Theo’s Choice

Three items are coming together to produce an embarrassment of pitching riches for the Boston Red Sox. It's the kind of choice any general manager would love to have:

  • Beginning yesterday, all players signed this past offseason can now be traded without their permission. This of course includes Brad Penny, whose value has risen steadily this season and may never be higher after he outdueled C.C. Sabathia in his last outing.
  • John Smoltz's next start may or may not be for the Red Sox. He's scheduled to pitch Thursday; his rehab assignment ends the next day.
  • Clay Buchholz has destroyed AAA hitting and would like everyone to know that he'd sure love a chance to pitch in the big leagues, no matter the team. 

Never mind that Michael Bowden has also been tearing up Pawtucket, and Justin Masterson isn't shabby himself when he takes the hill as a starter.

So do the Sox trade Penny and install Smoltz before Thursday, when the aging ace is expected to next take the mound? That seems unlikely, as pitching needs for other teams have only grown since the beginning of the year — and are likely only to grow further between now and the trade deadline.

A look at the Red Sox' rotation since May 1 gives us a pretty good idea exactly who should be replaced when Smoltz returns:
  • Josh Beckett: 5-1, 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 50 Ks, 16 BB
  • Jon Lester: 4-3, 4.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 63 Ks, 18 BB 
  • Tim Wakefield: 6-2, 6.13 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 26 Ks, 22 BB 
  • Brad Penny: 3-2, 4.10 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 38 Ks, 9 BB 
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka: 1-3, 6.20 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 27 Ks, 9 BB

Clearly the best starting rotation at the moment does not include Matsuzaka, who (unlike Wakefield) has shown us nothing positive in his seven starts this season. A second DL stint — fatigued shoulder, one month for arm strengthening, mechanics work and a bevy of rehab starts — seems like the most logical choice. If and when a good enough offer for Penny arises, Buchholz can take his place in the rotation. 

It's the only option that makes sense right now. The Red Sox would be foolish to simply dump Penny, a solid pitcher at this point, simply because they can. And they would be foolish to keep Smoltz out of the rotation when he would be a clear improvement over the Sox' worst starter. 

47 comments… add one

  • I’d be interested in moving Wakefield out of the rotation for a spell to give Matsuzaka slightly more rope, the caveat being if Matsuzaka is truly injured, in which case the choice isn’t difficult.
    Wakefield has been PUTRID for 6 weeks – just look at his K/BB ratio. Matsuzaka’s BABIP against is a staggering .443. Now that’s partly because he’s been just terrible, but I also have to believe that a slight bit of normalization would show him to be a better pitcher than Wakefield, and we know his upside is higher. This past start from Dice-K was a disappointment, but I am not sure the rain delay didn’t impact him, fatigue him more quickly once he returned. He was sharp, then fell off a cliff. The rain played a part, in my mind.
    Again, if he’s hurt then DL him and make it easy. If he’s not, I say Wake is a candidate for a reduced role.

    SF June 16, 2009, 9:20 am
  • I’m curious as to why the RS management seems so adamant about not using Smoltz in relief…….not that the RS need much help in that department.
    As for Wake, I find myself trusting him more than I trust Penny, last start notwithstanding. Also, the fact that Wake goes further in games than DM is omitted from this snapshot – thus it understates the fact that Wake has on the whole helped the bullpen remain the best in baseball this year, while DM has made this more difficult.
    Using a knuckleballer in short relief is an inherently risky thing to do (WPs with men on base hurt more than they do without, same with HBPs and walks). Wake would make a good long reliever/mopup man, and is sufficiently self-effacing to do it without complaint, but the RS don’t actually need one of those much these days. Smoltz can be a short reliever, as we all know.
    Buchholtz is really being wasted at Pawtucket IMHO, and can’t be expected to get much better until he is challenged by ML hitters. I see a real downside to just leaving him there for now.
    I say skip/DL Daisuke short term while giving Smoltz a look, shop BP as soon as possible for anything useful (for later if not for this year) and then give CB some starts when/if Wake gets hurt or DM fails to improve. If we continue to suffer from our current lack of misfortune in our starting pitching, Smoltz can be warehoused(!) as a reliever for disaster (injury, CB/DM flaming out) insurance better than Wake can be.

