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Low-Cost Pitching: The 2011 Yankees vs. the 2012 Red Sox

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With their latest addition of Vincente Padilla, the Red Sox continue their spree of signing old and terrible pitchers. To the frustration of many fans, the Red Sox continue to pass on established starters such as Roy Oswalt for the likes of Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook. Meanwhile, the Yankees acquired Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda to create quite the formidable starting rotation. Simply put, the competition got a lot better. Did somebody just say “third place threepeat”? Probably.

Nevertheless, two observations can be made with these “low-risk, high reward” signings. For starters (pun) the Red Sox are really cheap. Secondly, Boston is clearly trying to imitate the 2011 Yankees’ plan of striking lightning by adding pitching depth with low-cost deals. The only problem? The Yankees did it the right way, while the Red Sox are doing it the wrong way.

The Yankee Plan

Instead of overpaying via trade of free agency for starting pitching in 2011, New York opted for low-risk deals. Heading into spring training they were ridiculed, and deservedly so. A Yankees rotation that included Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon was unacceptable. Neither of these old and injury riddled pitchers had been effective for years. But to everyone’s surprise, these two exceeded expectations. Garcia put up a solid 12-8 record and 3.62 ERA, while Colon could boast a respectable 8-10 record with a 4.00 ERA. Sure, these players were only shadows of their former selves, but they were productive in the sense that the Yankees weren’t doomed to lose whenever they pitched.

But here’s the thing–both of these pitchers already had accomplished resumes. Garcia and Colon were both two-time All-Stars. Garcia led the league in ERA in 2001. Colon was the 2005 America League Cy Young winner. At one point or another, both were effective pitchers. If either could recapture just a glimpse of their former glory, the Yankees would be more than set. With a division title to show for it, the Yankees certainly did a decent job.

Boston’s Problem

Roy Oswalt is apparently not happening. Instead we are reading about Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook coming to Boston. Fans are being assured not to worry– after all that this is what the Yankees did and look what happened to them! The only problem is that there is no truth to that whatsoever.

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Most starting pitchers don’t get significantly better in their late thirties. As seen with the Yankees, Colon and Garcia had at one time been great pitchers. Their older, injury-prone selves were not going to pitch any better than they did seven years ago, but maybe they could accomplish just a fraction of that. The ceiling was high, albeit unlikely to reach.

On the other hand, these pitchers signed by the Red Sox have always been pretty darn terrible. Aaron Cook has only won more than ten games twice. He’s never thrown 100 strikeouts. Carlos Silva has had an ERA under 4.00 only two times. In addition to being insane, Vincente Padilla has a career ERA of 4.31, and has never had an above average season. My point? These pitchers are horrendous and always have been. Cook and Silva are 32. Padilla is 34. They are not going to get better. As a result, their ceiling is too low for even Dustin Pedroia. None of these three will ever be a decent major league pitcher, just as they never have. The Sox are better off keeping the ancient Tim Wakefield. I honestly think a Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lackey months away from recovery could pitch better.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the 2012 rotation you can look forward to!

What to do?

(Photo Courtesy of Greg Fiume/Getty Images)It goes without saying that most low risk/low reward signings don’t pan out. For every Freddy Garcia, there is a John Smoltz or a Brad Penny. But the Yankees only needed Garcia and Colon to be not awful. The Red Sox don’t have the same luxury of only depending on mediocrity. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buccholz are not the most durable players around. The truth is, in addition to consistency, Boston needs some productivity.

If they want to turn to low-risk signings, they should be looking at starters who were actually talented at some point. Instead of Cook, Silva, and Padilla they should set their sight on Ben Sheets, Brandon Webb, and Rich Harden. Those names are coming from obscurity, but so are the excuses of starting pitching the Red Sox have signed so far.

As a last thought, Roy Oswalt is reportedly seeking $8 MM (Chump change for Boston). I know the math doesn’t work out perfectly, but at one point, do all these small scale deals approach or surpass $8MM? Sox management is trying to avoid spending pennies and it makes no sense. Maybe if we all agree to purchase Oswalt jerseys, it will compensate for his salary and the resulting luxury tax? In the meantime, let’s get excited for Vincente Padilla.

This may take a while…

About Josh Segal

Josh Segal is a professional shock artist and trash talker. He also occasionally writes opinion pieces about the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and their respective leagues at large. Segal is currently a junior at Kenyon College where he plans to double major in drama and political science. Apparently he also writes his own biographies in the third person.

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15 comments for “Low-Cost Pitching: The 2011 Yankees vs. the 2012 Red Sox”

  1. […] Sports of Boston compared the Red Sox’s low cost starters to the Yankees’. […]

    Posted by Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Prince, Zimmerman, Scutaro | Columbus Sports Radio | January 27, 2012, 1:38 pm
  2. You have no business righting about baseball since you clearly don’t follow it outside of the headlines. Go choke on a dick.


