Who should start for this team in 2021?

nvalvo

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Speaking in Red Sox terms, the package Pittsburgh got for Taillon would be something like Mata, Ward, Rosario, and a version of Brainer Bonaci with more pop.

The teenaged SS Escotto seems like a pretty compelling piece, having hit 8 HR at 17 in the Dominican Summer League. That's more than a couple teams in that league most seasons. (Obviously a lot can happen once these guys get stateside, but that's an unusually appealing lottery ticket.) Bonaci is a top-20 prospect for Boston on the strength of being projected to stick at SS and having hit three HR as a 16 year old in the DSL.

That seems like a fair package given the totality of Taillon's circumstances, and a good way for NY to clear their 40-man crunch.

I also think that while Boston could have matched that package, I'm not sure it really makes sense for us to do so. We're not a Taillon away from WS contention over the next two seasons — that's a pretty decent description of the Yanks' circumstances, though — and I think I'd prefer six years of service time from Mata and Ward starting in 2022 or 2023 than I would Taillon for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
 

chawson

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I think the plan is to have some creative usage patterns, partly because of our patchwork staff and partly due to managing innings after a shortened season.

Here's the Sox pitching staff by handedness (expected wOBA '19-20, min. 10 IP):

v. RHB:
Ottavino: .250

Brice: .268
Andriese: .279 (.238 in 2020)
Brasier: .285
Weber: .286
Sale: .288
Houck: .288 (11 IP)
Richards: .291 (2020 only)
Rodriguez: .295
McCarthy: .298
Hernandez: .302
Taylor: .305
Valdez: .306
Barnes .308
Perez: .322
Eovaldi: .326
Walden: .330
Pivetta: .354 (.309 in 2020; .268 in 2018)
Brewer: .379

v. LHB:
Hernandez: .216
Barnes: .264
Taylor: .279
Perez: .282
Sale: .283
Houck: .292 (6 IP)
Rodriguez: .299
Walden: .311
Andriese: .313
Brewer: .314
Eovaldi: .323 (.271 in 2020)
Ottavino: .328
Valdez: .329 .(303 in 2020)
Richards: .337 (2020 only)
Pivetta: .352 (.327 in 2018)
McCarthy: .356
Brice: .359
Weber: .368
Brasier: .369

Some takeaways from this:
  • The Sox really need more multi-inning guys who pitch well against right-handed hitters. Richards and Andriese are perhaps our best weapons against them (I dropped Richards' 8 IP in late September 2019 as he was clearly building up arm strength). Whitlock should help there too.
  • Eovaldi's good 2020 was also unlucky. His final line against RHB last year was atrocious, due to a .431 BABIP against them in 2020.
  • Weber is kinda useful if used correctly!
  • Andriese really looks like an excellent pickup for the money
  • Pivetta's ‘19-20 numbers are nothing special but we want to get him back to 2018 form, so I listed those too.
[Edit 1/25: added Ottavino; 2/17: removed Springs and Mazza]
 
Last edited:

pokey_reese

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At this point, we are almost certainly looking at:

1.) Edro
2.) Eovaldi

And then probably

3/4.) Perez
4/3.) Richards

...but then the #5 slot could be any of

5a.) Pivetta
5b.) Houck
5c.) Seabold
5d.) Andriese
5e.) Whitlock

or even

5f.) Weber
5g.) Mata

Here are the FIP projections from a few systems:

Player ZIPS STEAMER PECOTA AVG
Matt Andriese 4.39 4.52 3.93 4.28
Garrett Richards 4.15 4.59 4.5 4.41
Garrett Whitlock 4.7 4.45 4.61 4.59
Nick Pivetta 4.74 5.05 4 4.60
Connor Seabold 4.5 5.02 4.42 4.65
Ryan Weber 4.86 4.87 4.38 4.70
Martin Perez 4.81 4.97 4.65 4.81
Tanner Houck 5.2 5.15 4.79 5.05
Bryan Mata 4.93 5.12 5.15 5.07


It seems like there are a few main questions to open the season (pending Sale's return):

How safe are the slots for Perez/Richards, and how long is the leash if they aren't among the top performers out of the gate?

Will the team open with a traditional 5-man rotation, or will there be some flexibility trying to get more guys looks out of the fifth spot early in the season?

