Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (July 26, 2018 – Source: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox just pulled off a trade for former Tampa Bay Rays starter Nathan Eovaldi. Because of this, the Red Sox will need to send one of their current members of the rotation to the bullpen. While Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello aren’t going anywhere, the choice comes down to Drew Pomeranz and Brian Johnson. The Red Sox announced Johnson will move to the bullpen, at least in the short term, but that is the wrong move. Brian Johnson deserves the fifth starters spot, and Drew Pomeranz should move to the bullpen.
Brian Johnson Deserves the Fifth Starters Spot in the Rotation
The Case for Johnson
Brian Johnson has made six starts in 2018 and has put up a strong stat line in those performances. Johnson currently owns a fantastic 1.80 ERA as a starting pitcher and has given the Red Sox a chance to win every game he pitches. While he owns a less impressive 4.06 FIP and 7.2 K/9, those numbers are still plenty good for a fifth starter.
Johnson has basically given the Red Sox everything they could realistically hope for. While he doesn’t have elite “stuff” by any means, he’s a smart pitcher who’s able to maximize what little he has. He doesn’t go deep into games, but a lot of that is because of how he spent his season. For the grand majority of 2018, Johnson served as the team’s reliever. This means that his body wasn’t quite ready to throw 100 pitches in a single outing. While he’ll never consistently toss eight innings per appearance, he’s more than capable of getting through six innings while allowing three or fewer runs. In his most recent outing, Johnson threw 5.2 scoreless innings, which is everything you could hope for out of your fifth starter.
While Johnson is having something of a career year, Drew Pomeranz might be having his worst season. The Pomeranz who posted a 3.32 ERA and a 3.84 FIP in 2017 is nowhere to be found. Through nine starts in 2018, Pomeranz owns an ugly 6.91 ERA, 5.70 FIP, and a 4.97 BB/9 rate. He’s lacked command, velocity, and just about everything that made him great in 2017.
So Why are the Sox Choosing Pomeranz?
So if Johnson is clearly having the better season, then why is he moving to the bullpen? The answer to that lies in Pomeranz’ potential. There’s no denying that Pomeranz has a much better skillset than Johnson, and if he can find his game, will represent an improvement over Johnson.
However, this isn’t the time to wait for Pomeranz to find himself. Doing that in April and May is fine. It’s a long season, and some guys take some time before finding their form. When it’s July, you can no longer do that. The Red Sox are officially in the stretch run, and every game counts if they are to win the AL East.
Additionally, it’s not like Pomeranz still has his stuff but lost his control. His knuckle-curve has lacked its usual movement, and his velocity is notably down. His average fastball sits at 88.7, down from 91.3 in 2017. Either Pomeranz hasn’t been healthy all season or he’s off mechanically. Whatever it is, this isn’t something he can just work through.
Even if it is, the best way to bring back his velocity is through the bullpen. When pressed to only go one or two innings at a time, Pomeranz can put more on each pitch. Perhaps if he does this, he can find that 91 mph fastball again. This could make him effective in small doses, and a perfect fit as an early-inning arm in the bullpen.
Unfiltered Thoughts on Johnson and Pomeranz
Drew Pomeranz has shown the ability to be a good starting pitcher, but he hasn’t shown that form in 2018. With the Red Sox currently in the thick of the playoff race, Boston cannot afford to allow Pomeranz time to find his form.
Brian Johnson gives the Red Sox the best chance to win, plain and simple. He’s the better pitcher this yearT and deserves a spot in the starting rotation. Perhaps the Red Sox could re-evaluate things down the road if Pomeranz finds his velocity and Johnson struggles. However, unless that happens, Johnson has earned the right to stay in the rotation.