    Posted by Al | January 27, 2012, 1:47 pm
  3. Ben Sheets? Brandon Webb? Do you watch or pay attention to ANY baseball outside of Boston? Webb was topping out at 83mph last year. Sheets has been shelved since the first half of 2010, and shows no signs of coming back. Your logic is flawed, and at the same time, horrible. You are a typical Red Sox fan, thinking the issues lie solely in Padilla, Silva, and Aaron Cook.

    Posted by DH | January 27, 2012, 2:01 pm
  4. Do either of you have reading comprehension abilities? The point was that low cost pitching usually doesn’t work so your better off signing pitchers that used to be good because they have a higher ceiling regardless of how likely it is they will reach it.

    And typical Red Sox fan? If anything he’s pretty critical.

    Posted by Rod | January 27, 2012, 2:09 pm
  5. This is the first time visiting your blog and I have to say that I can’t wait to never come here again.

    Posted by rjs | January 27, 2012, 2:45 pm
  6. I hate to say this but I totally agree with you on everything.. This is a BRIDGE YEAR for Pitching..After Bucholtz who knows what you have.. i do see 3rd place unless Youk and Crawford come back.
    I do like the Ross signing but who s at short? Their kids are at least 3 years away.

    Posted by boston bruiser | January 27, 2012, 3:33 pm
  7. @Rod,

    Actually, the writer’s point was not that low cost pitching doesn’t work. It was sort of the opposite. Reread the Yankees section if you’re unclear as to what the writer was hinting at.

    And just to be clear, his (the writer’s) logic is horrible. Sign pitchers that used to be really good because they have a better chance at being good again. Wait..what? That is a ridiculous approach. Rod, do you understand staffing and baseball? Because if you do, you would realize talking about signing Ben Sheets and Brandon Webb is one of the dumbest ideas in the history of blogging.

    I came here through MLBTR, thinking they would filter the content they link. Obviously, they don’t, because this is some fucking garbage.

    Posted by DH | January 27, 2012, 3:37 pm
  8. @DH

    Are you at all literate?

    As pitchers reach the wrong side of 30, they are not going to perform any better than they previously have. Therefore they have a certain maximum potential (a ceiling) they can reach. I don’t think the writer thinks Ben Sheets or Brandon Webb are the perfect solution, but that being said, a shadow of Webb or Sheets has significantly more potential than the shadow of Cook, Silva, or Padilla.

    Learn critical thinking skills before you make a foolish ass of yourself.

    Posted by Rod | January 27, 2012, 3:45 pm
  9. Wow.. Good article and the first 2 posters are by morons. Cook, Silva, Padilla are terrible. The writer is definitely right on. If you are going to buy cheap, buy pitchers who can be good. Versus pitchers (see list above) you are better off having get hurt instead of pitching..

    Posted by BronxNorth | January 27, 2012, 4:04 pm
  10. @ROD

    “Instead of Cook, Silva, and Padilla they should set their sight on Ben Sheets, Brandon Webb, and Rich Harden.”

    Why don’t you critical think your way through this passage. It doesn’t matter if he thinks they are the perfect solution or not, to even suggest two pitchers who haven’t thrown a major league inning in almost 2 (in Webb’s case, 2+) years is RETARDED. Padilla, Cook, and Silva are not good, but they are better than pitchers WHO HAVE HAD MAJOR SURGERIES AND ARE NOT PLANNING TO PLAY BASEBALL.

    What is so hard for you to understand??? To not know these pitchers are on the shelf is just a poor oversight, and for you to defend this shitty post doesn’t make any sense. Continue to try and imply that I am unable to apply tenth grade English Lit & Composition techniques to a crappy blog post, and I will continue to explain to you that the writer had no idea that these two fucking guys are not pitching any time soon, whether he meant them to be the definitive rotation answers, or not.

    And to the writer, stop regurgitating Bill Simmons quips – he hasn’t been a good/clever writer in at least half-a-decade.

    Posted by DH | January 27, 2012, 4:47 pm
  11. Cook and Silva have been consistently mediocre. They aren’t so old that they are only living in the shadows. Aaron Cook has never been a strikeout pitcher which works to his advantage. Guys like him might not get drastically better but they stay about the same for a very long time because they know how to pitch a different type of game. Coming from Colorado his numbers have certainly been inflated, not that fenway isn’t any less of a hitter’s park, but if Cook can continue to be a guy who can pitch to a low 4. e.ra. that’s a great back of the rotation guy.

