Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Saturday, January 13, 2007


There's been plenty of discussion in the baseball world about Daisuke Matsuzaka this offseason, and whether he'll be worth the Red Sox rather considerable investment in the coming years.

Matsuzaka will cost the Red Sox a total of $103 million dollars over a period of six years -- that's $17.2 million per season. Assuming he wins an average of 17 games a year over that span, each of them will cost the Red Sox a million dollars. But both Roto Authority and Hardball Times project Matsuzaka to win just 15 games this year. Of course it's just a projection, but that's what these guys do.

Considering that there wasn't a 20-game winner in the majors last year, 17 wins might be the best the Red Sox can expect from a pitcher who's never performed in the bigs before. Though 2006 marked the first time in a non-work-stoppage season that no pitcher reached the coveted number, considering how few pitchers last a full six innings in each start these days, it may not be the last.

In today's game, teams look for pitchers who can give them 30-35 starts and at least 200 innings each season -- the kind of guys that are euphemistically referred to as "innings eaters." In the modern baseball world, durability seems to be the best a team can hope for, and it's certainly more likely than having a 20-game winner on your staff. At the least, the Sox have got to get that kind of consistency and output, in terms of starts and innings, from their Japanese import.

But Matsuzaka isn't the only pitcher who'll be earning outrageous sums for each win.

The San Francisco Giants gave Barry Zito the richest pitching deal ever, $126 million for seven years. That's $18 million per season. Or looked at another way, if Zito wins 18 games every season over the life of the deal, he'll earn $1 million for each of those victories. But even in the NL, and in a pitcher's park, that assumption could be a stretch. Over six full big league seasons, Zito has averaged just 15.83 victories a year. Let's just say the Giants have a lot of faith in Zito.

However, the Red Sox had money to spend, and their pitching had to be addressed. The bullpen is another issue entirely, but the rotation clearly needed an overhaul and the addition of Matsuzaka should help.

Last year, the Sox staff gave up a total of 825 runs - 11th in the A.L. The starters had a collective ERA of 5.00, and could only muster a rather pathetic 10 quality starts. As defined, a quality start is when a pitcher works six or more innings and allows three or fewer earned runs.

Judging by his 2006 campaign, Josh Beckett appeared overrated and may be better suited to the N.L. Though he won 16 games for the Sox last year, he also sported an unflattering 5.01 ERA, which can be partially attributed to the whopping 36 home runs he allowed. Both Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield are 40-something starters, which makes both ripe for injury. And considering their histories the past two seasons, that's not unimaginable. Jonathan Papelbon is coming off a shoulder subluxation that sidelined him for the season's final month, and he'll be facing a transition from a relief role to a starting role. There remain numerous questions to be answered and only time will tell.

Sure, Matsuzaka stands to earn $1 million per victory, but there's a good chance he'll actually win 15-20 games. The new reality in baseball is that #3 and #4 pitchers are now earning the kind of money that used to be reserved for #1 starters. As Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi put it, "Never mind trying to find a No. 1 anymore; it's hard to find a 2 or a 3 or a 4 nowadays."

My how the times have changed.

Sox Notes:

The Marlins continue to explore trades for young center fielders, and they especially like David Murphy. One scout calls him a "sleeper," and believes that he'll eventually hit for power. Murphy has been on a weight training program this offseason and has put on 10-15 pounds of muscle. His 6'4" frame now packs a solid 215 pounds, which he feels will help his power and stamina over the course of a 162-game season.

Wily Mo Pena continues to struggle in the Dominican Winter League. During the playoffs for the Aguilas Cibaenas, he's just 2-for-38 with four RBIs and one run scored in 11 games. During the regular season, Pena hit .125 (1-for-8) in two games.

Copyright © 2007 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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