If you watched the Red Sox slog through the first couple of weeks to this season, you would have been forgiven for thinking that there are only two -- and not three -- true outcomes: walks and homers.
The Red Sox were giving up both walks and homers at a record pace, and getting the predictable results. The team lost eight of its first 10 games, and eventually, 13 of its first 19 games.
In the first series alone, during which the Sox dropped three-of-four to Seattle, Red Sox pitchers allowed 11 homers, eight of them by the starting pitchers. It didn't get much better in Oakland, where the rotation was guilty of allowing six more over the next four games.
In all, the starters allowed 16 homers in the first 40.1 innings pitched, an average of 3.57 per nine innings. And because most of the starters were having difficulty with command and issuing walks, most of the homers didn't come with the bases empty.
In their first 50.1 innings of work, the team's Big Five -- Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez -- allowed 36 walks.
The problem was obvious: too many baserunners and too many big innings.
This was not how the Red Sox drew it up, of course, in the offseason. The team eschewed the many experienced relievers on the free agent market and invested further in the rotation by re-signing Eovaldi, easily their biggest transaction ($68 million over four years) of the winter.
As other teams took steps to find new ways to utilize their pitching staff and deemphasized the importance of starters by experimenting with concepts like "the opener,'' the Sox doubled down. They would construct -- and pay handsomely -- experienced starters who would regularly take them deep into game and limit the exposure of the bullpen.
And then, the vaunted rotation promptly executed a face plant in the first two weeks of the season.
"Regardless of where we are in the season,'' offered pitching coach Dana LeVangie, "it's always important for our pitching staff to avoid big innings. That's an emphasis regardless, throughout. And the other key was getting our starters back to who they are and who they've been throughout their career. That was huge for us.
Fixing it took time.