Every year around this time you start to hear the MVP debates start to form. In my opinion, this is both an incredibly obnoxious part of the calendar as well as a fascinating one. The debate is always around the definition of the word valuable. Some, myself included, feel that the best player is the most valuable. There is nothing more valuable to a baseball team than being extremely good at baseball. The other side of thinking believes that value is tied to a player’s team’s winning percentage. It’s not a position I align myself with, but I understand it. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I’m not sure what to call Drew Pomeranz with respect to his importance to the Red Sox. I wouldn’t call him the most valuable player on the Red Sox — Chris Sale still exists, after all — but I think I’m comfortable calling him the key to the team’s success in 2017.
The numbers alone tell the story of how effective Pomeranz has been for the Red Sox. The southpaw has been easily the second best starter in the rotation for almost the entire season. He has tossed 127 1⁄3 innings over 23 starts and has a 3.39 ERA to go with a 3.72 FIP and a 3.86 DRA. There have been some walk issues at times, but they haven’t been overly extreme and he’s paired them with over a strikeout per inning.
It’s not just the numbers that have been so important for Pomeranz, though. In his second year in Boston, the lefty has also found a remarkable consistency that has been a welcome addition to both his performance and the performance of Boston’s rotation as a whole. Putting forth elite-level starts every time out is the goal for every starter, but not everyone is Chris Sale. Instead, simply giving the team a chance to win every time out is a worthwhile goal. Pomeranz has done exactly that in 2017, allowing fewer than four runs in all but four of his 23 starts on the year. There have been some problems with efficiency at times, but in just about every start Pomeranz has left with the Red Sox in a relatively good spot.
All of this has been particularly important because of the rest of the team, and more specifically because of the rest of the rotation. If you recall, Pomeranz was the fifth starter — at best — coming into the season. Sale was supposed to be the top guy in the rotation, and he’s somehow surpassed those expectations. However, behind him the pitchers have struggled. Rick Porcello hasn’t been anything close to the guy he was in his Cy Young campaign a year ago. Though he’s been coming around lately, he hasn’t been the top-of-the-rotation arm many of us were hoping he’d developed into. David Price was supposed to be the second ace, but between injuries and inconsistent performance he hasn’t been that. There is still some hope that he can recover and be that guy late in the season and potentially in the postseason, but it hasn’t happened on a consistent basis yet. Eduardo Rodriguez has also shown great flashes this year, but his inconsistency has prevented him from being a true cog in this rotation.
On the whole, Boston’s starting pitchers have been very good. They have one of the deepest rotations in the game and it is a huge reason they find themselves atop the American League East. That being said, a rotation of this caliber can really only survive if there are two reliably consistent guys at the top. Pomeranz has come out of nowhere to be that guy. As the Red Sox approach the postseason, that number two pitcher becomes even more important in a short series. Price is still an option to fill that role if his elbow heals quickly enough, but the Red Sox have been fortunate enough to have Pomeranz step up and take that role. They’d probably still be in the thick of the playoff race without him pitching like this, but the way he’s pitched has allowed them to separate themselves from the cluttered American League and take a firm position as one of the best teams in the league.