Runs, Hits and Errors: Sox Now Need To Wind Up For The Pitch


September 26, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) pitches during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

September 14, 2011; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey (41) delivers a pitch during the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox have been as busy playing chess and spending money as any team in baseball with the exception of the Toronto Blue Jays. Over the last 30 days they have:

  1. Brought another catcher, the Giants’ David Ross, into the fold. ($6.2 million, two years)
  2. Taken on a left of center outfielder, Jonny Gomes, who promises to be interesting if nothing else and maybe, just maybe, can continue his Oakland As ways and ignite a clubhouse that hasn’t been a fun place for the better part of 1 1/2 seasons. ($10 million, two years)
  3. Filled a hole at first base with Mike Napoli by bringing in a veteran bat that they hope is on the upswing figuratively and literally. ($39 million, three years)
  4. Rounded out their outfield by bringing in another veteran, Shane Victorino, who is looking to rebound from an off year. ($39 million, three years)
  5. Picked up an older reliever with good stats, the Rangers’ Koji Uehara. ($4.25 million, one year)
  6. Had a two-year, $25 million deal rejected by the Rangers Ryan Dempster.

That adds up to an additional $38.25 million in 2013. The individual moves can be debated but in total Boston stuck to their principles of offering moderate length contracts to players with remaining potential and gave one year deals to players on the bubble. At worst, Boston get’s hurt for only threes years. It’s hard to imagine that their two highest paid and longest termed acquisitions, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, will both have a three-year lackluster stint in a Boston uniform. Which brings us to the elephant in the room.

Oct 1, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

September 29, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Felix Doubront (61) pitches in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

What, if anything, is Boston going to do about it’s starting pitching? The rumor wire was strangely mute during the winter meetings. Red Sox manager John Farrell, appearing on an interview with MLB Network in Nashville, seemed to be unconcerned about Boston’s current staff. Farrell expects Jon Lester to bounce back and Clay Buchholz to stay healthy. He’s enthused about a fast maturing Felix Doubront and cited John Lackey‘s excellent rapport with teammates in the clubhouse. With all due respect Mr. New Manager, are you freakin’ kidding me?

"Boston’s pitching staff is a highly suspect. The above mentioned four starters are collectively over their past two years of full activity – Dubront just one – are 81-67, hardly what could be characterized as impressive. Their group ERA is a portly 4.61 and their walk to strikeout ratio is 2.2, which to be clear means that every time they strike two people out, they walk one. That stat would fall into the not good category."

Let’s put the numbers aside and go with my gut. What I can tell you as a regular observer – and that would be nearly all 162 game per season – is that:
– Doubront is a young and promising lefty but the jury is out. He needs to be able to stay strong longer which will allow him to get Boston deep into the game.
– Buchholz needs to stay healthy to be consistently effective a la his 2010 17-7, 2.33 ERA season.
– Lester has been a house of horrors in the early innings his past two seasons. He got lucky with his mistakes in 2011, still posting a 15-9 record. Last year his luck ran out. Lester simply must return to form from the get go to right his ship and become Boston’s badly needed cornerstone hurler.
– Lackey has flat out a been gigantic letdown given the number of years and the contract he demanded, a five-year $82.5 million whopper that so far has been the one that got away.

That’s a lot of ifs that would be tantamount to magic given the number of pieces that would need to fall into place.

"Free agency is turning against Boston. Zack Greinke, Hiroki Kuroda and Dan Haren are among 22 free agent pitchers already signed. Dempster threw their offer in the dumpster. If they don’t make a free agent move in the coming weeks the Red Sox will need to more meaningfully explore their trade options if they want to mix up the starting rotation. This most likely would come in the the form of a multi-player deal."

With just over nine weeks to go before pitchers and catcher report, Cherington and company are back in Boston huddled up with Bill James, Carmine (the Sox computer used for crunching numbers and evaluating players) and their luxury tax accountants. There is still plenty of work to do.

I must admit I was a bit in the red
But if you never have pleasure then you could be dead
Keep on working
Keep on working
– Keep On Working, Pete Townshend