    The other thing that the writer is missing is that right now it appears that we are only looking for a guy to fill in the 5th spot. I personally believe Bard has all the stuff of becoming a solid starter, he’s matured as a pitcher and to see him pitch to a mid-high 3 e.r.a. will be great.

    Boston isn’t expecting Silva, Cook, and Padilla to come in as saviors they are coming in to eat up a couple innings and keep guys in the game. If you can believe that crawford, youkilis can bounce back and adrian can keep his power numbers up all year with a strong shoulder you’re still looking at the deepest line-up in the a.l. Just because crawford had a bad year people expect the offense to be worse, but look at how boston’s averages compared to the yankees last year. and then look at tampa bay lol. While they still have very formidable teams, the redsox are in a much better position than people are pitting them as.

    As a side note, I think Oswalt would come to boston and get injured in a less than a month, and who knows if kuroda will be able to pitch in the a.l. east.
    Mind you, Pineda’s e.r.a was over 5 after the half and he only recorded 1 win? His road e.r.a. was all horrible compared to a mid 2 e.r.a. in safeco. did the yankees really do THAT great? time will tell

    Posted by DJ | January 27, 2012, 4:54 pm
  12. @Bronxnorth

    Yeah, I’m sure a moron!

    “If you are going to buy cheap, buy pitchers who can be good.”

    Great analysis, says no one in the history of the world. You are a fucking dummy. Buy pitchers who can be good. Great advice. You should work for NASA. The problem with the writers post is he suggest pitchers who suck. So why is that a good position? Identifying Boston’s rotations issues is like pointing out the problems with healthcare in America. WOW, GREAT JOB, YOU JUST STATED THE MOST OBVIOUS THING EVER! GREAT POST!

    Posted by DH | January 27, 2012, 4:54 pm
  13. Okay, hotshot, let’s break this down.

    You seem to be making the assumption that a pitcher who hasn’t played for 2 seasons is no longer a capable player.

    Colon didn’t pitch in 2010 and for all intensive purposes, didn’t have a significant playing season since 2006.

    So by your logic Colon is the only pitcher capable of rising from the dead. It would be impossible for Sheets or Webb or Harden to do the same? No, but it’s highly unlikely. Just like it was for Colon. That’s the point.

    And for what it’s worth, I think Bill Simmons is great.

    Posted by Rod | January 27, 2012, 4:56 pm
  14. You do understand that after receiving stem cell replacement surgery on his shoulder, Bartolo Colon was pitching in Puerto Rico last winter, and was hitting upwards of 96 on the gun. Tony Pena watched him pitch, and having been a former catcher, saw Colon’s ability to make outs. Colon, in his prime, a power pitcher, had regained his ability to dial up his fastball. This, as anyone who knows a goddamn thing about baseball, gave him a shot to be effective again, if only in a relief role. Anything else beyond that was a bonus. And for the Yankees, it was, until July.

    Freddy Garcia pitched 150+ innings in 2010 (more innings than he pitched last season, actually) and had a better shot of producing as a junkballer, whether it be for a full season or at least until the trade deadline. He too, went above and beyond. But again, he pitched in 2010 as a #5 for the White Sox, and that’s all the Yankees were looking for out of him.

    Webb was horrendous (and that’s being kind) last season. He sported a 9.75 ERA in AA before being shutdown. He had no velocity on his sinker, his bread-and-butter, and therefore was ineffective against even minor league hitters.

    Sheets has been on the shelf since 2010, and there is no word on whether or not he’ll ever pitch again.

    What in the fuck makes ANYONE think either of these two guys are a better risk than Silva and Padilla and Cook? It makes ZERO sense to think Webb or Sheets might help a team this season.

    By my logic, you’re better off rolling the dice with players who are able to go to Spring Training and compete, not guys who are unable to pitch in any capacity because they are not signed and are drawing zero interest. As I said before, what is so hard to understand???

    Bill Simmons is full of shit. He was a pioneer and an innovator, but he’s been garbage since 2007. He should go drop some more karate kid references and write about how he’s the best handicapper in all of sports even though his wife outdid him in betting lines. Twice.

    Posted by DH | January 27, 2012, 5:29 pm
  15. Gentlemen, the author is objectively highlighting some tangible examples of how the Sox are stacking up to the Yankees. Comparing the messenger to body parts and other poorly-structured metaphors seems to be more of a sign of frustration that Red Sox nation is slipping down from its apex. The extensive comments suggest that the talented author hit a nerve of truth. As Reese Bobby said, “If you ain’t first, your’e last”. I don’t wanna be last!

    Posted by BoSoxSince65 | January 28, 2012, 5:13 pm

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