Red Sox Mid-Season Update: (Pitching)
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By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Writer and Red Sox Correspondent): Follow @ryandana1
The MLB All-Star game is nearly upon us, and technically we are already passed the halfway point in the season, so it seems like a good time to do an update on where the Red Sox stand at this point.
The Boston Red Sox currently hold a record of 56-37. They still sit in 1st place in the AL East, 3.5 games ahead of the 2nd place Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox have led the division for most of the season and continue to exceed all preseason expectations.
In the early part of the season, the Red Sox were winning with pitching and hitting that was statistically at the top of the MLB. That is no longer the case. Their offense is still near the top, but their pitching has fallen off.
The Red Sox currently lead the MLB in Runs (484) and OPS (.802) showing their offensive prowess. However, their pitching staff currently sits in 17th in the Majors with an ERA of (3.96), 17th in K/BB ratio (2.43), 24th in WHIP (1.35), and have the 6th most Blown Saves (14).
So what happened to the Red Sox pitching, and how do they fix it? Their offense continues to produce, but can it carry the team if the pitching doesn’t improve?
Best case scenario we would not to have to find out if the offense can carry them. The hope being that the pitching will revert back to how it was in April. That isn’t exactly an option though. Sometimes you need to adapt to current circumstances.
Injuries have been one big problem. Clay Buchholz who may have been the best pitcher in baseball prior to being injured hasn’t pitched since June 8th when he picked up his 9th Win of the season vs. the Angels.
His durability has been in question for a while now, and he hasn’t done much to shed the notion. The Red Sox definitely have to be careful with this situation because having Buchholz ready for October is the most important thing for this team, assuming they make it to October.
Regardless, I expect him to pitch if they are in the playoffs. He may have had his share of injury troubles, but he is a tough guy who will want to pitch despite how he feels during the postseason. He is a true competitor.
After starting of 6-0 Jon Lester struggled from 5/20-6/27. During that span he allowed 3 Earned Runs (1 time), 4 Earned Runs (3 times), 5 Earned Runs (3 times), and 7 Earned Runs (1 time) in his 8 Starts.
His ERA went from a 2.72-4.61 during that time and I’m sure some of Red Sox nation was having some brutal flashbacks to last year.
During that span his opponents had some high-powered offenses though. He faced the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 13th, 18th, and 29th offenses in Runs Scored, so besides the White Sox, they were good opponents.
He looked good vs. a decent San Diego club in his second to last start, giving me hope he would turn it around. Then he got shelled vs. the Seattle Mariners.
It is frustrating to watch Lester these days, but there is no choice but to have faith he can turn it around because it is essential to the success of the team.
I never thought I would say this, but John Lackey has been the best pitcher in the starting rotation lately. He looks like a John Lackey that hasn’t been seen since his Angel days. He looks to be in shape, healthy, and consistently effective.
The best case scenario is for him to keep this up and be the 3rd Starter behind Buchholz and Lester in the Postseason. It has the potential to be a very strong top 3. Combined with their offense it could make them World Series favorites by the time the playoffs start.
I am not worried about their Starting Rotation in the long run. The 5 they went into the season with have been good in stretches, and I think that is all you can really hope for during a 162 game regular season.
They also have Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Brandon Workman who all seem to be nice options to have in your back pocket. Then there is always Alfredo Aceves. This leads me into my next thought which is about the bullpen.
The big crisis of late in Boston has been the bullpen. Andrew Bailey got the closers role taken away, and people are acting like he will never be able to close again. I plead with Red Sox fans, don’t give up on Bailey.
He has a track record of being a good closer unlike a lot of guys; give him a chance to earn his way back to the 9th.
There are also a lot of people saying Koji Uehara isn’t durable enough to close. I ask those people does it really matter? Why can’t he close whenever he is able to and hand the ball to Tazawa on nights where he needs a day off? No closer is going to be able to go every day.
As for the large workload each has already taken on (Uehara 41 Games; Tazawa 42 Games), pitching in a lot of games doesn’t ensure injury, just as throwing in few games doesn’t ensure health. It is a little concerning, but let us not get carried away with speculating the unknown.
On the topic of trading for bullpen help, I question whether it is necessary or in the best interest of the organization. Certainly you go out and get somebody if you need someone, but the Red Sox might have the guys they need in their system.
