It’s the Rotation Stupid

As Red Sox fans, we discuss and debate the various components of the team we feel impact their performance. Offense, defense, speed, rotation, bullpen, manager, front office, etc. I think this long weekend’s performance against a good Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles (just rolls off the tongue) team proves that the most important part of putting together a successful team is starting pitching. Starters, if they are doing well, can go 7 innings per start or more. Even if a starter has a sub-par or just average performance (as opposed to horrendous), he is still likely to to go 5 innings. I bring this up because that one starter is likely to pitch greater than 50% of the game. So doesn’t it make sense to focus your attention on the 5 people on your team that are likely to pitch about 2/3 of all innings season-long?

Well, I think it is safe to say General Manager Theo Epstein did just that over the past 2 seasons with the acquisitions of Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and last season’s contributions of Jon Lester in 2006. In addition, with prospects Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard, the hope is to keep the rotation young, healthy and fully stocked.

Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield are getting old and there is always going to be concern about their health and performance. But if the Red Sox wanted to part company with both next season, they’d free up about $17m to play with. But I don’t see that happening just yet.

The starting rotation has posted a 7-4 record with a 2.51 ERA holding the opposition to a .214 average. It is just an 11 game sample, but it is the best we have to go by.

Schilling: 2-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Beckett: 3-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
Matsuzaka: 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Wakefield: 1-1, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP
Tavarez: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 2.75 WHIP

The first 4 look good and you have to give Tavarez a break, he has pitched once all season. He must be itching to get back on the mound.

Certainly the questions that were brought up prior to the start of the season are still valid. Can this rotation stay healthy. Is Beckett really this good, or is he fooling us just like he did in 2006 when he also got off to a 3-0 start? How will Matsuzaka fair against the New York Yankees?

It is early, but good starting pitching makes life that much easier on everyone else. Good starting pitching can hide other weaknesses of a team, such as perhaps middle relief with the Red Sox.

Stay healthy boys and maybe in the meantime, Coco Crisp, Jason Varitek and Manny Ramirez will rediscover their swings.

Relax Curt and Don’t Forget There is a Big Game Tonight

Curt Schilling teed off on Gary Thorne on his blog today.

 

Some context (certainly not all, but some):

 

Gary Thorne last night: "He (Mirabelli) said one thing, and I heard something else. I reported what I heard and what I honestly felt was said. Having talked with him today, there’s no doubt in my mind that’s not what he said, that’s not what he meant …I took it as something serious, and it wasn’t."

 

Schilling’s reply to the above quote: "So Gary Thorne says that Doug told him the blood was fake. Which even when he’s called out he can’t admit he lied. Doug never told Gary Thorne anything. Gary Thorne overheard something and then misreported what he overheard. Not only did he misreport it, he misinterpreted what he misreported."

 

So Schilling clearly believes Doug Mirabelli’s version of events over Thorne. He is entitled to do so, but he is dismissing any possibility that Mirabelli did say something close to what Thorne said but was embarrassed by the controversy it caused and the harm it might to do his relationship with Schilling, so he bended the truth a bit when discussing it with Schilling. Please note, because I wasn’t there, I have no idea what was said, all I can go by is what Thorne says happened and what Mirabelli says happened. But the same has to be said for Schilling too, he wasn’t there, was he?

 

Obviously Schilling is close to Mirabelli and trusts him, why else close the door on any notion that Mirabelli is doing some cover-up. But at the same time, Gary Thorne, a well respected announcer on a local and national level, is getting crucified over this by Schilling. Why? Is it that big a deal? Thorne clearly underestimated the impact this issue would have, but I don’t think in any way, he had an agenda or was being lazy. He says he misinterpreted something Mirabelli said. Schilling is saying no, he lied and continues to do so, no bones about it.

 

Curt, you are full of hot air sometimes. You are entitled to as much hot air as you’d like and I hope you keep all of your irons in the fire (pitching professionally, running a business, raising money and awareness for ALS, blogging and whatever else it is that you do). I’m just saying I think your blind loyalty to a teammate has publicly hurt Thorne to a degree he might not deserve.

 

Oh yeah, and by the way, the Red Sox play the Yankees tonight. Is that big news?

 

Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2, 4.00 ERA) vs. Andy Pettitte (1-0, 1.78 ERA) Rumor has it Pettitte will start the game and come into the game in relief in the 7th inning too.

 

The Red Sox are winning games despite an up and down offense. They have scored 106 runs, good for 4th place in the league (NY is 1st with 120 runs). The Red Sox as a team are hitting .259/.348/.416. So their average is down, but their OBP is pretty good (2nd best).

 

.234/.330/.286 – Lugo
.274/.384/.370 – Youkilis
.288/.387/.613 – Ortiz
.192/.297/.282 – Ramirez
.314/.417/.443 – Drew
.316/.357/.566 – Lowell
.237/.313/.373 – Varitek
.214/.250/.304 – Crisp
.184/.310/.224 – Pedroia

 

There is some good and some bad in that line-up. You have to be disappointed (not nec. worried) with Lugo, Manny, Varitek, Crisp and Pedroia and happy with Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew and Lowell.

 

Youkilis hasn’t hit for power, but he is getting on base, that’s why I put him in the good category. He’ll never be a power hitter by the way, but 15-20 isn’t out of the question.

 

So the offense really isn’t clicking yet, but the good news is, the arms are keeping them in each game.

 

3.27/1.09 – Schilling
2.48/1.04 – Beckett
4.00/1.15 – Matsuzaka
2.08/1.12 – Wakefield
8.36/1.79 – Tavarez

 

With the exception of Tavarez, the rotation has been giving them excellent innings.

