Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Thursday, August 24, 2006

THE PROBLEM IS OBVIOUS

Jon Lester may have earned the win on Wednesday night, but once again, as is often he case, it wasn't easy. Lester went just five innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks. Over the course of those five innings, Lester threw 96 pitches. Say what you will, but economy is not one of his strengths.

Last week, Mike Timlin said the Sox problems aren't the result of team pitching.

"The pitchers know how to pitch, and they've been pitching well all year long," said the veteran reliever. "We've been throwing the ball really well.... we're pitching well, we're holding teams down, and they're doing the same to us. Right now we're not hitting as well as we're pitching."

Oh, really? Well let's take a look at this team that's been "pitching well all year long," and is "throwing the ball really well."

STARTERS:

Curt Schilling 14-5, 3.84
Josh Beckett 13-8, 5.35
Jon Lester 7-2, 4.76
David Wells 2-3, 5.40
Kyle Snyder 3-2, 6.23
Jason Johnson 0-4, 7.36
Tim Wakefield 7-8, 4.14
Matt Clement 5-5, 6.61
David Pauley 0-2, 7.88
Lenny DiNardo 1-2, 7.11

BULLPEN:

Jonathan Papelbon 4-2, 0.98, 3 saves
Mike Timlin 5-3, 3.97, 2 saves
Manny Delcarmen 1-0, 4,24
Julian Tavarez 2-4, 4.86, 1 save
Rudy Seanez 2-1, 4.82
Keith Foulke 2-1, 4.95
Craig Hansen 1-1, 6.60
Jermaine Van Buren 1-0, 11.77
Javier Lopez 0-0, 4.15

The Red Sox have just one starter and two relievers with an ERA under 4, and one of them -- Timlin -- barely makes the cut.

The Sox 4.83 team ERA is 26th out of the 30 Major League teams, and is 11th out of the 16 American League teams. I'd say Timlin's definition of "pitching well" is a very loose one. It might be relative if we we're talking about a college or a minor league team, but it's not respectable for a Big League team.

Meanwhile, the once mighty Sox offense is now batting .280, good enough for sixth in the AL, and they're third in the AL with 692 runs. Sure, the offense has been struggling as of late, but the pitching has been bad all year long. Let's be honest and lay the blame where it belongs.

If we're looking for the reasons for the Sox second half slump, and why they won't be in the playoffs come October, look no further than the rotation that has seen 11 different starters this season, and the array of relievers coming and going all year long. It's been difficult keeping track of just who's in the Boston bullpen from one day to the next.

The entire pitching staff will require some major overhauling to correct these problems before next season. Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt will be the two most attractive and desirable free agent pitchers this offseason, and ownership should open the checkbook and be prepared to write an eight figure contract with lots of zeros on the end.

Trades may be harder to come by as good pitching is at such a premium. But then again, hardly anyone on the Sox roster is untouchable. We could, once again, be looking at a very different Red Sox team next year.

It all begins and ends with pitching, and the Sox grievous deficiencies can no longer be ignored or avoided.

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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