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Is MLB's Crackdown on Spider Tack Already Exposing the Red Sox' Pitching Staff?

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6 min read
fairly easy
How did a bad pitching staff suddenly morph into a respectable bunch just months later? Probably two things: Alex Cora and Spider Tack.
The fourth-worst team by record in Major League Baseball during the shortened 2020 season, the Boston Red Sox also had the third-worst staff ERA at 5.58 and ranked dead last in opponent batting average at .281.

But to start off the 2021 season, the Red Sox got off to a 17-10 start in large thanks to their pitching, which produced a staff ERA of 3.59 in April and held opponents to a .230 average on the month. Though not quite as effective in May, the Sox pitchers held opponents to a .269 average and had a collective ERA of 4.46 as the club went 15-11 to enter the month of June 11 games over .500 at 32-21.

Could the change be explained by the return of injured aces Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodríguez to the rotation? Nope. Sale is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and though Rodríguez is back after missing all of 2020 due to COVID-19, he is pitching very poorly this season, with a bloated 6.03 ERA on the year. Did the Red Sox bring in a bunch of free agent arms? Not really. With the exception of the addition of journeyman Garrett Richards and the return of Rodríguez, Boston's rotation is the same in 2021 as it was at the end of 2020.

So how exactly did a pitching staff that was basically the worst in the league in 2020 suddenly morph into a respectable bunch just months later? Probably two things: Alex Cora and Spider Tack.

One of the ringleaders of the sign-stealing scandal that helped the Astros win the World Series in 2017, Cora managed the Red Sox in 2018 and '19 before being suspended in 2020 for his role in Houston's scheme. Re-hired to manage Boston following his suspension, Cora is back in the dugout for the 2021 season, and it appears he's still pushing the envelope and residing just at the edge of the rules of fair play.

Which brings us to the second possible explanation for the mound turnaround in Boston (though the situation is not unique to the Red Sox).

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