Backed by Red Sox Run Machine, rotation will surprise pundits, 100 wins in Fenway’s 100th year

The consensus of the pundits and pudwits is that the Red Sox offense will likely remain the highest-scoring in baseball, but there are doubts about the SS Troika, Carl Crawford, and the rotation slots after Lester and Beckett; so we turn out attention to evaluate the starting pitchers and render forecasts for 2012.

Leaving the ERA and WHIP stats out for the summaries, we will consider this chart with  Walks. Strikeouts, and Home Runs per 9 innings, as well as the currently popular WAR ratings.

IP        BB/9   K/9   HR/9   WAR
Jon Lester                                                     200.0   3.6       9.0     0.8       4.5
Josh Beckett                                                  150.0   2.7        7.8     1.1        2.5
Clay Buchholz                                               140.0   3.4        6.4    0.8       2.0
Daniel Bard                                                   120.0    3.3        9.5    0.8       2.0
Aaron Cook                                                   100.0    3.2        4.3    0.9       1.0
Alfredo Aceves                                                 75.0   3.6         5.9    0.8      1.0

We will create three tiers for the rotation:  proven, unproven, and unknown.

PROVEN TIER:

Beckett and Lester have established themselves as on of the top 1-2 punches in MLB with Lester getting the statistical edge over Beckett; the difference in the WAR rating is significant and Lester is midway between 2-1 and  3-1 K-W ratio: 2.47.  While Beckett’s K-W ratio is slightly better than Lester’s, his 1.1 HR per 9 is a concern.

PROJECTED:

                    W – L      ERA    WHIP    WAR

Lester          17-7       3.25     1.29         4.8

Beckett       15-9       3.35      1.31         3.1

UNPROVEN  TIER

Buchholz is primed for a breakout season.  His 35-24  record is a good sign, but his 1.85 K-W is sub-par.  He plays a good change and great curve [best in Sox organization] off a decent fastball and he will use the change or curve as his out-pitch.

When he tires, his fastball can flatten out and undermine his effort, but, if McClure can spot the moment of fatigue, it will cut down on his HR/9 rate and lower his ERA.  He has the stuff to be a 20-game winner, as long as he is only asked for 6 solid innings and pulled in time.

Bard’s attempt to switch from pen-to-rotation is a favorite topic for pundits, who question his stamina.  At 6’4″ and 215, Bard has the physical size for a #4 slot in a rotation.  His 2.80 K-W rate is the best among starters.  While most pen pitchers rely on a single pitch, or two, Bard has can throw pitches at a MLB level:  fastball [90-93], slider [80-82], slurve [76-78], cutter [87-89].

He has overcome control problems by making several adjustments to his mechanics.  More so than Buchholz, fatigue may be a concern and McClure and Valentine will be watching for signs and counting pitches.  His other major challenge is developing a starter’s between games routine.

He is ready to prove the doubters wrong about how difficult it will be to make the shift from Bard of The Pen to rotation regular.

PROJECTED:

                    W – L      ERA    WHIP    WAR

Buchhollz  15-11       3.64      1.35       2.2

Bard           14-9        2.88      1.10       2.3

UNKNOWN TIER

We now enter the Twilight Zone of the rotation:  the mysterious Fifth Starter.  Some managers will name a Fifth Starter, while others will use a “Starter by Committee” method, using a relief pitcher, a AAA prospect that is on a roll, or, if they are fortunate to have one, a swing man.

Unless Cook, Padilla, or Aceves have an extraordinary spring training performance, Valentine will likely not name a Fifth Starter.  He says the Aceves is one of the best swing man he has ever seen, so he may be tempted to simply go to his swing man, Aceves, all season.

He can put Padilla and Cook in the pen with Aceves, use them in the 7th inning to close the gap to reach his set-up guy, Melancon, and closer, Bailey.  When Valentine sees he needs a spot starter, on April 11 against the Blue Jays, he can rest Aceves in the pen for a few days and use him to start.

[SEE: http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/03/07/aceves-two-pitchers-in-one-swing-man-may-solve-fifth-starter-quandry/]

If Valentine can get a .500 PCT out of his Fifth Starter “slot,” he will be satisfied.  With an overwhelming offense, the Sox should provide enough run support to whomever Valentine runs out there for spot starts.

PROJECTED:

W – L      ERA    WHIP    WAR

10-10       4.04      1.22      0.2

If Carl Crawford returns to form, it is entirely likely that the formidable Red Sox Run Machine will take it up a notch in 2012 and with a reliable Front Four and an average contribution from the “Fifth Starter” and average performances by Melancon and Bailey, the Sox have the talent to win 100 games and win the AL East pennant.

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Topics: 2102, Aaron Cook, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, Bob McClure, Bobby Valentine, Carl Crawford, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, ERA, Forecast, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Mark Melancon, Reliever, Season, Starter, Vicente Padilla, W - L, WAR, WHIP

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