want to share something with you. It’s something that you might
not have given much time, thought, or consideration.
very specifically listed those six pitchers for one reason. It
happens to be the foundation for the Boston rotation in 2010.
not saying which five pitchers would be the rotation. Heck, I’m
not even saying five from this list will be the starting rotation.
But that’s the basic group. That’s without bringing back Tim Wakefield.
That’s without John Smoltz turning in a stretch where he looks
like John Smoltz, perhaps adds an ALCS MVP trophy to his mantle,
and tells Boston management that after going 6-2 in August and
September and 3-0 in the playoffs that he’d like to pitch in 2010
for short money. That’s without a trade… without a free agent
signing… without looking below Pawtucket, into the minors, to
see if perhaps another arm is possibly ready to make a jump.
doing a blessed thing, from those six names, the Red Sox have
the ingredients for a better than average major league pitching
that’s just one reason out of many why they don’t need Roy Halladay.
let’s check out the bullpen.
Saito, Masterson (hmm… his name again), Delcarmen, Okajima, Bard,
Ramirez… another solid group. May not be playing lights out right
now… with some explosions in recent weeks… but overall pretty
solid, and ready to return most pieces in 2010.
Red Sox are dealing with embarrassing riches when it comes to
pitching. They can’t find slots for the arms they have ready,
and word on the street is that down in the lower organizational
rungs there are more arms preparing to stake their claims on 25-man
roster slots in 2010 and the very near future.
said… pitching isn’t perfect. Brad Penny is doing a brilliant
impression of Casey Fossum. For those of you that don’t recall
Fossum… and stats may not bear this out completely… but here is
what it I recall of every time Fossum took the mound.
always went through the first three innings perfectly. Nine hitters
faced… nine outs recorded… and he would have struck out all nine
batters, but he was a team-first kind of guy and spread around
some easy chances for put outs and assists. Nine up… nine down.
the fourth inning, Fossum would set up a tee on home plate, put
a golf ball on that tee, let the hitters swing away and turn the
stadium into some perverse pinball machine. After two or three
times through the order, the umpire would be out of golf balls,
would call over the Boston manager and ask for a reliever to come
in so they could switch back to baseballs, and Fossum would get
pulled from the game.
ERA the first time he goes through the batting order is 2.13.
He’s pitched 38 innings by that description, given up 34 hits,
and struck out 28. (Not dominant, but pretty darn good. Heck…
everyone can’t be Casey Fossum.) The second time through the order…
32 and two-thirds so far… the ERA goes up to 4.19, strikeouts
still an interesting ratio at 22, but hits go through the roof
at 53. (Uh-oh. Maybe everyone can be Casey Fossum.) Third time
for the order? 8.23 ERA. NASA scientists and MIT grad students
are still working on his numbers for the miraculous times he gets
to a fourth go against hitters.
a side note. When Fossum ended up in Tampa a few years later,
they couldn’t afford all the golf balls. (That tradition of teeing
it up had continued in Arizona, where it really caught on and
his ERA actually got worse than it had been in Boston.) Since
the Rays weren’t a big winner yet, no major company wanted to
supply them for free. So in order to attract the young fans, they
had “if you’re 5, come run the bases” promotion whenever Fossum
entered the game. And instead of pitching, Fossum just fielded
the position. The batter would toss the ball into the air himself
and hit it, and the 5-year old would run the bases. In 40 starts
and 101 appearances for Tampa, Fossum had an ERA of about 9,342.00…
or around 5.60… something like that. I forget which. Dude actually
has 40 major league wins. I know not how. He also earned over
$5 million from Tampa in 3-years. Some things defy description
or explanation. In fairness, and conclusion, his Boston career
ERA was like 4.5 or so. Anyway…)
Smoltz hasn’t had a tremendous performance yet… but at least he’s
spreading the difficult innings around, early one start and late
the next. And with three home runs in one inning… he sure is creating
fancy and unique problems for himself during each start.
again… problem isn’t pitching.
you check out the positional players and bench though, something
very interesting becomes apparent. I make jokes about the pitching…
and yet there aren’t many moves necessary for the staff. Maybe
you sit down Penny or Smoltz and start Buchholz. Whatever. The
worst problem for Boston is, the starting fielders aren’t flexible
for upgrades, even as they blend together for a solid roster.
outfielder do you sit to play the newly acquired sensation? Bay,
Drew or Ellsbury?
Lowell and Youkalis are healthy, what corner infielder doesn’t
creat waves in the clubhouse?
avoid those questions, did you get a designated hitter to replace
the new player really an upgrade over Rocco Baldelli or Mark Kotsay?
