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It’s been a year of ups and downs for the Red Sox pitching staff so far this season. We’ve had our top two pitchers struggle out of the gate only to find their strides and dominate for the last two months. We’ve had our biggest international superstar land on the DL twice and suck when he wasn’t on the DL. Brad Penny has been a nice surprise and what can you say about Tim Wakefield, who made his first All-Star team as a 42-year-old?
John Smoltz finally showed us what he can bring to the team in the second half and poor Clay Buchholz has been stranded in Pawtucket. The bullpen has been one of the best in baseball, but stumbled as of late heading into the All-Star break.
So, let’s take a look at how each pitcher has done so far this year.
Beckett started the season with a rough April (2-2, 7.23 ERA), but since that month he has been on fire posting an 9-1 record with a 2.14 ERA including a June where Beckett did not let up a run in four of his five starts. The Red Sox are 14-4 in Beckett’s starts this season and he has posted a 4-1 record in eight starts versus the tough AL East with a deceptively high 5.66 ERA (thanks to that rough April). Grade: A
Like Beckett, Lester started the season with a rough April (1-2, 5.40 ERA), but he did not straighten things out until his dominating May 31st start at Toronto where he let up one run and three hits with 12 strikeouts in six innings. Needless to say, that start was the beginning of something good. Since that game, Lester has a 3-1 record with a 1.48 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings. Lester has maintained a ridiculous K-rate, and is on pace for around 250 strikeouts this year. He is starting to show his true potential as a staff ace. Grade: B+
While Beckett and Lester stumbled out of the gate, Tim “Old Reliable” Wakefield came up big posting a 2-1 record in April with a 1.86 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 29 innings. However, since then, Wakefield has posted a 5.20 ERA, but has managed a 9-2 record in that time span thanks to the offense scoring 6.3 runs per start. The 42-year-old was elected to his first ever All-Star game thanks to his 11 first-half wins and he has done what the Red Sox asked of him, which is eat up innings (108 2/3) to save the bullpen. This is more of a lifetime achievement grade (sound familiar Joe Maddon?) rather than just a mid-season grade. Grade: B
It took him a while to get settled, but once May hit Penny really hit his stride. From May 3, Penny pitched seven quality starts in 13 while cutting his ERA in half. In that same time span, he has posted a 57:19 K:BB ratio, which is a good sign that he is comfortable on the mound. He has yet to complete a seventh inning, but as a bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, that is enough to get the job done, especially with the best bullpen in baseball backing him up. Grade: B-
Ugh. The only reason he is not getting a failing grade is because I respect the fact that he sacrificed his (and our) season to pitch for his home country in the World Baseball Classic. Does anyone still think that competition is a good idea? Anyways, I digress. Dice-K has been injured all year so the bad stats are not totally his fault, but for the amount of money the organization is paying him they should have more control over what he does during spring training. Grade: D-
He has only made four starts so far this season and until his last one they had not gone very well. I wrote about him in an earlier post and was a believer in him for this season. His last start (5 IP, 1 ER, 7 K) was very encouraging and maybe it took him a couple starts to find his stride. He also had another good outing cut short by a lengthy rain delay. As he gains more confidence, I think he will start going into the sixth and seventh innings and will be a very serviceable fourth or fifth starter in the rotation. Grade: Incomplete
Delcarmen has been spectacular this season, despite two bad appearances where he let up a combined five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. If you take out those two outings, his ERA drops from 2.41 to 1.11 and he has yet to surrender a home run overall. His control is a little off (1.46 WHIP), but everything else has been all-star quality. Grade: A-
The 24-year-old rookie and probable future closer for the Red Sox has impressed in his first 24 2/3 major league innings. He has posted a 2.55 ERA and 1.09 WHIP to go along with a 29:10 K:BB ratio. He had one bad outing against the Philles (2/3 IP, 4 ER) and without that game his numbers would be almost perfect. He often hits 99 mph on the radar gun and looks like he has a very bright future ahead of him. Grade: A-
Like a couple of other Red Sox relievers, Saito has struggled with his control, but he has gotten good results elsewhere. So far he has posted a 2-2 record with a 3.52 ERA on 30 hits and 28 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. The 39-year-old was brought in to be a second set up man and I would say he has done a very good job in that role. He also has picked up two saves while blowing one. Grade: B+
Ramirez has been everything the Red Sox expected since they traded for him in the off-season. He has posted a 5-3 record with a 2.33 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. The strikeouts have been down (He has just 27 K in 38 2/3 innings), but he has been very effective otherwise. Grade: B+
With a 3.32 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, Okajima has continued his solid success since joining the Red Sox in 2007. He has let up five homers, which is a lot for him, but he has absolutely dominated lefties (.155 BAA, .468 OPSA) so far this season. Grade: B
Masterson has been horrendous of late, letting up 12 ER in his last six innings pitched. However, he was called upon to replace Dice-K when he got injured and posted a 2-2 record with a 4.58 ERA. His numbers (4.99 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) don’t look that good, but he has been rather serviceable as a reliever. Before June 30, Masterson posted a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings of relief work. Grade: C
His WHIP is higher than the ERA of three Red Sox relievers. Case closed. Grade: F
Cinco-Ocho has already walked more people this year than in any previous season in his career, which has contributed to his uncharacteristic 1.33 WHIP. However, everything else looks good as he has saved 23 games and posted a 1.85 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 39 innings. I’m not the least bit worried. Grade: B+
While many contending teams are scrambling to find pitching depth for their championship runs, the Red Sox are sitting with too much pitching depth: the best problem in baseball. Without making any deadline moves, they are already poised for a deep run in the postseason.