May 08, 2013 by
Allen Webster will be making his second major league start tonight against the Twins.
Injuries are a part of sports. Expecting every player in the opening day lineup to play 162 games is a dream. The Red Sox now have seen four players go down in the past week and not many qualified players to fill such positions. After Tuesday’s collision between David Ross and Will Middlebrooks the Red Sox might not have a qualified third baseman for the time being. Middlebrooks after having a good first two weeks of the season has been struggling and has become a strike out per game player. Some time off might help him. Middlebrooks and Ross are both listed as day to day so a disabled list stint might not happen but the bench will be running thin for a few days, which is never good.
Losers of four of five the Red Sox now have entered May which is a show me month. I call it a show me month because any team could have a good April. This month is where pretenders fade and contenders rise. Will this Red Sox team be as good as their record indicates on Memorial Day? We shall find out. Other teams who had good April’s such as the Royals and Rockies will have the same responsibility as the Red Sox, prove April was no fluke.
It appears the Red Sox starting pitching will not be the issue. Clay Buchholz, after the cheating accusations is ready to pitch and hopefully does not have to face Toronto anytime soon. Jon Lester, needs to come out firing in the early innings where he seems to issue walks and need too take command of the strike zone. This year it appears he is being squeezed and this carries over from last year where he would often whine on the mound if he did not get a call. Ryan Dempster has settled in nicely as a middle of the rotation innings eater and hopefully the workload doesn’t take a toll on him. John Lackey whose next start will only be his fourth of the season, remains to be seen as I need to see more out of him before I can really judge but has looked good in a small sample size. Felix Doubront, has been moved to the bullpen for the time being with hot prospect Allen Webster getting the ball tonight against the Twins. This could be a combination of no good relievers to call up on the 40 man roster with Joel Hanrahan going down on Monday. After his one day as closer again with Andrew Bailey on the disabled list. Also, Doubront hasn’t shown anything lately to prove he deserves to keep a spot in the rotation as he may look great for two innings and horrendous for three.
It is apparent Pedro Ciriaco is not exactly playing well right now. After getting caught stealing third on Monday as a potential insurance run and two errors at third base on Tuesday, the Red Sox might look elsewhere for some infield help. Brock Holt, who is on the 40 man roster is not exactly tearing up Triple A with Pawtucket as his average is below .200. Jose Iglesias has been benched the last few games due to discipline reasons. Third base is a rather thin position in the organization. If Iglesias comes up again can Stephen Drew play third base? I hope we don’t have to find out.
With two more games against the Twins and a weekend series with the Blue Jays the Red Sox need to finish the home stand over .500 and go into Monday’s off day with confidence. This team played really well in April and might have brought some fans back from after last years laugh of a season. May, is time to prove they are the real deal. Overcoming these injuries won’t be easy and John Farrell and Ben Cherington might have to get creative but, good starting pitching can cure most problems.
May 05, 2013 by
Buchholz and his nasty stuff has paced the Sox rotation
The Red Sox had the best record in baseball in April, going 18-8 in the first month of the season. It was their best start since 2003 and the first time since 2009 that they had more than 11 wins in April. The turn-around from the cumbersome starts of the last 3 years has been fueled by a resurgence of the Red Sox starting pitching, which had been rendered inept during the September collapse of 2011 and stagnated throughout all of last season.
Entering play on Saturday the Red Sox were 7th in the major league in ERA at 3.54. Their starting staff was 5th in the majors with a 3.29 ERA. They’ve been relatively healthy so far this season, only missing 2 starts from John Lackey from an injury that looked much worse than it ended up being in his first start of the season. Alfredo Aceves had 1 solid start and one truly putrid one that landed him in Pawtucket and youngster Allen Webster even contributed a solid start in the night cap of a double header. He was in line for a win before the Sox’ bullpen gave up the lead.