Who do we think gets first crack at that 5th spot? It's incredibly crowded down there, so I have to assume that anyone they can put in AAA to start the year will be sent down at the end of camp, but that still leaves a lot of options until Sale comes back. Given that Weber was outrighted off the 40-man, and Mata is so young and untested, it seems very likely that those towo can be expected to start the season in AAA (maybe AA for Mata, depending on how they felt he did in the fake season last year).

Houck, Seabold, and Whitlock are all interesting in that they have some upside, but they are all a bit old for prospects (24/25) and have little to no ML experience, so they seem like a good bet to start in AAA, until we see who starts off hot should the need arise.

Andriese has the best projections and pedigree, but he could just be a multi-inning reliever, given that he hasn't started much in the last two years. Pivetta is intriguing, but also has the widest spread in his projections.

So it seems like the best bet is Edro/Eovaldi/Perez/Richards/Pivetta to me, but with Perez/Richards almost equally likely to either lose their slots if they underperform, or be traded at the deadline if they are decent and any of the Houck/Seabold/Whitlock group are killing it in the minors.

Am I missing anyone, or treating anyone as a starter that we think might be a long-man?
 

Rwillh11

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At this point, we are almost certainly looking at:

1.) Edro
2.) Eovaldi

And then probably

3/4.) Perez
4/3.) Richards

...but then the #5 slot could be any of

5a.) Pivetta
5b.) Houck
5c.) Seabold
5d.) Andriese
5e.) Whitlock

or even

5f.) Weber
5g.) Mata

Here are the FIP projections from a few systems:

Player ZIPS STEAMER PECOTA AVG
Matt Andriese 4.39 4.52 3.93 4.28
Garrett Richards 4.15 4.59 4.5 4.41
Garrett Whitlock 4.7 4.45 4.61 4.59
Nick Pivetta 4.74 5.05 4 4.60
Connor Seabold 4.5 5.02 4.42 4.65
Ryan Weber 4.86 4.87 4.38 4.70
Martin Perez 4.81 4.97 4.65 4.81
Tanner Houck 5.2 5.15 4.79 5.05
Bryan Mata 4.93 5.12 5.15 5.07




So it seems like the best bet is Edro/Eovaldi/Perez/Richards/Pivetta to me, but with Perez/Richards almost equally likely to either lose their slots if they underperform, or be traded at the deadline if they are decent and any of the Houck/Seabold/Whitlock group are killing it in the minors.

Am I missing anyone, or treating anyone as a starter that we think might be a long-man?
Whitlock was a rule 5 pick, so he will have to be on the major league roster all year if they want to keep him. Presumably that makes him a lock to be there if healthy, although they could also use him as a multi-inning reliever.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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At this point, we are almost certainly looking at:

1.) Edro
2.) Eovaldi

And then probably

3/4.) Perez
4/3.) Richards

...but then the #5 slot could be any of

5a.) Pivetta
5b.) Houck
5c.) Seabold
5d.) Andriese
5e.) Whitlock

or even

5f.) Weber
5g.) Mata

Here are the FIP projections from a few systems:

Player ZIPS STEAMER PECOTA AVG
Matt Andriese 4.39 4.52 3.93 4.28
Garrett Richards 4.15 4.59 4.5 4.41
Garrett Whitlock 4.7 4.45 4.61 4.59
Nick Pivetta 4.74 5.05 4 4.60
Connor Seabold 4.5 5.02 4.42 4.65
Ryan Weber 4.86 4.87 4.38 4.70
Martin Perez 4.81 4.97 4.65 4.81
Tanner Houck 5.2 5.15 4.79 5.05
Bryan Mata 4.93 5.12 5.15 5.07


It seems like there are a few main questions to open the season (pending Sale's return):

How safe are the slots for Perez/Richards, and how long is the leash if they aren't among the top performers out of the gate?

Will the team open with a traditional 5-man rotation, or will there be some flexibility trying to get more guys looks out of the fifth spot early in the season?

Who do we think gets first crack at that 5th spot? It's incredibly crowded down there, so I have to assume that anyone they can put in AAA to start the year will be sent down at the end of camp, but that still leaves a lot of options until Sale comes back. Given that Weber was outrighted off the 40-man, and Mata is so young and untested, it seems very likely that those towo can be expected to start the season in AAA (maybe AA for Mata, depending on how they felt he did in the fake season last year).

