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Red Sox Pitching for 2012: An In-Depth Look

Introduction

This article is a follow up to the one published here on Monday, December 12th. In this article I will delve in more detail into the Red Sox current Pitching situation. Here we will break things down by talking about the current list of injured pitchers and the effect that has on the team, the 2011 pitchers that are currently free agents, the rotation, the bullpen, pitchers that were not on the Red Sox in 2011 that are now free agents & pitchers that might be available via trade.

The Injuries

Almost like a team plague, Tommy John Surgery seems to have hit the Red Sox like a virus over the past two years. First, I believe, there was Junici Tazawa who had returned late last season from his surgery & since his there have been three more players that have succumbed to it…

SP Rich Hill – Recovering from Tommy John surgery (on June 9th) and was recently non-tendered. His recovery will probably result in him being out until after the start of 2012, but with Boston having so many lefties under team control (Morales, Doubront and Miller) without the ability (options) to sent them to Pawtucket (AAA), they had to release him. Although, if one of those guys were involved in a possible trade, that would open the door up to the Red Sox re-signing him. I personally think he’s be a better option for them than two of them if not all three.

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka – will miss at least half of the 2012 season due to recovery from his Tommy John surgery. It is hoped that his return will be the equivalent of a trade deadline acquisition as he might be back sometime after the All Star game. Although, given the tendency of pitchers returning from this procedure having control problems coupled with Dice-K’s insistence on nibbling around the plate sounds like a recipe for some scary innings of work (hopefully the Red Sox can keep him in AAA Pawtucket during that awkward time is his rehab). I don’t see him being a reliable option at the major league level until the All Star break at the earliest.

Picture of John Lackey taken by Tony Molica

SP John Lackey – He is the last pitcher to succumb to this injury as of late and because he didn’t address this injury until after the 2011 season, he will miss all of 2012. On the bright side, it looks like the injury that made this procedure a necessity was directly related to Lackey’s poor 2011 performance (it seems as if he may have pitched with this injury most of the season knowing that he couldn’t hurt himself further), one that was the worst by any Red Sox starting pitcher in the team’s storied history for a full season.  Some have also reported that he stayed off the DL for the team’s sake given the state of the staff and took one for the team so to speak. So, maybe he will look more like the pitcher we saw with the Angels in 2013!

Former Red Sox Pitchers that are now Free Agents
RP Trever Miller (age: 38) – Miller only pitched in 2 innings for the Red Sox (in 3 outings) while recording 1K without giving up a hit, a walk or a run. In all of 2011 between the Blue Jays, Cardinals and the Red Sox he only pitched in 21.1 innings over 48 outings and had an 0-1 record with 1 SV 3 blown saves and 5 holds, while maintaining a 3.80 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP.

RP Dan Wheeler (age: 34) – Wheeler is a Type B free agent. He declined the Red Sox offer of arbitration. He was on and off the DL during the 2011 season posting a line of 2-2 with 4 Holds, 0 blown saves, 39 K, 1.11 WHIP, 4.38 ERA in 49.1 IP. For his career he boasts a 3.88 ERA, 1.21 WHIP with 43 saves, a 25-43 record with 553K in 628.1 IP.

SP Tim Wakefield (age: 45) – With Wakefield’s reoccurring back problems over the past few years and his painful-to-watch attempt to get his 200th victory last year, it is probably only a 50/50 chance at best that the Red Sox re-sign him for the 2012 season. And the latest news is that Theo (I mean Jed Hoyer) may seek to sign Wakefield (and possibly even Varitek) with the Cubs. 2011 saw Wakefield go 7-8 with 93Ks, a 1.36 WHIP, .267 BAA and a 5.12 ERA in 154.2 innings pitched with 1 CG in only 23 starts (10 relief appearances) while giving up a whopping 25 HRs. In contrast to those numbers, he has a career average of a 4.41 ERA, 1.35 WHIP (so that didn’t change) with 2156 Ks in 3226.2 innings pitched over 463 starts (164 relief appearances) with 33 CGs with 6 of those being shutouts. Bottom line: I’d bring him back even if it was just for insurance. He’s a great team player, can both start and pitch in the bullpen and can eat up innings. On top of all of that, when he gets going (if), he can string together a bunch of consecutive wins (if you have a catcher that can catch him and not many can).

The Rotation

Jon Lester – In my opinion Lester is the Ace of this staff! He has won 15 or more games in his last four seasons (19 in 2010) and 2012 should see him pitch in over 200 innings once again (he had only 191.2 IP last year, the first time under 200 in those same four seasons) and be in contention for the Cy Young Award once again with  also hitting the 200K mark again.

Josh Beckett – If Beckett has post another sub 3.00 ERA he might be in line to go head to head with Lester for that Cy Young Award, but he will more likely have an ERA under 4.00 and 190 or more Ks. Last year, for at least half of the season, he proved that he can still be a co-Ace on this staff and Bobby V might be the type of manager that can motivate him to do so once again, but his best years are behind him at this point, I’m affraid.

Clay Buchholz – I see Clay as being, realistically speaking, a solid number two pitcher on this staff with a performance that is in between his 2010 (.708 winning percentage) and 2011 (.667 winning percentage) seasons if he can stay healthy.

Daniel Bard – At first, I wasn’t sure how to take the news of Bard joining the rotation, but with the acquisitions of Melancon and Bailey I have to agree with it. I think Bard, if the opinion of Curt Young (Red Sox 2011 Pitching Coach) is accurate, is well suited to transfer into the rotation like the Rangers have done recently with CJ Wilson, Alexi Ogando, etc. Young mentions the addition of a newly mastered changeup to go with his fastball and slider as reasons that back a move to the rotation. I think he’ll do just fine and might end up in the pen three quarters of the way into the season due to the added workload after being a short reliever up until now.

Picture of Alfredo Aceves taken by Tony Molica

Alfredo Aceves – If no one besides one of the slew of low risk starters the Sox have signed to this point pans out, Alfredo should be the fifth starter (or at least the first guy out of the pen to spot start). His 2011 performance when called upon has earned him that right.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (DL: Tommy John Surgery) – Dice-K might just be the equivalent to a mid season aquisition when he returns from Tommy John surgery. With Bobby V at the helm, it just might be what the doctor ordered for Dice-K in his final months as a member of the Red Sox due to Bobby’s time spent managing in Japan. I expect the best performance we’ve seen up to this point upon his return if he is healthy enough post-surgery to accomplish it.

The Bullpen

Bobby Jenks – In December, Jenks has lower back surgery to remove bone fragments and less than a month later has had a second operation on his back and will probably miss the start of spring training. If he can stay healthy he would be a valuable 7th or 8th inning option along with Malanson; otherwise, he’s sure to be DFA’d or traded during the season.

Scott Atchison – Atchison has his best numbers in the following categories in 2011: ERA (3.26) and WHIP (1.20), but his SO/9 were at a career low at 5.0. He also had very good command as seen with a BB/9 rate of 1.8 and he did not give up even one HR. I’d keep him, but would monitor his SO/9 and H/9 rates to see if they loose any more ground. If they do, I’d expect that to affect his ERA and WHIP numbers, too and if that happens I’d cut ties with him. The Red Sox no longer have the ability to option him to the minors (he is out of MiLB options). Due to the signing of OF Cody Ross, Atchison has been designated for assignment. In my most humble opinion, this should have been Albers. Sorry Matt!

Matt Albers – The only thing I like about Albers stat line for 2011 was his increase in SO/9 which was almost 3 points higher than his previous season high. What I don’t trust is a RP with a WHIP of 1.43, which sadly enough was his second best total in his career. I’ll see if there were any takers on him & try to get a decent prospect out of it. Maybe put him into a package to the Cubs in an attempt to land a better compensation deal for Theo.

Franklin Morales – His totals in Boston were his best since his rookie year of 2007. In Boston he posted a 3.62 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, a 2.82 SO/BB and a SO/9 of 8.6 second only to his 9.2 in 2009. That and the fact that he’s a lefty and only 25 years old tells me that he is a keeper. The Red Sox no longer have the ability to option him to the minors (he is out of MiLB options).

Michael Bowden – If Bowden can continue to lower his H/9, ERA and WHIP as well as increase his SO/9 while he continues to adjust to pitching in relief, he might have his best year in a Red Sox uniform in 2012. But even if he does, it might not be enough unless it is more significant than his progress thus far seeing his WHIP was 1.50. The Red Sox no longer have the ability to option him to the minors (he is out of MiLB options).

Junichi Tazawa – There’s not much to go on here so it all depends upon his efforts in spring training, but I don’t see a situation where he breaks camp with the big club. He’ll probably wind up in Pawtucket for some more seasoning of his game and see how he progresses as the season goes on. After all, he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Felix Doubront – Doubront’s numbers last year in Boston were not very good as can be seen over at Baseball-Reference.com and unless he can show signs of bouncing back in 2012, I would add him in with Albers and try to flip him to the Cubs in the Theo compensation deal. It’s time to cut bait on him or change the way they are using him (which may be the best route to travel if they cannot find a taker for him). The Red Sox no longer have the ability to option him to the minors (he is out of MiLB options).

Andrew Miller  – I don’t see where they can use him in Boston except in mop up duty unless he turns a corner in 2012 and starts living up to his potential. After all, he is just 26 years old. Just look at his numbers over at Baseball-Reference.com to see what I am talking about. His WHIP alone scares me away. The Red Sox no longer have the ability to option him to the minors (he is out of MiLB options).

RP Rich Hill – Was recently resigned to a minor league deal with the Red Sox that will pay him $750K if he makes it to Boston in 2012 after recovering from Tommy John surgery he had back in June 2011. I see him as a big part of the Red Sox bullpen if he can bounce back from the surgery.

Currently Available Free Agent Pitchers

SP’s

Rich Harden – I think they have gotten enough players like Harden already; therefore, I do not see them going after him, too! Although he can be dominant when healthy, but the problem is, lately, he rarely is…

Edwin Jackson – is going to cost too much for them to sign him this off season both in years and overall salary. He’d be a good number 4 or 5 starter though (much like Paul Maholm who was signed by the Cubs to an affordable one-year contract, darn you Theo!).

Roy Oswalt – On a one-year contract under $10M (probably around the $8M mark), I do that deal in a heart beat even if it means trading a few minor pieces to get it done! Come on Ben, sign him already!

Brandon Webb – He is damaged goods that I don’t think even the Red Sox would take a flyer on at this time. Let’s see what he can do on a one year contract for someone else before we jump to a final assessment on him for the long haul…

Chris Young – I still think that Young would be a good back end of the rotation kind of guy, but the question is…can he handle playing in Boston with the media frenzy and all? We may never know…the Sox may be done shopping for the rotation at this point.

RP’s

I have only listed the available arms I’d be interested in. If you would like to know my opinion on another name not listed here, please ask me in the comments below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

Mike Gonzalez – If Gonzalez can get back to his 2009 form, he would be a nice lefty out of thre pen, but his ERA and K/9 are both trending in the wrong way, he is not a groundball pitcher and even his xFIP was over 3.7 which is a bit high for my taste for a bullpen arm.

Chad Qualls – My main concern with Qualls is the drop in his K/9 last year. He went from being over 7 and 8 (with a low of 7.47 in 2010) over the last four years, to a 5.21 in 2011. In fact, it has been dropping ever since it’s height in 2008 at 8.67. Although 2010 saw his ERA spike at 7.32, his xFIP was actually 3.72. Another bonus is that his groundball percentages have been 55% or more his whole career, which fits into the new GM’s mold for pitchers.

DFA List

SP Micah Owings – He’s coming off a year that saw him hit his best numbers in ERA (3.57), appearances (33, with 4 starts) and BABIP (.258) in the majors, but his xFIP was 4.51 (but even that was his best thus far in his career). I’d like to see him get his K/9 back up around 9.45 (2010 with the Reds). He can also be a long reliever, another spot start option or might be useful pitching in the 7th inning right in front of Melancon. A role he has not been in up to this point in his early career, but is something that could rejuvenate his career and allow him to regain those high K/9 numbers.

What I like most about his is his ability to be another right handed bat off the bench, something you don’t normally think about with a pitcher these days! Read this: in only 217 PA he has hit .286 with 27 R, 35 RBI, 9 HR, .313 OBP, .507 SLG a 106 wRC+, .222 ISO, .389 BABIP and holds a 3.8 WAR as a hitter. It’s almost like carrying an extra bench player! This move is a no brainer to me, especially when you consider that he only made around $423K last year.

Pitchers that Might be Available via Trade

If 3B prospect Will Middlebrooks sets AAA ablaze offensively and maintains his deffensive prowess, we might see Kevin Youkilis jettisoned out in a trade for one of these guys. If not, then a multi-player deal surrounding the likes of Ryan Kalish, Lars Anderson, Matt Albers, Felix Dubront, Andrew Miller, Bobby Jenks or Michael Bowden (pick a few from this list, but there are others not mentioned that could be had) might pry one of these guys loose.

SP Matt Garza (Cubs) – Probably the least likeliest of trade possibilities, but it could happen. I just don’t think Theo and Jed would do it unless they were blown away (including Middlebrooks, Iglesias or Brittan) and I don’t see Cherrington doing that. The Cubs could use Youk, too.

SP Wandy Rodriguez (Astros) – I’m sort of luke-warm on Wandy…I just am not sold on him and I have no idea if we could handle the pressure cooker that is pitching in Boston. He also could be had on the cheap!

SP Brett Myers (Astros) – My least favorite choice. Myers is a poor mans Schilling and simply not good enough in my estimation, but could probably be had on the cheap.

SP – Tom Gorzelanny (Nationals) – Although I’d take Masterson or Garza ahead of him, Gorzelanny would work out well (if healthy) at the end of the rotation if he could handle the pressure in Boston. The deal that would net him wouldn’t be as costly either!

