Monday, July 9, 2012

All-Star Break report card: Part I (Pitching)

Honestly, this has been one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory for Red Sox fans. Yes, I realize that the team has been decimated by injuries. Going into last night's game against the Yankees, the Sox had Pedroia, Crawford, Ellsbury, Bailey, Rich Hill, Buchholz, Dice-K (shocking) and Middlebrooks, either injured, recovering from an injury, or on a rehab assignment. No doubt, they've had some tough breaks, but that does not---let me repeat this---it does NOT excuse or explain away the Red Sox dismally average 43-43 record and spot at the bottom of the division.

Nope. And Sox fans who believe that the return of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury is going to turn around the season is either a Pink Hat or an Ass Hat. To put it simply, the problem is the starting pitching, mainly Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz, a.k.a. The Beer and Fried Chicken Gang (sans that pecker-head Lackey). In fact, the guys who have come off the bench, or come up from Pawtucket, this year have played their asses off and contributed largely to the second most potent offense in the AL behind a ridiculously good Texas line-up.

So let's start there

Starting pitching: F  

The three donkeys.
That's right. F, as in "failure;" as in, "Mr. Blutarsky, 0.0;" as you do not pass because your work has been unacceptable. And, really, this is the reason the Red Sox are holed up in the cellar of the AL East, ten games behind the Yankees in the loss column. And you can't really put the blame on the rookie Felix Doubront or Franklin Morales, both of whom have been decent.

We could put some blame on the front office for giving us the Daniel Bard Debacle, and, of course, Dice-K has stunk for the majority of his overpaid stay in Boston. But the brunt of the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of Beckett and Lester---and to a lesser degree Buchholz---who have to pitch like aces in order for The Red Sox to be competitive.

What is most infuriating is the fact that it seems like these guys have learned nothing since last September. One would think that after last season, they would be pitching with flames shooting from their bungholes, trying to atone for their bad behavior and ineffable apathy that led to the historic collapse. Nope, again. Hell yeah, they like beer. It seems like they like it more than baseball, in fact. Beckett and Lester have been average at best, perhaps below average, with both posting robust ERA's well over 4.00, and the team is 12-20 in games they've started. Do the math.

So, go ahead, Pink Hats, keep talking about the good times to come when the Sox get their starters back. Belt out some "Sweet Caroline" while you're waiting. But it's not the problem.

The Bullpen: A-

To me, this is further evidence that the problem lies in the starting pitching. While Bobby Valentine has surely not been perfect at the helm, he has done a masterful job managing the bullpen this year. When you think the hand he was dealt coming into the season, losing Bard and Andrew Bailey in the pen (by the way, I wish the Sox had a Josh Reddick on their ball club), then to have Melancon blown up like a pipe bomb in a pinata in his first few outings, Valentine has done a nice job stringing this pen together. And this bullpen, like many of the gritty starters, has really stepped up. Aceves has been good, not masterful, but certainly serviceable, and guys like Albers, Atchinson and Padilla have been surprisingly consistent.

While I thought this was going to be The Red Sox Achilles' Heel going into the season, it's not. Not even close. And while the bullpen may be the fattest and ugliest pen in baseball---who wins in a beauty contest, Padilla or Aceves?---they've pitched well, and they've been managed well.

In short, it's the two donkeys at the front of the rotation, and already, the trade rumors have begun to stir. The problem being that Beckett is 10-5, so there might not be a lot the Sox can do, except make him very uncomfortable in Boston.


Plastic Cards said...

Nate your passion for baseball and red sox is clearly visible,

Anthony said...

Nice analysis. It is also worth noting that, for the first time in a very long while, all of the teams in the division are pretty good, making it more difficult for the Red Sox to win games.

Nate Graziano said...

Thanks, Anthony. Good point, but I anticipate Baltimore and Toronto falling off in the second half. Still, AL East is beating on each other. Interesting stat I heard today: there are only three teams in the AL--Kansas City, Seattle, and Minnesota---who are more than three games out of the second Wild Card spot. I still say the Sox have move one of the two donkeys at the rotation.