Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, May 14, 2006

THE REPLACEMENTS

After becoming World Series champions in 2004, the Red Sox decided to tinker with what got them there and replaced starting pitchers Derek Lowe and Pedro Martínez with David Wells and Matt Clement.

Those decisions seem highly dubious, in retrospect.

Despite his 12-15 record last year, the 32-year-old Lowe made a career-high 35 starts and pitched 222 innings for the Dodgers, finishing the year with a respectable 3.61 ERA.

And though his 1-2 record might indicate otherwise, Lowe has pitched very well again this season, as evidenced by his 2.98 ERA. In his last seven starts, Lowe hasn't allowed more than two earned runs, and in his last five starts has a 1.57 ERA.

Martinez, the 34-year-old former Cy Young winner, is now 5-0 with a 3.19 ERA. In 53.2 innings, he's given up just 30 hits while striking out 62 and walking just 16.

Last season, he went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA. Despite concerns about his overworked shoulder, Pedro made 31 starts and pitched 217 innings. And as usual, he struck out over 200 batters yet again. Pedro proved himself durable, and can still fool hitters with a variety of pitches other than just his fastball.

Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Clement is 3-3 with an unimpressive 5.58 ERA. In 40 innings he's surrendered 45 hits with 29 strike outs and 21 walks.

Last season, after an encouraging start, Clement nosed dived following the All Star break and finished the year at 13-6 with a 4.57 ERA. The record was deceiving, however. Clement went 9-1 before the break and 4-5 after.

Clement received an average of 6.88 runs of support per 9 innings, 3rd-highest in all of baseball behind teammate David Wells (7.97) and the Rangers' Chris Young (7.32). Clement benefited from the fact that the Red Sox scored 146 runs when he pitched, the 5th-highest total in baseball.

And after posting an impressive, 15-7 record (albeit with the aid of the best run support in baseball), Wells is now on the DL with a bum knee, an 0-1 record, and a frightening 15.75 ERA, after just one start. Wells was even shelled against minor league hitters in his single rehab start following spring training.

The 43-year-old lefty has a continuing weight problem, and seems allergic to exercise. Training and conditioning are clearly not part of his off season repertoire. The team kindly lists him at 250 pounds, a very conservative report to be sure. The 6'3" Wells is probably more like 275, if we're being honest. Put it this way, Jonathan Papelbon is listed at 6'4", 230. Does anyone really believe that Wells is only 20 pounds heavier? The reason this is an issue is because Wells knee can't support his girth, and as a result, it may have ended his career. Though his rubber arm likely had more than enough good innings still left in it, Wells right knee may never again allow him to pitch effectively at the Major League level.

So the Sox are left hoping that Roger Clemens will come to their rescue, or perhaps even Dontrelle Willis, in a trade deadline deal.

But the young lefthander Willis, who won 22 games last season, has a 9.97 ERA (24 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings) in his last four starts, all losses. Willis hasn't looked good since the start of the season, continuing a trend that began during the World Baseball Classic.

Sure, it's easy to to be a Monday morning quarterback, but the Sox management are the professionals who get paid professional money to foresee these types of things before they come to pass. From where the Sox stand today, Clement and Wells for Pedro and Lowe seems to be an utterly failed experiment.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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