First Annual Pawtucket Red Sox Pitching Review

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The Pawtucket Red Sox season did not go as well as the team had hoped. The team was picked apart by call ups and had to rely on players that weren’t up to the challengeBrandon Magee has his first annual Pawtucket Red Sox pitching review.

While the amazingly poor offense played a large part in the misfortunes of the Pawtucket Red Sox’ lost season, there is enough blame to pass around. While the pitching staff was certainly better overall than the offense for the PawSox, they were not the paragons of perfection that were needed to save the season.

The Pitching Line

The PawSox staff ranked 9th out of 14 in the International League in ERA, putting up a 3.73 ERA for the season. The team’s WHIP was tied for 8th at 1.31, but were within a very tight cluster for the entire league (Norfolk led the league with a 1.24 WHIP, Toledo and Lehigh Valley were last at 1.45). The PawSox allowed the fourth fewest hits, were seventh in home runs allowed, had the third most hit by pitches and the fourth most walks. The PawSox were also seventh in strikeouts with 1013.

The team completed the second fewest team shutouts with seven and unsurprisingly had the fewest saves with 29.

With 33 pitchers and two position players taking the mound during the 144 game season, there was no obvious choice for pitcher of the year. 19 different pitchers, from Rick Porcello to Rich Hill, from Michael McCarthy to Miguel Celestino, made at least one start for the PawSox. 24 different players, from Quintin Berry and Jeff Bianchi to Noe Ramirez and Jorge Marban, were the last pitcher standing. Only two pitchers saw action in as many as 30 games, only three pitched over 100 innings.

Pitcher of the Year

Brian Johnson had a strange end of the year, throwing four pitches on July 29, coming back a week later to throw 87 pitches in five innings of work, being called up to Boston where he failed to make his major league debut until two weeks after his last game, going 4 ⅓ innings. A week later, he was back in Pawtucket where he threw 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. On August 2, he would come out of the game after 4 innings due to elbow issues. It would be his last game of the year.

But his strange final month should not obscure the work he accomplished over the entire course of the season. In 18 starts, Johnson went 9-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. In 96 innings, Johnson allowed only 74 hits while striking out 90. He was the second of the Red Sox trio of lefties to make their major league debut this season.

The Starting Starting Staff

Henry Owens had an intriguing year in his 21 starts for the Pawsox, putting up a 3.16 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP over 122 1/3 innings. Owens led the team in both strikeouts (103) and walks (56), while allowing 84 hits. But Owens, who turned 23 during the season, showed tremendous progression. In his first six games, Owens walked 25 batters in 31 innings, allowing multiple walks in every game. In his next six games, he walked 17 in 33 1/3 innings, twice allowing only a single walk in a game. Over the final nine starts of his AAA season, Owens only allowed 14 walks over 58 innings of work, allowing no more than a pair in each game.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched in eight games for the PawSox before a one-game call up became his one way ticket to paradise. Rodriguez went 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in his 48 ⅓ innings of work.

Matt Barnes took many trips on the Pawsox Shuttle… as well as between the starting rotation and the mound. An original part of the Pawsox rotation, Barnes saw five starts amongst his 17 total pitching appearances, putting up a 4.06 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in his 37 2/3 innings pitched.

The knuckleballing Steven Wright started the year in Boston, but saw eight starts for the PawSox in his up and down year. Wright went 2-5 with a 3.81 ERA in 52 innings of work.

Keith Couch’s first AAA experience was in Game 5 of last year’s Governors’ Cup Final, a game where he went 6 2/3 innings and picked up the win that brought the Cup back to Rhode Island. The 25-year old’s first full season was a total reversal of that game. Couch went 4-10 with a bloated 6.14 ERA and an overloaded 1.62 WHIP in a team high 124 2/3 innings. Couch, who was sent to the pen late in the season, allowed 152 hits, a team high eleven homers, walked 50 and only struck out 62. He also hit six batters. It was a year to forget for Couch.

