Rubin: Red Sox Pitching Was The Achilles’ Heel

Would you say, the Red Sox failed to win games because of their pitching?

By Dan Rubin 

It’s easy to point the finger at the 2011 Boston Red Sox by blaming the front office, the manager and his staff, or any one of the free agent busts they’ve signed over the past two years.

Detractors will be extremely quick to tell Red Sox fans they lost the season because of a clubhouse filled with overpriced babies, whining brats, and players who couldn’t get along. They’ll use that as fodder to lob at Theo Epstein and Terry Francona, and they’ll do it by saying, the Red Sox essentially became the New York Yankees.

Although, the real reason the Red Sox failed wasn’t because of a lack of output, yet instead – pitching.

Championships aren’t won without a lockdown bullpen and a good starting rotation. As Sox fans in the ‘90’s remember, it was easy to have a terrible season when you had one great starter and four mediocre arms.

The ‘02 Red Sox failed to qualify for the postseason even though they had two 20-game winners in Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe and the American League batting champion, Manny Ramirez. Boston failed to qualify for the playoffs that year because of their third, fourth and fifth starters, along with their bullpen that couldn’t close the door on any opponent.

The ‘04 Red Sox had multiple front-end starters, headlined by the aces of Martinez and Curt Schilling. Behind them, every starter won 10-games and pitched over 175 innings, while the bullpen shut the door at key times thanks to Mike Timlin and Alan Embree.  Only one Boston starter that year had a WHIP over 1.5 (Lowe). Also, Lowe, Tim Wakefield, and Bronson Arroyo gave the Sox a chance to win games too.

The ‘07 edition was even better, as their rotation included Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, (making his cameo appearance for being great by pitching a team-high 204 innings). Behind them, Wakefield and Schilling, as well as Julian Tavarez and Jon Lester. With the exception of Tavarez, no pitcher had a WHIP of 1.50 or higher on the ’07 squad. Also, the bullpen that year had a well-balanced attack of relievers, as every single pitcher practically finished with – 50+ innings pitched, 3.00-4.00 ERA, 2-3 wins, and a WHIP of 0.90-1.50.

The Red Sox of ’11 featured four starters down the stretch with WHIPs over 1.5 – John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Erik Bedard, and Kyle Weiland. Their bullpen had three relievers combine for more than 50 innings, while Alfredo Aceves recorded more innings pitched than both Miller and Bedard combined.  Jonathan Papelbon was forced to finish 54 games, appear in 63, and save only 31 – and he blew three saves. Also, at the end of the season, he became used too often because Dan Wheeler, Scott Atchison, and Felix Doubront couldn’t do what the team did in ’04 and ’07, which was win games.

So, now we hit the offseason. Francona appears all but gone, and the front office is left with a number of different questions. They’ll probably go out and sign some splashy free agent, which should make everyone feel great coming into spring training next year, but until they get those workhorse guys in their clubhouse, the current roster and new additions will most likely be looking up at Tampa Bay and New York again next September.

Red Sox Recap 9/5/11

By Andy Lindberg

It was a rough week for the Boston Red Sox as they lost first place to the New York Yankees and reside 1.5 games back in the division.  The Red Sox went 2-4 against both New York and Texas.

The bullpen did not pitch well against New York and the starting pitching was shelled against Texas, with Andrew Miller and John Lackey getting pummeled.

It seems to have been a common theme this season, “John Lackey getting pummeled.”

With the playoffs quickly approaching, the Red Sox are slowly getting healthier with Kevin Youkilis being activated from the DL this week.  The Red Sox have also called up hot-hitting prospect Ryan Lavarnway from AAA Pawtucket to help out off the bench.

In a week where nothing really went right for Boston, the Red Sox are cooling off at the worst possible time.  At this point, potential playoff matchups would pit the Wild Card Red Sox against the Texas Rangers, a series that would theoretically open up in Texas.  With the struggles Boston has had against the Rangers this year, being cool heading to Texas would potentially prove disastrous for a season that held massive expectations in Boston.  Currently, the Red Sox are taking on the Toronto Blue Jays until Thursday at which point they fly south for three against Tampa Bay.  A record any worse than 5-2 could prove quite detrimental to Boston, as the Yankees get the dismal Orioles until Thursday, followed by a West Coast trip to Anaheim.

Red Sox Weekly–Trade Deadline Recap

By Andy Lindberg

This week Jon Lester emerged like a phoenix from the ashes of the disabled list to remind Red Sox fans of what they had been missing with two stellar outings.  Lester pitched a no-decision in the first game of the Kansas City series, hurling 5.1 innings of one-run ball followed by a Saturday outing against Chicago which saw Lester pitch eight innings of two-run baseball with eight strikeouts.  Lester picked up his 11th win of the season in the process.

Saturday also saw Adrian Gonzalez break out of a 72-at-bat homerless streak with a bomb to right field off of former Yankee Brian Bruney.  Sunday saw the Red Sox clinch the series with Gonzalez driving in two runs to add to his Major League leading tally of 89 RBI.

While 4-3 isn’t a stellar weekly record, Boston held the Yankees at two games back and made some interesting deadline moves to end the week.

The Red Sox traded utility infielder Yamaico Navarro and single-A reliever Kendal Volz to the Kansas City Royals for utility infielder Mike Aviles, who has played at third base, shortstop, and second base for the Royals this year.  Red Sox manager Terry Francona also hinted that Aviles would be experimented with in the outfield.

I like this move, as Aviles is a solid bat off the bench and hits left-handed pitching well, hitting lefties at a .309 clip so far this season.  This move also shows that the Red Sox may be concerned about when (or if) Jed Lowrie makes it off the DL any time soon and Aviles provides a decent bat in order to give the oft banged up Kevin Youkilis a day off here and there.

What the Red Sox really wanted to do was acquire another starting pitcher, more for depth than anything else.  Clay Buchholz has just been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back, so he will almost certainly not pitch for the rest of the season, including the postseason of the Red sox progress that far.  The Red Sox had a deal in place for Oakland’s Rich Harden, but the deal fell through due to medical concerns.  Boston then went out and acquired Seattle lefty Erik Bedard in the complex three-team deal.  In the deal, the Red Sox got Bedard and triple-A relief pitcher Josh Fields, who many consider to be a throw-in.  The Mariners received outfield prospects Trayvon Robinson from the Dodgers (whose appearance in this deal is still confusing) and outfield prospect Chih-Hsien Chiang from Boston.  The Dodgers received three Boston prospects in the deal; catcher Tim Federowicz, reliever Juan Rodriguez, and starter Stephen Fife.

Acquiring Bedard is a risk, but a high reward risk, as Bedard has always put up very solid numbers when healthy, posting a career 3.69 ERA.  The Red Sox still have Andrew Miller to use in the rotation, and it is still unclear as to whether there will be a platoon situation in that fifth starter’s position between Bedard and Miller, or whether or not Miller will be sent to AAA Pawtucket.

All in all, the Red Sox did not need to do much at the trade deadline.  They got pitching depth and they got a utility bat.  The Red Sox were not starving for production out of offense, defense, or pitching, and even with Buchholz on the DL Boston has still been winning.  Some experts have branded Boston as deadline losers, but when a team possesses the best record in the American League in the toughest division in the American League, there is no reason to fix what is not broken.  The next week will prove crucial to Boston with Cleveland coming to Fenway for four games beginning tonight and the Yankees coming in for three during the weekend.