General Red Sox

What ‘Pitching Depth’ Looks Like

Also doubles as a handy illustration of the Boston Red Sox' 2009 season.


61 replies on “What ‘Pitching Depth’ Looks Like”

They were the wrong choices for “depth”.
A 42 year old coming back from major shoulder surgery isn’t depth. It’s “We’ll be lucky to get anything from him.”
An average NL pitcher with crappy peripherals, and coming back from injuries, isn’t depth for an AL East team. He’s an emergency replacement or swing starter.
The Sox had nothing to lose by giving Buchholz, Masterson, or even Bowden those starts. If they were worried about their readiness, they should have gone after Lowe or Burnett.

Again, slow down.
This season is far from over, last night be damned. We all knew going into last night that Smoltz was going to get hammered, but Joba didn’t exactly make a case for himself as a threat on the mound either. Even a decent performance, and the Red Sox are right on that game the entire way.
I agree that this team needs to get more from the back end of the rotation – be it with Dice or, gasp, Wakefield, but I’m hardly calling it over just yet.
Will the attitude change if, on Monday, the Red Sox won the games they should have (Beckett and Lester), and lost the games they should have (Smoltz and Buchh)? I say no.

Also, after this series, the Red Sox will go into Detroit, but will miss both Verlander and Washburn, so all four of those games are easier than expected as well.
On that note, the Red Sox should have concentrated on Lee and Washburn a little more this deadline.
And while I agree with you now, Rob, hindsight is always better. It was a chance the Red Sox could take, and leave the likes of Bowden and Buchholz in the miL. If they gave you quality starts, it was a steal. Obviously that hasn’t happened, and it’s easy to say “told you so” when you had a 50/50 shot at being right, and being that you shat on everything Red Sox, it’s no wonder where your guess was.

So, in this photo, Terry Francona would be the guy on the horse, right?..
No, because that would mean he was paying attention to the wreckage instead of doing the right thing and NOT starting Jon Smoltz in that little league field with a lineup of all leftys.

Actually, the odds of me being right on both Penny and Smoltz is 25%, assuming all I’m doing is flipping coins. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that’s the case.
On the performance, obviously it wasn’t a chance they could take. Hindsight has a way of making clear all that was opaque beforehand to those who weren’t paying attention.

they should have gone after Lowe or Burnett.
Really, go after a guy that had a 5 ERA the last time he was in the AL East, and couldn’t pitch his way out of a phone booth, and a guy that wanted an kings ransom for no good reason whatsoever?
There was exactly one team in baseball willing to spend 80 million dollars and five years on Burnett, and he’s currently on said team.

On the performance, obviously it wasn’t a chance they could take…
So, you’re calling it right now? You clearly see that giving the starts to Smoltz and Penny have doomed the Red Sox in 2009?
Is that really what you’re saying – it was a chance the Red Sox couldn’t take, and now that they did, it’s over?

And yet, the Sox have spent 3/4 of Burnett’s salary this year on Penny and Smoltz. More problematic is the fact that both will keeping making more as they pitch more. By the end of the year the Sox will likely have paid out $15 million to Smoltz and Penny – just $1.5 million less than Burnett gets from the Yankees.
There’s a reason starting pitching costs what it does. Of course, I would have preferred the Yanks went with Hughes instead of Burnett.

You clearly see that giving the starts to Smoltz and Penny have doomed the Red Sox in 2009?
It’s made them fight an uphill battle and killed the pen in the process.
Any team with a front of the rotation like Beckett and Lester has a post-season shot.

Hey, I thought that Burnett was the best pitcher available, but not worth the money v. risk involved in giving him a long contract. It wasn’t the money I was against, it was the years.

Brad is right: if the Sox win 2 of the next 3 (let alone if they get 3 in a row) everything reverses here. I still think the Yankees are better right now, but not by a lot – and certainly not by an insurmountable amount.
Having said that, I think beating Beckett tonight would be about as devastating as a single game out of 162 can be and would put all kinds of pressure on the two youngest members of the Sox rotation for the rest of the series so I am hopeful that we get the AJ who has been pitching for most of the post-ALB period and not the one who showed up earlier this week. If the latter, we may give up another 7 walks…

The chances of Smoltz and Penny working out were better than that the chances that Melancon and Girardi will be fined/disciplined for throwing two pitches at Pedroia’s head.

