2014 Red Sox awards roundtable: Best pitcher
It wasn’t a pretty 2014 for the Boston pitching staff, as they finished 23rd in the Majors in team ERA. A number of their established arms were shipped out of town, and the young guns who took their places were predictably inconsistent. The BSI team tries to sort this all out and winds up split on who the team’s best pitcher was in 2014.
Who was the best pitcher on the Red Sox in 2014?
Rick McNair: Jon Lester solidified his free agency resume as one of the best pitchers in the game. Lester was 10-7 for Boston with a 2.52 ERA and a FIP that came in at 2.62. Lester’s SO/9 with Boston was 9.4, so he kept the ball out of play. On his way out of town the Red Sox managed to grab a right-handed bat they desperately needed and, just maybe, Lester will be resigned to finish off his career in Boston.
Matthew Loper: John Lackey. No matter how you shake it, the best pitching for the Red Sox this year came from guys they ended up trading away. That’s not to say some of the younger hurlers we saw later in the year don’t have the potential to be very good. You could probably flip a coin between Lackey and Lester, but I think Lackey was more valuable just because Lester was already seen as the obvious ace of the team. With a down year from Clay Buchholz, a ton of weight was put on Lackey’s shoulders to perform every fifth day – and that’s exactly what he did. He was 11-7 (most wins on the team) in 21 starts with 3.60 ERA. Throw in 116 strikeouts in 137.1 innings pitched, and you have an extremely reliable, consistent veteran to rely on. That was the plan at least, until Boston’s season completely fell apart and Ben Cherington was forced to pull the trigger on a deal.
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Joe Meehan: Andrew Miller. I’m picking Miller for a few reasons. The first is that he was dominant out of the bullpen. He struck out 69 batters in 42.1 IP (!) with the Sox, which was good for a 14.67 K/9 ratio. He was the rare lefty reliever you could feel comfortable with against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. That dominance helped the Sox acquire Eduardo Rodriguez from Baltimore at the deadline, who some scouts believe is now the Sox best pitching prospect; even better than Henry Owens. The only thing that could make Miller’s season even better for the Sox is if he leaves Baltimore after the playoffs and signs a new deal with Boston for the next few seasons.
Sean Sylver: Koji Uehara. This is essentially a Lifetime Achievement Award. You can’t overstate how valuable Uehara has been to the Red Sox over the bulk of the last two seasons. Stepping into the closer role after injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey last year. Doing his best Keith Foulke impression over a dominant postseason run. And even this year, remaining unhittable and posting a 1.27 ERA through August 15th, when John Farrell’s ridiculous overuse of the 39-year old in a lost season finally got the best of him. I’m not sure he’ll be back, but after posting a 1.75 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and so many high fives over the last two season, Uehara will go down as one of the all-time great firemen in team history. Cat face.
Drew Peabody: Burke Badenhop. My choice is Badenhop since the Red Sox two best starters, Jon Lester and John Lackey, ended the season with other teams. Badenhop was consistent throughout the year. His 2.29 ERA (3.08 FIP) was the best ERA among relievers who spent the whole year with the team. A terrible July (8.31 ERA) hurt his overall stats, because his highest other full month was 1.17. As with Ortiz on the hitting side, the team would have been much worse off without Badenhop’s stellar season in which he allowed only one home run. His ability to get a double play grounder kept them in many games.
Ryan Hathaway: Henry Owens. Nope, he has not yet thrown a pitch for the Red Sox (he hadn’t even advanced past Double A before this summer) but taking a look at ESPN’s Red Sox Pitching Leaders, it is hard to find a name that is still a member of the organization. You could make the case for Burke Badenhop…and that’s about it. Tazawa and Uehara imploded not long after midsummer, and after you move beyond the trio of late inning arms, you find a veritable clinic in mediocre-to-poor pitching. Owens, on the other hand, had quite the year, recording a 17-5 record and 2.94 ERA across two levels while starting for the U.S. team in the All-Star Futures Game and being named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.