Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's All About Pitching

Everyone's been blaming Theo and Tito for the Red Sox' September swoon. They're even blaming pitching coach Curt Young, which is slightly more intelligent since it is pitching that wins and pitching that loses. I know that's hardly an original thought, but with the blame game being played, I feel like all the fault for this stretch of wretched baseball belongs to this team's starting pitchers.

The Red Sox are 29th in Quality Starts (starts of 6+ innings, allowing 3 earned runs or less). 70 Quality Starts in 160 games. Only Baltimore has fewer with 60. The Yankees have 84. The Phillies have 107. And that's too bad, because when the Sox do get a Quality Start, they're nearly unstoppable. They're 54-16 in those 70 games (.771). Without a Quality Start, the Sox are 35-55 (.389).

Beckett and Lester have the lion's share of Quality Starts for the Sox. 38 combined. Yet in September, they've only each made one Quality Start. These are the foundations of the Red Sox rotation, and they are having two of the biggest slumps on the team.

One reason the Sox don't have as many Quality Starts as they could is the loss of Buchholz. Buchholz struggled in April, but 6 of his last 9 starts were Quality Starts. The Red Sox were 8-1 in those 9 starts. Losing him has cost the rotation some serious stability.

Losing Daisuke didn't hurt much, to be frank. He only had 2 Quality Starts in 7 chances.

I wasn't that impressed with this rotation at the beginning of the year. It seemed to rely on Beckett being consistent (something his career record has proven that he isn't), Daisuke being both good and healthy (something which is almost as rare as Beckett being consistent), a young Buchholz duplicating an extraordinary season, and John Lackey being the exact opposite of what he's been lately.

Lackey actually got worse, Beckett was great for a time, but now he's slumping (his inconsistency reappearing). Buchholz was doing well then got hurt, Daisuke wasn't doing well then got hurt. And Lester is a good 2 or 3 pitcher and not an Ace.

We all thought we had a better rotation than the Yankees. But we don't. We never did. We mocked them for just having CC Sabathia, but there's no pitcher on the Sox even close to Sabathia. And the Yankees don't have anyone as bad as Lackey.

It's all about pitching. Even with a fantastic offense, if you don't get a good start, you're going to struggle to win. If Beckett or Lester each made just one more Quality Start in September, the Sox could have already clinched. Now, their postseason lives are on the line. And if they don't get Quality Starts in the next two (maybe three) games, then they'll almost surely die.

A 2 Game Season

The Sox had Josh Beckett on the mound. They needed a great start from him. They did not get one. And once again, a poor pitching performance resulted in a loss. Although it's not like the offense did their job either. They got on base (11 hits, 4 walks), but couldn't get the hits when it mattered most.

I want this team to make the playoffs, simply to avoid the shame of such an historic collapse. But this team simply does not deserve it. People have criticized the GM, the manager, this team's "heart" or lack thereof. They've blamed injuries, and there's some validity to that. I, however, do not think this team has good pitching.

And while the offense scores runs in big bunches, it's not structured to be consistent. The lineup is too vulnerable if one or two key players slump at the same time.

The whole season is on the line. The Sox arrived in Baltimore with some momentum, with an alleged Ace on the mound, and with their destiny completely in hand. If they'd swept the O's, they'd win the Wild Card. Now the Sox have to win 2 games and they still might need a one game playoff against the Rays in order to make the postseason.

Erik Bedard faces Zach Britton tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo