Just over one month into the season, the Boston Red Sox have responded to disastrous results on the mound by relieving pitching coach Juan Nieves of his duties on Thursday.
The team was 13-15 as of Thursday at the time of the move.
In spite of posting the eighth highest run total, the pitching staff's ERA of 4.86 is the second worst in baseball, with only the Colorado Rockies putting up worse numbers (5.38). Boston's ERA among starters (5.54) also leads only the Rockies, and only by 0.05.
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Advanced metrics do leave some room for optimism - Red Sox starters actually have the 12th best FIP* at 3.95, pointing to a potential positive regression. However, the defense behind the pitchers, which is volatile in short stretches for any team, will need to improve. And if pointing to the FIP of starters, it must be noted that the 4.87 FIP among Red Sox relievers is the worst in baseball.
Also on Thursday, the Red Sox designated righthanded reliever Edward Mujica and his 4.61 ERA for assignment.
Nieves was hired after the horrendous Bobby Valentine-led 2012 season and was with the team for its 2013 World Series victory.
"I want to thank Juan for everything he did for the Red Sox. He's a great guy and quality coach," said General Manager Ben Cherington, according to the Red Sox. "In the process of examining pitching performance, [manager] John [Farrell] and I felt that we needed to make a change to continue to push forward."
"We feel like the best way to change things going forward for the performance of our guys was to make a change at pitching coach," said Farrell, who served as the team's pitching coach from 2007 through 2010. "This was extremely difficult. He's a caring person."
FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, is a metric that attempts to remove luck from ERA. A pitcher has little control of whether a batted ball that does not leave the park turns into a hit or an out. FIP uses strikeouts, walks, home runs and hit-by-pitches, along with a constant to put it on the same scale as ERA. FIP can be a better predictor of future performance than ERA, and comparing the two can show whether a natural regression - positive or negative - is likely.