Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Addressing" the Red Sox 2013 Rotation

A couple of weeks ago on the "Downtown with Rich Kimball Show", Chris Bahr of the Sporting News was interviewed and the subject of the AL East arose.   Bahr gave a one or two line synopsis of each team in the division.  His comment for Boston was "other than adding Dempster they have not addressed the rotation woes."  This for one thing drove me nuts and secondly is factually wrong.

Now if Bahr had said that he thought their rotation was still the Sox weakest link or it needed a bigger name added over the winter, I would still disagree, but that would be an opinion that may turn out to be true.  But Boston has most certainly "addressed" the starting pitching rotation. They have done so in the following ways:

1. Hiring John Farrell.  Among the attributes Farrell will bring to his job is a deep knowledge of pitching and this pitching staff in particular.  He also commands the respect of the holdovers on this staff from his pitching coach stint.

1A.  Sticking with and counting heavily on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz as aces.  I list this as 1A because this reason is intertwined with Farrell's return.  If the Sox had decided to dump this duo and tried to trade or sign two pitchers capable of heading a rotation, it would have been nearly impossible, completely impossible without dealing the top kids which Cherington was determined not to do. Counting on Lester and Buch to return to the results of past seasons with Farrell in charge is a completely reasonable assumption to make.  It is not like these two have not produced before, they have and are both young enough to do it for years to come.

2. Dempster is not the only veteran innings eating starter added to the 2012 starters.  Welcome back, John Lackey! (OK,  I know, I know). But it is a fact that Lackey as well as Dempster have produced season after season of 200 or so innings ( Lackey's career average is 187.5 IP), and despite Lackey's two mediocre seasons in Boston before his Tommy John surgery, he won 14 games in 2010 and 12 in 2011.  And with Lester and Buchholz fronting the staff, Dempster and Lackey only need to be innings eaters in the 3/4 spots.  Anything better from the two vets is gravy. ( but not chicken gravy, please).

3. Felix Doubront.  It is nearly lost in 2012's debacle that the Red Sox had a rookie lefty starter win 11 games while making 29 starts, with a 2.35 K/BB rate.  There were some bumps, an ERA of nearly 5 for example.  Pencilling Felix into the five hole while looking for progression in his career is the plan, but if he hits a bump in the road, the Sox have....

4. Veteran depth in Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves.  Aceves lusts to be a starter, but his versatility in the pen suits the Sox needs more, but he could be stretched out to start in a hurry if needed ( if he doesn't crazy himself outta town.)  Morales could conceivably beat out Doubront for the fifth spot with a strong spring. Just a few years ago he was a major big time starter prospect for the Rockies. If he could grab the job and run with it, he could be the only positive to come out of the Bobby Valentine error.

5.  Young starting depth acquired last summer.  In the blockbuster Nick Punto trade with the Dodgers the Red Sox not only famously unloaded all that payroll, but also took two kid pitchers who could both be top notch big league starters and soon! They are Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster.  De la Rosa actually started 10 games or so with LA in 2011 before having TJ surgery which he has recovered from.  He throws up around 97 mph and some scouts have compared him to Pedro ( more there in a moment).  Webster, who has two complete years at AA, has a hard sinking fastball which has him compared to Derek Lowe.  Slated to begin 2013 at Pawtucket, he could help in Boston this year if needed.

6. Steven Wright. Another "young" pitcher acquired last summer, with much less fanfare from Cleveland for Lars Anderson.  Wright is a 28 year old knuckleballer who has some people( including John Farrell) mentioning him as a possible starter for Boston during 2013.  He will begin at AAA, and as with most knuckleballers is a crap shoot.

7. Improved bullpen depth--one way to improve the rotation is to take the pressure off them and to reduce some innings here and there by using a strong bullpen.  The Sox have added new closer Joel Hanrahan plus strong veteran set up specialist Koji Uehara. Plus back to the Farrell Factor, can he rejuvenate Daniel Bard to his former lights out eighth inning ace??

8. Addition by subtraction.  There will be no games started by Aaron Cook, Zach Stewart, and the always lovable Daisuke Matsuzaka. ( ok, I admit I will miss Dice, but I suspect no one else in the Nation will.)

9.  The Red Sox have brought back Pedro!  Alas, Larry Lucchino has not found a time machine or a cloning device to add a Pedro in his prime to the rotation ( but he is still digging around in some old Fenway storage areas for that time machine).  But hiring Pedro as a special assistant to the GM is a great move by the Red Sox.  In the long term, his presence will likely encourage young Dominicans to sign with the Sox.  But first and foremost Rubby de la Rosa should become his special project ( the other kid pitchers could watch and learn also).  But bringing out the best in Rubby would be a great Pedro starting point and possibly a huge boon to this year's team.

So to Chris Bahr and others, there are 10 ways the Red Sox have "addressed" the 2013 rotation.  They most certainly have addressed it, but now as the next several months go by we will get the answer to the question:  Have the Red Sox addressed their starting rotation correctly?? That is the question.


  1. Thanks for the snowy day Red Sox reading Deacon! When most of the northeast is snowed in for a day a week before spring training is set to begin there is nothing better to do than talk Sox. Now here's my two cents on the Sox rotation...

