Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where The Red Sox Are At: Pitching

Yesterday I took a look at where the Boston position players were at relative to their performance last year. Today we'll look at the starting rotation and some of the bullpen. Apologies in advance if I botched a number or two.


Josh Beckett

2009: 18 GS | 2 CG | 2 SHO | 121.0 IP | 104 H | 45 ER | 35 BB | 110 SO | 10-3 | 3.35 ERA

2008: 17 GS | 0 CG | 0 SHO | 112.0 IP | 105 H | 49 ER | 24 BB | 107 SO | 9-5 | 3.94 ERA


It's pretty obvious that the ace of the staff is pitching a hell of a lot better in 2009 than he did in 2008. Beckett didn't have a single complete game or shutout to his name at this point last year; now he has two. He has pitched more innings and allowed fewer hits and runs. And while there has been a slight increase in walks, those batters have not been crossing the plate. Beckett looks poised for a strong second half.


Jon Lester

2009: 18 GS | 2 CG | 0 SHO | 114.0 IP | 112 H | 49 ER | 35 BB | 131 SO | 8-6 | 3.87 ERA

2008: 20 GS | 2 CG | 2 SHO | 125.0 IP | 122 H | 47 ER | 44 BB | 82 SO | 7-3 | 3.38 ERA


Considering the rough start Lester had to 2009, it is encouraging to see him not too far off the mark from his 2008 numbers.It's more impressive when you consider how lights-out awesome he has been since June. In his last seven outings Lester has struck out eight or more batters in five of them, including his last three. He lowered his ERA by almost two whole runs. He has given up one earned run in his last three starts. In his last seven starts, Lester has walked just 11 batters. Although his numbers looked better in 2008, he is a much better pitcher right now in 2009. Lester looks primed for an amazing second half.


Daisuke Matsuzaka

2009: 8 GS | 0 CG | 0 SHO | 35.0 IP | 59 H | 32 ER | 18 BB | 34 SO | 1-5 | 8.23 ERA

2008: 20 GS | 0 CG | 0 SHO | 88.1 IP | 65 H | 26 ER | 57 BB | 77 SO | 10-1 | 2.65 ERA

2007: 18 GS | 1 CG | 0 SHO | 119.2 IP | 110 H | 51 ER | 38 BB | 123 SO | 10-6 | 3.84 ERA


I included 2007 because Tony Mazz at Boston.com made the claim yesterday that 2008 was a fluke for Daisuke, that he isn't that good a pitcher and the whole thing has been an utter failure. I'm not ready to go that far. Obviously, 2009 has been a massive disappointment. But when you look at 2007, you see a pitcher adjusting to a new life in a new country. In 2009 you see a pitcher who completely ignored the shoulder workout regimen given to him by the Red Sox to use during the WBC. In 2008, though, you see the pitcher at ease in the US and doing what the team wants him to do. I truly believe that if Daisuke does what Boston wants, he will much closer to the 2008 version of Daisuke in 2010. As for 2009...maybe we'll see him in September, but I doubt it.


Tim Wakefield

2009: 17 GS | 2 CG | 0 SHO | 108.2 IP | 113 H | 52 ER | 37 BB | 61 SO | 11-3 | 4.31 ERA

2008: 19 GS | 1 CG | 0 SHO | 122.1 IP | 97 H | 49 ER | 47 BB | 84 SO | 6-6 | 3.61 ERA


I didn't expect to see this kind of comparison. In 2008 before the break, Wakes pitched more innings but surrendered fewer earned runs and fewer hits than in 2009. But his record was 6-6. I think this can be explained by those two horrid games Wakes had in 2009; a horrid 4.2 innings and seven earned runs in LA on May 7th and a brutal 4.2 inning, six earned runs loss to Toronto on May 29. That was also his last loss of the first half. Wakes was more steady in 2008; he threw a lot of games where he'd give up between three and six runs. By comparison, Wakes has been pitching some amazing games this year. I think he could easily top 1998 when he went 17-8. If Wakes can reach 18 wins it would be a career high.


Brad Penny

2009: 17 GS | 0 CG | 0 SHO | 93.2 IP | 110 H | 49 ER | 29 BB | 62 SO | 6-3 | 4.71 ERA

2008: 15 GS | 0 CG | 0 SHO | 85.2 IP | 101 H | 56 ER | 36 BB | 47 SO | 5-9 | 5.88 ERA


What a difference one year and a new team makes. Looking at the Brad Penny of 2009 and comparing him to the guy that pitched for the Dodgers in 2008 is like looking at two different pitchers. Penny was shut down not long after the break in 2008. I don't think that will be happening this year. Penny has solidified the fourth/fifth slot. Some of the best business Theo did in the off-season. If Penny can continue this way, he'd have to be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year.


John Smoltz

2009: 4 GS | 0 CG | 0 SHO | 20.0 IP | 24 H | 12 ER | 4 BB | 17 SO | 1-2 | 5.40 ERA

2008: 5 GS | 0 CG | 0 SHO | 28.0 IP | 25 H | 8 ER | 8 BB | 36 SO | 3-2 | 2.57 ERA


It's really not fair to compare pre-injury and post-injury Smoltz like this. Especially because his last two games for the Sox have been far superior to the first two. But it's a good indicator of where Smoltz is. He is still not all the way back yet. But he is getting the job done now. And that means we may see a lot more from Smoltz as the leaves begin to turn. Don't sell him short just yet.


