Entering Thursday night’s game five in Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox were on the cusp of being eliminated from the playoffs. Despite a dominating win in game one by a score of 10-3, the Sox would go on a tail spin losing their next three games. But thanks to another brilliant performance from their ace and Cy Young candidate Josh Beckett, the Red Sox jumped right back into the series and now head back to Boston. The only problem they face now is that Josh Beckett can’t pitch every game.
To show you just how much they are in need of someone in their rotation to step up, here’s a quick peek at how Red Sox pitchers have done in the ALCS:
Josh Beckett: 2 GS, 2-0, 1.93 ERA, 14.0 IP, 18 SO
Curt Schilling: 1 GS, 0-0, 9.64 ERA, 4.2 IP, 3 SO
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 1 GS, 0-1, 7.71 ERA, 4.2 IP, 6 SO
Tim Wakefield: 1 GS, 0-1, 9.64 ERA, 4.2 IP, 7 SO
Looking quickly at these stats the obvious thing that jumps out is the horrible ERA’s everyone but Beckett have posted. But what might be even scarier is the fact that no one other than Beckett has been able to pitch out of the fifth inning. Not only is that not what you want to see from your starters, but it wears out your bullpen. Oh, and while we are on the subject of bullpens, that hasn’t exactly been rock solid either. Whlie Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Mike Timlin (combined 0.00 ERA) have all done well at the ends of games, their middle relief of Manny Delcarmen (16.20 ERA), Eric Gagne (13.50 ERA) and Javier Lopez (36.00 ERA) have been horrible. So basically what I’m saying is that unless Beckett starts, pitches his 7-8 innings, and then hands it over to the late inning guys, the Sox are in trouble. If anyone else starts or you need a bridge from starter to closer with your middle relief, well, let’s just hope Big Papi and the boys can knock in ten runs a game.
This of course (and unfortunately) is not always feasible.
As a proud, long-time member of the Red Sox Nation, what frustrates me more than anything is that all of this could have been avoided. I believe that when the Red Sox management elected to leave top prospect Clay Buchholz off the post season roster, they made a huge mistake.
The young right-hander pitched spectacular for the Red Sox down the stretch run and deserved a spot. In four games (three starts), Buchholz was 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 22.2 IP, 22 SO and capped everything off with a no-hitter in Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles on September 1. I don’t know about you, but I think his performance down the stretch more than warranted a roster spot. This is especially true considering Matsuzaka’s physical breakdown since mid-August.
Now I know the reason the Red Sox kept him off the playoff roster was because they say he was showing signs of arm fatigue, but I really have to wonder if that was a good enough reason. I know its not worth injuring the top prospect in your system, but at the same time, Buchholz would have been invaluable to this pitching staff in the ALCS. If you don’t want to throw him out there for a start, he would have been great in any one of those games as a middle reliever that you received short outings from your starter (similar to how Lester did the other night). If not, wouldn’t you like the opportunity to run him out there as a spot starter if Wakefield or Matsuzaka continue to struggle? I know I would.
So while I understand wanting to protect your young gun, you have to remember he is just that: young. Young arms have a tendency to bounce back if they are getting tired so even if you wanted to leave him out of the division series against the Angels, adding him before the ALCS would have been the smart thing to do.
But then again what do I know? It’s not like I predicted the collapse of Dice-K during the second half of the season.
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