69-93; Worst record since 1965; first losing record in 14 seasons. A record of 76 – 114 since Sept 1 2011.
A winter of discontent continued with some disturbing signs in spring training, the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury in the 1st game of 2012 at Fenway Park, and became worse throughout the 2012 season. The biggest culprit to the success of the Red Sox was the pitching staff.
How bad was the pitching? The Red Sox staff was equal to or better than the league average in number of wild pitches (42 for the Sox, 52 for league Average). In every other statistic, they were below the league average.
And so enter John Farrell, the former pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox – the savior of the Red Sox pitching staff.
Just wait a minute though – The Blue Jays pitching last year was equally unimpressive – While the Blue Jays were better than the Red Sox in almost every category, but only better than the league average in one – Intentional walks (20-32). The Blue Jays managed to throw more wild pitches than both the Red sox and League Average (56).
The Red Sox have managed to drastically improve their Bullpen for 2013 – the addition of Uehara and the possible addition of Hanrahan shores up a bullpen that was inconsistent in 2012. The Red Sox get one of the top, and most underrated, closers in the game in Hanrahan. Daniel Bard is expected to return to the bullpen, meaning that if both Bard and Bailey can find a way to return to 2011 form, the Red Sox will have at least 3 setup pitchers to get to Hanrahan. This could be a bullpen that rivals Rivera and Wetteland in ability to turn a 9 inning game into a 7 inning game.
The starting pitching however, has not been addressed.
The first problem is that the starting pitching will be reliant on Jon Lester being able to rebound from his September 2011 through 2012 slide, and get back to his 2010 and early 2011 performance, when his ERA was in the low 3’s.
Beyond that, the Red Sox have issues – Huge issues….
Clay Buchholz has shown moments of brilliance mixed in with disappointment, but has thrown 100 innings or more only twice, in 2010 and 2012. He followed his 2010 with a shortened season due to lower back problems that caused him to miss the end of 2011. Last year he pitched the whole year, but gave up a career high in homeruns and hits. He also appeared at times like the 2008 Buchholz that was tipping his pitches. The Red Sox expect and are depending on him to be their #2, and I’m not sure he’s up to that challenge yet.
Ryan Dempster – who has pitched well for the Chicago Cubs, but has a 4.46 ERA against American League Teams in interleague play, a 4.71 ERA against American League East Teams in interleague; and a 5.53 ERA in American League Ballparks and also against AL East teams in their home ballparks. Even worse is the 9.72 ERA has against the New York Yankees in both the old and new Yankee Stadium….
John Lackey – he has not been the same pitcher since he hurt his arm with the Angels, over a year prior to coming to the Sox.
Felix Doubront – One year, and although he had some good games, his ERA was closer to 5 than I want out of a starter, and I am concerned about how well he could do next year since teams will now have a book on him, and his ERA and WHIP went up after the All-Star break.
Alfredo Aceves – he could end up being in the starting rotation, but for his career his has a higher ERA and WHIP as a starter than a reliever. His ability to pitch 3 innings out of the bullpen, and be a potential 4th setup guy gives him more value out of the Bullpen than as a starter.
And those are the Possible Red Sox Starting 5 right now, Lester, Buchholz, and 4 number 5 pitchers in Lackey, Dempster, Doubront, and Aceves.
Unfortunately, there is not a Schilling-Martinez or Schilling-Beckett #1-2 combination in this 2013 rotation. There isn’t a servicable middle of the rotation guy like Wakefield and Arroyo were in ’04, or like Lester and Matsuzaka were in ’07. Unless the Red Sox manage to trade for a significant starter or unless Lester and Buchholz shine for the whole season – the improved bullpen might not get the opportunity to close out games and secure wins for the 2013 Boston Red Sox.