Temporary — and Permanent — Rotation Fixes, Lowell to Anaheim?

ANGELS
Temporary -- and Permanent -- Rotation Fixes Night after night, hit after hit, the Sox rotation is looking more like a punch-drunk boxer than a viable contender. Though Lester has reaffirmed his ace status and Buchholz has put together a nice season on the surface, there just isn’t much to lean on after those two. Lackey at least keeping the team in games with a 4.84 ERA/5.26 xFIP, Daisuke (5.77 ERA/5.48 xFIP) and Tim Wakefield (5.68 ERA/5.54 xFIP) can’t find their groove. Though we knew what we were getting into trotting Daisuke to the mound – with his salary making him that much more cumbersome and immobile – the focus shifts to Tim Wakefield.
ANGELS

Temporary — and Permanent — Rotation Fixes

Night after night, hit after hit, the Sox rotation is looking more like a punch-drunk boxer than a viable contender.

Though Lester has reaffirmed his ace status and Buchholz has put together a nice season on the surface, there isn’t much to lean on after those two.

Lackey is at least keeping the team in games with a 4.84 ERA/5.26 xFIP, Daisuke (5.77 ERA/5.48 xFIP) and Tim Wakefield (5.68 ERA/5.54 xFIP) can’t find their groove.

Though we knew what we were getting into trotting Daisuke to the mound — with his salary making him all the more cumbersome and immobile — the focus shifts to Tim Wakefield.

The elder statesman posting a quality 8.0 innings on May 23rd, imploded on Friday, throwing 3.2 innings with 12 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, and 9 earned runs.

The fact that he is scheduled to start again on Thursday is a positive, but, considering he is a 43 year-old knuckleballer with a recent history of serious injury, that most recent start is a significant red flag.

If Wakefield is combating any sort of injury — or even a mechanical issue stemming from weakness lingering from last season’s injuries — he can’t be counted on to perform. Even a small tweak in his delivery or arm angle could have drastic consequences, turning his fluttering knuckler into a batting practice meatball.

Repeating a violent, precise motion such as a pitcher’s delivery takes an incredible amount of strength and conditioning. Any weakness or fatigue in his shoulder, hip — or back, perhaps (missed 41 games, back, 7/21/09-8/26/09; 4 games, back, 9/01/09-9/05/09; 13 games, back, 9/21/09 – 10/08/09) could have severe consequences for his ability to repeat his throwing motion.

If injuries or fatigue were a factor in Friday’s start, it would go a long way in explaining the 12 hits and three walks.

Nevertheless, in lieu of information from the trainer’s table, we have to withhold judgment until a later date. …but he is a guy to keep an eye on. Though bad outings happen, at Wakefield’s age and recent injury history, a one start blowup takes on a whole new meaning.

With this in mind, the Sox need to ready themselves for the possibility that Wakefield is unable to serve in the rotation. With Josh Beckett suffering a setback in his rehabilitation and Boof Bonser and Junichi Tazawa on the DL, the list of internal replacements for Wakefield becomes painfully short.

At the moment, there are only three remaining starting pitchers on the 40-man roster who have spent time above AA: Fabio Castro, Michael Bowden, and Felix Doubtront.

The 25 year-old Fabio Castro is one such candidate. Having pitched parts of two MLB seasons in his career, his adequate strikeout numbers are no match for a putrid walk rate of 5.4 BB/9 in 43.2 career innings. His AAA history echoes this trend, Castro holding a 4.4 BB/9 rate in 246.1 innings. 2010 has been more of the same, as Castro has posted a 4.8 BB/9 rate and 7.9 K/9 rate in 32.0 innings. At the moment, he is not big league material — even as a fill-in.

The second of the three, Michael Bowden, would likely be the first called on despite his struggles in Pawtucket this season (41.2 IP, 26 K, 21 BB, 9 HR, 5.83 ERA). For those who remember, Bowden wasn’t especially sharp in the bigs last year, either, memorably slapped around by the Yankees leading to a 9.56 ERA/4.85 xFIP in 16.0 MLB innings. His career 6.43 K/9 and 3.00 BB/9 MLB rates, though adequate, are a bit difficult to judge, given that he has only spent 21.0 innings in the bigs. With his 2010 AAA struggles holding the most weight, Bowden does not appear ready for a promotion.

Last of the three, and perhaps the most interesting name, is Felix Doubront. Splitting time between Portland and Pawtucket this season, Felix has posted a decent 3.5 BB/9 to go along with an encouraging 8.4 K/9. He struggled with his command at Portland in ’09, registering a 3.9 BB/9 in 121.0 IP. However, if he can add a few more quality innings to his current total of 49.0, he may win enough supporters to find himself in consideration for a promotion to the bigs.

Still, it’s difficult to make a legitimate case for Doubront seeing as he has totaled just 6.0 innings above AA. In addition, the organization may not want to promote him before Bowden, sending a discouraging message the ladder pitcher that he has fallen out of favor However, with few options available internally, Felix may find himself in line for a spot start at some point this season, seeing as the team has few other 40-man roster options.

Whether or not Castro, Bowden, or Doubront ultimately find themselves in line for starting duty will depend on a number of factors — most important being Beckett’s health, Wakefield’s performance, and, if it comes to it, the outside trade market.

Given the internal options, the Sox may want to start poking around out there to see what is available.

Lowell to the Anaheim Angels?

Within minutes of Kendry Morales’ walk off home run — and subsequent Gramatica-esque leg-break — the name game was full speed ahead, connecting anyone with a spare corner infielder to the Angels.

Not surprisingly, Mike Lowell was at or near the center of attention during much of the immediate aftermath. The Sox, obsessed with dumping the aging third baseman, seemed as good a candidate as any to make a move.

Should a trade occur, the Sox and Angels would likely come to some sort of agreement similar to the nullified trade with Texas this off-season. Though it may seem at first glance that the Angels would pay more out of desperation, this is negated by the Sox’ marginalized bargaining power.

Boston has already laid its cards on the table. Everyone and their grandmother is aware of the team’s willingness to trade Lowell, and, with this winter’s arrangements with Texas having gone public, the Angels know exactly what Lowell’s price is. Coupled with the fact that there are viable trade partners other than Boston, the Angels have a good amount of leverage in their corner should they sit at the bargaining table with the Sox.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times lists a few names that would fit the Angels, headlined by Houston’s Lance Berkman and Chicago’s Paul Konerko. Also mentioned are Adam Dunn, Russell Branyan, Adam LaRoche, and a darkhorse candidate in Prince Fielder. Lowell is not mentioned in the article.

Anaheim is not without internal options, either. Reports have indicated that Mike Napoli may take reps at first, while the team could promote slugger Mark Trumbo from AAA. Napoli at first is an interesting option, though the team would be forced to press backup catcher Bobby Wilson into action far more often — likely an unattractive solution for the Angels.

Trumbo, too, has his drawbacks. Though he is hitting for great power at Salt Lake (11 HR in 194 PA), his 40:11 strikeout to walk ratio indicates he may have trouble hitting big league pitching. The power, though intriguing, could disappear upon appointment to the Majors. Unfortunately, Salt Lake has not visited Colorado Springs as of yet this season, so I cannot report what his potential weaknesses are. Still, the poor K:BB rate indicates he may struggle at laying off bad pitches, meaning that his problems would be magnified against better, smarter Major League hurlers.

Unfortunately, I cannot confirm this without seeing him in person. However, being a member of the Angels’ 40-man roster, he has a leg up on the competition regardless of, potentially, a flawed approach at the plate.

MLBTradeRumors.com concurring, reporting that no such deal is in the works, it is no guarantee that a deal cannot happen. Morales breaking his leg on Saturday night, it is not surprising that the rumor does not have legs less than 48 hours after the injury.

Categories: Fabio Castro Felix Doubront Michael Bowden Mike Lowell Tim Wakefield

15 Responses to “Temporary — and Permanent — Rotation Fixes, Lowell to Anaheim?” Subscribe

  1. Joe Veno May 31, 2010 at 11:39 AM #

    Personally, I think the rotation will fix itself. Daisuke isn't much fun to watch anymore, but once he gets more starts under his belt, he should be about average. Lackey couldn't have fallen off a cliff this fast, could he? I am a bit concerned too, but the guy has always been a good pitcher. He should come around. And when Beckett returns, Wake goes back to the pen.

