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Rival Staffs (Part 1 of 7): Boston Red Sox

Gettin' my diagnosis on.
Gettin' my diagnosis on.

Today's mood music choices: California Dreamin' Cover by Eddie Hazel and I've Seen All Good People by Yes.  As always, feel free to leave comments on my mood music choices, or to offer suggestions for future picks.  [This is kind of a long post, so I figured I'd give you all two songs to enjoy]

For a little backstory, I have been asked to take a look at how the Yankees starting rotation matches up against the starting rotations of some other contenders.  I was going to make this all into one post, but there's just way too much information to fully condense it into one post without resorting to some serious oversimplification (or the worst, the Edge: Yankees or Edge: Red Sox drivel).  If both teams have good rotations, there are no clear cut, definitive "edges."

Analyzing and comparing pitching staffs is a many layered, complicated, and difficult thing to do, and in many cases, there are many different conclusions to be drawn, and frankly, a fair amount of guesswork and speculation.  So, what I'm going to try and do is accumulate as much data as possible, present it as coherently as I can, try and draw some reasonable conclusions, and then leave it up to discussion.

I have selected the Red Sox, Rays, Phillies, Cardinals, Twins, Angels, and Rangers as contenders worthy of looking at (Sorry Reds, Tigers, Jays, Padres, Dodgers, and Braves fans. Call me a hater if you want to), and I'm going to present them in alphabetical order by city to avoid having to "rank" them (this is something I also find lame).  This also gives the added boon of being able to do the Red Sox first to stir up some interest.

Sound reasonable?  Good.  I figure just about everybody here is already familiar with the Yankees rotation, so I'm going to talk about the Sox after the jump.

I'm not going to lie, my thoughts at the beginning of the year were pretty wrong about the Boston Red Sox.  I heard the "pitching and defense" mantra from ESPN and their lackeys, and thought that Theo Epstein was trying to build a "run prevention" team to show everyone how smart he is and reinvent the wheel.  As I equate a small ball, low scoring philosophy with losses, defeat, and failure, I was pretty thrilled to hear that Boston was going to make this turn.  But Theo's real offseason plan was to get the best available talent on his team in the short term, while they wait for some of their higher prospects to step up in the coming years (Reddick, Westmoreland, Kelly, Anderson, etc.) to provide cheap production to mix in with free agents, and the best talent available was in the pitching and defense areas, so that's what they got.

Oh, and the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored are second in the league in runs scored (we thank you, Astros pitching), so just wash all of that "run prevention" drivel right out of your brain.  The Red Sox main bugaboo this season has been in what was perceived to be their greatest strength, the rotation.  Let me elaborate by cherry picking a few telling stats and facts:

John Lackey: 4.54 ERA, 4.71 FIP, 4.87 K/9

Josh Beckett: 7.29 ERA, 4.51 FIP, still is yet to throw off a mound since the lower back strain.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Consistently inconsistent, back to the DL, right forearm strain.

Tim Wakefield: 5.42 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 2.98 BB/9, has split time between the rotation and bullpen.

Those are some serious struggles from some quality arms, and speaks to how the Sox offense has been carrying the team, as well as the depth in the pitching.  As I've bolded, John Lackey just hasn't been striking anybody out this year.  The velocity has been there, but the location, and the sharpness of the off-speed pitches is not where it's been in the past.  Beckett and Daisuke have been inconsistent at best, and are both currently on the DL, and Wakefield has been hit or miss, but I was impressed at the way he's been limiting his free passes.

The starters who have been pulling their weight? Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, who have both been fantastic, but let's go a little bit more in depth with their results so far, Buchholz in particular:

Buchholz: 2.52 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 5.72 K/9, 4.2% HR/FB, 0.34 HR/9.

Buchholz has pitched 6 out of his 12 games in the friendly home run hitting confines of Fenway Park, and will continue to pitch there, so I'm not buying his continuing to post such low home run ratios.  He's due for some regression to the mean, and a few pop ups landing Over The Monster.  Added to his rather low K rates, and I think we can expect that anemic ERA to be on the rise.  But with that said, he has been all the Sox could expect and more, and is looking like he's going to develop in to a very solid top of the rotation arm.

Jon Lester: 3.18 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 9.42 K/9

I bolded all of them because he's really good (not CC good, in case anyone's down for the "Best Lefty in Baseball" chat).  Lester strikes guys out, doesn't give up walks, and really hasn't been over-performing his peripherals.

The Red Sox are an excellent team, and have hung around in a very tough division with some important players performing way below expected levels (Lackey, Beckett, early season Ortiz, Pedroia to some extent), but have all of the necessary pieces in place to go on a run.  Also, with Jawsh and Dice-K on the DL, Wakefield is in the rotation as well as possibly Boof Bonser or the MLB debut of Adam Mills (2.97 FIP in 31 innings for the PawSox).

I tried to be as objective as possible, and not let the rivalry get in the way of getting the facts out there.  What do you think, what are your feelings on the Sox rotation?  And if there are any Sox fans stopping by, feel free to get in there.

Next: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

[Disclaimer, if I see any CC>Lester, AJ=Buch, Pettitte>Lackey, Hughes>EVERYONE, Edge Yankees nonsense, I'm bringing the delete hammer]