On the topic of pitching depth (great photo, by the way, Paul; thanks for the levity) …
Here’s what we’ve had, optimistically, at various times this season:
-Beckett, among the very best in MLB
-Lester, among the best leftys in MLB
-Matsuzaka, third in CY voting in ’08
-Penny, more times than not has been solid but not spectacular
-Wakefield, innings eater, all-star, fewer bad starts in ’09 than usual
-Buchholz, tore up Triple-A, appeared to be living up to potential and ready to make the next step
-Smoltz, HOF resume, seemed to be showing signs of being able to give us 8-10 quality starts
-Masterson, early returns have been pretty good
-Bowden, he’s 2-0 in two ML starts
-Bullpen was untouchable through June
No, this is not meant to be wholly objective, but merely a list of tangible evidence that we had to be optimistic about our pitching depth. Obviously, there is a separate list of tangible negatives.
My point is that our optimism was not without merit. Far from it.

Also, I’ve been reading about how this season is offering reminders on 2006. In many ways, this downward spiral to me is more reminiscent of 1978.
(Save for the awful management of the team by Don Zimmer, who might as well have been on the Yankee payroll that year, too, and the unGodly winning pct. of NYY and unGodly losing pct. of BRS during that same stretch.)

The Pen? Why? Why continue to pay him at all? DFA him immediately, and just be done with it.

Exactly why was Melancon throwing at Pedroia’s head? And how exacty was Girardi implicated?
As far as pitching depth, the Sox depth looked pretty good going into the season. If there is a beef for SFs I would think it is more along the lines of what SF has been calling for (more aggressive pitching priority at the trade deadline), but even there it seems they took a serious run at Felix.
To me it is more an issue of Dice-K’s unexpected disappearance (Wang-like in fact), Ortiz’s extended slump, and the reality of Bay-is-REALLY-not-Manny-at-the-plate that have combined to keep them out of the division lead. Even still, they have what – the 4th best record in the majors?

Because I said so, Horse, that’s why! :)
Your other two points are objective and I agree completely.
SF, damn you, YOU’RE the one who advocated trading Jason Bay. I didn’t completely dismiss the thought at the time, and right now, I think it appears you were ahead of the curve.

My point is that our optimism was not without merit. Far from it.
I agree with this.
Unfortunately, a whole bunch of crap has happened, and now we’re in a bad situation. At this point, I’d rather see Michael Bowden finish out the season. It’s unlikely he sucks as abad as Smoltz, and even if he does, it’s at least an investment in the future.
The Sox could still make the playoffs, could still win the World Series. But they’re hurting and underperforming, and they have no depndable starters beyond their top two. That’s not a promising scenario going forward.
If Smoltz had crapped the bed and the Sox had lost 13-2, I would probably feel better today, but the Sox scored six runs against Joba and Co. You need to win those games.

Paul: Theo did what he did with the pitching because he figured some bad stuff would happen and therefore his butt would be covered. But WAY MORE bad stuff happened than any of us would reasonably have imagined.

It’s this bad right now: Michael Holley on WEEI (this show actually is pretty good) is taking his frustration out on Sterling and Waldman, because, really, it’s become so easy to dump on the Sox and there’s so little to criticize with the Yankees that the only remaining target on which to vent frustration is entirely too easy target of Sterling/Waldman.

The Sox are a really tough team to figure out this year. I don’t think they’re done, either (Christ, they’re still like a 77% bet to make the playoffs as of this morning), but nor did I think they were as good as they looked earlier in the year: as someone posted in a thread earlier this week, their run differential was and is excellent, but their second and third order peripherals (predictors of run differential) suggested they were overperforming.
Really all that matters is if they make the playoffs. The 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation would make them very very dangerous there.

At this point I have to ask why the Sox wouldn’t just move Smoltz to the pen and take a chance with Bowden. Could he really do any worse?