  2. Weren May 31, 2010 at 1:08 PM #

    First, MLBTradeRumors tends to not do its own reporting. That tidbit on Mike Lowell was definitely reported by Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, as it clearly says in the post.

    Second, your logic with the numbers on Bowden are suspect and overall your argument just feels . . . off. Why sight his MLB career numbers (with xFIP when FIP would be a better indicator with the small sample size) and then just mention his poor 2010 numbers without giving them. 42 innings, 6.39 FIP, 4.5 BB/9, 5.57 K/9 with a 1.40 WHIP. His career minor league numbers still look impressive on a whole but his 2.7 BB/9 and 7.9 K/ over 575 IP should say that there may be a rebound sooner or later.

    Along the same notion, it is hard to measure Daisuke's xFIP with his sample size of 34. 1 IP thus far and his FIP of 4.42 is reasonable in comparison with his ERA. I might suggest going back to look up the definition of xFIP in comparison with FIP. xFIP works a whole lot better in retrospect when park factors et al. are taken into account while FIP is better for a game-to-game look. Matsuzaka's strikeout rate going down and his propensity to have most of his outs come via fly ball recently should be more concerning.

    It also seems weird to immediately jump on the Wakefield is hurt wagon. Have you not been paying attention to the last 15 years (or even the last three)? Yes, he is gradually breaking down but overall he remains viable at the back of the rotation.

    • Mike Silver May 31, 2010 at 2:38 PM #

      Read the article again. Bowden's 2010 Pawtucket line is in there. Also, his 7.9 K/9 rate is a bit misleading when he racks it up in the low minors. His AAA numbers (i.e. when facing near Major League caliber hitters) are 6.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. That's a very big difference from his overall line which you quoted.

      As for Daisuke, his entire body of work is enough to draw conclusions. Daisuke has always struggled with his command. And, I'd suggest you go back to check on the definition of FIP because it gives hitters 100% credit for the home run rate, whether or not it artificially inflated by an unsustaniable home run rate.

      And, while it is certainly premature to say that Wakefield is injured, I never blamed the start on an injury – rather an injury is something to keep an eye on and that fatigue could be just as likely an issue. "If Wakefield is combating any sort of injury — or even a mechanical issue stemming from weakness lingering from last season’s injuries — he can’t be counted on to perform."

  3. Jeff Howe May 31, 2010 at 1:10 PM #

    Napoli did not do to poorly at first, though of course the first ball hit to him was off the bat of Ichiro, and even the best first baseman can look like a staggering drunk when trying to race Ichiro to the bag. The trade names are indeed intriguing, but I fear that, out of desperation, the Angels will overpay for a rental player, leaving them unable to do anything meaningful at the trade deadline or the offseason. My hope of the team going anywhere in October is basically gone anyway, so I'm just looking for a strong finish. (Yes, yes, I know it's really early, but still….)

  4. Michael Santos June 1, 2010 at 8:48 AM #

    The key to the pitching staff will be getting Beckett back and healthy. I think Lackey will still settle down some more and will give us better starts throughout the summer. I'd expect Lester to continue on with his great season. I question Buchholz ability to be dominant throughout the course of the entire season, but maybe this is his breakout year. He's looked stellar thus far and has relied on his entire repertoire of pitches. He's got top of the line stuff for his fastball and his junk pitches (curveball/sinker type pitch?).

    Dice-K is giving us what we'd expect…being consistently inconsistent. Wakefield has done a good job at filling in. The thing with Wakefield is that you'd expect him to get rocked a couple times each year, but he usually puts in a good start more than he gets lit up.

    I'm still not too concerned. What I am more concerned with is the continued blistering bats of David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre. If those two guys can keep hitting and if Victor Martinez can start to hit a little more, they should make a good, solid run for the playoffs. Once Ellsbury is back into the swing of things, setting the plate, their lineup will be a pretty formidable one for opposing pitchers.

    Let's not forget their ability to go out and trade for somebody at the deadline. I'd love to see Adrian Gonzalez in a Red Sox uniform, but the way the Padres are playing this year, I do not think that is going to happen any time soon. Ideally I'd like Seattle to severely fall off the map and have the Red Sox trade for Cliff Lee, but I don't think that will happen either.

