Starting Pitching Contingencies

by Sully on January 22, 2011

in Red Sox

Photo courtesy of WEEI.com

It’s no secret that the Red Sox look very good for 2011, probably baseball’s best team. But as we learned in 2010, a good roster only gets you part of the way there. You need performance and health to hold up. So where might the Red Sox be a bit vulnerable this season?

I think the outfield looks set, with Mike Cameron, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick slotted behind Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew and Carl Crawford. That’s insane. In the infield, Jed Lowrie’s versatility assuages any fears I have of a Kevin Youkilis or Dustin Pedroia injury recurrence. The bullpen’s got some depth, and catcher’s become a strength throughout the organization. Boston can withstand some chop in any of these areas.

I find the prospect of a repeat of 2010 to be more concerning in the starting rotation. Josh Beckett and John Lackey aren’t getting younger. Clay Buchholz will be good, but I don’t think he’ll keep runs off the board as effectively as he did in 2010 when he enjoyed unsustainably fortunate balls-in-play luck. If you know what to expect out of Daisuke Matsuzaka, you’re doing it better than I am. I don’t worry at all about Jon Lester.

So, what if things go awry? Well for one, at least Tim Wakefield is around. I am not sure if it was just a blip or if it’s a sign that his knuckleball mastery might be offsetting natural age deterioration, but he only walked 2.3 batters per nine innings last season. It was the lowest total of his career. At the same time, his hits per nine was the third highest of his career. With an improved defense behind him that theoretically would suppress the hits, there’s reason to believe he could once again pitch effectively if he limits the walks.

Then there’s Felix Doubront, who probably needs to start the year in AAA because of the team’s lacking rotation depth. Ideally, he would be their top lefty coming out of the Boston bullpen but that won’t be in the cards, at least not to begin the season. He’s ready to start games at the Major League level and if pressed into action, he could be fine as well.

That’s really it though, and a plan that relies on a 44-year old and a kid with 23 career Big League innings is a plan begging for a contingency one. Matt Fox? Kyle Weiland? Brandon Duckworth? Hey, they’re fine. We’re now talking eight, nine, ten starters here. But if July 31st rolls around and Boston looks like they need to make a move, there are a few problems. One, as a result of the Adrian Gonzalez deal, the farm has thinned a bit. Coming off a great 2010 draft and with a bunch of early picks in 2011 I am not too concerned over the long term, but the current state of the Red Sox system hampers their midseason flexibility a bit.

Nonetheless, it’s worth a look at what might be out there. In part courtesy of Cot’s, in part my sense for what the available pitcher list might look like, here is what we’ll be looking at come deadline 2011. The more notable free agent omissions like Mark Buehrle are due to my belief that their teams will contend.

Kyle Davies KCR
Zach Duke ARI
Scott Kazmir LAA
Paul Maholm PIT
Jason Marquis WAS
Scott Olsen PIT
Oliver Perez NYM
Joel Pineiro LAA
Wandy Rodriguez HOU
Jeff Francis KCR
Bruce Chen KCR
Chris Young NYM
Fausto Carmona CLE
Justin Masterson CLE


It’s not terribly inspiring, and what’s worse, there are even contending teams out there with much thinner starting pitching than Boston. Look at the Yankees, for goodness sakes. You don’t think they’ll be looking for starting pitching as 2011 plays out? So it’s a seller’s market, with those sellers peddling some uninspiring pieces. You can almost hear Sandy, J.P. and DePo scheming at what they can pry away from teams if Chris Young starts off hot.

I don’t think it’s great cause for concern, but if there’s one area where the Red Sox could use reinforcements, it’s in the rotation. The 2011 doomsday scenario of a Beckett/Lackey/Dice-K repeat can be papered over by Wake and Doubront, and from there Boston will just have to rely on its other components. Fortunately, they should have one of baseball’s best defenses and lineups to make up for potential starting pitching woes.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt January 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Its definitely a sellers market out there and, like all things, when the Yankees are interested the price goes up. Hopefully it isn’t a problem the Sox will have because, perusing the PawSox roster, unless Andrew Miller makes some kind of unprecedented turnaround, there is just about nothing in terms of starting pitching. Ugh.

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Chris Hinkson January 28, 2011 at 11:41 am

What about Junichi Tazawa… I’m not sure when he’ll be ready for action after last years surgery but he may end up an option mid way through 2011.. Michael Bowden is also ready should the need arise for a Starter/Reliever (I believe the last I heard the Sox wanted to focus him on relieving due to projections as a starter)..

Not that I’m enamored with either player you understand… I’d like to see one stable arm signed to a Minor League contract too (or traded for if the pieces are right and not crippling).

Bonderman, Millwood and Duchscherer are the guys I’d like to see entertained (None of which can I see being signed to a Minor league contract except for, maybe, Bonderman).. Then there’s guys like Washburn and Pedro who haven’t seen a mound in awhile and could be stable #5′s if they are healthy and have the mind set to compete again..

They may want to see how Bedard pans out in the spring.. If he doesn’t make the Seattle squad, and is cut (while on a 1 year contract) they should take a long look and give him time in the minors.. He may not look good right away in Spring training and Seattle may end up cutting him.. I think there’s a good chance..

Pie in the sky, right? hahaha

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Greg January 28, 2011 at 11:47 am

Another potential spot starter left out: Junichi Tazawa. I’m not too optimistic with his elbow problems last year, but I assume if one of the starters is a scratch and someone from the minors needs to come up, he could get the call. I don’t see him filling in long-term though.

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greg January 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm

This is the year not to worry about the starting pitching. With this lineup we should be able to outslug the other team.The bullpen is more important than the starters. Could be the big red machine all over.

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