June 19, 2024

The 2023 Boston Red Sox pitching staff struggled, finishing 22nd in ERA (4.52) and 20th in WHIP (1.32). Adding to their challenges, Lucas Giolito, their key offseason pitching acquisition, underwent season-ending surgery on his pitching elbow, while several starting rotation members, including Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello, and Garrett Whitlock, spent time on the injured list.

Red Sox taking novel steps to spur pitching turnaround

Despite these setbacks, the 2024 Red Sox pitching staff has made a remarkable turnaround, currently ranking second in ERA (2.99) and third in WHIP (1.13) among Major League Baseball teams.

How did the Red Sox engineer such a dramatic improvement in their pitching?

Instead of making significant changes to the pitching staff, the Red Sox focused on overhauling their coaching staff. Andrew Bailey was hired as the new pitching coach in November 2023, and he brought in Justin Willard as the director of pitching. The team invested in coaching talent and tasked the new coaches with devising a plan to enhance pitching performance with the existing roster.

The coaching staff, including bullpen coach Kevin Walker, game-planning coordinator Jason Varitek, and analysts Dave Miller and Devin Rose, formed a collaborative group called the “Run Prevention Unit.” This group designed and implemented a new organizational philosophy and approach to pitching, challenging conventional assumptions.

The Red Sox adopted a tailored approach for each pitcher on the roster, incorporating specific metrics into every aspect of their training and practice sessions. Bullpen sessions and fielding drills became more structured and competitive, with pitchers aiming to improve accuracy and efficiency.

One significant change implemented by the Run Prevention Unit was a shift away from relying heavily on fastballs for first-pitch strikes. Instead, the team diversified its pitch selection, aiming to throw pitches over the plate rather than adhering to traditional fastball-centric strategies.

Official Boston Red Sox Website | MLB.com

The success of the Red Sox’s pitching turnaround suggests that their new approach may be sustainable. By focusing on fundamental changes in organizational philosophy and approach, rather than relying on individual player performance, the Red Sox have laid a foundation for continued success. This shift in mindset could serve as a model for other teams seeking to improve their pitching performance in the future.

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