Houck, Seabold, and Whitlock are all interesting in that they have some upside, but they are all a bit old for prospects (24/25) and have little to no ML experience, so they seem like a good bet to start in AAA, until we see who starts off hot should the need arise.

Andriese has the best projections and pedigree, but he could just be a multi-inning reliever, given that he hasn't started much in the last two years. Pivetta is intriguing, but also has the widest spread in his projections.

So it seems like the best bet is Edro/Eovaldi/Perez/Richards/Pivetta to me, but with Perez/Richards almost equally likely to either lose their slots if they underperform, or be traded at the deadline if they are decent and any of the Houck/Seabold/Whitlock group are killing it in the minors.

Am I missing anyone, or treating anyone as a starter that we think might be a long-man?
I think pretty much by default the first crack at the fifth spot has to be Pivetta. He's out of options and it's probably better to have him stretched out early and if it doesn't work he can go to the pen then vice versa. Houck and Seabold start in Worcester and Whitlock (if he sticks) and Andriese are in the pen.

I expect them to go with a sort of six man rotation by mixing in an opener/bullpen game once a week. Andriese and Whitlock could log some innings that way to be in a position to step into the rotation if need be, though with Whitlock coming off Tommy John and being a Rule 5 guy, they may limit his appearances until he shows something.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Eno Sarris at The Athletic had an article about starting pitchers geared towards fantasy baseball the other day, but one thing that was interesting on it and relevant to the Sox is the inclusion of an injury-likelihood percentile:
Russell Carleton once found that past injury predicts future injury to some extent, but Twins’ executive Josh Kalk once showed that velocity drop, release point changes, and zone percentage could help predict in-game injury. Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs has furthered that research by combining elements of those pieces of research, and he’s rolled that up into injury percentiles, represented below as DL%. Important to note, it’s not the percentage likelihood that the player gets hurt, it’s the percentile rank when put up against other pitchers.
https://theathletic.com/2368220/2021/02/05/sarris-2021-fantasy-baseball-starting-pitcher-rankings-from-jacob-degrom-to-joey-lucchesi/
There is one starting pitcher in the 100th percentile on the list establishing the standard for highest risk: Garrett Richards. It was always going to be difficult finding a way to keep everyone healthy after a 60-game season, but with the rotation already having injury risks / players returning from injury, we'll probably end up seeing every one of the potential starters mentioned throughout this thread and more by the end of the year.

For what it's worth, Sox starters and their (terrifying) injury risk percentiles from the above article:
  • 100th percentile: Garrett Richards
  • 98th percentile: Nathan Eovaldi
  • 88th percentile: Chris Sale
  • 76th percentile: Martin Perez
  • 58th percentile: Eduardo Rodriguez
  • 23rd percentile: Nick Pivetta
  • 8th percentile: Tanner Houck
 

pokey_reese

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I think pretty much by default the first crack at the fifth spot has to be Pivetta. He's out of options and it's probably better to have him stretched out early and if it doesn't work he can go to the pen then vice versa. Houck and Seabold start in Worcester and Whitlock (if he sticks) and Andriese are in the pen.

I expect them to go with a sort of six man rotation by mixing in an opener/bullpen game once a week. Andriese and Whitlock could log some innings that way to be in a position to step into the rotation if need be, though with Whitlock coming off Tommy John and being a Rule 5 guy, they may limit his appearances until he shows something.
I think you are right with the bolded, it is probably the best way to maximize the potential innings from those guys, provide flexibility and protect everyone on the ML roster, and help stretch guys out after a weird season until we have a better sense of who is going to be good.
 

Kliq

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We still are not quite sure what to expect in regards to spring training and how these guys are going to ramp up, so I am expecting a six man rotation and a heavy amount of openers for at least the part of the season.

As Tuff Ghost shows above (the IL percentile is a really cool tool) the Red Sox have assembled a rotation that is almost comically injury-prone. It feels like they are counting on Eduardo a lot, but even if before COVID/his heart condition, he wasn't necessarily the beacon of health and missed time every year except for 2019. Richards really can't be counted on at all; Eovaldi has a very long injury history and Pivetta hasn't pitched a full season in three years. That doesn't even get into Sale.

