Red Sox pitching progress patience

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Why can a Greg Maddux go well over 300 wins and another pitcher with the same “stuff” get a dozen in a career? The wheat from the pitching chaff.

Many pitchers are routinely throwing 95 MPH in the pros, college ranks and even high school. That magical 90-ish plateau appears to be a defining moment for scouts and a real attention-getter. For the Boston Red Sox, the back half of the 2014 season has been auditions for the arms that are stockpiled in the system. Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Joe Kelly, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster and probably a few I missed. All have shined and all have stunned with an inability to even approach perceived projections.

"The only thing that matters in baseball is that little hump in the middle of the field. – Earl Weaver"

The mechanics and theology of pitching becomes the dividing lines for various levels of success and failure. James Shields, so prominently mentioned as free agent meat, was 6-8 with a 4.84 ERA his first season. Max Scherzer went 9-11, 4.12 in his first full season. Maddux was 8-14 and a not very impressive 5.61 as a 21 year-old. Dazzy Vance made the Hall of Fame and didn’t get his first win until age 31.

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Fact is very few pitchers arrive at the MLB level with the innate ability to simply have a high level of success from the beginning. Most never get the consistency of pitch placement and accompanying stealth of delivery and variety to be consistent winners no matter how hard they throw.

With the klatch of Red Sox hurlers, the historical fact is a few will eventually be valued additions to the staff and especially the rotation. The axiom that good arms do not necessarily come with stable minds can also apply. There is, most certainly, a cerebral component to becoming a valued pitcher. That is a point often raised when a lively arm does not produce with any degree of consistency.

The selection process during 2014 has been frustrating to the denizens of Red Sox Nation. An impressive performance has far too often been followed with a clunker. Many an appearance has been compounded by a sudden inability to locate any pitch where the destructive qualities of the batsmen will be minimized. Pitch counts often have reflected area code type numbers. If it is bad for the observers, just how must the practitioners feel? Potential becomes a phrase often bandied about when discussing prospects – especially pitching.

"Potential means you ain’t done nothing yet. – Darrell Royal"

Before advanced metrics even existed, the axiom of “consistently pitching behind in the count makes the tosser a pitching piñata” was understood. Now it have been refined to the nth degree. You give the hitters a plus and they will give the pitchers a minus.

There are some on the Red Sox staff or in the pipeline such as Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and Henry Owens that will win at the MLB level. One or more of the plethora of talent will ring up 15 wins a year for a nice stretch. There is simply too much depth and organizational talent for a complete across the board flop. The problem is defining which one(s) will reach the promised land of pitching and when.

Then comes the aspect of patience with the hurlers as they attempt to establish themselves. Fans and media tend to react start to start and appearance to appearance. What is necessary is the patience involved and the selection process. The Red Sox invest heavily in scouting and data assessment and those two tools will be used to determine just who will surface on the upper tier of the pitching depth chart. The Red Sox appear to be examining the distinct possibility that one or more of those from the audition of 2014 will be looked upon as part of the 2015 rotation. The interest will be to see just what ones and that may not be determined until after spring training.

The Red Sox most certainly will hedge their position with the acquisition of established pitching talent. For a team in their position, it is essential, and they do have both the financial and talent resources to make it happen. And it will.