    1. John Farrell- There's no question that one of the major reasons why he was hired was to get Lester and Buchholz back to their potential. It's also one of the reasons that Lester wasn't traded to the Royals for Wil Myers.

    1A. Even with John Farrell back I don't see Lester and Buchholz as "Aces". Even if they reach their full potential I don't see either one of them reaching the level of a Verlander, King Felix or CC Sabathia. Yes I know that Lester has had comparable seasons to those guys, but it was always when someone else was seen as the ace of the staff. With that being said I don't think they have to be aces, if they pitch to their potential and give us a solid 1-2 punch that will be good enough to make the playoffs.

    2. If Lackey could even repeat 2010 than he would be a lot, and I mean a lot, better than Dice K from the last three years. I for one am going to drink the kool aid on John Lackey and give him another shot in Boston. I might actually even root for the guy.

    3. Felix Doubront- I'm pretty confident that Felix Doubront is going to have a major regression to the mean season and be a major disappointment in '13

    4. Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves might be good veteran depth but there's not a lot of room in the bullpen to keep them if they're not in the rotation. How the Red Sox keep all their pitchers in the organization will be a major story at the end of spring training.

    5. I think the De la Rosa and Webster pickups are underrated big time. When was the last time the Red Sox picked up two young starting pitchers in one trade? If they do work out like the Red Sox hope it will go down as the best trade since the 1990's when the Red Sox acquired Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez in separate trades.

    6. Steven Wright- You never know with knuckleballers. Here's to hoping that Lars Anderson isn't this years Josh Reddick.

    7. For a minute let's just allow ourselves to day dream about how good of a set up man that Daniel Bard was from '09-'11. Now imagine that pitcher being back with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.

    8. The Red Sox have always been at their best when they've had good pitching prospects to call up to the rotation instead of retreads like Aaron Cook. Here's to hoping that Allen Webster, Rubby De la Rosa and maybe even Matt Barnes make their Red Sox debuts this season and give positive contributions.

    9. It remains to be seen how much impact Pedro will have, but it sure is fun having him around the team right now. How ironic is it that he showed up earlier to spring training as an asst. to the GM than when he was a player. Must not have had any family birthday parties to attend...

    P.S. Who the hell is Chris Bahr anyway?

  2. Dice-K's long offseason of unemployment is over and yes he will be rejoining.......Terry Francona as he has signed a minor league deal with ST invite with Cleveland.

    1. I thought he would have been a better fit in the National League, but evidently no NL GM's agreed with me. From reading Tito Francona's book I'm not sure that he is thrilled to be reunited with Dice.

  3. Seattle has DFA'd Mike Carp. As I have covered in this space before, I think he might be the best cheap fit out there for what the Sox need in terms of a LH 1B/OF. According to a Pete Abe tweet today, the Red Sox have had internal discussions about Carp, but have not yet decided whether to pursue him or not. Count me as one fan who hopes they do.

    1. I think Carp fills a big need on this team and not just as a left hand hitting first basemen. Now that Kalish is hurt and Bryce Brentz shot himself in the leg, their OF depth is really short and Carp has more OF experience than Lyle Overbay or Pedro Ciriaco. Go Fishin' Ben C. and land yourself a that was corny

  4. Also, from a Pete Abe tweet, this nugget which will make Barry (and others) very happy: Jon Lester admitted to reporters today that he needs to improve his body language on the mound and his conduct towards umpires. I'm willing to bet those directives came right from John Farrell shortly upon being hired here. In short, Lester needs to man up and stop acting like a baby when doesn't get calls, which causes a tailspin into that one horrible inning he seems to have in every start.

    1. Barry, you may b onto something with your Doubront prediction ( which I basically disagreed with). According to today's Globe notes from the Fort by Pete Abe Doubront has reported out of shape a la 2011. Abraham reports the staff is upset about it. Time to buy stock in Franklin Morales??

    2. I don't want to be right. But last year Felix had all the motivation in the world coming into camp. He was basically pitching to save his career. Hopefully an early spring training wake up call will be enough turn him around (and send him in the direction of a treadmill).

  5. A couple of good nuggets in Pete Abe's Extra Bases Blog...
    - Alfredo being Alfredo. Aceves was supposed to throw live batting practice today, and for whatever reason, starting throwing soft toss into the plate. He was immediately addressed by Farrell and Nieves, and Aceves finally came around. Pete Abe claims Farrell scored points with other players by addressing the matter emphatically and quickly. Two thoughts: one, Aceves is going to find himself without a job fast if he keeps up this kind of crap, and two, it's nice to have a manager with some balls.
    - Lyle Overbay is apparently fitting in well as a veteran spring training invite. I haven't heard anything new about going after Mike Carp, which I would still prefer, but it sounds like Overbay may make the team as a backup left-handed hitting 1B.
    - In Pete Abe's words, John Lackey has been "a revelation" so far this spring. He is svelte, he is pounding the bottom of the zone, and he's saying all the right things to the media. If he starts the year hot, The Nation will pull a 180 so fast and get behind him that they may forget the chicken and beer forever.

    1. I also saw a tweet from Nick Cafardo today that said that Aceves' agent just flew into town...could a trade be in the works??