Jonathan Papelbon

2009: 39 G | 23 SV | 2 BLSV | 39.0 IP | 34 H | 8 ER | 18 BB | 41 SO | 1-1 | 1.85 ERA

2008: 41 G | 28 SV | 4 BLSV | 40.2 IP | 32 H | 11 ER | 7 BB | 51 SO | 3-3 | 2.43 ERA


I think overall that Paps is about where he was in 2008. Even with the five fewer saves and ten fewer strikeouts despite throwing just 1.2 innings less, he still has a much lower ERA. The one thing that worries me is Papelbon's spike in walks; it's a substantial increase. I don't know if that just bad luck on his part or if he's trying to work the corners too much. But Paps is still one of the elite closers in the game.


Hideki Okajima

2009: 41 G | 0 SV | 18 HLD | 2 BLSV | 38.0 IP | 29 H | 14 ER | 12 BB | 38 SO | 3-0 | 3.32 ERA

2008: 39 G | 1 SV | 17 HLD | 6 BLSV | 38.1 IP | 38 H | 12 ER | 16 BB | 37 SO | 2-2 | 2.82 ERA


Okajima is having a very strong 2009. Even with the slightly higher ERA, Oki is doing a better job of maintaining the lead. His blown saves are down considerably and he has lowered his walks and hits as well. Oki is a pitcher that doesn't seem incredibly important to Boston. But make no mistake; after Papelbon he's the most important pitcher in the bullpen. Oki performs no matter the situation. I hope the Sox keep him around a few more years.


Justin Masterson

2009: 27 G | 0 SV | 6 HLD | 1 BLSV | 65.0 IP | 70 H | 36 ER | 23 BB | 59 SO | 3-3 | 4.98 ERA

2008: 27 G | 0 SV | 0 HLD | 0 BLSV | 54.0 IP | 40 H | 22 ER | 28 BB | 39 SO | 4-3 | 3.67 ERA


Masterson's numbers are a little hard to compare because he started most of the first half of 2008 while he's done most of his work in 2009 out of the pen. If there is one thing to note in Masterson's favor, it's that his control has improved. He has issued fewer walks and struck out more batters in fewer innings between 2008 and 2009. But by and large, Masterson regressed to some degree as we approached the break. I still think he is tipping his pitches. He's not wild and he doesn't look like he is doing anything different. I think some team noticed a move or tic that tips off a certain pitch. And once something like that is discovered, it makes it's way around the league pretty damned fast.


Manny Delcarmen

2009: 35 G | 0 SV | 5 HLD | 1 BLSV | 33.2 IP | 33 H | 9 ER | 16 BB | 24 SO | 2-1 | 2.41 ERA

2008: 43 G | 0 SV | 13 HLD | 2 BLSV | 39.2 IP | 36 H | 20 ER | 15 BB | 39 SO | 0-2 | 4.54 ERA


The gap in games and holds I think has more to do with Ramon Ramirez being on this team than ineffectiveness on the part of Delcarmen. To be honest, I thought his numbers would be worse than they are. It seems like every time I see Delcarmen he's mucking something up. Truth is, he's been pretty effective so far in 2009. I hope Boston holds onto him; local boys making the team are so rare that you'd hate to see him get traded away.


Ramon Ramirez

2009: 38 G | 0 SV | 8 HLD | 2 BLSV | 38.2 IP | 27 H | 10 ER | 15 BB | 27 SO | 5-3 | 2.33 ERA

2008: 43 G | 0 SV | 13 HLD | 3 BLSV | 44.2 IP | 36 H | 14 ER | 18 BB | 48 SO | 0-1 | 2.82 ERA


I can't believe the Royals traded Ramirez away for Coco Crisp. Their loss has been Boston's gain as Ramirez has been one of the most dependable arms coming out of the bullpen in 2009. Even with a dip in performance during June (two blown saves) Ramirez has been solid for the Sox. And considering he is only 27 years old, I think you can wager on Theo keeping Ramirez around for more than a couple of years. Combined with Delcarmen, Masterson, Bard and Papelbon, the Sox have the core of a fantastic bullpen where everyone is under the age of 30 until 2011 (Paps will be 30 by then). And everyone but Ramirez is a homegrown product.


Overall


Boston's pitching has been the salvation of the team. The starting rotation has the fifth best ERA in the AL overall (4.38 ERA) but has been lights out over the past month. The pen has slipped a bit but is still the best in the AL with a 3.42 ERA, has the third best BAA at .240, the fourth best opponent OPS at .699 and fourth best WHIP at 1.32. All those numbers are well below the AL averages. Individually, Beckett and Lester are developing into the most devastating 1-2 combo this side of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. And Tim Wakefield is having a career year, which should inspire a whole new crop of pitchers on the edge of employment to develop a knuckleball. And now, as Boston's hitters are slowly coming to life, the big question is can the pitching maintain it's level of excellence. If so, Boston will be very, very hard to beat.


Tomorrow we wrap it up with a look at the team as a whole.

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