Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Outside of the already noted David Ortiz struggles, there has been on thing If anything this season that has held the Red Sox back this year, mediocre starting pitching. The current rotation of Beckett, Lester, Wakefield, Dice-K and Penny contain absolutely no one with an ERA below 4. If these pitcher were throwing to their capabilities all season long they would be way more than 2 games up, but things appear to be turning the corner for the Sox both in starts from their elite pitchers and the depth that's coming.
First off Lester's ERA of 4.76 is UGLY, especially for a pitcher who posted a 3.21 ERA last year. For Lester the tide is turning however. In each of Lester's past three starts he's given up just 1 earned run and struck out at least 11 in each game.
For Josh Beckett, if you take out his last start in Philly where he blew up late in the game, the man has been a monster for over a month. In his four starts prior to the Philly game Beckett gave up just a single run. The Philly game was likely just a blip on the radar, and Beckett will return to dominating in his next start.
For the other three guys currently in the rotation two are struggling and one kind of is what he is. Nonbody is struggling more than Dice-K. In 7 starts this season Dice-K is posting an ERA over 7 and has yet to pitch 6 complete innings. He's almost been as bad as Chien-Ming Wang. Penny has posted 5.32 ERA this season which was helped by 6 shutout innings against the Yankees. One would imagine that with no real loyalty to Penny the Red Sox are going to shop him to the highest bidder. For Wakefield, he is going to eat innings and likely post an ERA in the mid 4s, that's pretty much what he is and its to be expected.
The scary part is what is coming. At any point in time the Red Sox could just replace one of their struggling starters with all star level talent. John Smoltz is ready to make his Red Sox debut. The man posted a 3.11 ERA last year for the Braves in 32 starts. If he's completely healthy there's no reason to think he's going to do anything but dominate.
The final piece of the puzzle is Clay Buchholz who has been amongst if not the best pitcher in the minor leagues this season. Buchholz is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA and .82 WHIP. The kid who two years ago pitched a No-No in the bigs is absolutely ready to return.
All in all the Red Sox have 7 extremely viable starting pitchers right now which means that if someone struggles they can just stop throwing them. Additionally they have plenty of pieces to make a trade if they desire to find an extra bat or make a move due to injury. If Smoltz comes back fully healthy and is the #3 guy in a playoff rotation, that would be frightening. The Red Sox right now just might be the favorite for the World Series title.