“this point I have to ask why the Sox wouldn’t just move Smoltz to the pen and take a chance with Bowden. Could he really do any worse?
No, in fact, Bowden is vastly superior to Smoltz.

I do appreciate that some of you YFs are maintaining some optimism regarding the Red Sox chances of success.
Although I do wonder whether you actually believe it or if you’re doing it as a means of torture, trying to keep us opimistic so that their eventual collapse hurts that much more. :)

Twins get Pavano from Cleveland for PTBN.

The margin between where the Yankees are right now and where the Sox are is frankly so slight. The Yankees need to kick them when they’re down, step on their throats, and all other forms of metaphorical thuggery in order to provide enough cushion for them to maintain a lead through what will be a tough remaining 8 weeks.
As far as some of the commentary re: Joba, in his 21 starts this year the Yankees’ record is 15-6 and – including yesterday – he has given up more than 3 runs in a start 4 times. His ERA is 3.73 and WHIP is a respectable though not great 1.44. But anyone who has watched him since he stopped hiding his inner-Joba (i.e. post-ASB) knows that he is pitching better, more aggressively, at a faster pace, and not just against poor competition. The kid went from a league-best 0.83 ERA in his 3 post-ASB starts to a 2.02 post-ASB ERA following yesterday.
I know his hystrionics piss opponents (and even some YFs) off, but for now it seems he either pitches pretty well with that unbridled emotion or he is mediocre without it. Every YF I know would opt for the former even if the idle is some combination of performance and discipline. In sum, he is a 23-year-old still learning how to start at the MLB level and doing very well.

The math that compares the cost of Smoltz and Penny to Burnett is disingenuous and also illogical, and it doesn’t even need to be explained why.

Exactly why was Melancon throwing at Pedroia’s head? He wasn’t. He was trying to throw one at the letters inside. It’s just that PEDdroia is so doggone short, his head is right about the same height as my chest.

Why is it always a train? I’m just curious. Plane crashes, shipwrecks, traffic accidents are all potentially illuminating images.
For example, I think I used this image to describe our bridge to Mariano at some point pre-Joba:

Wow, doom and gloom. Far more than is warranted, methinks. Sure, Smoltz is cooked. Dude, we’re running Sergio Mitre (Gaudin shortly, I figure) out there every 5 days.
Last night was a game the Yankees absolutely SHOULD have won, based on the matchup. Tonight you have Beckett going and Sunday you have Lester. Becket > Burnett, Lester > Pettitte. Saturday favors the Yanks… so I’m still thinking this will end with a split.

You know, after watching the Yanks parade of pitchers last night, I almost thought that the picture was meant to represent that. :-P
Also, am I the only YF hoping that Joba’s ineffectiveness on long rest makes them reconsider shutting him down for the last month of the season?

I agree with what IH said earlier: if the Yanks beat Beckett tonight it will be devastating to the Sox. We NEED our ace tonight, badly.
What really worries me are the injuries. Bay and Baldelli are on the DL, and Drew is at 75% at best. And we could use Wakefield in the rotation right now as well.
Beckett needs a 1-2 run start tonight over 7 innings.

For the record, Jason Bay is NOT on the disabled list. Not that it matters over the next three games, since he is apparently out for the duration of this series.

“In unrelated news, Joel Sherman says that the A’s just released Giambi.”
I can’t even bring myself to joke about his impending plane trip to Boston.
But I will say, wow, who would have seen this guy fizzle out so quickly.

~59% chance Boston makes the playoffs as of today.
So basically we are approaching 50-50, as in “the sox may or may not make the playoffs”.
See, we aren’t doom and gloomers. We’re realists. The Sox have a lot of work to do to make the playoffs, and aren’t exactly set up that great at the moment.

