Unfortunately for Joe Kelly, Only The Good Cy Young— Ben Carsley (@BenCarsley) June 25, 2015
Boston Red Sox starter Joe Kelly predicted in spring training that he'd win the Cy Young Award. Tongue-in-cheek or not, it certainly looks bad now, as Boston sent him down to Triple-A with a 5.67 ERA in 14 starts. Kelly has sort of become the symbol for a struggling Red Sox team that has allowed the most runs in the American League.
But you know what? Joe Kelly has basically been Joe Kelly. It's just hidden by the bloated ERA. Here are his season-by-season ERAs since he first came up with the St. Louis Cardinals:
2014: 4.37 (St. Louis)
2014: 4.11 (Boston)
That looks like an inconsistent pitcher, good at times, mediocre at times, and bad in 2015. But check his year-by-year FIP -- Fielding Independent Pitching -- totals:
2014: 3.93 (St. Louis)
2014: 4.62 (Boston)
His peripheral numbers thus suggest a very consistent pitcher -- just one who isn't all that good, a bottom of the rotation guy, or maybe one best suited for the bullpen, where his 95-96 mph fastball maybe plays up a tick and his lack of command would be less of an issue. He's actually had a career-high strikeout rate this year but has given up a .313 BABIP (career average: .295) and has stranded just 63.7 percent of his baserunners (career rate: 73.7).
So Kelly has been Kelly and the Red Sox responded with a demotion. Maybe they simply expected more, that he would learn to pitch off his fastball. It just hasn't happened and with 400 innings now in the majors, it's likely not going to happen.
Of course, none of the pitching moves the Red Sox made have worked. After trading for Kelly last summer in the John Lackey deal (which also brought Allen Craig, who ended up being a waste of $27 million), Lackey is pitching for the Cardinals for $500,000 and has a 3.41 ERA. Free agent Justin Masterson, coming off a 5.88 ERA, lasted just seven starts with a 6.37 ERA. Wade Miley, acquired from the Diamondbacks, has a 4.50 ERA, although a 3.98 FIP that exactly matches his 2013 and 2014 FIP. They traded Yoenis Cespedes for Rick Porcello and then signed Porcello to a four-year, $82.5 million extension that kicks in next season. The Sox were buying into a career-best 3.43 ERA and 4.0 WAR. His strikeout rate is up a bit this season but his groundball rate -- Porcello's go-to result -- is way down, from 49 percent to 43.1 percent. As a result, his home runs are up and he owns a 5.61 ERA.
The Red Sox's pitching probably isn't this bad; the rotation has a 4.77 ERA but a 3.94 FIP. It's not as simple as saying they've pitched in "bad luck" of course. The Red Sox's defense is partially to blame, at minus-13 Defensive Runs Saved -- including a staggering minus-26 combined from just Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval -- and the team as a whole has the worst LOB percentage in the majors.
It's easy now to criticize general manager Ben Cherington for the moves in retrospect, so this isn't necessarily second-guessing. But Cherington's offseason hasn't panned out and the Red Sox appear headed to a third terrible season in four years.