Truth Serum

April 8, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized 

Perhaps an 0-6 start to the season isn’t the worst thing that could have happened to these Red Sox. In fairness to the organization, they should not be accused of singing their own praises à la the Miami Heat. In fact this is quite possibly the first time in the Theo era in which we have not been inundated with veiled references to how smart they are with the Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford acquisitions. While those additions will eventually pay dividends (most notably Gonzalez and much less so Crawford), the questions still remain with pitching.
Jon Lester is a bona fide ace. Clay Buchholz has tremendous potential but is hardly a lock to repeat his stellar 2010. This logically brings us to John Lackey and Josh Beckett. For some completely inexplicable reason, conventional wisdom among national pundits and local “experts” is that they are both #1 starters. Really? Let’s take a closer look:

Josh Beckett:
Beckett had a great 2007 and marched through October like Walter Johnson. Since then he has been no better than an average starter (see table below). There is no rational reason to believe that he will suddenly recapture the dominance of 4 years ago. He no longer can rely on a 97 mph fastball to bail himself out of trouble. In his first start this season, he was consistently in the 91-93 mph range.

John Lackey:
The virtual statistical twin to Beckett over the last 3+ seasons. He also has lost a bit on the fastball. The key difference here is that he never possessed true ace stuff. He was the number one starter on a mostly mediocre Anaheim staff before signing with Boston before the 2010 season.

Cumulative statistics 2008-present

Player             ERA+    IP  W  L   H  ER  BB  SO  ERA   BA  OPS OPS+
Edwin  Jackson       107 612.2 38 32 618 282 229 457 4.14 .263 .750   98
Ervin  Santana       107 588.0 41 25 585 263 169 496 4.03 .258 .730   94
John  Lackey         106 558.1 37 25 581 257 161 428 4.14 .270 .754   98
Jonathan  Sanchez    106 520.1 30 34 438 233 262 547 4.03 .227 .699   89
Derek  Lowe          105 611.0 46 34 638 264 174 407 3.89 .272 .716   95
Joe  Saunders        104 593.1 42 32 626 273 184 321 4.14 .274 .762  102
Josh  Beckett        104 519.1 35 23 527 254 138 491 4.40 .261 .735   89
John  Lannan         103 536.2 27 36 562 243 190 280 4.08 .272 .755  105
Scott  Baker         103 548.2 38 23 542 252 137 455 4.13 .256 .727   93
Javier  Vazquez      103 587.1 37 37 556 275 175 560 4.21 .248 .728   92
Bronson  Arroyo      101 643.0 48 34 627 296 192 416 4.14 .257 .742  100
Joel  Pineiro        101 515.0 32 26 553 233  96 278 4.07 .276 .738   99
Jon  Garland         101 600.2 39 33 638 275 207 335 4.12 .276 .763  106
Randy  Wolf          101 624.1 36 32 592 274 218 469 3.95 .251 .730  101
Ricky  Nolasco       100 562.0 42 26 556 268 119 532 4.29 .256 .726   93
James  Shields       100 645.1 38 36 697 305 145 521 4.25 .274 .764  103
A.J.  Burnett         99 620.0 42 34 613 305 262 577 4.43 .259 .751   98
Johnny  Cueto         98 531.0 32 32 531 252 185 428 4.27 .261 .770  107

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/8/2011.

Much of the hype surrounding the 2011 Red Sox centers on the depth of the starting pitching. If the Sox entered the season with John Lannan and Javier Vazquez instead of Beckett and Lackey, would every so-called expert have picked the Red Sox to win the East by 6 or 7 games? I doubt it. However, the reality is that they would be statistically identical with those two guys in the rotation.
This rotation is solid, but it has just as many questions as the Yankees rotation. It breaks down like this:

  1. C.C. Sabathia vs. Jon Lester: a virtual wash.
  2. Phil Hughes vs. Clay Buchholz: two young guys, Buchholz probably has a slight edge because he has actually put together one solid season.
  3. John Lackey vs. A.J. Burnett: I hate to admit it, but they are the same guy. Lackey has been more consistent throughout his career, but Burnett still has the ability to be completely dominant on occasion.
  4. Ivan Nova vs. Josh Beckett: slight edge to Beckett but way bigger upside for Nova.
  5. Freddy Garcia vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka: slight edge to Matsuzaka.

Perhaps the 0-6 start will serve as a reminder to everyone that they still need to play these games. I still like Boston to win the division, but they need to start doing everything better very soon.

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