The Boston Red Sox farm system is filled with talent, but that does not guarantee success for the minor league affiliates. In Brandon Magee‘s Salem Red Sox pitching review, he details the ups and downs of the High-A team’s 2015 season.
Salem had a schizophrenic year, six games over .500 in the first half, thirteen games under .500 in the second half. In our previous installment, we looked at the inconsistent offense. Today, we take a look at the pitching staff.
The Staff as a Whole
The overall numbers for Salem showed them to be on the wrong-side of mediocre in comparison to the rest of the Carolina League. The team ERA of 3.69 was the third worst in the league, while their WHIP of 1.29 was fifth best. Their 12 team shutouts and 38 saves were also right around the midpoint of the league. The pitchers were decent at avoiding walks and hit by pitches, allowing 419 walks and 48 HBPs — second fewest in the league. The team did give up the second most home runs in the league, allowing 73 long flies. The team did have one disastrous statistic, striking out only 847 batters, 74 fewer than any other team in the league.
But, like the offense, it was the four run mark that was the key to victory. In games where the pitching staff allowed three runs or fewer, the team went 56-14. In games where the pitching staff gave up four or more, the team went 10-59. There is certainly blame to go around on both sides of the ball, as the team lost nearly 70% of games when the pitching staff allowed only four runs, going 6-13.
The one thing the pitching staff had was consistency. While 22 pitchers took the bump for the Red Sox, this included pitchers who were on the roster for a very short period due to injury (Jacob Dahlstrand), further promotion (Joe Gunkel, Jorge Marban, Williams Jerez) or ineffectiveness (Denny Bautista). The core of the pitching staff was the same at the beginning and the end of the season, including a quartet of starters.
However, it was a pitcher who started out in Greenville and ended the season in Portland who was the star of the staff.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Aaron Wilkerson was an afterthought. Undrafted after college, he spent a year and a half in independent league baseball before being given a chance by the Red Sox last year. As a 25-year-old, he started eight games for the Lowell Spinners with a miniscule 1.62 ERA. But, at the beginning of the season, he was placed in the Greenville Drive bullpen. After five outings for the Drive which ranged from great to disastrous, Wilkerson was promoted to Salem where he was consistently excellent. In his first five outings, four of which were starts, Wilkerson allowed 2 earned runs in 25 innings. Wilkerson would go on to throw 79 innings for Salem in 17 appearances — five of which came out of the bullpen — before being promoted to Portland in August. Wilkerson ended his time in Salem with a 7-2 record, a 2.96 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while striking out 85.
Teddy Stankiewicz led the team with 141 1/3 innings pitched in 25 starts, putting up a 5-11 record with a 4.01 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. Stankiewicz gave up a few home runs (11) but not too many walks (32). But, what the 21-year-old really showed was the ability to go long into games. In 14 of his 25 games, Stankiewicz completed six innings. He also pitched into the sixth inning an additional five times. He showed the potential to be a shutdown starter, with two games where he shutout the opposition through seven and another where he shut down a team in eight complete innings.
Trey Ball has been written about endlessly. As a first round pick, he is supposed to be great right now. Alas, he is not. In 25 starts for Salem, Ball went 9-13 with a 4.73 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. He allowed a team-high 16 home runs and walked 60. He only struck out 77. However, Ball really had three distinct seasons. In April and May, he put up a 4.98 ERA in 47 innings. However, he failed to pitch into the 5th only once, had a six inning, no-hit, no-run game in April as well as a 5 1/3 inning no-run game in May. Ball then picked up three consecutive no-run appearances in the beginning of June, recording a 2.32 ERA in nine starts between June 4 and July 18. The last seven starts of the season were not good with an 8.16 ERA in only 32 innings, pitching beyond five innings only once.