SP – Justin Masterson (Indians) – Probably my favorite choice on this list (which is admittedly short). I was disappointed to hear that he was a part of the Victor Martinez trade to begin with, although I would have never admitted to thinking he’d be this good as a starter. I always projected him as a long-to-short reliever. But after seeing what he’s doing in Cleveland, I’d be tickled pink to have him at the end of the Red Sox rotation! And…the Indians are looking to upgrade at 1B (Youk’s best position), too.

SP – Gavin Floyd (White Sox) – If the remaining free agent starting pitchers sign elsewhere or are asking for more (in terms of either years or dollars) than what the Red Sox are willing to shell out, then maybe the speculated trade for Floyd would be a nice option. The “other” Sox team has been either trading away players(Carlos Quentin) letting them walk (Buehrle) or signed to a long term contract (John Danks); making it difficult to understand what direction they are going in at the  present time. But seeing what the asked for in exchange for Quentin, Boston might be able to put a deal together either before the start of the season or by the trading deadline in July. I like this idea, but it would depend upon what they’d need to give up. The price might still be too high.

Hot Stove Season Transactions To Date

RP Mark Melancon – He was obtained via trade for INF Jed Lowrie and P Kyle Weiland. Melancon is primed to become a late inning arm that will be a big threat in either the 7th, 8th or 9th innings for Boston in 2012. He is young (will turn 27 during the season), comes inexpensive and will be under team control until after the 2016 season. He became the Astros closer after an injury to Brandon Lyon in May saving 20 in 25 opportunities over 74.1 innings (in 71 appearances) with an ERA of 2.78 and a 1.22 WHIP with 3 Holds. His other stats include a 7.99 K/9, .234 BAA and 2.54 K/BB. With the trade for Bailey, Melancon becomes the set up man for him taking over for Bard who will now be free to convert to the starting rotation.

Closer Andrew Bailey – He was obtained (along with OF Ryan Sweeney) via trade for OF Josh Reddick, 1B/3B Miles Head and P Raul Alcantara. Bailey, who is also 27 (like Melancon) is a two-time All Star as the A’s closer & will remain under team control until 2014.

Aaron Cook – Was recently signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The 5th spot in the rotation (that is if Bard is the # 4 starter) is between Cook, Silva and Padilla (edge to Padilla) and he’ll need to earn it! Plus Cook has only had 10+ wins twice in his career (16 in 2008 and 11 in 2009).

Carlos Silva – Was recently signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He is a long shot who will probably start the season in AAA and be kept as insurance, but might help out in long relief if he regains his accuracy. The 5th spot in the rotation (that is if Bard is the # 4 starter) is between Silva, Cook and Padilla (edge to Padilla) and he’ll need to earn it! Plus Silva has only had 10+ wins in a season four times (2004, 2006-2007 and 2010). I like the possibility of Silva regaining his touch over Cook. Silva has also been better more recently than Cook, too.

Justin Germano – Was recently signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, but after seeing his numbers per Baseball-Reference, and the signings of Cook and Silva, I don’t see him making the big club out of spring training.

Vicente Padilla – Was recently signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He is my favorite choice out of the pack obtained to vie for the 4th & 5th spot in the rotation because he’s had more recent success than the others. He has also had four seasons with 10+ wins, but in those seasons he has been more consistent (14 wins three times in 2003-04 and 2008 and 15 wins in 2006) and his xFIP (3.40 and 3.47 in 2011 and 2010 in LA) has been more consistent throughout his career.

John Maine – Was recently signed to a minor league deal and will probably start off the season at AAA as a relief pitcher.

The Free Agent Pitchers, To Date, Who They Should Have Signed

The following pitchers all signed one year deals that the Red Sox could have afforded and should have made.

Hiroki Kuroda (SP) – Signed for $10,000,000 with the Yankees and the Red Sox were known to be interested in him. This is the one fish I am really sad to see get away and the fact that he went to the arch rival Yankees makes it hurt even worse!

Paul Maholm (SP) – Signed for $4,750,000 with the Cubs and the Red Sox were known to be interested in him. Why the Red Sox didn’t beat Theo to the punch on this one is beyond me unless they had no idea he could be had for so cheap and for just one year!

Jon Rauch (RP) – Signed for $3,500,000 with the Mets. He’d have been a nice addition to the pen…

George Sherrill (RP) – Signed for $1,100,000 with the Mariners. He would have been a nice guy to pitch to lefties (as much as I hate this tactic) out of the pen.

Joel Zumaya (RP) – Signed for $850,000 with the Twins and the Red Sox were known to be interested in him. At this price, he was so worth the risk!

In closing, if you have any questions about a player I have either mentioned or neglected to mention, but should have, let’s discuss that in the comments below. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

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2 Comments

  1. Karla

    February 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I want to watch this in live..Thanks a lot for sharing..

  2. Benjamin Marcus Raucher

    March 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Pitching needs to improve

    Benjamin Marcus Raucher

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