Both of those guys have done fairly well off the bench as role
you find a catcher to improve what Varitek is delivering?
I could go on with the questions...
delivers at first base or third base… flexibility for either situation.
Lowrie doesn’t have to play just shortstop… neither does Green…
so you have your utility players in place as well.
in New York they have lots of problems with their roster. They
three designated hitters… Damon, Matsui and Posada. Four if you
rest that ailing third baseman that probably shouldn’t be playing
lots of games on turf.
has nothing but bench guys that play three or more positions…
and starters that will go any place in the batting order.
Boston, in theory, is stuck with a very real dilemma. Because…
you see… as perfectly assembled as they appear to be on paper…
can’t score runs.
that’s more than a July slump.
know… I know… I’m crazy. Because if you check out the stats, they
show the Red Sox are closing in on 500 runs for the season, and
only score about a third of a run less per game than the Yankees.
The Rays and the Angels are the only other teams in the American
League with more. And the team has a huge on-base percentage too…
third in the AL for that.
but they are at .263 for batting average… which is good enough
for eighth in the AL and not even meeting the league average.
You can look at it any number of ways I suppose… but here’s one
where it gets interesting (and I think reveals a scarier truth
New York Yankees have played in 14 games where they’ve scored
2 or fewer runs. And… thanks to the inept Detroit Tigers and Baltimore
Orioles, as I write this the last three games have been 2-runs-scored
has 17 such games. And… how about that… they sit roughly 4 games
behind Boston and New York.
we should expect Boston to be around… oh, let’s say for laughs
and the sake of a guess… 12 to 16 games with 2 or fewer runs scored.
Yes? They score as a total for the year with these guys… and they
get on base and have home run totals not too far behind these
guys… and so sure, they should have very few games where they
don’t score much.
20. The total of games with 2 or fewer runs scored for Boston
let’s put this into even better focus.
has played approximately 92 games. New York has played the same.
Tampa has played one more than these clubs… but we’ll use 90 for
all three while still considering recent events because the math
York scores 2 or fewer in about 15% of their games.
scores that in about 19%.
Boston… number four in runs scored for the American League… high
in on-base percentage too… but below league average in batting
average… scores 2 or fewer runs in 22% of their games.
crap. That’s not better or slightly-better than one-out-of-five…
that’s bordering on one-out-of-four.)
think they need a pitcher? Still think sending the entire Pawtucket
roster north of the border is the answer?
course not. What we’re looking at is a team that either scores
or doesn’t. No middle ground. And when they don’t, they are a
thing of brutality to watch.
is why, in my mind, there is one trade and one trade only that
Gonzalez… from the San Diego Padres.
before we look at Gonzalez… a word about Victor Martinez.
would work nicely for the Red Sox in 2009. A few games at first…
a few games at catcher… and a few as DH. The problem is… well…
he eventually becomes a problem.
a career .300 hitter, Martinez is slightly below his career numbers…
.286 for an average and .369 on-base. Still… he is posting good
numbers, had 14 home runs, and would provide some alternatives
thanks to his ability to play first and catch. He’s also listed
at a not-too-bad 30-years old.
contract is up at the end of the year… $5.7 million for 2009 with
a club option for $7 million next season. There are slight increases
to those dollars if he gets traded… but let’s face it, for his
ability, those dollars aren’t bad at all.
thing is… he’s not a full-time catcher. So he doesn’t solve the
Jason Varitek dilemma. And he’s not as good defensively as the
combination of Lowell and Youkalis can be (provided Lowell is
healthy… which I admit is a question right now). And if you’re
not ready to pull the plug on Lowell, you probably think Ortiz
has a few miles left on the tires.
would be a very good acquisition for Boston. And, if they could
get him to consider a 3-4 year extension, and management was willing
to make a commitment to deciding the dilemma of the roster construction,
there really wouldn’t be much not to like about him joining the
fact… many of the same questions need to be resolved if you bring
in Gonzalez. Ahh… but…
Gonzalez has an even better contract situation. $3 million this
year… $4.75 million next year… and a club option for $5.6 million
in 2011. (Keep in mind… these are rough figures in both cases…
and both players have clauses for award bonuses.) So Gonzalez
is under your control, while Martinez would require a pretty quick
is much better in the field than Martinez. And, he’s 4-years younger.
don’t go for pitching… and don’t tell me that some situational,
platoon fielder will make a difference. It’s run scoring that
matters, and that leaves you with two options. And only one really
solves problems now… and later.