Opening Day has finally arrived!
I have to admit. For some reason I wasn’t really feeling it this opener. Maybe it was having it the day after Easter. It sort of snuck up on me. But, then I saw the Red Sox post the line-up on Instagram.
That is a monster line-up. I know. It’s the one we’ve pretty much been assuming would be the regular line-up for a while now. But it just hit me today. Even if it’s missing Napoli. That’s the really scary part. For most of the season, you have to add Mike Napoli to the middle, and slide everyone else down. I know Xander might not have been an all-star last year. But, as a number eight hitter? You have to be excited about that.
Which is why there’s hope that the offense can make up for the not quite as stellar pitching staff. And, it’s important to refer to it as a pitching staff. It’s the combination of the rotation and the bullpen that’s important. In the olden days, something like a starting pitcher’s ERA might be important. But, those numbers really need to be scaled down a bit these days. Everyone keeps screaming about the mediocrity in the rotation. But, take an ERA like, say, 4.50. That’s pretty high. You see that and think, geez the Sox need to score five runs a game if they want to compete. But, that’s not actually true. That starting pitcher is probably not going nine innings. So, his ERA is actually scaled higher. That 4.50 ERA is actually a quality start. That’s giving up three runs in six innings. So, if the starter goes his six innings, and gives up three runs, it’s now in the bullpen’s hands. So, for the seventh you bring in a reliever with, say, a 4.00 ERA. That means on average he gives up less than a half a run an inning. So, even a terrible reliever is probably going to pitch a scoreless inning. The same for the eighth and ninth. So, really, even if you keep trotting out mediocre pitchers, they’re not giving up as many runs as it may seem. I’d also assume that if the Sox have a lead, they wouldn’t be trotting out many mediocre pitchers. I’ll assume that even if the bullpen as a whole isn’t very impressive, they’ll find two or three guys who can lock down the 7-8-9 innings. Or at least keep from getting away. Now we’re looking at the offense needing to score four runs to win. Maybe less. But, four runs a game for this line-up isn’t a crazy idea at all.
So, if you look at the pitching staff as a bunch of individual segments, it looks a lot better. Suddenly the team’s construction makes more sense. Oh, sure, there will be some 8-7 wins. And, even some 9-7 losses. And, there will be 5-4 wins and 5-4 losses. But, I like the chances of the Red Sox ending up on the high end of a lot of those scores. Which means this should be a very exciting year.
I can’t wait to see it unfold.