The Boston Red Sox finished with the fourth worst record in baseball in the abbreviated 2020 season. The team was well short of a playoff spot but the World Series matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays exposed the biggest flaw that stands between the Red Sox and another run at a championship – good, young pitching. The series also highlighted a glimmer of hope for Red Sox Nation moving forward.
The Dodgers closed out the 2020 World Series defeating the Rays in game six by a final of 3-1 to win their first title since 1988. Los Angeles showcased their offensive skill and the Rays featured the young talent of their lineup, but pitching was the clear key for both teams in this series.
Despite the Red Sox ability to put runs on the board in 2020 – ranking in the top half of the league in runs, home runs and RBI while finishing second in hits and doubles – the void in the pitching staff became even more evident throughout this year’s World Series.
The Dodgers were led this season by the young arms of Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Brusdar Graterol – not to mention the veteran presence of Clayton Kershaw. These six pitchers combined for a 2.80 ERA in the regular season with a 0.960 WHIP.
The Rays top-six arms include Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Ryan Yarbrough, Nick Anderson and Diego Castillo. This group featured a combined 2.97 ERA and 1.077 WHIP this season.
Pitching has become the key to winning in October and it was on clear display this season. The Red Sox currently find themselves miles apart from these two rosters in terms of elite pitching talent. The most consistent pitchers on the roster this season were Martin Perez who posted a 4.50 ERA and Phillips Valdez who led the team in ERA at 3.26.
Developing young pitchers has been the Achilles heel of the Red Sox organization for a long time. The two most notable pitchers that the team has drafted and developed include Jon Lester who was drafted in 2002, and Clay Buchholz who was drafted in 2005. The success of both the Dodgers and the Rays in this department bodes well for the Red Sox moving forward, however.
Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman is an offshoot of the Rays organization, who develops young pitchers as well as anybody in baseball. Some of the pitchers to come up through Tampa include James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Archer, Snell and now Glasnow who they identified and acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Friedman has taken what the Rays did so well and brought it out west. Since joining the Dodgers in 2014, the team has drafted or brought in May, Buehler, Urias and Graterol. The reason this track record weighs so heavily on the Red Sox is that their current Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom also hails from the Rays organization.
If the team has any hope of returning to the postseason any time soon, they need to hope that Bloom can work the same magic that Friedman has in Los Angeles and the Rays have for so long. It doesn’t matter how much offensive talent and team has if they don’t have the pitching to back it up. Bloom was left in a tough spot in his first offseason in Boston as he was tasked with trading Mookie Betts, but it will be interesting to see how he handles himself ahead of 2021 after having a year of experience under his belt.