I think there is a very good chance that the Red Sox are using an opener for 2-3 normal spots in the rotation at some point this season.
 

chawson

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We still are not quite sure what to expect in regards to spring training and how these guys are going to ramp up, so I am expecting a six man rotation and a heavy amount of openers for at least the part of the season.

As Tuff Ghost shows above (the IL percentile is a really cool tool) the Red Sox have assembled a rotation that is almost comically injury-prone. It feels like they are counting on Eduardo a lot, but even if before COVID/his heart condition, he wasn't necessarily the beacon of health and missed time every year except for 2019. Richards really can't be counted on at all; Eovaldi has a very long injury history and Pivetta hasn't pitched a full season in three years. That doesn't even get into Sale.

I think there is a very good chance that the Red Sox are using an opener for 2-3 normal spots in the rotation at some point this season.
I might push back a little on the idea that Richards can't be counted on next year. He's had two very major injuries -- a torn patellar tendon in 2014 and elbow surgery in 2018, which he unsuccessfully tried to rehab for nearly two years before finally succumbing to the knife. That turned out to be a pretty bad career move in hindsight, and making 31 starts over 4 seasons looks very rough. He acquitted himself pretty well in the health department all things considered (and finished with the 15th highest avg. mph fastball in MLB), but his innings were always going to be limited after logging essentially no time on the mound in 2019. He averaged 96-97 in his first start (7/26) and that dipped to 93-94 in the last start (9/13) before he moved to the bullpen, so the extra day's rest a 6-man rotation affords will probably help him a lot in 2021.

Overall, I think I'd prefer a 32-year-old pitcher like Richards whose injury history is TJ and one other freak accident than a guy with chronic recurring arm injuries like Eovaldi. Also, I think Pivetta's stuff has been more mechanical, not necessarily injury-related. But the point is correct -- it's a very injury-prone staff. At least we open up a spot on the 40-man if someone's arm falls off.
 

Kliq

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I might push back a little on the idea that Richards can't be counted on next year. He's had two very major injuries -- a torn patellar tendon in 2014 and elbow surgery in 2018, which he unsuccessfully tried to rehab for nearly two years before finally succumbing to the knife. That turned out to be a pretty bad career move in hindsight, and making 31 starts over 4 seasons looks very rough. He acquitted himself pretty well in the health department all things considered (and finished with the 15th highest avg. mph fastball in MLB), but his innings were always going to be limited after logging essentially no time on the mound in 2019. He averaged 96-97 in his first start (7/26) and that dipped to 93-94 in the last start (9/13) before he moved to the bullpen, so the extra day's rest a 6-man rotation affords will probably help him a lot in 2021.

Overall, I think I'd prefer a 32-year-old pitcher like Richards whose injury history is TJ and one other freak accident than a guy with chronic recurring arm injuries like Eovaldi. Also, I think Pivetta's stuff has been more mechanical, not necessarily injury-related. But the point is correct -- it's a very injury-prone staff. At least we open up a spot on the 40-man if someone's arm falls off.
A guy that has not thrown more than 76 innings in a single season in six years is basically the definition of somebody you can't count on. It's fine for the Red Sox take a chance on a short-term deal for him with the hopes that he is finally healthy, and you can be bullish on his ability to pitch well in 2021, but there is no way you can really pencil him in for 150+ innings.
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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"Six man rotation" and "openers" sound like the ingredients of a real recipe for mediocrity. The first gives lots of innings to basically replacement level players, while the later is going to tax a bullpen that is likely to be overused and not-that-good-in-the-first-place. Of course, with the potential for injury on this pitching staff, medicocrity might be all we can aspire to this season.
 

CaptainLaddie

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"Six man rotation" and "openers" sound like the ingredients of a real recipe for mediocrity. The first gives lots of innings to basically replacement level players, while the later is going to tax a bullpen that is likely to be overused and not-that-good-in-the-first-place. Of course, with the potential for injury on this pitching staff, medicocrity might be all we can aspire to this season.
I mean, the Rays did this last year and made it to the World Series (11 games started games in a 60 game season). They won 96 games in 19 (17 guys started games) and 90 games in 18 (14 guys started games) with this approach.
 

