Can the Red Sox starting rotation hold up in 2012? Find out by watching every Red Sox game in 2012 with MLB Extra Innings on DIRECT TV.
A few days ago, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was quoted as saying that it was “unlikely” that the Sox would add another starting pitcher to their roster. If that statement holds true, the Sox will have botched the Marco Scutaro trade and left themselves in a risky position.
At this point, I’m still waiting for the Sox to make good on the Scutaro trade, because Cody Ross does not seem like enough of a return. While I quickly looked at this situation last week, I’ll expand a bit to look at what could go right and what could go wrong with the current rotation.
It’s not as if the Sox don’t have a formidable front three. Jon Lester was a preseason Cy Young candidate this time last year, and has the talent to turn into one again this season. Josh Beckett was straight-up nasty last season, posting a 2.89 ERA with a 3.8 K/BB ratio. However, if you believe in the power of BABIP, you’ll notice that his was .245 last season, by far the lowest of his career and well below his career average of .290. Even with the likelihood of a normalized BABIP in 2012, lest we not forget that Beckett hasn’t exactly been the most durable starter in his career. He didn’t throw 200 innings last season and threw only 127.2 the season before. If he stays healthy and puts up a K/BB ration similar to what he did in 2011, we should expect another fine season with double digit wins and an ERA in the 3.20-3.40 range.
Then there’s Clay Buchholz, who missed 93 games due to a stress fracture in his lower back last season. Even if Buchholz does indeed get through 2012 without injury issues, one has to worry that for the second straight season he posted a K/BB rate that was below the league average and ended up allowing over one home run per nine innings pitched, making the case that his 0.47 HR/9 in 2010 may have been an aberration. His career xFIP stands at 4.11, which is not overly impressive, but he continues to generate ground balls at a rate of over 50-percent, which means he has at least one consistent weapon to potentially limit damage, though his teammates on the field behind him will have to make the plays for all to break right.
Outside the front three we have Daniel Bard, who has been cast with some favorable projections as a starter. At first, I did not think Bard would have much of a chance to succeed as a starter, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked his chances. That being said, even if he does go on to post good numbers as Boston’s fourth starter, there is no way he should throw much more than 160 or so innings, which leaves more work for the bullpen and possibly a spot starter here or there to keep his innings in check. In essence, we cannot judge the results of Bard’s transition merely on his numbers alone. We must consider how his replacement innings turn out (the numbers from any pitcher that was used to fill in for the innings he is being conserved), which adds yet another risk factor in relying on Bard as a season-long starter.
“Unlike Bard, Alfredo Aceves doesn’t throw pure gas or have the ability to miss bats at a high rate. In fact, Aceves’ career 1.9 K/BB rate is below average and would likely worsen in a starting role. What Aceves does best is keep hitters off balance and get them to put the ball in play weakly (16.5 percent career line-drive rate against), but that means that he is very much at the mercy of his defense. Low line-drive rate or not, it is highly unlikely that Aceves is aided by a .231 BABIP like he was in 2011. Just about every advanced pitching statistic showed that Aceves’ 2.61 ERA last season was basically a mirage…
The same discrepancy holds true for Aceves’ career ERA vs xFIP (2.93 vs. 4.54). And let’s not look past the fact that Aceves has only thrown 240 major league innings in his career, which includes 114 last season and only nine career starts.
In other words, it would seem that there is a lot of risk in moving Aceves to the rotation and that a lot would have to work out in his favor for it to be a successful venture.”
While Ben Cherrington has done a good job of stocking up some veteran pitching that could help (Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva and John Maine), the odds are definitely against any of them making much of an impact in Boston this season.
With Edwin Jackson now off the market, the eyes of Red Sox Nation turn to Roy Oswalt, who is quite an injury risk, himself. Apparently, the Sox have an offer out to Oswalt, but there are far from the only team in the mix.
The bottom line is that this rotation has potential, but potential on both ends of the spectrum. Should everything break right and should everyone stay relatively healthy, there’s enough potential to take the division. If things should go awry, however, and injuries or failed bullpen transitions or both become an issue, things could once again get messy. Ask yourself this: How often to baseball seasons actually go according to plan?
Yeah, I’m worried too.