The Red Sox Playoff Rotation Will Depend on Their Opponent

The Boston Red Sox have a good problem heading into the postseason. Boston has five quality starters, yet will only carry four starters during the postseason. The first two spaces are set in stone with team aces Chris Sale and David Price. The back of the rotation, however, is anyone’s guess. Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi are all fighting for two spots, with the third player going to the bullpen. This is obviously a difficult decision to make, so let’s take a look at the Boston Red Sox playoff rotation.

No clear best option

Rick Porcello started the season as the clearly established third pitcher in the rotation. Through the first three months of the year, Porcello owned a 3.60 ERA and a 3.48 FIP in 105 innings pitched. However, since the turn of July, Porcello owns a 5.23 ERA and a 4.73 FIP in 84.1 innings. He hasn’t been the same guy, and his spot in the postseason rotation is no longer secure.

Eduardo Rodriguez has continued to grow during his fourth year in the majors. Through 123.1 innings, Rodriguez owns a 3.79 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and a 1.27 WHIP. After missing roughly two months with an ankle injury, Rodriguez looks to be healthy heading into October. While the Red Sox made the postseason in both 2016 and 2017, Rodriguez has yet to make a postseason start.

Nathan Eovaldi joined the Red Sox at the trade deadline and has put up mixed results as both a starter and a reliever. As a starter, Eovaldi owns a 3.53 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and a 1.36 WHIP. While these numbers are really good for the back of the rotation, you have no idea what you’re getting from Eovaldi in any given start. In three of Eovaldi’s ten starts, he’s pitched six or more innings without allowing a run. In the other seven, he’s gone a combined 22.1 innings with a 6.85 ERA and a 4.54 FIP. Despite his average numbers, he’s yet to have an average start. He’s either amazing or terrible with very little in between.

Clearly, each player has their own positives and negatives. With no clear best option, the Red Sox should make their decision based upon their ALDS opponent.

If They Play the Yankees

Depending on the outcome of the Wild Card game, the Red Sox will either play the New York Yankees or the Oakland Athletics. Should they draw the Yankees, Nathan Eovaldi is a lock for the starting rotation. Eovaldi has dominated the Yankees since joining the Red Sox, tossing a combined 14 scoreless innings. Yankees hitters are posting just a .114/.188/.159 slash line against him. While his overall body of work has been inconsistent, he’s been dominant against New York.

This leaves Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez battling to take the last spot in the rotation. As previously mentioned, Porcello has struggled to find consistency ever since the start of July. That said, Porcello has pitched well against the Yankees this season. In 2018, Porcello has tossed 21.1 innings to the tune of a 2.53 ERA and a 2.92 FIP. This includes a masterful nine-inning, one run game back in August.

While Rodriguez’ season-long numbers look good, there is cause for concern with the young lefty. Rodriguez has struggled tremendously in 2018 when facing playoff-caliber teams.

Rodriguez has pitched a combined 23 innings against the Athletics, Yankees, Indians, and Astros. In those 23 innings, Rodriguez owns an ugly 7.04 ERA and a 6.72 FIP. Basically, he struggles whenever he faces good teams but is dominant whenever he faces the bad ones. Against the Yankees specifically, Rodriguez owns a 6.14 ERA and a 6.36 FIP in 14.2 innings pitched.

This is an admittedly small sample in which to make this assessment, but with results this drastic, they cannot be ignored. Should the Red Sox face the Yankees in the ALDS, look for Rodriguez to move over to the bullpen.

If They Face the Athletics

Of course, there’s always the chance that the Athletics emerge victoriously and travel to Boston for the ALDS. Nathan Eovaldi has yet to pitch against Oakland in a Red Sox uniform, but he did pitch against them earlier in 2018 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. Eovaldi pitched six scoreless innings against the A’s, striking out four batters while walking just one. Obviously, that’s only one outing, but it was a good one.

Likewise, Rick Porcello has pitched six innings against the Oakland Athletics in 2018. However, unlike Eovaldi, his six innings did not go so well. On the season, Porcello owns a 7.50 ERA, 5.84 FIP, and a 1.50 WHIP against Oakland. Granted, this all came in one game, so the sample size is small.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, pitched five innings against Oakland, allowing three runs, six hits, and no walks while striking out four. Again, small sample size, but the numbers aren’t good.

While Eovaldi has the best numbers against Oakland, these sample sizes aren’t large enough to make a solid assessment of who performs well against the Athletics. For this series, the Red Sox should start the guys who have been the best for them all season long, and that’s Porcello and Rodriguez. That said, manager Alex Cora should have Eovaldi ready at the first sign of trouble.

This article was originally published here at Red Sox Unfiltered.

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