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A Critique of the Red Sox 2010 Rotation

Clay Buchholz (Courtesy

The 2010 Red Sox starting rotation had their ups and downs, but if they can all at least play to their potential in 2011, the Red Sox may regain control of the AL East and could capture a third World Series in seven years.

Jon Lester (19-9,/3.25/225)

After another tough April, Lester was excellent as always, finishing with numbers every bit as good as the Yankees’ more hyped Cy Young candidate  C.C. Sabathia.

Clay Buchholz (17-7/2.33/120)

The Sox have had multiple opportunities to deal Buchholz for star players such as Adrian Gonzalez, but stuck with the right-hander through his growing pains and were rewarded with a spectacular season in 2010. Everyone in Red Sox Nation had high hopes for Buchholz in 2010, but I don’t think anyone saw him being this dominant, especially after a disaster of a 2008 season in which he lost his confidence and was demoted back to Pawtucket. It’s possible that a big part of his success was based off of good fortune (his Batting average on balls hit into play was 3rd lowest in the AL), but the sky appears to be the limit for the 26-year old.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-6/4.69/133)

Another mediocre season from Dice makes it glaringly obvious that his outstanding 2008 campaign was a fluke. The good news is, Matsuzaka’s contract (5 years, 60 million) is not the albatross that people make it out to be, and if the Sox choose to shop him, they should find some takers, especially in the National League. Don’t be surprised if Dice-K is something like 12-2 with a 2.20 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals at the All-Star Break next year; The NL has been known to revive the careers of plenty of Red Sox castoffs. That’s how the likes of Brad Penny can look so incompetent and then suddenly start dazzling hitters after they’re released or traded away.

John Lackey (14-11/ 4.40/ 156)

Technically he had a better season than Dice did, but his monster contract (5 years, 82.5 million) and his shockingly bad WHIP (1.42!) convinced me to downgrade him to a C-. I wrote about Lackey’s sudden love affair with the cut-fastball a few weeks ago, and I’m praying that his terrible pitch selection was a product of John Farrell’s pitching philosophy (Sox pitchers are encouraged to throw a ton of cutters, and Lackey’s is terrible) and Victor Martinez’s game-calling. If I’m right, then Lackey should improve in 2011.

Josh Beckett (6-6/5.76/116)

Where to begin… a few months ago I explored Beckett’s startling transformation from the guy who set the league on fire in the the 2007 postseason to the guy with a 5.70 ERA. I ultimately decided his decline in effectiveness was due to injuries and his reluctance to throw curveballs. Unfortunately, when he was actually healthy in 2010, he was still atrociously bad. It seems like he’s lost the ability to throw his changeup and  curve for strikes. This leaves him with a rather ineffective cutter and his fastball, so basically any progress he made after his awful 2006 season seems to have been completely lost. Thanks to an unconscionable decision to extend him until 2014, the Sox are stuck with what amounts to an immovable contract, unless, once again, some big-market NL team would be willing to pay him. (Someone get the Met’s Omar Minaya on the line… oh wait, he’s been fired? Looks like four more years of Beckett…)

Tim Wakefield (4-10/5.34/84)

Everyone loves Wake, but I don’t care how close he is to the Sox wins record, it’s time for him to retire.Then guy was starting games for the 1995 team, when I was 8 years old and our best players were Mo Vaughn And Roger Clemens. In his defense, however, he still had a better season than Beckett… Yikes.

Looking Ahead

Despite the struggles of 2010, things look bright for the Sox rotation. Lester and Buchholz look like legitimate aces, stud prospect Casey Kelly might be ready to go soon and Lackey and Beckett can’t possibly be this bad two years in a row (can they?).

Unfortunately with so much money tied up in the rotation it’s unlikely that the Sox can make a serious run at Cliff Lee, who dazzled me recently with his mastery of the Yankees. His start in game three of the ALCS was the best game I’ve seen pitched against New York since Pedro Martinez mowed through the 1999 Yankees  for 17 K’s. So thoroughly dominant was Lee that the Yankees looked beaten in the second inning. Their spirit was broken, and it felt like the Bombers simply gave up in Game 6 because they knew they would be systematically picked apart by Lee again in Game 7. Of course, he’ll probably be pitching for them next year. Oh well.

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8 comments for “A Critique of the Red Sox 2010 Rotation”

  1. I honestly don’t see Beckett fully recovering from this past season. is ERA was outrageous. Hopefully we won’t have to worry about his health again, or he’s really in trouble. Also, it might be time to finally get rid of Dice. Besides ’08, he’s been nothing but a disappointment. It’d be cool to see the Sox make a bid for Cliff Lee.

    Posted by nick | October 31, 2010, 5:48 pm
  2. Yeah Beckett’s just not that good even when he is healthy. We’ll probably try to move Dice, which shouldnt be as hard as people think.

    Posted by Leo | November 1, 2010, 11:13 am
  3. Beckett 2009 through 2007 is that good.

    Becketts ERA did suck this year but his quality stats were not that bad this year. I won’t use FIP or xFIP this time to to argue as I don’t think anyone knows what it is.

    Beckett still K’d 8.18 K/9 (MLB avg 7.13), walked 3.17 BB/9 (MLB avg 3.28) and his BABIP was .349 (MLB average .302).

    All in all a good pitcher. His BB/9 are the most alarming.= but this has been one of his most consistent skills and does not normally leave a pitcher so rapidly.

    I hate to get into it all but if you want to point out an ineffective pitch, its Becketts fastball. Looking at his Pitch Effectiveness..

    His fastball wasn’t close to as effective as in normal years. The only other year it was innefective was 2006. Sounds significant.

    Posted by DanPitrowiski | November 1, 2010, 1:10 pm
  4. Feel free to include any sabermetrics you wish, I’m always open to learn new ones and I’d like a reason to have hope for Beckett in the future. Also, thanks for pointing out how bad his fastball was. I was going to add a part about how his fastball isn’t as effective when he can’t throw his other pitches (like in 2006) but I had some trouble with wordpress and lost it.

    And me saying Beckett was “not that good” previously to now was a bit unfair because I hold him to the absurd standard he set in 2007, but no matter what the sabers say, he was terrible this year. Are you saying that his struggles were based off of things out of his control (BABIP)? Because then I understand what you mean.

    Posted by Leo | November 2, 2010, 3:36 am
  5. His ERA was terrible but nothing else being pointed out is terrible. His argument about which pitches worked and which didn’t are a little off base, with no proof.

    His numbers look more like a guy with a 4-4.5 ERA. His FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) was 4.54 and his xFIP 4.01.

    If you just look at his ERA he was bad. But that’s a ridiculously shortsighted way to look at your pitching staff.

    He struck people out, he didn’t walk a lot of people, they got lucky on balls in play (BABIP).

    I don’t see evidence that he was “atrociously bad” or that “any progress he made after his awful 2006 season seems to have been completely lost” OR that the Red Sox made an “unconscionable decision to extend him”.

    It wasn’t a good season, but don’t blow it completely out of proportions like the sky is falling.

    Posted by DanPitrowiski | November 2, 2010, 1:54 pm
  6. So the sabermetrics show he that he had a more of a mediocre, Lackey-esque season than what the other numbers show?

    I’m going to forward articles to you for review and sabermetric analysis from now on.

    Posted by Leo | November 2, 2010, 5:18 pm
  7. haha Oh no. Send it by your head editor instead.

    Posted by DanPitrowiski | November 2, 2010, 6:49 pm
  8. Haha , i wasn’t serious but I’ll ask you about sabers from now on

    Posted by Leo | November 2, 2010, 6:51 pm

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