This season was really looked on as Felix Doubront‘s last shot to be a successful major league pitcher, at least with the Red Sox. Formerly a top prospect, Doubront’s stock had fallen the past year or two due to injuries and the 24 year old was out of options. The general opinion was that he would go to the bullpen and be used as a left-handed reliever. However, he had an excellent spring (1-0, 2.70) and was placed in the rotation as the #4 starter.
Now, almost six months later, it’s looking like the bullpen may have been the best option with Doubront. Doubront got off to a strong start to the season, posting ERAs of 4.09 and 3.71 in April and May, respectively. However, other than a decent July (2-1, 3.86), his numbers plummeted from then on. After just tossing 56 innings in those first two months, he wore down quickly and was unable to reach that same level of success.
Also, even from the start of the season, it wasn’t totally clear that Doubront possessed all the tools needed to be an effective major league starter. He often struggled, and still does, with control and had trouble with pitch count. His BB/9 of 4.16 on the season is not terrible, but to live up to his former potential, he’ll need to considerably lower that.
Even besides those issues with control and wearing down early, plenty of starting pitchers have those struggles, Doubront has mechanical issues that can’t be fixed so easily. Although Doubront throws a very good fastball, generally in the low 90′s with cutting action and solid control, he doesn’t really have great secondary pitches. His curveball is solid, but he often leaves it hanging where hitters can take advantage of it. His change and cutter are also decent, but not spectacular.
Looking on the brighter side, besides having insufficient tools to be a starter, Doubront also has tools that could make him a very good reliever. That good fastball leaves his with a very respectable strikeout rate of 8.94. That number would be good for 13th in the league if he qualified, ahead of such pitchers as Cole Hamels, David Price, and CC Sabathia. Plus it would be best for the team as they would have room in the rotation for a frontline starter like Brandon McCarthy, Edwin Jackson, or Jeremy Guthrie. Meanwhile, Doubront could be part of one of the better bullpens in the league next year– led by a group of Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, and Daniel Bard. Yes, all of those players will be healthy and effective come 2013– please, oh kind and merciful Ted Williams?!