The Red Sox are going to the World Series, and they will be facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. This in itself is already incredible news because (knock on wood) the Red Sox have to be the favorite in that series for once. They were supposed underdogs, or at least even odds, against the Yankees and Astros but came out ahead anyways.
That’s another article waiting to be written. This one’s about other good news, involving a certain wildcard pitcher who could end up playing huge dividends for the Sox in this upcoming series, particularly if it ends up going 7 games: Steven Wright.
You might groan at the mention of his name. I get it. It’s hard to get behind a pitcher who had the domestic dispute controversy over the offseason. It’s hard to trust the knuckleball. It’s hard to trust a guy who threw all of 53 2⁄3 major-league innings this year. It’s hard to trust a guy with no postseason experience whatsoever. Still, Wright could be a potential X-Factor in this Red Sox bullpen if he makes the roster.
It’s no secret how I feel about the Sox bullpen. As far as traditional relievers, I only really trust Matt Barnes on a nightly basis. Craig Kimbrel may be back to that after it being revealed by Eric Gagne (of all people) that he was tipping his pitches. Ryan Brasier, for all my past complaints, has turned in a nice postseason himself and has cemented himself as at least the third best option on the depth chart. After that, it gets really fuzzy, really fast. You have Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who I absolutely do not trust under any circumstances (this post-season). Rodriguez is going to be a great pitcher for the next few years. I feel it. But this postseason he has seemingly contracted whatever David Price was sick with the past decade or so. Then you have Joe Kelly, who is either really good or really bad, with very little in between.
The point I’m trying to make here is that if a starting pitcher isn’t on the mound, I’m holding on to my butt. Chris Sale is back. David Price looks rejuvenated. Rick Porcello, despite his latest outing, has looked mostly solid. Nate Eovaldi is basically Pedro Martinez. That’s four starting pitchers. Steven Wright being another long man out of the pen only helps me relax a little bit more, and there are three really good reasons for that.
First is the fact that in a worst case scenario, where the Red Sox are being blown out, Wright can literally throw the rest of the game and preserve the pen for another day. He could possibly even pitch the next day, depending on how much he had to throw in this scenario. We’ve talked about the effects of the knuckleball on a pitcher’s longevity enough that I think it’s basically common knowledge that they can simply throw more pitches in a game than a non-knuckleball pitcher. Wright’s presence on the staff ensures that the good relievers don’t have to come in, and the bad ones can be better rested and be saved for a situation in which they can succeed.
Second, is the fact that he’s actually quite good. I know, unpredictability and what not, but hear me out here: Steven Wright has a career 3.77 ERA in the major leagues over 341.1 innings. It’s not going to sound sexy, but since 2013, Wright is 121st out of 289 pitchers with 300 innings pitched in that time frame. Names he’s ahead of? Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer, Joe Kelly, and Rick Porcello. Sure, it’s still a small sample size and this is the grandest stage, but he’s at least earned our attention. He’s gotten results more often than not when asked to this point, so we have no reason to discount him right now.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, he gives us the benefit of being able to go from a 102 mph Nathan Eovaldi fastball into a 76 mph Steven Wright knuckleball. We saw this used to great effect at the end of the regular season, and there hasn’t been enough time for anyone on the other side to get used to it yet.
From the first pitch, the Red Sox could have a tactical advantage that can be deployed at any time, for whatever reason, and for however long they want. These playoffs have already featured plenty of unlikely heroes. Nathan Eovaldi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Steve Pearce, and Sandy Leon (defensively, anyways) have all come up huge when the situation has called for it.
Why not Steven Wright?