mediocre at best. Wade Miley is a mess. More walks than strikeouts and only 15.2 innings pitched over four starts. That is how you get a 8.62 ERA. Masterson leads starters with two wins but his 5.16 ERA speaks of trouble. Buchholz, for all the crap he gets, has not been horrible. His first and fourth starts were actually quite good. But he was bad in the other two. Consistency continues to be a problem for Buchholz and at the age of 30 you have to wonder if he will ever find it. Joe Kelly has been decent enough as a fifth starter. But when your fifth starter has the lowest ERA of your rotation...not good.
The bullpen has also been a mess. Outside of Tazawa (who has looked great), every pitcher has blown an appearance or two. Which puts more pressure on the starters. And when they can't go six innings, that pressure goes back on the bullpen. It's a reinforcing cycle and when neither group is doing well, it makes things worse.
As for hitting, the supposed strength of the Sox...one-third of the starting lineup has a batting average under .200 and an on-base percentage of .302 or less. Mookie Betts' bat, much like Jackie Bradley's last year, has cooled off considerably. David Ortiz has a .705 OPS. Only Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia are really giving us the kind of performance we expect. Bogaerts and Sandoval are doing okay. Other than that the lineup is under-performing.
Meanwhile, in New York...look, Aviv usually writes these parts. I hate the Yankees with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. So it is really hard for me to write that the Yankees are in first and defying expectations. And the reason is a simple one...