While I have tried to maintain my positivity it has become increasingly hard. There have been injuries and poor outings that surely no one could have predicted or dealt with, but the injuries to the staff and poor performance that can find blame.
The Red Sox entered 2011 with a rotation consisting of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka. That seems so long ago now and while the start to the season was poor it did not fall squarely on this group. Starters in April and March had an ERA of 3.83. They had a K/BB of 1.92 which is close to the season average.
There were plenty of issues in the slow start, but most fell on the bullpen and offense. The starting rotation on a hole was solid and if maintained they would do what they have done so far this season in leading the wild card race most of the season. Then the
injuries struck and the front office began to scramble.
After losing Matsuzka fr the season and Lackey to the DL the staff took the biggest hit when Buchholz hit the DL with an injury that took an extended time to diagnose and still his timeline is sketchy. This cause the team to move players like Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland to the rotation when they would have been better serving the team in Triple-A or in the bullpen.
This not only hurt the staff, but drained the pen along with injuries in the pen as well. The compounding issues has left a staff counting on Lester and Beckett to be sure things, but lately Lester has failed to meet that expectation. Leaving Beckett as a must win and hoping the offense can power the team through.
That expectation is a lot as the starting pitching has been unable to even be average let alone good. In September the starters have had an ERA of 7.34 and a K/BB of 1.82. Some of the pitchers have been unlucky like Lester and Beckett with acceptable FIP performance not matching their actual ERA in September. The rest has been atrocious with 5 pitchers throwing more than 10 innings in September and having a FIP over 4.30.
While we are on the subject it is hard to believe the use of Kyle Weiland is doing anything for him or the Red Sox. He is not this bad, but letting him go out there and post an ERA of 7.90 backed by a FIP of 7.78 is not acceptable by a playoff contender like the Red Sox.
All this has to raise the question of where the team placed it’s money over the past few seasons when filling the rotation. It might be harsh to use one month to beat down Theo et al about the rotation, but surely options like Lackey and Matsuzaka haven’t been very good the rest of the time.
I’m going to give the team a break on the Matsuzaka deal as they weren’t the only team ready to spend millions on the Japanese import, but there is no escaping the fact that the Lackey deal has a big part to play in this September collapse. The team signed a continually injured starter who had been on the DL to start two straight seasons and not been as effective as before the injuries began.
Could the team have found a different option in the offseason of 2009 or even just passed on a big signing all together? While he was clearly the biggest pitching name on the market that year you could argue even a pitcher like Carl Pavano would have been at least considered more consistent if not better altogether.
Then you consider the team place a huge amount in the signing of Carl Crawford while passing on even the chance to enter talks with Cliff Lee. Perhaps they called and were denied the chance to sign him as he clearly wasn’t only out for the money, but wouldn’t 2011 be a different story with Cliff Lee in the rotation and the team trying to fill left field instead.
The team has three more years heavily invested in Lackey and there has to be concerns about Buchholz as he is highly paid at $12 million in his 2015 season, which is guaranteed. The front office is going to have to be creative to solve this problem, but they can’t head into 2012 with Lackey as a top 3 man in the rotation and if he is they need to find young arms to fill the minors with better options to fill in when injuries come.