    dabize June 16, 2009, 9:54 am
  • The problem is that Wakefield is simply not going to see his role reduced, though it is telling that he has been not much better than Matsuzaka over the past six weeks.
    I personally think Dice is injured — or at least not fully recovered from the WBC-induced development lag.
    The problem is the Sox know what they’ll get from Wake, and that likely means a string of good performances in the near future to normalize his stats back to the usual 4.50 ERA, 2:1 K/BB level. Daisuke’s unusual style of pitching has always raised questions of sustainability, and there seems to be a real risk that his amazing ability to not give up hits last season was just luck after all, and that this year we could see a hideous regression.
    I’d like to see that proved one way or the other in AAA, where it will be much less damaging, and where it will provide space for Smoltz and eventually Buchholz, who deserve their own chances to prove what they have.

    Paul SF June 16, 2009, 9:56 am
  • I personally HOPE that Dice is injured, but I don’t think so.
    I think there are two kinds of pitchers – those who physically can’t throw strikes when they need to, and those who are scared to do so.
    I don’t care what they do – just as long as I see Buchholz taking someone’s spot – or being included in the Hanley Ramirez trade. hahaha..

    Brad June 16, 2009, 10:00 am
  • Lester and Beckett had ERAs in the Dice-K range for more innings than Dice-K has thrown.
    I am not arguing that Dice-K has been good, or that he hasn’t hurt the Sox (he hasn’t been good and he has hurt the Sox). But I don’t see how he shouldn’t get another couple of starts. The Sox don’t really have to do anything right now, frankly. Smoltz can pitch out of the pen – even Bard could be sent down, frankly, and not to his detriment I don’t think.
    Paul – how do Dice-K’s innings play out compared to what Lester was going through earlier? How many runs have been bunched? Curious.

    SF June 16, 2009, 10:01 am
  • “Daisuke’s unusual style of pitching has always raised questions of sustainability, and there seems to be a real risk that his amazing ability to not give up hits last season was just luck after all, and that this year we could see a hideous regression.”
    Not to mention the Pitcher Abuse Points he picked up in Japan over the years and in the WBC.
    Agreed on most of your other points too.
    I differ a bit about Penny, though. I buy the CW about him that he’s ripe for a disastrous outing or two that will make him harder to trade – I’ve just seen him give up too many LDs/FBs that turn into loud outs to have faith in him. He gives me a loud Alan Embree/Mike Timlin vibe……….

    dabize June 16, 2009, 10:06 am
  • Any idea what Will Carroll is talking about when he says this during a chat?
    “Jim (Portland): Do you believe John Smoltz will be a front of the rotation add for the Red Sox?
    Will Carroll: Front of rotation? No. Useful? Maybe. Better than Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden? I don’t understand that part of it. Look, I liked the plan of a three-headed rotation slot with Penny, Smoltz and Buchholz expected to throw 220 innings in some combination. It all went right – all three are effective, but why stick with it when there’s suddenly a surplus? I have to think they’ll trade Penny, though Buchholz’s antics are starting to wear thin and he could bring a bigger return.

    mattymatty (Philly): The Yankees can’t send Wang down without exposing him to waivers, otherwise I’m sure they would have. But, my question is this: when you say that Clay Buchholz’s antics are starting to wear thin, what antics are you referring to?
    Will Carroll: “Hip imbalance.”
    Buchholz has a laundry list of things, but I’d really rather not get into the gossip. Saying you’re not happy in the minors isn’t the best way to impress the bosses, though.”
    Odd. Anyway, this is a very good position for any GM to be in. My guess is that Penny gets traded for outfield depth or a useful SS. There were rumors linking him to a swap for Francouer, who certainly does not fit the high obp profile of a typical Sock, but has been loved by the scouts and has upside. It would sort of be like the Arroyo-Wily Mo trade a few years back. I’m not sure it makes sense for Boston.