Kliq

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I mean, the Rays did this last year and made it to the World Series (11 games started games in a 60 game season). They won 96 games in 19 (17 guys started games) and 90 games in 18 (14 guys started games) with this approach.
In addition to that just being a very boring approach to baseball, the Rays had much better starters and a much better bullpen.
 

joe dokes

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"Six man rotation" and "openers" sound like the ingredients of a real recipe for mediocrity. The first gives lots of innings to basically replacement level players, while the later is going to tax a bullpen that is likely to be overused and not-that-good-in-the-first-place. Of course, with the potential for injury on this pitching staff, medicocrity might be all we can aspire to this season.
As with "bullpen by committee," any pitching staff that has enough good pitchers and a competent manager will succeed. Replacing the likes of Stock, Sprngs, Hart and Godley with guys who aren't completely awful will help no matter the structure. Put a reasonable facsimile of ERod on last year's team and they're probably better than 500.
I think they have more better pitchers this year.
 

CaptainLaddie

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In addition to that just being a very boring approach to baseball, the Rays had much better starters and a much better bullpen.
That’s fair. I actually don’t think the opener is boring. I like when baseball does things that differ from their typical ways.
 
Dec 28, 2015
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Why are we talking about starting Houck in Worcester after his September numbers: 3 starts, 3 wins, .53 ERA, .882 WHIP, and 21 SO's in 17 IP? It's a small but brilliant sample that should earn him a starting position assuming he has a decent spring training. Sure, he has options and they need to see what the new guys can do, but we can assume - given their injury histories - that there are going to be some veterans on the disabled list at the outset. Better to start Houck than to reward him by sending him down.
 

nvalvo

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Why are we talking about starting Houck in Worcester after his September numbers: 3 starts, 3 wins, .53 ERA, .882 WHIP, and 21 SO's in 17 IP? It's a small but brilliant sample that should earn him a starting position assuming he has a decent spring training. Sure, he has options and they need to see what the new guys can do, but we can assume - given their injury histories - that there are going to be some veterans on the disabled list at the outset. Better to start Houck than to reward him by sending him down.
May I make the case? (I know I've been beating this drum all off-season.)

1) Houck ambushed the AL last fall, but there is a clear weakness in his game. It's likely with his repertoire (almost like a mirror image Chris Sale) that he will be death on righties. But he needs to at least show a changeup or splitter to have something to keep lefties from getting too good a look at his fastball. His whole minor league track record shows that. He's worked on a changeup with little success, but reportedly showed success at the alternate site with a split. That could be the answer, but he didn't work that in much in his three starts in the fall. Someone might object: if he didn't need it in the fall, why does he need it at all? Going forward he will be extensively scouted, and will likely struggle to turn over a lineup if he tries to work as a two pitch pitcher. This is why a lot of the prospect publications still think he might end up a reliever. So the long and short of it is that he still needs to polish up the split in game settings in Worcester.

2) We need depth, especially depth with options remaining. A huge part of our struggles in 2019 and especially 2020 were that our roster was too top-heavy — classic Dombrowski stars and scrubs roster construction — especially on the pitching side. So when those stars got hurt, we had basically nobody with remaining options in the minors who could be brought up and sent back down, and so we just churned through a bunch of barely replacement level dreck. But we have it now, because of trades and signings and promotions. Given that four of our top six pitchers (including Sale) have health questions, one or two of the Houck/Mata/Seabold tandem will almost certainly get chances this season. Losing Nick Pivetta or Garrett Whitlock just because you want to Houck to break camp with the team seems short sighted to me.
 

joe dokes

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That’s fair. I actually don’t think the opener is boring. I like when baseball does things that differ from their typical ways.
I don't find it boring. But I do miss seeing the display of pitching skill it takes to get through a lineup 3 or 4 times. I didn't appreciate it when it was a regular occurrence. And now it's practically met with the same fanfare as a cycle.
 

Tuff Ghost

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1) Houck ambushed the AL last fall, but there is a clear weakness in his game. It's likely with his repertoire (almost like a mirror image Chris Sale) that he will be death on righties. But he needs to at least show a changeup or splitter to have something to keep lefties from getting too good a look at his fastball. His whole minor league track record shows that. He's worked on a changeup with little success, but reportedly showed success at the alternate site with a split. That could be the answer, but he didn't work that in much in his three starts in the fall. Someone might object: if he didn't need it in the fall, why does he need it at all? Going forward he will be extensively scouted, and will likely struggle to turn over a lineup if he tries to work as a two pitch pitcher. This is why a lot of the prospect publications still think he might end up a reliever. So the long and short of it is that he still needs to polish up the split in game settings in Worcester.
I agree, but hasn't Houck been more of a three-pitch pitcher so far? He looks to have an excellent slider and sinker, and a below average 4-seam fastball. I think it would be interesting to see him expand his usage of the sinker a bit and lessen the usage of his 4-seamer. But I do agree that it would be nice if he could develop the splitter into something useful.