The Red Sox starting pitching success begins and ends with the dominance of a resurgent Clay Buchholz. Setting aside the side show created by the hacks up in Toronto Buchholz has been, in a word, dominant. He is 6-0 with a 1.01 ERA. He’s struck out 47 and walked 16. He’s thrown 44 2/3 innings so far this year, 7 innings more than Jon Lester who is #2 on the squad in innings thrown. With Buchholz’s past durability issues there may be some worries about this workload but as long as it’s working you can’t complain. Contrary to the conspiracy theories Buchholz has been absolutely pounding the strike zone, painting the corners and leaving opposing hitters with the bat on their shoulders. His 37% strike looking and 53% strikeout looking ratios are substantially higher than the major league average. This is at odds with spitball pitchers who make a living throwing junk with late movement that hitters go out of the strike zone to chase. Long story short, Buchholz is not cheating, he’s just pitching incredibly well.
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April 13, 2013 by
For the Red Sox to go anywhere this year we knew coming in that their starting pitching had to perform much better than they did last year. They needed Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to return to form as well for Ryan Dempster and John lackey to make their veteran contributions. Felix Doubront was looked upon to take the next step in his career and they were hoping that Alfredo Aceves could return to his role as the 6th man of the rotation after dabbling with the closers role last season. So far it’s been a mixed bag after the first 9 games but the most important factors, Lester and Buchholz, have looked the best. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve seen so far.
Aceves had a solid 1st start in place of Lackey
Let’s start with the back end first. Felix Doubront had a decent start in his first game last Friday night, a Red Sox win over the Blue Jays. He pitched 5 innings, gave up 3 runs on 9 hits and struck out 5 without walking any. While the walk number is excellent the durability issues seem to persist as he couldn’t past the 5th inning. He’s got to improve on that if he wants to improve on his 2012. The other back end start in the rotation was made by Alfredo Aceves. Aceves actually pitched pretty solid in a spot start on Thursday night, giving up only 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings. This has consistently been his best role since he’s been in the majors – long relief and spot starts. He’ll get another one next Wednesday.
Now for the wily veterans – Ryan Dempster and John Lackey. Dempster has been pretty much as advertised in the early going. In 2 starts he’s given up 4 runs on 6 hits and leads the team in strikeouts with 15. He only pitched 5 innings in each of his first two starts but his 2nd start was cut short due to a rain delay. The encouraging thing is that he has already made two starts against AL East opponents and has come out with a 3.60 ERA. He’ll get his 3rd crack at the AL East on Marathon Monday against the Rays. We all know what happened to John Lackey. Lackey strained his bicep muscle in the 5th inning of his first start back and landed on the DL. He pitched well in that game giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and strike out 8 guys in just 4 1/3 but obviously his health is going to be a major question mark going forward.
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March 29, 2013 by
We’re just 3 days from the most anticipated Red Sox opening day since the Butch Hobson era and the Sox have set their final opening day roster with one exception. Before the conspiracy theorists start on the lack of a Jackie Bradley Jr. announcement, it is because the Sox have to jettison someone from the 40-man roster to make room for him and they are taking a bit of time to make that decision (which makes since if you can’t trade someone to open up the spot you must put them on waivers and risk losing them for nothing if they are claimed). Here’s a look at the 25 guys that the Red Sox will break camp with and the major league contributors who will start the year on the disabled list.
Lester needs to pitch like an ace for the Sox this year
Starting Pitchers: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, John Lackey – If spring training is any indication this unit is headed for a bounce back season. Lester and Buchholz have both put up ERAs under 0.80 in 6 starts each this spring. Ryan Dempster has put up a 3.06 ERA himself. If the top three can carry their weight then the Red Sox should win well more than 69 games this season. The last two spots are wild cards. Doubront pitched well early last season but the workload caught up to him. He was OK in the spring, sporting a 4.15 ERA, but he’s going to have to show more durability and consistency. Then there is John Lackey who we’ve already discussed to death this spring. He had a 5.40 ERA in the spring but pitched better as time went on. He is coming off of a year of inactivity so he should get better as the year progresses. How much better is the question. It’s not hard to evaluate this group – they’ll live and die by the contributions of Lester and Buchholz. If the results are similar to last year’s then the Sox have no chance at competing. If they are their old selves then they should be in the thick of things.
