By Chris Cue
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
From a starting rotation in 2011 that mainly consisted of Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wakefield, Buchholz & Miller through much of the season, do you know how many times a Boston pitcher went 7+ innings in a game?
I’ll lay it out for you starting with Beckett.
J. Beckett – 30 starts, 193IP, went at least 7 innings 13 times
Jon Lester – 31 starts, 191.2IP, went at least 7 innings 12 times
J. Lackey – 28 starts, 160IP, went at least 7 innings 5 times
Wakefield – 23 starts, *154.2IP, went at least 7 innings 7 times
Buchholz – 14 starts, 82.2IP, went at least 7 innings 4 times
A. Miller – 12 starts, *65IP, went at least 7 innings 0 times
(*- Does not represent IP as a starter since this pitcher was also used out of the Bull Pen)
There it is. Out of the 138 games started, 847IP, these 6 guys were able to complete or get past the 7th inning 41 times.
That’s a percentage of 29.71%. That’s not quite 1/3 of their starts as a group. Are we asking too much if we say that’s not good enough? Good question, let’s find out. As a comparison, let’s see how the 2009 Red Sox starting staff did. (no, this isn’t cherry picking. Remember, this is the year we had the Brad Penny, John Smoltz experiment.)
2009 Boston Red Sox Starting Pitchers
J. Beckett – 32 starts, 212.1IP, went at least 7 innings 17 times
Jon Lester – 32 starts, 203.1IP, went at least 7 innings 12 times
B. Penny – 24 starts, 131.2IP, went at least 7 innings 0 times
Wakefield – 21 starts, 129.2IP, went at least 7 innings 6 times
Buchholz – 16 starts, 92IP, went at least 7 innings 4 times
Matsuzaka – 12 starts, 59.1IP, went at least 7 innings 1 time.
Out of the 137 games started, 828.1IP, these 6 guys were only able to complete or get past the 7th inning 40 times.
That’s a percentage of 29.19%. The difference between 2009 & 2011 is 0.52%
The similarities are striking. Just to jog your memory, the 2009 starting rotation wasn’t considered very good either. In fact, the pitching staff as a whole posted a 4.35era and a 1.409whip. Compare that to the 2011 staff which posted a 4.20era and a 1.308whip and you could argue that 2009 was worse than 2011. I shouldn’t have to remind you that 2009 was a disappointing year. The difference between that year and this year is we were swept in the 2009ALDS. In 2011 we were one game away from making it to the playoffs at all. So, maybe someone is thinking it wasn’t the pitching that let us down at all? You and I both know that would be incorrect. It was the pitching in both season’s that let this team down and I shouldn’t have to lay it out month to month for you to know when that occurred. In each case, the pitching dropped off in the 2nd half of the season. Pitchers going deep into games happened much more frequently in the 1st half compared to the 2nd half of each of those seasons. “So what? That seems normal.” you might say, well stop and think about what that does to the bullpen for one thing. And no, there is nothing normal about a winning team who’s rotation is less dependable in the 2nd half compared to the 1st half of a season, In fact, you could say that winning teams have a combination of pitchers who are just as, or at least close to being as dependable in September as they were in April. We haven’t seen that in a while.
Sure injuries and fatigue are factors on an individual basis, but what the team has to call up or bring in to make up for those guys is the difference maker. Think back. In 2007 the Red Sox had a guy named Jon Lester to call up in the 2nd half to take the place of an injured Curt Shilling and an inconsistent Julian Tavarez. Granted, Lester wasn’t exactly lights out posting a 4.57era and a 1.460whip, but who did we have this year to replace Clay Buchholz and injuries to Beckett in the 2nd half? The answer is a combination of Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland. Combined, they posted and ERA north of 6.50 and a whip above 1.700. In 2007 Lester threw 63IP. In 2011 Miller/Weiland were needed to throw 89IP. That adds up to more work for less talented players. Not exactly a winning formula.
Just to keep the comparing years consistent here, the 2nd half pitcher in 2009 the Sox counted on to take the place of an injured Matsuzaka was a kid named Buchholz. Clay made 16 starts and threw 92 innings during the 2nd half of that season posting a 4.21era and a 1.380whip.
A look at the teams win pct when these guys took the mound might put things in a clearer perspective.
2011 with Miller/Weiland – The team won 10 of the 17 games started resulting in a win pct of .588
2009 with Buchholz – The team won 11 of the 16 games he started resulting in a win pct of .687
2007 with Lester – The team won 9 of the 11 games he started resulting in a win pct of .818
While neither Lester in 2007 nor Buchholz in 2009 were Ace material yet, they both proved to be more helpful than the Miller/Weiland combo we endured this past season. So, while injuries and fatigue can and do set into starting rotations by the 2nd half, who the team has to call upon is crucial to making a run down the stretch. In 2011, we didn’t have that kind of talent to call upon and that my friends is on the General Manager not the guy who had to pencil those names on a lineup card.
Issues in the clubhouse, out of shape players and malcontents, while certainly a problem were not the downfall of the 2011 Red Sox. We didn’t have the September we just witnessed because people were in a bad mood. No, we had that September because we had bad pitching…period, exclamation point and end of story.
We have to have improved options in 2012 if we hope to do better than a 3rd place finish…again.