His fastball does not have much movement, but his slider has great horizontal movement and his sinker has great vertical movement. Right now, the (lightly used) splitter is probably too much like a slower sinker, so it would be nice to have it develop as a distinct pitch.

Last season's 3 starts (using Savant):
Pitch Pitches Pitch % MPH ... Vertical Break vs Avg Horizontal Break vs Avg %
4-Seam Fastball 98 37% 92.8 mph ... -7.7" -2.2"
Slider 94 35.5% 82.2 mph ... +0.6" +6.5"
Sinker 65 24.5% 90.9 mph ... +8.6" +1.2"
Splitter 8 3% 87.1 mph ... +1.4" -0.8"

The sinker got pretty great results, obviously not a lot of swings and misses, but ground balls. In the 7 batted ball events on the sinker, there were zero hits and and an average launch angle of -2 degrees. He did also get three K's from it. The xSLG on the sinker was .198.

The slider is his swing and miss pitch (47% whiff percentage) and the sinker should induce plenty of ground balls. Another big question is if he can throw the slider and the sinker in the strike zone enough (33% for the slider, 37% for the sinker).

Below is an interesting discussion of his 4-seam fastball versus his 2-seam sinker from Fangraphs in 2019:
David Laurila: How would you describe the transition away from, and back to, your two-seamer?

Tanner Houck: “Honestly, [transitioning back] was just like riding a bike. It was getting back to my staple — back to who I am — and to how my career is going to be going forward. It was enjoyable. At the same time, not having thrown a four-seam in college, learning that side of the coin was really big for me. I’m still throwing one now, and it makes the two-seam that much better. Being able to ride a four-seam through the zone — not sink it — in certain counts has definitely helped. I’m able to give the hitter two different looks with relatively the same pitch.”

Laurila: What kind of movement do you get on your four-seamer?

Houck: “It has some arm-side run, but it’s not what you see from some of the higher-arm-slot guys, where the ball kind of lifts, where it looks like it’s flying upwards on hitters. Mine isn’t like that. It doesn’t look like it’s going straight up. As much as anything, it just stays straighter than my natural two-seam. That’s what results in hitters being fooled by it. Whereas my two-seamer has action downward with some arm-side run, my four stays up. It also has a little bit of arm-side run because of how low — how sidearm — I am.”
 

budcrew08

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Why are we talking about starting Houck in Worcester after his September numbers: 3 starts, 3 wins, .53 ERA, .882 WHIP, and 21 SO's in 17 IP? It's a small but brilliant sample that should earn him a starting position assuming he has a decent spring training. Sure, he has options and they need to see what the new guys can do, but we can assume - given their injury histories - that there are going to be some veterans on the disabled list at the outset. Better to start Houck than to reward him by sending him down.
That’s what I think too. Houck had a tremendous “tryout” against major league competition. I think he should be the five, at least to start.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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That’s what I think too. Houck had a tremendous “tryout” against major league competition. I think he should be the five, at least to start.
It's a numbers game, and as Theo Epstein used to say, it's all about deep depth. They have five guys for the rotation who are out of options (or are beyond the point where using their options is feasible, like with Richards). Houck's on the outside looking in for the time being. All it takes is one injury or setback and he's clearly in the mix to start the season in the rotation. But if all are healthy and ready to go, Worcester is where he's going to begin 2021.

If Bloom and company were convinced by Houck's "tryout" that he is a rotation lock, they'd have signed a starter to a minor league deal so he could be stashed in Worcester instead of signing Perez or Richards.
 

nvalvo

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It's a numbers game, and as Theo Epstein used to say, it's all about deep depth. They have five guys for the rotation who are out of options (or are beyond the point where using their options is feasible, like with Richards). Houck's on the outside looking in for the time being. All it takes is one injury or setback and he's clearly in the mix to start the season in the rotation. But if all are healthy and ready to go, Worcester is where he's going to begin 2021.