Ty Buttrey started the season with four very good starts for the Greenville Drive before being promoted to Salem in early May. Like Ball and McAvoy, his season in Salem can be broken into parts. His first nine starts, covering May and June, were mostly stout, putting up a 2.54 ERA over 49 2/3 innings. In only one game did he fail to pitch five innings. In his first three starts in July, he went at least five innings in each game but allowed five earned runs in two of the games, leading to a 6.48 ERA. In his next five outings, he pitched well enough to lose, putting up a 2.86 ERA in 28 1/3 innings of work, but going 0-4. In his final four starts, Buttrey threw 21 innings but allowed 19 earned runs. For the season, Buttrey went 8-10 with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in 21 starts.
Kevin McAvoy picked up the most starts for the Red Sox, pitching 141 innings in his 26 starts. McAvoy was also the only one to post double-digit wins, going 11-9 with a 3.89 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. McAvoy kept the ball in the park, allowing only five home runs, but liked to give up walks, allowing a team high 71 free passes. The 22-year-old started the season impressively, putting up a 2.04 ERA in his first seven starts, all of which went at least five innings. He also ended the season strong, going 6-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his final eight starts, with all but the final start – on the final day of the season — going at least five innings. However, his eleven starts between May 21 and July 21 were not so fantastic with a 6.59 ERA while lasting less than five innings on three occasions.
Daniel McGrath had a 3.84 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 17 starts for Salem, pitching 84 ⅓ innings and striking out 71. While the overall numbers are impressive, his numbers when not coming back from injury were fantastic. In his first six starts of the year, McGrath put up an ERA of 1.80 while giving up only 12 hits in 30 innings. There may have been a hint of a problem, however, as he walked 18 before going on the disabled list. In his final four starts of the year, McGrath pitched to a 2.35 ERA in 23 innings of work, walking only three while giving up 14 hits. In his seven starts immediately after coming off the disabled list, McGrath put up a 6.89 ERA in 31 1/3 innings, giving up 46 hits and 16 walks.
Mike Adams saw the most games out of the pen, throwing 59 2/3 innings in his 35 appearances. Adams went 1-3 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, walking 18 while striking out 44.
Taylor Grover saw the most innings out of the pen, throwing 74 2/3 innings in his 34 appearances, going 2-2 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Grover walked 35 and struck out 61. Grover, who had a couple of disastrous appearances — ten earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on May 17 and five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on July 2 — allowed no earned runs in his final eleven appearances, allowing opposing batters to hit .096/.266/.096.
German Taveras was a good relief pitcher in half of his 30 relief appearances. In the other 15, he allowed 34 earned runs. Overall, Tavarez pitched 60 2/3 innings, going 4-4 with a 5.04 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Tavarez walked 35 and struck out 48.
Kyle Kaminska retired in 2013 after putting up a 7.18 ERA in six starts for the Red Sox organization. After sitting out all of 2014, Kaminska came back to the Red Sox this season. After a quick sojourn in Greenville, Kaminska pitched in 12 games for Salem, putting up 34 2/3 innings mostly in long relief(3 innings or more), putting up an ERA of 3.12 with a WHIP of 1.21. Kaminska walked only three batters while striking out 24. He finished his season in Portland.
James Shepherd started his first full season with the Red Sox in the Greenville Drive bullpen, but after seven strong outings, he was promoted to Salem. Shepherd kept the opposition off the scoreboard in 18 of his 28 total appearances and in 13 of his final 16 appearances. Over 52 1/3 innings, Shepherd recorded a 3.61 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while walking only seven and striking out 46.
Austin Maddox went 1-4 with 10 saves in 20 early season appearances for the Red Sox, before going on the disabled list to finish the year. In 26 2/3 innings, Maddox had a 3.71 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Maddox did not allow an earned run in 16 of his 20 appearances.
Brandon Show put in a single appearance for the Drive in May before making three appearances with Lowell in June. He was then promoted to Salem for the rest of the season. In his first six relief appearances, Show pitched 17 1/3 scoreless innings on ten hits and two walks. In his final six appearances, Show pitched 17 2/3 innings, allowing eleven runs on 23 hits and five walks.