    Nick-YF June 16, 2009, 10:08 am
  • Buchholz has every right to speak his displeasure, and should – imo. He is dominating every five days and watching Dice and Wakefield suck the life out of the rotation. I’d be pissed to.

    Brad June 16, 2009, 10:12 am
  • Carroll’s use of the term “antics” is ridiculous. What “antics”? Is saying you want to be in the Majors in the prime years of your career an “antic”? Has he threatened to sit? Has he had tantrums in the dugout? Has he done anything but what the big club has asked of him? Will Carroll exhibited bad word choice, I think that’s how I will look at it.

    SF June 16, 2009, 10:18 am
  • Will Carroll’s implicit comparison of BP and CB as trade prospects seems very weird to me……..one’s a rental, while the other’s very likely to be a big piece of the future.
    “Could bring a bigger return?”
    I sure hope so……
    Even if you end up trading Clay, you’d have to be give an offer you couldn’t refuse (Hanley Ramirez?) to do it very soon…….

    dabize June 16, 2009, 10:18 am
  • Yeah, dabize, “could bring a better return”. Thanks for the expert analysis, Will.
    I wonder if he’s been spending a bunch of time with Steve Phillips lately.

    SF June 16, 2009, 10:19 am
  • That’s what I say, dabize. I’m not against trading or including CB in a huge package for a great player, but it’ll never happen, and I’m fine with that too.

    Brad June 16, 2009, 10:21 am
  • I wonder about the availability of a guy like Tulowitzki, who has regressed from his rookie season. I bet the Rockies overvalue him, and that’s part of the problem.

    SF June 16, 2009, 10:25 am
  • I think Clay has become a focus for sports “analysts” who wait for somebody to help them earn their salaries (I use the term “earn” in lieu of a better one) by committing some gaudy gaffe (or doing/saying something that can be SPUN as a gaffe).
    The laptop story will resurface as a predilection for “antics” for a long time, I fear…….

    dabize June 16, 2009, 10:27 am
  • Brad, maybe the apparent reluctance to bring Clay up for a hard look at his progress since last year (and his suitability for the future) has something to do with being burned in the past…..not that I think that is at all reasonable.
    Could the RS management have a Cla(y) phobia/anxiety?
    Do they need a shrink?
    I think that now is the BEST time to do it…..if CB still can’t handle the MLs, we still have a lot of near term options.
    Later on, we may not be so lucky.

    dabize June 16, 2009, 10:35 am
  • The only thing I found that suggests antics are from this recent interview with Clay:
    “”There’s nowhere to go, and it’s sort of a logjam up there (in Boston),” Buchholz said. “Whenever they come to a problem, they seem like they find a way to fix it without me being in the picture. It is what it is — it’s frustrating at times.”
    Masterson has proven himself capable of handling pressure situations, having pitched meaningful relief innings in the 2008 Playoffs. Buchholz, though, has battled murmurs that he was immature last season — a potential cause of his troubles on the hill.
    “Everybody goes out and has a drink at the bar after they pitch, it’s just holding that to a minimum,” Buchholz said.”
    Hmm, maybe it’s drinking?

