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Drew Pomeranz and his underrated steadiness

The lefty being back is a big deal

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are doing everything well right now, and that includes pitching well. The starters have been handed a whole lot of early leads, and they’ve refused to cough them up. Through Wednesday’s action, their rotation leads all of baseball with a 1.91 ERA (that is wild) and they also top the FIP leaderboard with a 2.59 mark. They are striking batters out, limiting walks and keeping opponents in the yard. Everyone has been participating in this, too, as there’s really only been one or two starts that weren’t amazing so far this year. The top-end arms in Chris Sale and David Price have been great, the mid-rotation arms in Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have ranged from fine to great, and the depth options in Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez have been more than we ever could have asked for. Simply put, it is not a group that needs much help at the moment. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept it, though, and they’ll get some on Friday when Drew Pomeranz returns from the disabled list to make his first start of 2018.

It’s now been about a year and a half (in baseball terms, at least) since Pomeranz has joined the Red Sox, and the perception of him is still in sort of a weird place. It’s hard to beat first impressions, and the lefty had a rough start to his Red Sox career that was paired with being brought in via a trade that many people disagreed with at the time. To put it simply, people were ready for Pomeranz to fail relative to expectations, and he did just that for his first few starts. However, all it was was simply a few bad starts and beyond that he’s been one of the more steady and underrated pitchers in all of baseball for a few years running. Make no mistake that it is a very good thing that the lefty is going to be back in the Red Sox rotation, and it’s not at all unreasonable to think that he’s the third-best starter in this rotation despite the start that Porcello has gotten off to.

MLB: ALDS-Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Consider the numbers from Pomeranz the last two years. It’s something I noticed over the offseason and it’s really startling just how consistent he has been since the start of 2016 when he was still with the Padres. Over that entire season, counting his time in both San Diego and Boston, and pitched to a 3.32 ERA with a 3.80 FIP and a 3.58 DRA (79 DRA-). Those are all outstanding, above-average numbers. Last season, which he obviously spent all of in Boston, he finished the year with a 3.32 ERA, 3.81 FIP and a 3.86 DRA (82 DRA-). Essentially, he was the same pitcher for two years in a row. The way he did things were a little different — he struck out more batters in 2016 and allowed fewer homers in 2017 — but the end result was the same, and that end result was him being one of the better mid-rotation arms in the game and one of the more underrated players on the roster. In fact, the only thing really holding him back from jumping up a tier is inefficiency that has prevented him from going deep into games.

It’s not just the performance where Pomeranz gets a bum rap, either. There is this perception around the lefty that he is “fragile” or “injury-prone” or however you want to describe it. There is some logic to where this comes from, at least, as he’s fought arm injuries early in his career and he has been hurt in each of the last two spring trainings. Despite that, he has stayed on the field for three years in a row, and his constant presence in the Red Sox rotation in 2017 was one of the biggest reasons that team ended up winning the division. Two years ago, he made 30 starts plus one relief appearances, and last year he made 32 starts. Three years ago, while in Oakland, he only started nine games but that was because he spent most of the year in the bullpen. Pomeranz made 53 appearances in total that year in a healthy season. Really, he hasn’t missed time with injury since 2014. It’s hard to shed the “injury-prone” label, and Pomeranz has still suffered from some issues here and there but he’s been on the field for the vast majority of the year for three years running.

Ultimately, I don’t think I’m breaking any news here by telling you all that the Red Sox are getting a good pitcher back in their rotation tonight and it stands to improve a unit that is already pitching like the best in the game. Still, the perception around Pomeranz is a little weird in that he’s inconsistent and a constant threat to get hurt. In reality, he’s been almost unbelievably consistent over the last couple of years and he’s been a steady presence on the field where ever he’s played. You never know what’s going to happen year-to-year or game-to-game, of course, but there’s little reason right now to expect anything besides 30-ish strong starts from Pomeranz in 2018 as he gets ready to hit free agency.