Thursday, April 30

Starting Pitching Problems

The Red Sox are 14-7 and have won 12 of their last 13 so there is very little to complain about, however one item of concern might be the starting pitching. I'm not sounding the alarm and suggesting we trade the farm for a top line starter, but if you want to point to the weak link thus far it's been the starting pitching.

As I wrote about on Tuesday the bullpen has been great with the best era in the American League. The line up has been killing the ball, even with a power outage in the 3 hole. Pedoria, Youk, Bay and Lowell are all off to good starts, and even Ellsbury is swinging a better bat as of late and making things happen on the base paths. He stole home Sunday night against the Yanks if you missed it.

On the flip side our 1 & 2 pitchers have not been pitching very "ace" like lately, and that does worry me. Lester pitched 6 innings last night, allowing 5 hits and 3 earned runs, not terrible by any means, but he walked 7 guys! 7 walks is the Jon Lester we were seeing when he first came up, great potential but an inability to throw strikes consistently.

For the year Lester is sporting an era of 5.40, not what Sox fans were thinking things would look like after 5 games. In Lester's defense, he says he feels good and his fastball is still popping, he does have 33 K's in 30 innings pitched.

Josh Becket, the other ace, has an era of 6. Beckett looked almost un-hittable on opening day against the Rays (who he faces tonight), but the Angels and Yankees knocked him around. I've had the debate with my friend Chris about how "good" Beckett actually is and how much of his resume is boosted by his post season numbers, the jury is still out, but Beckett isn't helping the "ace" argument.

Dice K is on the DL with a tired arm, not much else can be said for him. Masterson has looked great in his place and if he keeps it up he could find his way into the number 5 spot in the rotation, as Brad Penny continues to struggle. Personally I think Masterson is most valuable in the bullpen, as he can go a few innings or be a setup man in the 8th, but the situation right now is what it is.

I don't want to say Brad Penny is pitching with a short leash, but if he continues to throw a lot of pitches early and not give the Sox a quality start, I think the John Smotlz whispers will get a lot louder. Currently, the Sox are shutting down Smotlz for a week, no need to rush anything, we're in the first month of the season. Needless to say I'm excited to see what Smoltz can give the team when he's ready to take the hill, he's a warrior.

Tim Wakefield has been the best pitcher in Boston thus far, throwing another gem against Cliff Lee in Cleveland the other night. Wake's track record is that he goes from hot to cold, and with the unpredictability of the knuckle ball it tends to the change tends to happen pretty fast. Wake is 40+ years old and it's not realistic to think he pitches this well all season, in fact a stint on the DL is probably likely. For now let's enjoy Wake's hot streak because when it craters, the calls for him to retire and be benched for a younger arm will be there.

Despite an era of 5.20 for the Red Sox starting pitching, I still believe that after a few bumps in the road here in April the Sox rotation will get better, they're too good not too. On top of that, there are options down on the farm with Bowdin and Buchholz in triple A.

The Sox know how to handle their pitching and won't rush or force any pitcher into an uncomfortable situation. I really like the way Theo Epstein built the pitching staff this year, in Theo I (we) trust.

1 comment:

D Vicino said...

You should tell Mazz to stop stealing your material (kinda).

Mazz hits in on the head with some scary stats....

http://www.boston.com/sports/columnists/massarotti/2009/05/for_rotation_its_been_a_rough.html

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