    Nick-YF June 16, 2009, 10:37 am
  • Nick, a taste and talent for euphemism is considered to be a sign of “maturity” these days.

    dabize June 16, 2009, 10:40 am
  • I linked to Clay’s “antics” in the original post. If a vocal desire to play in the major leagues when you’re the organization’s best pitching prospect since Roger Clemens is an “antic,” then I wish we had more players with such problems. Will Carroll more and more is doing a disservice to BP with his mouth.
    SF asked about the nature of Daisuke’s runs allowed. We all remember that he was quite susceptible to the “one bad inning” syndrome in his first year with the Sox, then was very stingy with runs across the board last year.
    This season, Daisuke has allowed at least four earned runs in five of his seven starts but five or more in just two — which is actually quite good. The problem, as it always is with Dice, is the IP totals. Four earned runs isn’t bad scattered over six or seven innings, but the three times he’s allowed four runs, he has pitched 5.1, 5 and 4 innings. So far, Matsuzaka has yet to pitch even six full innings in a start; Lester you’ll remember showed consistent dominance even within his bad starts (until that one inning cropped up).
    April 9, four runs allowed, one in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth.
    April 14, five runs allowed, all in the first, after which Matsuzaka was removed from the game and DL’ed.
    May 22, four runs allowed, three in the fourth.
    June 2, five runs allowed, one in the first, one in the second, two in the third, one in the fifth.
    June 13, four runs allowed, three in the fourth, after which he was removed from the game.
    So I see three meltdown innings, comprising 11 earned runs (although one of those innings was the entirety of his start, so it’s hard to say that really qualifies as a “meltodwn inning” in the sense we used it for Lester). So we bring Daisuke’s 31 IP/26 ER line down to 28 IP/15 ER. That’s still a 4.82 ERA, which would be nice at this point, but would still not be impressive for a pitcher like Matsuzaka.
    I think comparing Matsuzaka’s struggles to Beckett’s and Lester’s is not accurate. Lester and Beckett did not look this bad — not even close.

    Paul SF June 16, 2009, 12:37 pm
  • Will Carroll more and more is doing a disservice to BP with his mouth.
    Why attack the messenger? It’s what he’s heard and the kid does have a history.
    As for Penny, I wonder how much he benefits from following Wakefield in a series. His two worst outings came in the first game of a new series.

    Rob June 16, 2009, 1:16 pm
  • Thanks, Paul, very helpful. In looking at those lines, I am more inclined to shorten the rope for Dice. I still wouldn’t be averse to a start or two more, of course injury is the wild card.

    SF June 16, 2009, 1:24 pm
  • Not a very strong defense of Carroll, there, Rob.
    You aren’t telling us why Carroll’s description of “antics” is an appropriate choice of words. Speaking up about his situation? Or are there other things? If so, then Carroll is trafficking in unsubstantiated and vague innuendo. And if he is referring to something from years ago then that is just lame. You don’t need to defend everyone just because Paul critiques them, Rob.

    SF June 16, 2009, 1:27 pm
  • Carroll claims there is a laundry list of issues. If there is and he puts it out there, then he probably should mention something more than Buchholz’s understandable desire to play in the majors. I agree with Paul’s assessment of Carroll who does occasionally put his foot in his mouth with attention-grabbing one-liners like this.

    Nick-YF June 16, 2009, 1:36 pm
  • Why attack the messenger? It’s what he’s heard and the kid does have a history.
    There’s a difference between reporting what he heard (Buchholz said there’s a logjam for the 5th spot and that that’s “frustrating”) and spinning it to meet his own agenda. “His antics are wearing thin”? Seriously? I’m sure Theo feels the same way, though it’s a good frustration to have.
    Buchholz isn’t going to be moved, period. I think Penny will get traded sooner rather than later; the Red Sox can then throw Smoltz into Penny’s spot, and use Buchholz to temporarily replace Matsuzaka if they move him to the DL.
    A 6-man rotation could be likely too. Schilling said the front office was very close to implementing that in 2008, so don’t be surprised if that happens. Considering how Bowden is pitching I like that idea.

    Atheose June 16, 2009, 2:14 pm
  • Also, regarding Wakefield in the ‘pen: he made it very clear a few years ago that at his age he doesn’t want to be used in relief anymore.

    Atheose June 16, 2009, 2:15 pm
  • If the Red Sox trade Buchholz, they had better get Alcides Escobar in return.
    Okay, three posts in a row, I’m done I promise.

