NOTE: This article is being written based on the assumption that the Red Sox will either win the American League East or win the one-game Wild Card playoff. This is not a jinx. I knocked on wood, and jinxes don’t exist to begin with. Stop being paranoid.
After starting the season on the DL with an elbow injury, coming back, verballing assaulting Dennis Eckersley on the team plane, going on the DL again, and now rejoining the team, David Price is set to join the Red Sox bullpen for what is looking like the remainder of the season. As Sox fans know all too well, David Price has had tremendous playoff success when coming out of the bullpen, but that’s still not what John Henry shelled out $217 million dollars for him to come here and do. In 2016, he was paid to be their number 1 starting pitcher. In 2017, he was paid to be their 1-B behind Chris Sale. Regardless of what has happened in his past playoff starts, I still believe that the team would have been better off with a healthy David Price slated to go in a Game 2.
When David Price went down and everyone assumed that he was going to be out for the season following Tommy John surgery, which probably should’ve happened, the blow was softened exponentially by the fact that they had the 2016 AL Cy Young winner to fall back on as their number 2 starter. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly work out. It’d be nice to be able to sit back and say that his 4.64 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, but it kind of does. Although Porcello has enjoyed a few streaks of success this season, that doesn't negate the fact that he is just about as likely to give up 7 earned runs as he is to allow just 1. Would he get the ball in a potential Game 3? Maybe. But that would only be due to a lack of better options. When some guy the team claimed from the waiver wire at the end of June is your stiffest competition for the third sport in the playoff rotation, you know you’ve had a bad year.
The silver lining in all of this is that in the absence of David Price, a new number two starter on this staff emerged, and his name is Drew Pomeranz. Since his screaming match with John Farrell in Oakland on May 20th, Pomeranz has started 21 games. In those games, Pomeranz has pitched to the tune of a 2.74 ERA, averaged nearly 6 innings per start, and the team has gone 16-5. He will most definitely be the Sox number two starter going into the postseason, but is that really what we want? Sure, he’s had a great year and figured some stuff out, but that’s what we said about Rick Porcello last year. Remember what happened to him? When it comes to Pomeranz, I don’t know how to feel. Do I feel good about the the team's chances of winning when he takes the hill? Yes, but is he really the guy I want taking the ball in a crucial Game 2 with the Sox in need of a big start to tie the series at 1-1? Not particularly. Nonetheless, he is going to have to be that guy.
Now we have arrived at Game 3. If the Red Sox do indeed make it this far, John Farrell is going to have to pick his poison. Will it be Fister or Porcello? On one hand, Fister has had the better overall season, but he’s still Doug Fister. Any Indians/Astros hitter will be salivating over the thought of facing Doug Fister with the series hanging in the balance. Then again, the name Rick Porcello doesn’t quite strike fear in the hearts of opponents these days either. If Farrell chooses to go with the hot hand in Fister, he should not be shamed for it, even if it goes poorly. The same goes for a decision to start Porcello based on his higher ceiling and track record. Choosing one of these guys to start what could be your most important game of the season is the equivalent to playing Russian Roulette, and John Farrell just happens to be the one who has to spin the chamber.
To answer the question of whether or not I believe the Red Sox starting pitching will be a problem come October ,I am leaning towards yes. It’s extremely difficult for me to imagine a 3 game stretch against an elite offense in which Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, and Doug Fister/Rick Porcello all have good enough starts to make up for a Red Sox offense that tends not to show up when the lights shine the brightest. If the Red Sox don’t end up making it to the ALDS, this will all be irrelevant. Nevertheless, for the time being, this should be a concern for the team and its fans. Dave Dombrowski said it best at the WInter Meetings when he said, ”When you have the chance to win now, you do it”. This team has a chance to win now, so it’s simply a matter of doing it. We all just have to pray that their lack of pitching depth isn’t something that prevents them from doing so.