Aceves should be an asset as the long man as long as he doesn’t have a mental breakdown
Relief Pitchers – Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehera, Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves – This is an interesting group. There may be concerns about the back end. Hanrahan has a 7.36 spring ERA but he hasn’t given up a hit in his last 4 1/3. On paper athe back end of the rotation should be lights out. Bailey is pitching better this spring but he didn’t exactly light the world on fire after he came back from injury last year. These two guys have the potential to be a lights out duo but that seems like a big if right now. It’s hard not to like the rest of the right handers in the pen. Uehera pounds the strike zone and barely walks anyone (call him the anti-Daniel Bard). Tazawa and Mortensen pitched well in the majors last year. Tazawa had a 1.43 ERA and 0.95 WHIP and Mortensen a 3.21 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. Both guys can be stretched out if need be. Aceves is probably more than just a few cards short of a full deck (I’m a bit concerned that he’ll seek revenge on the Canadians by braining the first Blue Jays batter he sees with a fastball) but he’s back in a role where he has performed the best – long and middle relief. Beyond all the craziness the guy is very versatile. Miller is a weak left-handed arm in my opinion but he’s holding a place for Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales.
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March 18, 2013 by
Dempster is a guy who hasn’t missed many starts in the past few years
The Red Sox have had a black hole in the back of their rotation for the last several years. Last year the Sox used a group of pitchers in the #5 spot that consisted of Daniel Bard, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Aaron Cook and Franklin Morales. The year prior they used Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland and Eric Bedard among others. It’s been a tough spot in the rotation for the Sox as they’ve struggled to fill the back end in the rotation as they have failed to develop enough young pitchers. This off-season they tried to erase that black hole by signing Ryan Dempster to a 2-year, 26.5 million contract. Dempster should help the Red Sox rotation in two areas it sorely lacks in the back end – stability and consistency.
The 35 year-old Canadian has been as durable as any pitcher over his 15 year MLB career. He hasn’t started less than 28 games in the past 5 seasons. Prior to that he worked out of the Cubs pen and had at least 63 appearances during his 3 years as the Cubs closer. He collected 85 saves in those 3 seasons. He followed that up by earning 55 wins against 49 losses in his 5 seasons back as a starter. He finished that 5-year stretch with an ERA south of 4.00. While he isn’t the K machine that he was when he came into the league he still had at least 150 K’s in each of the last 5 seasons with last year’s total of 153 his 5-year low. He doesn’t have the velocity on his fastball that he used to but it is still serviceable. What he still has however is his command of the strike zone. In the last 5 years he has averaged a tick less than a walk per every 9 innings.
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February 06, 2013 by
This time last year we were looking for redemption from Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz after beer and chicken-gate. We were looking for young hopefuls Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront to make a splash in the rotation. We had older journeymen such as Aaron Cook, Ross Ohlendorf, Carlos Silva and eventually Daisuke Matsuzaka as our second line of defense. John Lackey’s name was nowhere to be heard. Fast forward a year and things are a lot different.
Jon Lester needs a bounce back year in the worst way in 2013
Lester and Buchholz are back and in a similar position of looking for redemption after the Bobby V. debacle. Beckett is long gone. Doubront made it to his 2nd year in the rotation and Bard is looking to find himself again in the bullpen. An afterthought last season John Lackey will be expected to try and give the rotation a durable arm. The Red Sox brought in a bit more of a heavyweight to hedge the back of the rotation in Ryan Dempster. And thanks to “the trade” they have some potential major league ready talent waiting in the wings. Here is a look at the projected Red Sox rotation:
Jon Lester – Everyone in Boston was hoping for Lester to put his dismal 2011 September behind him last year but it just didn’t happen. Lester had the worst year of his career, going 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA, giving up a career high 216 hits and 25 home runs. A lot of people wonder what happened to Lester. Fatigue may have become a factor. Lester has made at least 31 starts and pitched at least 190 innings every year since 2008, his first full season in the Red Sox rotation. He never gets injured or misses any time. A lot of people have hopes that reuniting Lester with his former pitching coach John Farrell may have a positive effect on his career. Maybe so but I think a better strength and conditioning team will help him more than that. You wonder if Farrell might implement an old Terry Francona strategy and give Lester a random DL stint mid-season just to keep him fresh. I have hopes that Lester may bounce back but I worry that the fatigue issue hasn’t been addressed. Hopefully my fears are put to rest with a strong start of the season for Lester.
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