Between last night’s over under and our pre-season predictaroo, I think I need to go to Atlantic City and play roulette. My pre-season predictions for the AL East:
AL East
1. Yankees – Everything goes right this year. CC does his thing, Wang returns, Burnett stays healthy, Teixeira impresses everyone with his honesty, innocence, and utter lack of cynicism for the world at large and gets Scott Boras to leave Sports Marketing and serve on the board of Doctors without Borders. Bluebirds chirp, the temperature in the Bronx never goes above 72 degrees, and Hal and Hank Steinbrenner decide that yeah, the recession sucks, and make Legends Suites gratis for the entirety of 2009. Plus free porchetta all around. This is the Yankees’ year, nothing can go wrong to a team with an average age of 45.3, a hobbled former MVP, and solid injury risks at nearly every position but one or two.
2. Tampa – second best record in the League, wild card eligible, but are disqualified on October 2nd due to little-known “Shitty Ratings and Attendance clause” in the CBA.
3. Boston* – Everything goes wrong. Beckett goes hunting over the All-Star break against his contract and gets shot in the face by our former VP. Dustin Pedroia hits his head walking through a turnstile at the 42nd Street Subway station during a road trip to NY and is out for a month with a concussion. Jason Bay channels Michael Bay and blows up the clubhouse with walk-year antics and resentment, making “Yeah, go ahead, everyone blames f*cking Canada,” the most overused post-game comment to the media. Big Papi exposed as having used. By “used” we mean “ate leavened bread during Passover”, the off-season conversion to Judaism simply didn’t take. Daisuke Matsuzaka stops being lucky and his ERA balloons to 11.53, with the Sox waiting until August to pull him from the rotation. The Citgo sign explodes. All this and the Sox finish with the third best record in the AL, but make the playoffs because of the aforementioned “SRAC”.
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

Statler, that pic just made my day. Thanks!
Re: A’s releasing Giambi, a local (Berkeley) hip t-shirt company has a “Giambi Juice” design (a play on the Jamba Juice logo) on display – dunno if they’re refreshingly non-hypocritical or Giants fans.

McNeil is right. I’m not reading this blog until September; the level of gloom and doom here is even bigger than my own, and I don’t even want to hear the undeserved We believed! if there’s a turn around.
I’m not saying Keep the faith, just keep your goddamn heads. Christ, fellow Sox fans, check the year on the calendar (it ain’t 1919-2003) and let go of the gloom and doom history for a few weeks.

“I can’t even bring myself to joke about [Giambi’s] impending plane trip to Boston.”
I myself was going to make a joke asking if he could pitch, but I realized that both of our clubs were almost desperate enough to give that a shot… and it was no longer even slightly amusing.

Sorry my Sox-supporting e-bros, but I’m not going to offer any words of hope to you guys regarding your baseball franchise.

who would have seen this guy fizzle out so quickly
The same people who saw Ortiz falling off a cliff. Isn’t it amazing what statistics can tell us!?
The math that compares the cost of Smoltz and Penny to Burnett is disingenuous and also illogical, and it doesn’t even need to be explained why.
Says the guy who believes that Dice-K only costs $8 million this year cause the other $51.11111111 million doesn’t “count”.
Fact is, the Sox chose to give Smoltz and Penny $10 million combined as a base then another $10 million in incentives. You want to argue they couldn’t have spent that money more wisely this year – like on one decent pitcher instead of two craptastic ones?
Sure, we can argue about contract length blah blah blah, but the Sox were prepared to spend $200 million this past off-season and they spent, what, $30 million? If they thought they had a need for both Smoltz and Penny, given the price they paid, they also had a place for Sabathia, Burnett, or Lowe.
Of course, the same argument goes for 1B/DH and the offense that was cheaply available. But at least now they have a second catcher who can’t throw out 20% of the runners.
The machinations that go on here to justify the most gerrymandered of arguments are really something. I suppose that’s what’s so entertaining for me. It’s like Cirque De Soleil – how can he get into that contortion!?