We Are the Bullpen

Noe Ramirez had a fine first season in AAA, earning a spot on the Pawtucket Shuttle. In 30 relief appearances, Ramirez put up a 2.32 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, going 4-1 with three saves. Noe struck out 38 in 42 2/3 innings.

Heath Hembree also was a frequent shuttle patron, pitching 29 games and 31 2/3 innings for the PawSox. Hembree put up a 2.27 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, striking out 32 and picking up a team-high eight saves… but also was saddled with five losses.

Starting the year in AA Portland, Jonathan Aro was moved up to Pawtucket after 22 1/3 innings of work for the Sea Dogs. Aro pitched an additional 51 2/3 innings in 26 relief appearances for the PawSox, putting up a 3.14 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP while striking out 53 and eventually joining the PawSox Shuttle.

Also starting the year in Portland was Dayan Diaz, who was brought to Pawtucket after appearing in nine games for the Sea Dogs. Diaz put up a fine 1.89 ERA in 28 games out of the pen, striking out 49 in 57 innings. Diaz did have a somewhat inflated WHIP of 1.32 due in large part to 28 walks.

Pat Light made the switch to the bullpen this season in Portland, getting called up to AAA after putting up a 0.98 WHIP in 29 2/3 innings for the Sea Dogs. Pawtucket proved to be much more difficult for Light, putting up a 5.18 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in 33 innings and 26 appearances. His lack of control, in particular, came back to haunt him as he walked 26 in Pawtucket after only walking eleven in AA.

The Swingmen

In his first season for the Red Sox organization, Zeke Spruill filled whatever role was asked of him, throwing 114 1/3 innings in 35 appearances. Spruill started the season as a late inning reliever, was stretched out to become a multi-inning specialist and at the end of June became a part of the starting rotation. Although he went 1-8 as a starter, his ERA of 3.81 and WHIP of 1.39 were both slightly lower than those stats as a reliever – 4.21 and 1.60 respectively – despite going 4-2 out of the pen.

Jess Todd had pitched strictly out of the bullpen since the 2009 season. However, he was tasked with starting 13 games in his 21 appearances for the PawSox. In 70 innings as a starter, Todd put up an ERA of 4.76 and a WHIP of 1.37. In his nine games in relief, Todd was much worse, putting up an ERA of 6.94 and a WHIP of 2.31. Todd’s season ended on the disabled list with triceps tendonitis.

The Starters to End

Edwin Escobar had a rough season, being placed on the major league disabled list with elbow inflammation at the end of spring training. Once he arrived in Pawtucket in mid-June, Escobar was utilized with great care and with an eye on the pitch count, throwing out of the bullpen in his first twelve appearances for the PawSox. In August, however, he was transferred to the starting rotation where he made seven starts down the stretch. In his seven games as a starter, Escobar put up a 3.77 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in 31 innings. In his 13 relief appearances, Escobar pitched 19 ⅔ innings with a 6.86 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP. In both roles, however, Escobar walked more batters than he struck out.

William Cuevas was the Eastern Division starter for the Eastern League All-Star game, throwing nearly 100 innings in Portland before being given the promotion to Pawtucket. Cuevas picked up an additional 41 innings for Pawtucket in seven starts, going 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP, striking out 37.

Shawn Haviland saw six starts for the PawSox down the stretch, going 1-5 with a 4.17 ERA. Rich Hill was rescued from the Atlantic League and went 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA in his five starts for the PawSox. His work for the Pawsox was enough to give Hill a promotion back to the Major Leagues, where he enjoyed his first major league starts in six seasons. In his two starts for Boston, Hill has pitched 14 innings, allowing only 3 runs on 8 hits and a walk while striking out ten in each game.

*Click here for the PawSox team recap and offensive recap.

Brandon Magee is our resident minor league expert, but has also written about, Ben Cherington’s departure, the mishandling of injuries by the Red Sox, interim bench coach Dana LeVangieBROCK HOLT!, undrafted free agents, the home run king Mike Hessman, the Misadventures of Media Magee, and an interview with Trenton Kemp.

Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.

Check out Tom Wright’s Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres elimination articles.

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