    Atheose June 16, 2009, 2:34 pm
  • A six man rotation makes little sense to me. Why reduce starts from both Lester and Beckett in order to get nominal improvement from the number 5/6 spot? The tradeoff can’t be worth it, plus guys get out of known routines, etc. etc. I just can’t see a six man rotation happening under any circumstance.

    SF June 16, 2009, 2:35 pm
  • Why reduce starts from both Lester and Beckett in order to get nominal improvement from the number 5/6 spot?
    Because of Beckett’s stamina during the 2007 playoffs, which Theo (and Beckett himself) attributed to his 2 weeks off when he had a blister. I know most people here hate Schilling, but he says the front office seriously considered it before, and I believe him.

    Atheose June 16, 2009, 2:40 pm
  • You don’t need to defend everyone just because Paul critiques them, Rob.
    That’s silly. I think all personal attacks are gauche. You can disagree with someone’s message without making it personal. The latter only undermines the point.
    Buchholz has gotten himself in trouble before and I do wonder if the Sox reluctance is due to continued, but internal, reports of his immaturity. Carroll’s “rumors” aren’t so absurd as to be unbelievable.

    Rob June 16, 2009, 3:39 pm
  • > As for Penny, I wonder how much he benefits from following Wakefield in a series. His two worst outings came in the first game of a new series.
    I can not fathom the math that would justify this concern.

    attackgerbil June 16, 2009, 4:09 pm
  • > You can disagree with someone’s message without making it personal.
    Sure.
    > The latter only undermines the point.
    What?

    attackgerbil June 16, 2009, 4:11 pm
  • Carroll’s spreading of almost uniformly inaccurate rumors over the years has turned his credibility into such a laughingstock that there is now something of a shorthand attached to everything of his that is repeated, as in:”will carroll (yeah, I know) says…” It is embarrassing for BP to be associated with him. The baseless innuendo he trotted out about Buchholz merely reaffirms that fact.

    Paul SF June 16, 2009, 4:11 pm
  • > Carroll’s “rumors” aren’t so absurd as to be unbelievable.
    How absurd are they?

    attackgerbil June 16, 2009, 4:27 pm
  • Everything I read right now says Clay should get a shot at the Sox rotation.

    attackgerbil June 16, 2009, 4:32 pm
  • his “antics” probably are in the vein of “lowe/newbury st” syndrome.
    he’ll get a call up, it’s good he’s fired up about getting to the bigs. Of course, MLB cities have better party spots than AAA :)

    dw (sf) June 16, 2009, 4:51 pm
  • Buchholz has gotten himself in trouble before
    If you are referring to the laptop thing it was 2005, before he joined the Sox. Anything else since then that would justify Carroll’s vague and leading accusation? Carroll’s statement is constructed to make it sound as if there are ongoing issues. How could the Sox be “tired” of something that happened four years ago?

    SF June 16, 2009, 4:58 pm
  • Again, we just don’t know if the organization has worries that aren’t expressed publicly based on stuff that’s internal to his current team (how he handles himself overall, his relationship with his manager and teammates, etc). I just don’t find anything Carroll says to be so outlandish to attack the guy. Taken at face value, it seems plausible given his history. That’s much better anyways than attacking a guy becase his parents are idiots.
    What?
    If you have a legitimate gripe, why detract from that to make it personal? I’ve never understood this approach. It makes it seem like a personal dispute rather than a principled one.
    I can not fathom the math that would justify this concern.
    It’s not a concern. If anything I think how the team has stacked the rotation around Wakefield over the years is very inspired. I would love to see a study of how pitchers through the years do following Wakefield in a series versus starting in a new series. I really do wonder if the intuitive notion of the knuckleball messing with swings has any validity.