They haven’t had a lot of high level prospect talent near ready for the big club in recent years, but right now they do.
With the recent injury to Andrew Miller who is now out of the year it makes a trade more likely, but not a reason to go crazy and overspend for help.
Pedro Beato, Jose De La Torre, and Ryan Rowland-Smith have all pitched well, granted it’s AAA, but they could be middle inning options.
Anthony Carter has closed well for the Paw Sox too, earning a trip to the AAA All-Star Game. (I’m not suggesting he is an option to close for the big club, but still an option to relieve)
So between the four I just mentioned plus Alex Wilson, and Clayton Mortensen, I think there are enough options in middle relief.
Add Tazawa and Uehara whom I have already mentioned, plus Craig Breslow, and Andrew Bailey to late inning options they have arms.
Also I think Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa could work well out of the bullpen too. (Possibly even in high leverage roles)
With all this being said, the Sox will certainly still look to pick up some help for their bullpen. Old friend Jonathan Papelbon has been brought up, but there are a few problems with that in my mind.
First of all it’s not determined whether the Phillies are buying or selling right now. Second, Pap hasn’t been his old “lights out” self, as he recently blew 3 straight Save Opps in late June. Thirdly, even if he is available, what will the cost be? He still has a pretty sizeable contract with him, and the Phillies won’t give him up without getting some good prospects.
A better option might be going to the White Sox and trying to get a Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain package. Crain has been downright filthy this year allowing 3 ER in 36.2 IP this season.
Thornton has been less stellar, but he would be a lefty to replace Miller. Between Thornton’s mediocre season, and Crain’s current injury, maybe the Red Sox could get a good deal for the two.
Even with his injury Crain will be highly sought after as the trade deadline approaches. However, adding two solid arms is better than adding one, and buying in bulk might get you a discount if the slightly damaged goods don’t.
It might not be a perfect solution, but it gives them more options for what should be a reasonable price.
Other options for the bullpen could include Francisco Rodriguez who may be a cheaper fix, but he is no sure thing either. He is having a good 2013 closing though.
One other interesting option might be the Marlins closer Steve Cishek. He had a rough April, but has since recovered. He hasn’t allowed an Earned Run since June 4th.
The only problem is he might cost the most in return of prospects since he has been a good closer for the Marlins and is only becoming eligible for arbitration after this season.
However, the Marlins aren’t going anywhere so maybe the Red Sox can bring home the Falmouth, MA native.
I’m fine with any of the last 3 deal if the price is right, but in my mind bullpen arms are too volatile (in general) to spend a lot of resources on.
Sure Crain or Cishek would be great to have in the back-end of the bullpen, but why give up pieces of the future unless you have to?
I kind of wish the Red Sox brought up Workman and or De La Rosa and gave them a chance out of the big league pen to see if they were viable options a couple of weeks ago.
Anyways, that’s my rant/philosophy/perspective on the Red Sox pitching right now. Hope the rotation holds up because the price of an upgrade like Cliff Lee (if he is even available), or Matt Garza will absolutely be too high, and is probably not necessary.
The bullpen might be able to be fixed internally, but if there’s a good deal out there it would do the Red Sox well to find it.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***
A big thank-you goes out to our baseball writer Ryan Dana for preparing today’s featured article. Ryan is junior studying physical education with a concentration in coaching at Bridgewater State University.
He has been playing baseball since he was 7 and coaching since he was 14. Ryan wants to be a college baseball coach once he graduates. Ryan is, and always will be, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan.
Secondary to baseball, he is a big health and fitness enthusiast. You can find Ryan on Twitter. Follow @ryandana1
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Posted on July 11, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged AL East, alex wilson, alfredo aceves, allen webster, andrew bailey, andrew miller, Anthony Carter, boston, Brandon Workman, bullpen, clay buccholz, clayton mortensen, cliff lee, craig breslow, fenway, francisco rodriguez, jesse crain, john lackey, jon lester, jonathan papelbon, jose de la torre, junichi tazawa, koji uehara, matt garza, Matt Thornton, pedro beato, pitching, red sox, rubby de la rosa, Ryan Rowland-Smith, steve cishek, trade deadline. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Red Sox Mid-Season Update: (Pitching).
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