    • Shane June 1, 2010 at 10:04 AM #

      Who would they give for Cliff Lee? Either the team will be fine come the trade deadline, or they'll be out of the hunt. Either way extending Cliff Lee is out of the option, so what's the point of renting him for a couple of months?

  5. Aaron June 1, 2010 at 11:08 AM #

    It's unlikely but it'd be great if the Angels were willing to part with Napoli, especially with Mathis on the mend. Scioscia really seems to undervalue Nap's skills and maybe upper management does, too. In reality, Napoli is roughly equivalent to V-Mart offensively, better wOBA and SLG%, slightly worse OBP. If they'd take V-Mart for Napoli and a prospect or two we should jump on it.

  6. Will June 1, 2010 at 2:50 PM #

    As disappointing as the Sox have been thus far, 5 games out isn't too shabby. Tampa has played great but I'd be surprised to see such a young team keep up this pace. If they slow down, and the Sox pick it up there's no reason to think this team, as currently configured, won't be playing in October.

    Wake and Dice-K are painfully frustrating because of their inconsistency but for number 4 and 5 starters, a team could do a lot worse than those 2 guys who could easily get hot at any point. If Beckett comes back healthy, Ells can stay in the lineup, V-Mart heats up and Pede starts hitting again, this will be a tough team to beat.

  7. Jack Marshall June 1, 2010 at 3:17 PM #

    The analysis on Wakefield is silly. He had one atrocious, ERA-wrecking start. In the start before that, he pitched 8 shut-out innings, and every start but one had been quality before that. There's no evidence at all that he's less effective than he has been for the past decade.

  8. Jack Marshall June 1, 2010 at 7:17 PM #

    The analysis on Wakefield is silly. He had one atrocious, ERA-wrecking start. In the start before that, he pitched 8 shut-out innings, and every start but one had been quality before that. There's no evidence at all that he's less effective than he has been for the past decade.

    • Aaron June 1, 2010 at 8:52 PM #

      How about a career worst K/9? Or the fact that he hasn't been close to 6 K/9 since '05? Or that his ground ball percentage has been falling every year since '04? His BB/9 has stayed pretty good over the past few years but everything else about Wake's game has been in decline for some time. The myth of the timeless knuckleballer is just that, a myth.

      • Drugs Delaney June 2, 2010 at 8:10 AM #

        Actually, Wake's K-rates were worse with Pittsburgh. His K-rate was 5.82 K/9 in 2008. That's pretty close to 6 K/9. Wake's K-rates have fluctuated over the years, as have his BB-rates.

        Wake isn't a GB pitcher. In 2004, he had an abnormally high GB-rate (for him). His GB-rate is down this year. But he has only thrown 52.1 innings, so it's a bit early to get alarmed. The one stat that is worrying is Wake's IFH%, which shot up last year and is still high this year. Injuries have limited his mobility. Wake does not get off the mound quickly anymore and does not field his position well.

  9. WayneRoy June 1, 2010 at 3:54 PM #

    Seemed to me Wakefield's pitch was just flat the other night, which if you've watched him for any length of time you know can happen in any given game. What I'm wondering is whether Dice-K could be the one to get bumped from the rotation when Beckett is ready to return. For my money Wake is the better choice if they're both healthy. The guy is a pro and for obvious reasons I trust his ability to compete. However, I can understand the Sox' desire to try get something from Dice-K, considering his contract and comparative youth.

    • Kurt June 1, 2010 at 7:10 PM #

      I think Dice-K could potentially do well out of the pen. He's one of the harder throwers on the team and could probably gain another tick or two on his fastball out of the pen. If he could just attack hitters with the hard stuff and not nibble, I could see him being very effective in a relief role…although I realize that's a gigantic IF.

      • WayneRoy June 2, 2010 at 3:02 PM #

        Yeah but if the guy was willing to trust his stuff and attack hitters we wouldn't be having this conversation. I honestly can't understand what his problem is. He has better stuff than many successful starters but seems to me to be pitching in fear. Maybe a psychiatrist could help him more than a pitching coach.