Sunday, May 26, 2024

Delayed Gratification

 Tanner Houck was called up by the Red Sox at the tail end of the already-truncated 2020 season. He was in the majors for three starts, and he was incredible, going 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA and 21 strikeouts. Houck was primed to be a major player in 2021's bullpen picture, as well as the future of the Sox going forward. 

That didn't happen.

A mixture of injuries, regime changes, low placements in depth charts and a year out of the bullpen kept Tanner Houck from becoming the foundational Sox starter he felt destined to be. He's now 28 years old, still yet to pitch a 'full' season, and despite starting 21 games last year, an underdog heading into the starting picture of 2024.

So naturally now he's pitching the best stuff of his entire career.

In 10 games, Tanner Houck is 4-5 with a 1.94 ERA and 62 Ks, already lapsing his WAR high marks from previous seasons. Some crucial numbers in his stat line so far include a complete game shutout, and only 1 home run allowed thus far. And for reference, last year in 21 starts he allowed 14 homers. There is something about the Boston pitching staff that can repair pitchers who were thought to be washed. It happened with Nick Pivetta, he's been starting for Boston ever since. It happened with Brennan Bernardino, he's been the team's most efficient bullpen guy of the last 2 years. Hell, we're seeing it happen with Cooper Criswell, a guy the RAYS somehow couldn't even fix. If it can happen to guys that won't work in other markets, surely it works with a Boston product like Houck. And so far, even as Brayan Bello has underperformed and the lack of Chris Sale is evident, Houck is finally pitching like he should have been all along. 

It is enough to make the current rotation schematic of Houck-Bello-Crawford-Pivetta-Criswell into a pretty strong one, as they're more consistent than any other AL East rotation [BARRING ONE]. The trouble is all the lineup injuries, which have depleted the team. Triston Casas, Masataka Yoshida and Trevor Story are pretty big pieces of this team, and while the Sox at least still have Rafael Devers, Jarren Duran and Connor Wong hitting well right now, there are some holes in this team that they probably wish had better solutions. Ceddanne Raffaela is at least an intriguing player, but he's struggling at the plate. Tyler O'Neill has cooled down after his big April. David Hamilton and Romy Gonzalez are decent enough replacement infielders, even if they're not fully formed yet. And both Dominic Smith and Garrett Cooper are clearly replacement-level fill-ins at 1st. Rob Refsnyder and Reese McGuire are still playing big roles in this team, and both of those guys are the equivalent of bowling with the bumpers on.

This is still a third-place Sox team, and they're over .500, but they're closer to the bottom than the top and aren't 100% as well-formed as they'd like to be. Maybe some more pieces will click as we move forward, but those holes in the lineup might keep this team from doing anything, sad to say.

Coming Tonight: The Mets re-signed him for a lot of money, and I suppose he's made them proud so far.

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