 

0.00/0.72 – Papelbon
0.00/0.38 – Donnelly
0.93/0.62 – Okajima
3.12/1.73 – Pineiro
3.38/1.31 – Snyder
5.68/2.21 – Romero
6.35/1.41 – Timlin

 

Aside from Romero and Timlin, the pen has been solid too. What is interesting is that because the starters are going so deep, Terry Francona can afford to put Donnelly in for just a batter or two (8 games, 5.1 IP).

 

Romero is off to his 2nd consecutive bad year and Timlin is coming off a bad 2nd half in 2006, so if they can’t right their respective ships, it will be time to make a move soon. If Timlin goes, it’ll remind me of the farewell to Alan Embree.

 

Crisp has to get back in the line-up and Lugo has to find that stroke at the top of the order. Get on base and let Ortiz, Ramirez or Drew knock you in.

 

Rain expected tonight, let’s hope they get it in.

 

Crystal Ball III

Last year I managed to predict three of the "final four" playoff teams and that probably means I will get all four wrong this year. But, without further ado, here is how I see the 2007 season ending up.
AL East
1-Yankees Yes, there are reasons to pick against them again, but the offense is deadly and the bullpen is very deep. Clippard and Hughes are waiting in the wings and I think they won’t have to wait long, but that is the difference, unlike years past, the pitching has a plan B in the minors.
2- Red Sox I almost went with Toronto, but I don’t like their health concerns. Boston made some big moves in the offseason, but inexplicably didn’t get a closer. That sent Papelbon back to the pen and Tavarez into the rotation. Lester may save them from that, but he won’t replace a rapidly-aging bottom of the lineup. Will Lowell and Varitek hit this year? Can Drew withstand Boston? Too many questions for me to pick them any higher
3- Toronto As I said, I flirted with picking them 2nd, but I have questions here too. Can Frank Thomas repeat his performance from last season? Can Halliday pitch the entire season? Overall, they should be good, but I wonder if they are due for a step back.
4- Tampa Bay What, the Devil Rays not in last? Yup, Delmon Young, BJ Upton, plus a great farm system and ownership finally willing to use it brings the Rays out of the depths.
5- Baltimore Peter Angelos is hard to understand. Erik Bedard should have a very good year. Markakis is a star on the rise, but there are way too many holes.

AL Central
1- Twins I think everyone is overlooking Minnesota. The M+M boys are great and Santana is the best in the bigs. Nathan can close with anyone and Tori Hunter will be plenty motivated.
2- Indians I was going to put the Tigers in this spot, but I worry about their young pitching and losing Rogers for the year. Cleveland has developed a nice team and should be pretty dangerous when Lee comes back
3- Detroit The Tigers will be good and it is an indication of this division’s strength that they are my pick for third
4- Chicago Not that I hate what Kenny Williams has done, but I just think the other teams have moved faster than him (for now)
5- Kansas City At least the fans will get to see 162 games of Alex Gordon.

AL West
1- Angels They are the class of the division with a ton of talent in the minors and a great owner. They will be tough all year long
2- Oakland I don’t think Zito will hurt them as much as people think and Piazza will be a nice addition. They will be in it, just won’t win it.
3- Texas Some interesting things going on in Arlington, including a new ballpark name. More importantly, the team is improving.
4- Seattle Hard to figure out what the Mariners are doing. Maybe Hernandez develops this year and gives them a boost, but it won’t be enough.

NL East
1-Philadelphia I like the team and their offseason moves. Freddy Garcia will boost the rotation when healthy and Ryan Howard is quickly becoming better than Pujols.
2-Mets Hard to understand how they didn’t add a starter in the offseason. Pelfy may come along, but when Glavine and El Duque are your 1-2, you have trouble. They still have a great lineup and I think Alou gives a big boost.
3-Braves Atlanta has greatly improved their bullpen and I wouldn’t count them out of making a run, but I think they lack behind the Phillies and Mets talent-wise.
4- Marlins I don’t think this team will win 70 games, but they have a worse team bringing up the rear of this division
5- Washington The Nationals may be the worst team in the NL. Losing Soriano in free agency after trading for him was a huge blunder.

NL Central
1- Cubs Call it crazy, but I think all the spending and Lou Pinella add up to a nice run in Chicago this year.
2- St. Louis I think the champs take a step back, but I predict a great pennant race down to the wire.
3- Millwaukee If Ben Sheets could ever be healthy, this team would be able to go somewhere, I am guessing he is not again.
4- Houston No Clemens, no Pettitte and Cliff Lee will be the biggest bust of free agency.
5-Reds I like the first two starters and Bailey should be up soon, but I don’t see much beyond that.
6- PIttsburgh Are there any reasons to even watch baseball in Pittsburgh anymore?

NL West
1- Dodgers I hate the Pierre signing, but I think they have the most talent of a very balanced division.
2- Arizona Young players and some good pitching bring them back from the dead.
3- San Diego The thought of David Wells finally working out and taking care of himself saddens me. He could have been a wonderful pitcher if he had done it earlier.
4- Colorado The Rockies win more than last year, that’s progress.
5- Giants Old team with Barry Zito, I guess the rebuilding commences when Bonds breaks the record.
Playoffs 
Twins over Angels- Santana twice beats anything the Angels can do


Yankees over Indians-Too much offense and Hughes in the fourth game seals it.

Yankees over Twins- This will be an epic series, but I think the Yankees win Game 7 at home.

Phillies over Dodgers- Ryan Howard hits 4 HR’s


Cubs over Mets- Pedro’s back, but Zambrano is better
Phillies over Cubs- Ryan Howard in Wrigley backed up by a better pitching staff

And finally….
Phillies over Yankees- the quest for 27 will begin again in 2008.