    Rob June 16, 2009, 6:16 pm
  • That’s much better anyways than attacking a guy becase his parents are idiots.
    The scarlet fish makes an appearance! Or perhaps it’s the man made of straw…

    Paul SF June 16, 2009, 7:26 pm
  • I just don’t find anything Carroll says to be so outlandish to attack the guy.
    To say nothing about supposed “attacks”, Carroll said nothing of any use, and did so in a way that implies Buchholz is a bad seed. I find it ironic that you object to the criticisms of Carroll, yet give Carroll all the slack in the world to malign Buchholz without supporting evidence or sources. You are argumentative to a fault, Rob.

    SF June 16, 2009, 7:27 pm
  • Just saw this in the article about Smoltz starting:
    “It might be [six starters], for a time or two through [the rotation],” Francona said. “It certainly could happen. I don’t know that we need to make our rotation out two or three weeks ahead of time.”

    Atheose June 16, 2009, 7:45 pm
  • Bay! 2-1 Sox at the end of three on the single.

    SF June 16, 2009, 7:57 pm
  • See, SF, that criticism is perfectly valid without the personal attack on me. But by adding it, I question your motives instead of your point.

    Rob June 17, 2009, 6:11 am
  • “You are argumentative to a fault, Rob” is about the mildest personal attack I’ve ever seen on this site.

    Atheose June 17, 2009, 7:57 am
  • And yet, by making it about me, it takes away from the (very fair) point being made. That was my point (and about the attack on Carroll as well).
    The internet make personal attacks easier. But they hamper worthwhile discussion all around. So why should we put up with it?

    Rob June 17, 2009, 8:06 am
  • rob is merely being disputatious
    the yfsf masthead brags that it [the discussion i presume] is “always opinionated”…opinionated means “unduly adhering to one’s own opinion or to preconceived notions” [webster]
    looks like a draw to me…

    dc June 17, 2009, 9:11 am
  • Rob, it seems like you’d rather focus on the style of the argument than the substance, incessantly.
    You have yet to countermand the position that Carroll is peddling innuendo, but rather continue to harp on the style of the criticisms of Carroll. You have not responded to any of the substance of what Carroll wrote (since there was no substance in my mind that would be impossible, but that’s my opinion), and instead you’d rather get us into an incessant and pointless discussion about when (or if) something has gotten “personal”. I for one am not interested in this. Since you haven’t responded to the actual substance of what has been said about Carroll and his ridiculous use of the word “antics” in the present tense, I’ll have to assume you have nothing to say about it of substance.

    SF June 17, 2009, 9:31 am
  • “…Rob, it seems like you’d rather focus on the style of the argument than the substance, incessantly….”
    to be fair sf, we’re all guilty of that at times…even the mods…
    but, i will agree with you that from what i can tell this guy carroll is serving up nothing more than rumor and innuendo…purely speculative, therefore of little or no value…not sure why rob felt the need to stray from the point to defend carroll’s right to gossip, but like i said, he was being “disputatious”, and perhaps “opinionated”…i don’t know buchholz personally, nor does theo confide in me, so i’ll base my judgement on the facts that have been reported so far…nothing suggests buck has an attitude problem, or whatever else was on carroll’s laundry list of “antics”…unless you call a healthy frustration for not being called up an “antic”…i’d say having a little fire in his belly is a good thing…the real problem here is that dice.k is the real clog in the rotation right now…they have a lot invested in him and have no options [no trade, no minors], other than maybe the dl, so as discussed, they most likely have to work some deal with penny…

    dc June 17, 2009, 9:58 am
  • Actually I made a few posts about the plausibility of what Carroll had to say. I have yet to see any one here address that instead of him or me. The fact is the Sox have yet to promote the kid even with real needs at times this year. It seems perfectly valid to conclude that Carroll is cluing us in (especially with Buchholz’s history) even as he hasn’t said much.
    And for the record, I hate talking about “style”. But when it borders on the childish I see great harm in ignoring it. If you aspire to decent discussion, verbal assaults have no place. None. Ever.

    Rob June 17, 2009, 10:40 am

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