If Bloom and company were convinced by Houck's "tryout" that he is a rotation lock, they'd have signed a starter to a minor league deal so he could be stashed in Worcester instead of signing Perez or Richards.
...and given the group we have, it's pretty likely that he gets ten or fifteen starts this year.

I agree, but hasn't Houck been more of a three-pitch pitcher so far? He looks to have an excellent slider and sinker, and a below average 4-seam fastball. I think it would be interesting to see him expand his usage of the sinker a bit and lessen the usage of his 4-seamer. But I do agree that it would be nice if he could develop the splitter into something useful.
I was simplifying a bit. Multiple varieties of fastballs are indeed useful, but aren't expected to help with his primary deficit, which is a pitch that moves away from lefties.

In his tryout he did okay against lefties by throwing the slider at the back foot, and that can (and did!) work. The fear is just that once people see him for a second time, they're going to be able to lay off.
 

The Gray Eagle

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More talk about a 6-man rotation. They haven't decided yet, but they have discussed it:
https://theathletic.com/2397692/2021/02/18/red-sox-alex-cora-spring/
Coming off a 60-game season with a rotation that includes several pitchers with injury histories, Cora said he’s discussed the possibility of a six-man rotation with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, pitching coach Dave Bush, and with the training, medical and sport science staffs. He wasn’t ready to address it definitively, and instead wants to see how the first few weeks of camp play out, including how his pitchers — particularly Rodriguez — respond to bullpens and live batting practices.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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I’m not sure I buy that a 6-man rotation is the most rational approach. Pitching stress derives from frequency and intensity. I haven’t looked at recent studies, but you can find research showing both that pitching too frequently, without sufficient rest, is bad (i.e. increases the risk of injury), and that how intense the pitching is - high leverage situations, # of pitches in an outing - can also lead to injury. Maybe more current data points to frequency being a more significant problem, so giving an extra day of rest makes more sense. But if you do that, aren’t you also going to want your starters or bulk guys to go a little deeper when they do pitch? And doesn’t that potentially lead to more times facing the line-up for a third time? If you combine arm maintenance with pitching effectiveness/disaster avoidance (!), doesn’t it make more sense to stick with a 5-person rotation and cap each guy at 5 innings and/or 90 pitches?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I’m not sure I buy that a 6-man rotation is the most rational approach. Pitching stress derives from frequency and intensity. I haven’t looked at recent studies, but you can find research showing both that pitching too frequently, without sufficient rest, is bad (i.e. increases the risk of injury), and that how intense the pitching is - high leverage situations, # of pitches in an outing - can also lead to injury. Maybe more current data points to frequency being a more significant problem, so giving an extra day of rest makes more sense. But if you do that, aren’t you also going to want your starters or bulk guys to go a little deeper when they do pitch? And doesn’t that potentially lead to more times facing the line-up for a third time? If you combine arm maintenance with pitching effectiveness/disaster avoidance (!), doesn’t it make more sense to stick with a 5-person rotation and cap each guy at 5 innings and/or 90 pitches?
My guess is that they won't consistently deploy six starters each time through, but more likely sprinkle in a "6th starter" via an opener/bullpen game approach. That would give guys occasional extra days between starts but otherwise let them stick to the typical four days off. They can time it strategically so that the bullpen game comes against a weaker lineup or in a spot where a few guys have been taxed and could use the extra day.
 

Niastri

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My guess is that they won't consistently deploy six starters each time through, but more likely sprinkle in a "6th starter" via an opener/bullpen game approach. That would give guys occasional extra days between starts but otherwise let them stick to the typical four days off. They can time it strategically so that the bullpen game comes against a weaker lineup or in a spot where a few guys have been taxed and could use the extra day.
Or use them to extend an off day for the starting rotation. We have several guys who have the ability to go two or three innings, and a relatively deep group of potential swing men on option. A pretty good setup to give an extra day to a fragile rotation here or there. Or a skip in the rotation without a case of the Hellenic flu.
 

Dewey'sCannon

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I could envision them using a six-man rotation ostensibly by having six named starters (if they feel like they have that many who they can rely on), and then just skip the 6th man (or someone else if they need to be skipped) any time they have an off-day. This would let them keep most of the starters on a regular routine, pitching every 6th day (instead of every 5th).