Then what ARE you preaching, Hit Dog? What the heck does “keep your heads” mean?
To me it means being honest about a team’s strengths and weaknesses. The Sox’ season has taken a turn for the worse, and for attributable reasons. They are old, and as seasons get longer the age takes a toll. The pitching staff has been extremely taxed, in large part because of the utter and nearly complete absence of anything from Matsuzaka – losing his 200 innings has a trickle-down effect, and it is coming to a head as we can see. Add in Wakefield, a terrible move with Smoltz (in retrospect, though ideally he’d have come back as a relief pitcher with a more healthy rotation), and a still-learning Buchholz, and the rotation isn’t quite what we expected. As for the lineup, Papi may have improved on where he was, but his overall numbers are still pretty terrible, and now Bay and Drew are hurt. Lowell is creaky, and the shortstop position is still a void. Obviously there are strengths: 1-2 in the rotation is fabulous, the bullpen has been exceedingly good. Pedroia, Youk, Ells, have been as expected (a power drop from Dusty was in the cards), and Tek, though old, hasn’t been as bad, at least with the stick, as many feared he would be.
So that puts the Sox in second, and in the Wild Card hunt. And at the moment, they are facing their worst run of injuries, a tougher schedule the rest of the way, and they are past the point where they can patch a need of significance (starting pitching, to me). They have a 60-40 chance of making the playoffs, but that is moving in the wrong direction.
What is “doom and gloom” about this? What is panic? Worry that the Sox are sliding into a difficult position? Worry that the injuries and front office decisions are hurting the team and jeopardizing their postseason chances? Why is this “panic”?
Almost worse than Chicken Littles are the sanctimonious fans who reprimand those who give negative assessments of the team for which they root. I will never stop rooting for the Sox to succeed. THAT is “believing”. “Believing” is not “we will win, we can win, no matter what happens we will win”. That is blind faith. The best way we can “keep our heads” is to be honest about our own team, and that way we don’t have unrealistic expectations about success, nor horrific apocalyptic visions of failure. And “failure” is always relative, frankly. Not making the playoffs is one failure, making the ALDS and losing quickly another, losing the ALCS or the WS another. At the moment, I don’t feel great about this team, I am not sure what is in the cards. But I won’t stop rooting or watching, because I have my head. And my allegiances.
Pessimism, or as I see it realism and pragmatic analysis doesn’t equal abandonment, it never has. Don’t try to make it this.

SF, I have to agree with what you wrote above. Last season was terribly difficult to endure for Yankee fans, especially for me. I had a real difficult time getting to the point in the season where I had to realize that we were not built for success and the pieces that we had were just not going to get the job done. With that said though, I still think the Sox are a good enough time to get hot and make a run. As we have seen with the Yankees, sometimes pitching doesn’t need to be shutdown in order for good offensive teams to win. When healthy the Sox are a very good offensive team. They also have players like Youk and V-Mart who can single handedly carry a team when they are hot. This is by no means a “Mets” type of situation, the Sox have time and the players on their side. So while I’d love to say peace out BoSox, the rational side of me says we still have a looooong time to go and a looooong time for things to right themselves.

The Sox are too good to just completely fall apart. You guys are just banged up like we were early in the season. It’s still going to come down to Yankees vs. Sox ALCS…assuming one of us actually beats the f-ing Angels!!!
Plus, it’s almost football season! Assuming one or both of our teams blow it, we can all watch the defending AFC East Champion Fins! ;)

//Fact is, the Sox chose to give Smoltz and Penny $10 million combined as a base then another $10 million in incentives. You want to argue they couldn’t have spent that money more wisely this year – like on one decent pitcher instead of two craptastic ones?
Frankly, I still don’t care that they spent the money on Smoltz and Penny, after deciding that the other available options were less rewarding for the risk. My problem is that they’ve kept them in the rotation despite the fact that they suck and we have young pitchers who couldn’t possibly do worse wasting their time in the minors.

I was just thinking, can you guys set up gamers for the AFC East tilts??? I’m pretty sure we have the whole division represented here… :)

Wow, Tazawa! If the Sox decide to go for it all with Bowden, Tazawa, and Buchholz backing up Lester and Beckett color me excited for the youth, and, of course, nervous. When I was a kid nothing was more exciting then when a young prospect got called up, downside and all. We want Bowden next!
Heck, this may not be the best thing for this pennant race, I mean it could be a death sentence for 2009, but it would be prudent (and maybe fun at times, tough at others) to see guys develop with at least a little patience.

I don’t even want to hear the undeserved We believed! if there’s a turn around.
This is stupid and offensive and beneath your usual dignity as a poster, HD.

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