Red Sox

McAdam: In a lost season, one Red Sox stat represents just how bad it’s been

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Start with the most telling (and obvious) numbers of all: 16-29.

That's the Red Sox' won-loss record, and it neatly encapsulates how bad the 2020 season has been. Hint: historically bad. As in, worst, potentially, since 1930 when it comes to winning percentage.

A lot has gone into that lopsided figure and the team's assignment to the A.L. basement -- the injuries, the under-performance, the complete inability to beat quality teams (2-15 combined record against the Yankees, Rays and Braves).

But one other number gives some special insight into precisely why it's been as bad as it's been. That number is 14.

As in 14 different starting pitchers. Mike Kickham, who tossed four innings in the Red Sox' win against the Rays Thursday night, became the 14th different Red Sox starter, which gives you some insight into how sideways the year has gone.

It's noteworthy, too, that among those 14, the names that are missing. On that long list, both Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez are absent because of injuries/medical issues. Had Sale and Rodriguez taken regular turns, the Red Sox almost certainly wouldn't have been challenging the Rays for first in the division. But it's a safe bet that they wouldn't be en route to their worst record in 90 years, either.

With Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Rodriguez (COVID-19, myocarditis) removed from the equation, the Sox have had no choice but to patch-and-fill. They've utilized journeyman, relievers and nearly every pitcher imaginable in-between.

Unsurprisingly, it hasn't gone well. The Sox have been either tied or trailing after six innings in 28 of their 45 games, largely because their starters have too often spotted opponents big leads in the early going. Collectively, heading into Thursday night, Red Sox starters had compiled a ghastly 6.39 ERA. That's too much for the best lineup to overcome, never mind one that includes some veterans who, almost two months in, still can't get on track.

Moreover, the team has just five quality starts and all five have come from the only two established starters on the roster: Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. Taken together, opponents have hit almost .300 against Boston starters. And until Chris Mazza finally broke into the column in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader in Philadelphia, Eovaldi and Perez were the only starters who had earned victories as starters for the Sox.

It would be one thing if the Red Sox were looking ahead to 2021 and using this lost season as an opportunity to get some prospects a little big league experience. But they're not -- and for good reason.